This post was originally published on October 11, 2019, and updated most recently on May 19, 2021.
Every company wants a larger customer base. But achieving that goal doesn’t always come easy. With deadlines to meet and resources to manage, marketing may take a back seat in the face of the day-to-day running of things.
Many organizations decide they want to market their product or service, hit the ground running, and then just, well, stop. Why? Because they can’t see any immediate results and other priorities take over. This is a shame because all that initial effort — not to mention time, is wasted. This is where a go-to-market strategy comes in handy.
What is a go-to-market strategy, and why do you need one?
A go-to-market strategy has two purposes. Firstly, it sets out why your product or service exists: who it’s for, why they should want it, and how you’re going to make them want it.
Secondly, it’s there to help you analyze any roadblocks that could prevent you from achieving the above. Working this out will help you streamline your strategy, provide the best possible experience for your customers, and give you a better chance of success. It also shows you what to do next when you don’t have time to commit to planning.
A go-to-market strategy can be used in any situation where you have something new to promote — whether that’s a new app, a service, or a relaunch of your brand. It fits into your overall marketing plan, but rather than dealing with the business as a whole, its goal is to help promote and explain one specific thing.
A 10-step guide to creating your go-to-market strategy
1. Work out why
Thorough research is the foundation on which you’ll build your strategy. And the most important is the ‘why.’ Is your product or service solving a real, valid customer need? If not, you can stop your project here. If you’re a little stuck boiling this down, try this famous TED talk from author Simon Sinek who explains this stage in a little more detail.
Once you’ve found the why, you’ll need to prove your customers want it, ideally with real surveys, focus groups, and interviews. Even the best marketing strategy in the world can’t promote a product no one wants (we’re looking at you, Google Glass).
One way to help you define this is to uncover who your ideal customer is. You’ll want to find out their demographics, as well as their emotions, aspirations, and needs. Most businesses have several groups who are more likely to buy their product, so define each of these and create a portrait of each potential customer with as much specific information as possible. You may want to then narrow your segments and order the groups in order of priority. These are called your ‘target markets.’
2. Get to know the competition
Get to know who your main competitors are. Will you offer something that they don’t? That’s a good sign. On the other hand, if you’re bringing something they do to the market, how will you make yours better? And can you learn from their mistakes? The more you can learn about the competition, the better placed you’ll be to thrive.
3. Create your business case
Now you have all the groundwork complete, it’s time to put together your business case. This is a document you use to get buy-in from senior management, stakeholders, and any other parties you’ll rely on for support or resources.
You need to succinctly explain why the market needs your product or service and how this fits into the wider business plan. Be as specific as possible here.
Top Tip: Your business case shouldn’t sugar coat reality. Doing so could set you up for failure and make you look inexperienced. Creating a SWOT diagram at this stage will help you identify and analyze your strengths and opportunities, as well as your weaknesses and threats.
4. Define your strategy
Work out where your product or service fits in the market, including what makes you stand out from the competition and why people should choose you. You should also include:
- Your market positioning: Where do you sit in relation to your competitors? For example, Deliveroo focuses on delivering quality meals from local restaurants, whereas Uber Eats brings you anything from an artisan coffee to a Whopper.
- Your USPs: What are your unique selling points, and how will you make them understood (and loved)?
- Define your customers: Put yourself in their shoes and work out their characteristic feelings and behaviors.
- Map your customer journey: Include the different stages your typical customer goes through, from that initial interaction all the way to post-sale support. It’s also important to consider your audience’s emotions during this stage: How are they likely to be feeling? Doing so will help you talk to them in the right way, at the right time.
5. Work out your price point
Pricing needs to reflect your business model. It also needs to be purposeful. Pulling a number out of thin air not only looks unprofessional — it could leave you in a financially risky position.
How much are you going to charge, and why? You’ll need to make sure you cover overheads while also making sure you have a detailed pricing breakdown to present to the client in case they want clarification, or you need to negotiate costs. Doing this will help you show the value you’re providing.
Pricing should also reflect your market position. If you’re a luxury product, then you’ll need to have a higher cost and a more aggressive marketing strategy. If you’re a budget option, you’ll need to undercut the market average.
6. Create your marketing plan
How are you going to market your product? Start off by defining your brand: What do you look and sound like, what are your values, how will you present yourself, and how will you ensure consistency across different media and platforms? This is where a tone-of-voice document and brand guidelines come in handy.
Will you find customers via lead generation? Will you focus on creating content that helps customers find you? Things like blog posts, videos, whitepapers, and ebooks can all work towards showing the customer you’re helpful, knowledgeable, and trustworthy. They’re also a great way to carry your brand’s persona to different audiences and explain the value you provide.
7. Make sure your teams are trained
Think about how your teams are going to find and talk to your customers — which could include cold calling, working with influencers, and post-sales support.
- Be there for your customers: The journey doesn’t end with the sale — and nothing sours the relationship like bad post-sales support. Show you care (and leave the door open for repeat custom) by providing great service throughout the whole journey. Make sure your team is trained, has access to the materials and tools they need, and that they’re accessible over a range of platforms.
- Promote repeat custom: You should consider customer retention strategies to encourage people to stick around or entice them to come back.
- Keep your finger on the pulse: Make sure you measure shopper satisfaction to see how you’re doing and where you can improve. This includes keeping a close eye on review sites, repeat custom figures, as well as more active methods, like surveys. There’s always room for improvement, and this is where you can see how and where.
8. Work out your priorities
Your go-to-market strategy should comfortably fit in with your other operations without causing disruption. Work out how your employees will prioritize tasks and how you’ll manage the project once your product or service has gone to market. Project management software can be incredibly useful here, helping you stay up-to-date with tasks and schedules with real-time notifications.
9. Work out what success looks like
You need to define your success metrics so you can work out what worked and what could be improved upon. If something wasn’t a success, it’s important you define why you failed in the project post mortem.
It’s also worth remembering that success is often not a win/fail outcome, but something that falls into a margin. If your launch was a success, was it a close one (and therefore is there room for improvement)? Similarly, if you failed, working out by how much could help you decide whether or not to continue with the project.
Top Tip: It may be helpful to create a SMART diagram here to help you organize your thinking and make sure your goals are specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, and timely.
10: Plan where to go from here
If you plan to continue your journey after your service or product has gone to market, then you need to work out how you’ll continue to support it. Your plan should include budget and resources, as well as plans for future growth and development.
What makes a good go-to-market strategy?
Creating a reliable go-to-market strategy needn’t be a headache — in fact, the best are succinct, specific, and easy to interpret. The most time-consuming part is in the research stage, but once you’ve laid the groundwork and collected as much data as possible, you’ll be in a better position to create a logical framework that can help you launch or grow your product, service, or brand. Then, once you’re ready to roll, make sure you have a good system in place (project management software is a must) to create schedules, manage progress and make sure your teams — marketing and otherwise — are all on track and ready to promote with purpose.
With every launch your team carries out, make sure you’re noting the things that went well and the things that could have gone better. You may even have a few surprises to follow up on. All of this could range from having specified the correct or wrong target market, maybe you saw more traffic coming from one push than you anticipated. Maybe one of your efforts fell completely flat and didn’t connect with your audience at all. These are all learning opportunities to continue to improve your go-to-market strategy!
Make notes and adjust accordingly and each marketing campaign should be better than the last!