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Jory MacKay
Jory is a writer, content strategist and award-winning editor of the Unsplash Book. He contributes to Inc., Fast Company, Quartz, and more.
October 25, 2018 · 11 min read

9 Steps to Build a Go To Market Strategy (Framework and Examples)


9 Steps to Build a Go To Market Strategy

It’s probably safe to say that every company wants to grow. Yet while growth can come from wildly different sources, they all share one quality: Without a solid strategy, you’re going to spend a lot of time spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere.

Nowhere is this more true than when you’re trying to launch a new product and break into the market.

When resources are limited, competition is fierce, and deadlines are nipping at your heels, you need something to fall back on and tell you that you’re on the right path. And one of the best things to do just that is what’s called a go to market strategy.

This is more than just another document. It’s a sherpa that guides and supports you as you launch a new product, give your brand a refresh, or go after a new audience. And while it might sound like a lot of work, it doesn’t have to be.

In this post, we’ll run you through everything you need to know to create a successful go to market strategy you can use any time you launch a new product.

What is a go to market strategy? And why do you need one?

Let’s start with the basics. A go to market strategy is a tactical action plan that outlines the steps necessary to succeed in a new market or with a new customer. It can apply to pretty much anything, from launching new products and services, to re-launching your company or brand, or even moving a current product into a new market.

An easy way to think of it is as a more specific version of your marketing plan—one with a narrow scope and that is hyper-focused on just one product. Like any good strategy, it’s not meant to be some unwieldy document, but rather a tool that can be used and shared across your entire company. This means your go to market strategy needs to be comprehensive enough to be valuable, yet agile enough to be updated as you get customer feedback.

That’s still a little bit vague, so let’s dig deeper into why you’d actually want to put together one of these documents. A go to market strategy serves a couple of purposes. First, it clarifies why you’re launching your product, who it’s for, and how you’re going to tackle the never-easy job of getting them to engage with and buy it.

Second, it forces you to think through all the issues your customers will face when presented with your product. This helps make sure you can give them the best experience possible and build trust with them. As the old saying goes, it takes years to build trust and seconds to destroy it. Your strategy is what ensures you’re not messing up all the hard work you’ve put into getting to where you are now.

It takes years to build trust and seconds to destroy it.

Everything you need to know before you write your go to market strategy

Like any plan or strategy, you need to do a bit of research and digging before you can put it together. Your go to market strategy covers a lot of information in a short, concise manner. And before you jump in and start filling out page after page, it’s important to have a firm idea of what you’re doing.

For brevity’s sake, in this article, I’m going to use the word “product” to represent anything you’re looking to launch—a product, service, offering, or brand.

Product-Market Fit

What problems does your product solve for people and how have you validated the need?

It might seem obvious that a company and product will only succeed if people need it. But if history is anything to go on, demand isn’t always so easy to determine. In fact, a recent analysis of over 100 startups who shut down last year found that 42% didn’t solve a valid customer problem.

As you put together your go to market strategy, dig deep into the “why” that led you to build this product in the first place. How do you know your users want and need it? Have you tested and validated the idea with real people?

As you put together your go to market strategy, dig deep into the “why” that led you to build this product in the first place.

As part of this, try to think long-term about your strategic objectives. How will your product change and adapt? What do you want to see happen in 6-months or a year?

Audience and buyers

Who is going to buy your product, what do you know about them, and how does your strategy support them?

Steli Efti, CEO of sales CRM Close.io, has a saying: “Whoever understands the customer best wins.” Before you can put together your go to market strategy, you need to know who exactly your customer is. This means both high-level knowledge like basic demographic info, as well as specific knowledge of your ideal customer—their wants, needs, passions, and preferences.

To do this, break your questioning down into a few levels. First, who are your target markets? How big are they and what’s their makeup in terms of reachability and buying power?

Next, who are your ideal customers within those markets? Are their specific groups or segments you know will be more likely to want your product?

Finally, what do you know about the market and your customers that supports your strategy? How does what you know and the personas you’ve created support your long-term vision?

As you go through all this, try to get specific and personal. The more you can make realistic customer profiles, the better you’ll be able to make decisions about how to get in front of them, talk to them, and eventually make them customers.

Competitive landscape

Who else is in the market and how are they going to react to you waltzing in?

No one goes into battle without understanding both their opponent and the battleground. So why would you even think of launching a product without knowing what you’re getting into? A go to market strategy is something that should constantly change and adapt to the market, and so you need a deep understanding of what the market looks like now as well as a pretty good idea of where it’s going in the near future. What market trends are happening (or on the horizon) that will affect your launch and product success? Who are the main competitors and how will they react to your launch?

Distribution

How and where will you distribute your product?

More specifically, when customers are interested in buying from you, how will you make that happen? Is it a physical product in a store (if so, how do you get it there)? Is it on your own ecommerce site or a third party? Or is it a software product that they download directly from you? Don’t leave distribution to an afterthought.

Is your product marketing-intensive or sales-intensive? (Will your customers respond better to marketing or sales?)

Marketing or Sales?

While these two are often complementary, they’re also counterbalances. As Stanford professor Mark Leslie explains, the more marketing muscle you flex the less sales you should need, and vice versa. You should know your customer and what approach they react to more positively. In some industries, traditional sales techniques feel “icky” to customers, while in others, it’s what they expect.

One way to figure this out is to look at a few factors:

Knowing which approach you’re going to take is an integral part of designing your go to market strategy and will inform what you prioritize and how you execute on your plan.

Your go to market strategy template: A step-by-step guide to bringing your product to the people

With all that information gathered, you should be in a pretty good place to put together a proper go to market strategy. As we said before, this strategy should act as a tool and a guide. Try to keep it as short and simple as possible, while also highlighting the nuances of what makes your product special.

Using the following framework, you should be able to put together a comprehensive strategy that will help you break into whatever market you’re after.

1. What is your business case?

Why are you launching this product right now and what do you hope to gain from it?

The start of your go to market strategy should explain how this product aligns with your overall business plan and strategy. This can be a short explanation of how it ties into your other offerings, or how you’re approaching a new market. Whatever your reasoning, be specific, concise, and honest.

2. Define your market strategy

Where does your product sit in the market and how will you tell users about it?

The next section will cover how you plan to engage with customers, create value, and hit that strategic objective you just explained. Some of the things you should cover here include:

Keep each of these sections as short as possible. The goal here is to simply paint a picture of where your new product sits in the market and how you’ll talk about it. You’ll get more in-depth into the “how” behind each of these later in the go to market strategy.

3. Lock in your pricing strategy

How much are you going to charge for your product and why?

Pricing is more than just a financial decision. Of course your pricing structure needs to make sense based on your business model, but it’s also a signal to people about the value you’re going to provide.

Pricing reflects every other aspect of your go to market strategy, from your customer to the market to how you use strategies like PR, marketing, and sales. And it needs to be a purposeful and deliberate choice.

Think about the message you send with your pricing. Are you a premium product that will need to be aggressively sold? Or are you trying to undercut the current competition and open up new customers?

Need help picking a pricing strategy that works for your product? Check out our guide on The Psychology of Pricing: How to Pick the Right Pricing Model for Your Company

4. Create your external marketing plan

What sort of external marketing are you going to use to tell people about your new product?

Marketing is important no matter what your go to market strategy, but especially if your product is marketing intensive. If you’re expecting customers to find you via ads and content (versus you selling to them) then you should pay special attention to this section of your plan.

Here’s what you should be covering:

5. Specify your sales strategy and supporting materials

How are you going to empower salespeople to help you get a piece of the market?

If your product is more sales-intensive, you’ll want to spend more time outlining how you expect that sales process to work. Sales is by no means easy. And you’ll want to make sure that the people going out and representing your product have all the resources and knowledge they need to be successful.

Here’s a few things you should include here:

6. Sync up with support

How will you support new users and customers with questions or issues?

Sync up with Support

Any time you’re launching a new product you can expect some added pressure on your support team (especially if you’ve done your work with your product launch and driven a ton of traffic!) And nothing sours an experience of a new product and your company in general than poor support.

Nothing sours an experience of a new product and your company in general than poor support.

Make sure your support team is prepared for whatever’s coming there way by including things like this in your go to market strategy:

7. Know where this product fits in your overall roadmap

What priority will this new product have over other features/products/initiatives?

The responsibilities of bringing a new product to market don’t end once it’s out in the wild. In fact, it’s usually the complete opposite. Every time you launch something new, you’re adding another item to your list of things that need to be prioritized. When you go to market with this new product, will it still get your attention? Or will your team move onto other projects?

There’s a few different angles to think about this from and should be addressed in your go to market strategy:

8. Decide on success metrics

What is the main purpose of this new product and how will you know if it is a success?

Every go to market strategy needs a success metric—something you can look at and judge whether or not your product is doing what you wanted it to do. As we’ve written before, these metrics should be:

It’s a good idea to think of this in the same terms as OKRs—Objectives and Key Results—a goal-setting technique popularized by companies like Intel and Google. With OKRs, the “goal” isn’t to hit 100% success each time, but to have an acceptable margin of success like 60-70%. This way, everyone’s inspired to work hard, but knows that the best case scenario is just that.

9. Clarify your ongoing budget and resource needs

How will you continue to support this product?

Continued Product Support

Again, your responsibilities don’t end once this product is out in the market. Along with all the things we’ve covered about how to get your product out there, you need to know how you’re going to keep it there. This means budgets, resources, time commitments, and anything else that gives a good idea how everyone should expect this product to impact their day-to-day.

Getting a product to market is only half the battle

Running a business doesn’t have to be a battle (and in fact, we think the best companies prioritize balance, not non-stop hustle). Yet when you’re bringing a new product into the market, it often feels like do-or-die. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

If you put the time into creating a solid go to market strategy following the framework we just outlined, you should be able to grow your company in a calm, more meaningful way. It might seem like extra work now, but by thinking about your strategy and doing the work upfront, you’ll be playing chess while the competition is playing checkers.