Go To Market Strategy, Part 1

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Go to Market Strategy

At a high level, your go to market strategy is designed to build awareness and interest for your product and/or brand, within a targeted set of people that are most likely to purchase and find value in your product or service. 

Each go to market strategy is unique, and there are a ton of different angles to consider. Don’t be fooled by people that claim to have the perfect recipe. Nobody can hit a home run every time. The only guarantee and this is true for all sales and marketing, is that focusing on your customer will yield the best results. The better you understand your customer the more likely you are to build a go to market strategy that delivers.

That said, I do use this go to market template as a starting point to guide the process. I don’t always use every section, and often the business has already completed some sections. The latter can just be rolled into the plan, easy. Remember, this is a template, for best results it should be altered to fit each specific use case.

This guide will take you through the process I use when planning go to market initiatives for the businesses I work with. Typically, these are early-stage businesses that are introducing their initial product offering to the world for the first time.

So, let’s get into it …

Why Does Your Business Exist?

Before you can get on to creating a winning go to market strategy you need to get crystal clear on why your business exists.

I like to break this down to Problem / Opportunity.

This is this first slide in Guy Kawasaki’s “The Only 10 Slides You Need in Your Pitch”. The reason I mention this is because in a lot of ways your go to market strategy is going to mirror the pitch deck you used to validate your business concept and raise funding.

The pitch deck is incredibly valuable and often the first thing I ask founders for when I begin working with them. 

In my experience, the pitch deck is pure. It represents the founding vision for the company, typically has a ton of summarized market data, and when done well, it tells a concise story about how the business will be successful. It’s a great foundation to build from.

Ok, before you go any further it’s time to do some work.

  1. Set some time aside to revisit your problem and opportunity statements and if needed update them to reflect the current iteration of your business.

Market Research

Market research includes any activity used to better understand your target market and or consumers. For example, conducting surveys is a form of market research. The motivation behind market research is to gather the information that can help you build a better business, a more useful product, a more productive user experience …  a better long-term relationship with your customer. 

There are 3 specific types of market research I focus on when collecting information to inform a go to market strategy:

  1. Define your target market
  2. Identify your ideal customer(s)
  3. Understand your competition

Define your target market

This is about focus and refinement. Collect the data you believe will help you build a more valuable product, compose more compelling messaging, and target more accurately.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What size businesses benefit most from your product or service?
  • What industries need your product the most?
  • How much revenue do the businesses you’re targeting earn?
  • What countries are you targeting?

Identify your ideal customer(s)

People buy products, and your product, in particular, is for someone specific. At least, it should be. Hopefully, you defined your key customer personas a long time ago, and have been referring back to them on a regular basis as you build and evolve your product. If you haven’t stop what you’re doing and go do this immediately.

Start by identifying your customer persona using demographics data:

  • Years of Experience
  • Seniority (Manager, Director, VP, CXO)
  • Job Title
  • etc.

Layer in some personal preference data:

  • Core beliefs/bias (e.g. only uses cloud services, will not consider on-prem solutions)
  • Reads: Hacker Noon, devops.com, and xkcd
  • Passionate about tech user experience
  • Etc.

Combine this profile data with your firmographics data to create a more complete picture of your ideal market and customer(s).

Small side note – if you’re already “in-market” or have a good number of beta customers that are getting value from your product this is a great place to start when building personas. 

Profile your existing customer base (the ones getting the most value) and continue to build and refine from there as you learn.

Understand your competition

Your competitors play an important role in the success of your business. Understanding them will help you to differentiate and position your business to win. It will also help you devise a strategy to ensure you stay ahead of them.

In a healthy market, there will always be competition. Your job as a business owner or strategist is to position your business to win. In order to do this I suggest you focus on understanding your competition in these key areas:

  • What market segment does your competition best serve?
  • How are you different from your competition?
  • Where are your competitors letting their customers down?
  • What strategies are your competitors leveraging to grow?

Once you have a good handle on your competitors’ go to market strategy, focus on strategies to elevate your brand narrative above the competition. 

You don’t want to be duking it out over the same messaging and positioning. One copying the other in a boxing match that comes down to a final-round decision, every time.

You want to develop a narrative that positions your brand in a way that makes your competitors obsolete. Take them right out of the conversation. Easier said than done.

Define Your Market Strategy

  • User stories – detailed accounts of problems your users face, and how you solve them
  • Personas – Detailed description of the people your product is positioned for
  • Value props – The core value your product offers
  • Positioning – How your target market perceives you
  • Messaging – How you talk about the value your business and/or product offering
  • Customer journey – The path a typical customer experiences

Let’s break down an example: 

For the record. I have no affiliation with Vowel and did not work on their go to market strategy. I am approaching this from a competitive point of view, reverse engineering their public-facing website, and making some assumptions to illustrate how to go about creating the different components that make up a market strategy.

Vowel is an early-stage B2B business that has created meeting technology that enables businesses to record meetings, transcribe meetings, search meetings, annotate meetings, share snippets from meetings, and more.

Sample Persona Information

Personal Information

  • Age: 30+
  • Marital Status: Married
  • Kids: Yes

Company Information

  • Industry: Software
  • Revenue: $20M
  • # Employees: 50+

Role

  • Seniority: Vice President
  • Reports to: CEO
  • Team Size: 10+

Goals / Pain / Challenges

  • Goal: Spend less time in meetings
  • Goal: Get more out of meetings
  • Goal: Preserve the value in conversations
  • Challenge: meeting minutes often lack the essence/soul of the conversation
  • Challenge: notes are not always taken
  • Challenge: minutes docs are not easy to locate and search
  • Pain: being the note-taker sucks, it takes me out of the conversation
  • Pain: referencing notes later (when doing the work) is difficult

Preferences

  • No time for phone calls
  • Prefers email over slack
  • Passionate about team productivity and culture
DemographicsCompany InfoRoleGoals / PainPreferences
Ags
Marital Status
Kids
Education
Industry
Revenue
#Employees
Seniority
Hierarchy
Skills
Success metrics
Challenges
Values
Any other info you
find relevant.
e.g. email vs slack

Sample User Stories

“As the designated note-taker, I often feel as though I am missing out on participating in the meeting. It would be nice not to have that burden.”

“As the only remote employee on the team, it’s often difficult to be heard in team meetings. It would be nice to level the playing field.”

“As an executive, I spend much of my day in back to back meetings, it would be helpful to have recordings of meetings to refer back to important decisions.”

Value Propositions Review

My translation:

Note-taking is painful, and nobody wants the task. Plus, when you’re taking notes you’re less present in the meeting.

My translation:

Easily search your meetings.

My translation:

Stop worrying about missing an important meeting. The full meeting + notes and key snippets will be waiting for you.

My translation:

This one is about quality and convenience, and bringing distributed team members into the room.

Here is the thing with messaging … the person reading your copy will interpret it based on their specific experience. The person that wrote them may have had me in mind when they crafted the messaging, or I may have tweaked each one just a bit to fit my personal experiences when I interpreted it.

This is why developing those user stories is so important. It’s not a product exercise. It’s a business exercise and for user stories to be most effective the entire business needs to be on the same page, telling the same story.

Positioning

Your positioning statement is typically not a public-facing document. Its purpose within the context of your go to market strategy is to keep your business aligned with the brand and value proposition.

Your positioning statement should include the following information:

  • A description of your target market
  • The challenges/problems your target market is facing
  • How your product or service can help your target market
  • Why they should trust you

Here is Hubspot’s positioning statement as an example:

HubSpot has created a very detailed guide to crafting a positioning statement that you can take a look at here if interested in going into more detail.

Messaging

I shared some value messaging from the Vowel website earlier in the article, below is higher-level go to market messaging that Vowel is using to position themselves as a tool for “Great Teams” that …captures your team’s meetings.

Vowel allows you to host, record, share, and transcribe meetings. But … what it really does is enable your team to be great.

Your public-facing messaging should be designed to:

  • Align with your target audience, brand and positioning statement
  • Communicate the features and benefits of your product
  • Build trust and credibility

For SaaS, your marketing website should be designed to get potential customers excited about your product AND help them understand how to use it and how it will help them.

Keep in mind that your messaging is more than just your website. There are many other customer-facing touch points to consider:

  • Automated Emails
  • In-app messaging
  • Live chat
  • Sales outreach
  • Your Google business listing
  • Your Company’s LinkedIn page
  • Job postings
  • Blog posts
  • Speaking engagements

Anything that is public-facing should be aligned with your brand and positioning statement and designed specifically with your target market in mind.

Customer Journey

Your customer journey is unique to your product or service, but there are components that are similar and the basic stages should translate pretty well across most products. It is important to consider your customer journey when designing your go to market strategy.

The common stages are:

Awareness >> Consideration >> Decision >> Retention >> Advocate

Your customer journey will include a variety of touch points that occur at different steps in the process. I created the illustration below to demonstrate the relationship between the stages, steps, touch points, and teams that are part of your customer journey.

SaaS Customer Journey

Awareness

In the awareness stage, your customer recognizes the need for your product or service and eventually becomes aware of your product. This is a two-step process. Meaning, you need to take proactive steps to ensure you are found in the places your customer is likely to conduct research

To successfully build awareness you need to:

  • Have a strong presence in search (organic and paid)
  • Have a strategy for building awareness on trusted third-party websites
  • Have a PR and social media strategy, and if possible
  • Have an advertising strategy to extend your reach
  • Have a market that wants and needs your product

Consideration

The consideration stage is critical. You should expect your buyer to conduct extensive research before entering your funnel. For this reason, your go to market strategy needs to include content, messaging, case studies, thought leadership, and anything else needed to answer all of your customers’ questions before they come to you.

Your customers are going to research your product and compare it to all of your competitors. From there they will narrow their selection down to 2 or three top choices to really dig in on. How you present your product here, makes or breaks you.

Decision

By the time your customer reaches the decision stage, you should assume they have almost entirely made up their mind regarding which product they prefer. Whether your model calls for a free trial, demo/POC, or some other process your objective here is to deliver value.

This portion of your go to market strategy should be designed to ensure your customers are able to ramp up on your product and get value from it with as little friction as possible.

  • Pay attention to user experience. 
  • Pay attention to customer feedback. 
  • Instrument your product analytics to give you visibility to key feature adoption and stickiness and monitor usage for indications of friction.

Retention

In SaaS retention is directly tied to user experience and value. If your customers are not having positive experiences when using your product and/or are not getting value from your product than its only a matter of time before they churn.

As part of your go to market strategy to should work hard to identify areas of friction and smooth them out. You should remove unused features. You should collect and incorporate customer feedback.

Some areas to focus on:

  1. On-boarding – Streamline your onboarding process as much as possible and ensure users are able to activate and get to value with as little effort as possible. Anything that does not need to be part of onboarding should be removed.
  2. Analytics – know your key metrics and track them closely.
    1. Completed Onboarding
    2. Activation
    3. Value
    4. Key Feature Usage
    5. Users Added
    6. Daily Active Users
  3. Product Roadmap – this is about innovation and continuous improvement. You want to ensure your product continues to satisfy the needs of your customer.

    You don’t want to add features that don’t make sense or that don’t get used.

    Ideally, you are able to establish a feedback loop that will allow you to understand the changing needs of your customers to allow you to align your product roadmap with them.

Advocate

The best way to create customer advocates is to deliver amazing experiences across the full customer lifecycle. If you focus on delivering value to your customer at every turn you’ll have a much easier time recruiting customers to participate in case studies, offer testimonials, speak at conferences, partner with you on webinars, etc.

When you deliver amazing customer experiences you customers will tell their colleagues, and post on social media, and champion your product.

The only way to build a sustainable advocate program is to consistently deliver amazing experiences.

Be sure to subscribe to be notified when Go To Market Strategy, Part II is released. 

Part II will go into detail around:

  • Business Alignment
  • Pricing Strategy
  • Sales, Marketing, and Customer Success
  • Measurement, Tracking, and Analytics

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