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Building The Future of the Go-to-Market Process 

Derek
October 19, 2022
5 minutes

Launches are critical but chaotic. They don’t have to be.

At Ignition, we’ve seen 100s of launches – both from customers like Smartrent and Square, and our own 30+ years experience leading launches at tiny startups, hypergrowth companies like Rippling, and world-class brands like PlayStation and Facebook. Products, features, campaigns, events, rebrands, pricing updates…You name it, we’ve launched it.

We know Go-to-Market and we know that Go-to-Market is broken (we’re working on fixing that).

Considering that 30,000 new products are launched every year and 80% of them fail (costing companies billions of dollars and leaving equally as much revenue on the table), it’s obvious the market desperately needs a solution.

Let’s look at what the best teams in the world are doing about it.

The what, why, and how of Go-to-Market is misunderstood

For the last 20 years, GTM skills have been on life support

Go-to-Market historically has been the domain of Product Marketing or Brand Management, so it’s not much of a surprise companies forgot how to “do GTM” right around the time they forgot how to do PMM and Brand – but it’s making a roaring comeback.

For most of history, GTM was a pretty core skill. Prior to the internet, there weren’t many channels marketers could use to reach consumers. Print, radio, TV, OOH…every company was competing on the same channels and formats and media options were limited. This forced marketers to focus on fundamentals like proper positioning and GTM strategy to rise above the noise. The battleground wasn’t where you told your story but how you told it.

Then came the internet, and with it, an explosion of new channels. There was so much untrodden soil online full of technical arbitrage opportunities that where you told your story became important. Even just a basic level of platform expertise enabled huge returns, and big wins by Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. driven by “growth teams” made every founder think “strategy” was just fluff. So from 2000-2017 or so, most job-seeking tech marketers built a tactical/digital skillset and forgot their GTM fundamentals.

Shifts in Product didn’t help. The GTM process is inherently waterfall-based (copy needs messaging which needs positioning, etc.), whereas increasingly Product teams shifted to agile methodologies based on shipping and learning in-market. The gulf between PMM and PM widened.

But, in recent years all those channels have consolidated and channel arbitrage opportunities have been hammered out by platforms like Facebook and Google. Marketers are back to competing in few places for the same pie, and CAC has gone up commensurately. Suddenly all those GTM fundamentals are of critical importance again, fueling Product Marketing’s rise as the most in-demand role in Marketing (300% Y/y growth). Companies need to get good at GTM again. Fast.

You probably don’t care enough about the launch process

81% of CMOs would tell you the product launch process is “make or break” for long-term product success. New product introductions account for 25% of all corporate revenue. Top-quartile growth rate companies are 4x more likely to treat GTM as a critical process.

Done well, launches really help. They drive revenue by attracting new customers and expanding existing customers ARPU/retention. They help shape customers’ perception of your company by shaping narratives and demonstrating velocity. They make you more efficient by unlocking efficiency across all your marketing channels and upgrading your internal teams’ knowledge. And they act as powerful company-building moments by rallying the team around an event.

Done poorly, launches hurt (a lot). They result in poor product adoption and development ROI due to ineffective messaging and low awareness. They confuse customers with inconsistent narratives and Sales/Support teams not knowing the thing even exists. They cost money due to inefficiencies like spray-and-pray marketing tactics, highly-manual processes, and poor team alignment. Worst of all, they frustrate your team.

Short of building your product and fundraising, getting your launch process right is the single most impactful thing you can do for growth. So why are so many companies terrible at it?

Go-to-Market strategy = a plan for market entry (not “sales”)

Much of these issues start from a fundamental misunderstanding of what “Go-to-Market” even means. Contrary to what many sales leaders’ titles would have you believe, “GTM” is not sales. It’s more holistic than simply “how you sell”.

Fundamentally, a GTM strategy is the plan for how you’re going to launch a new “thing” into a market and grow it over time.

A lot of folks get tripped up on the terminology because there are two levels to GTM planning: “Macro GTM” (the plan at the overall company level), and “Micro GTM” (the plan at the individual product/feature/campaign level).

Regardless of sizing, the Go-to-Market process seeks to answer a few key questions:

  • Goal – Why are you launching this/what do we hope to achieve?
  • Audience – Who is the ideal audience to target to achieve your goal?
  • Positioning/Messaging – What do they need to believe, in order to take action?
  • Distribution Channels – Where will you best reach them with that message?
  • Model & Plan – How will you do it?

Great Go-to-Market vs. bad Go-to-Market

The good news is not all teams are failing with their go-to-market process.

The problems inherent to GTM are consistent for every company. It’s hard to create a repeatable, efficient process. Gathering insights is time-consuming and difficult to execute. Communicating relevant info to each internal team at the right time and in the right configuration is extremely manual. Measuring the results is fuzzy at best and that’s just the start of the issues inherent in every GTM process.

After talking to hundreds of CMOs, PMMs, PMs, and Ops leaders about the topic, a few common behaviors leading to launch success or failure have bubbled to the top.

Living in the “great” column is easier said than done though – it takes effort and it’s not made much easier by the limited and often poorly thought out tool selection most GTM teams have to choose from.

Existing tools are too siloed and generic to enable great GTM

Most commonly you’ll find GTM teams hacking this process together in a hodgepodge of docs, spreadsheets, and point-solutions – with the occasional project management tool thrown in for good measure. Some teams have started building a bit more power into their workflows using modern versions of those same tools; swapping out spreadsheets for Airtable, or docs for Notion. But no matter the configuration, none of these tech stacks enable the team to solve the problems inherent to GTM because they’re not built specifically with Go-to-Market’s special nuances in mind and not built for Product Marketing and the teams driving this process.

Ultimately, these tools consistently suffer from a few glaring issues:

  • Fragmentation / Siloed Data – In a typical configuration, you’re using a project management tool to track work progress, various research tools to “do” the work, docs and slides to document and present it, an asset management tool to store all the artifacts created in the process, and a dashboard to track performance. None of these tools talk to each other and as a result you separate the what, from the why, from the when. These information silos are a modern day plague which drastically reduce the effectiveness of everyone involved in the launch process. Teams make poorly-informed decisions without context, waste hours looking for information, and post-launch learnings are lost forever in a morass of docs.
  • Poor Communication – Project management tools and docs alike suffer from challenges in communicating plans to stakeholders. PM tools force critical strategic info to live within individual task descriptions and many teams don’t even have access to the tool in the first place. Docs are all-or-nothing and cause stakeholders’ eyes to glaze over as they try to sift through a massive amount of plan info for the specific elements relevant to them. Both categories of tools also make pushing information outwards difficult. They require stakeholders to come to them to extract info, causing PMM to become “search as a service” when stakeholders forget (or are too lazy to look for) where relevant info lives.
  • Over-Generalized – Most tools used in GTM today aren’t purpose-built for the process. They’re infinitely-flexible but this flexibility invites major process hygiene issues as each teammate creates their siloed version of the process, confusing cross-functional stakeholders and hurting repeatability. Additionally, while most have templates, these templates don’t account for the variables involved in GTM planning. They’re rigid, one-size-fits-all solutions which require hours of customization each launch and can’t adapt easily when changes happen within a launch. They’re the equivalent of printing out Mapquest directions for a dynamic process that really needs Google Maps.
  • No Automation – The lack of specialization in these tools also means they’re extremely limited in the amount of automation available through them. For example, if a launch date changes you have to go row-by-row through 100s of tasks in a project management tool and update all of them. Some tools allow for custom automation to be built, but this typically requires many hours of effort after a steep learning curve and the resulting structure is often very brittle.

These are serious problems that significantly hinder launch effectiveness. As internal alignment and process repeatability suffers, launches fail, revenue targets are missed, and executives get mad. How do we fix this?

The modern GTM stack relies on a dedicated platform for GTM

At Ignition, we are believers that generalized project management software should not exist. It creates “work about the work”, adding tracking effort while all the actual work involved happens elsewhere.

We believe the future of GTM planning is when disparate tools are bundled into a single platform purpose-built for this mission-critical business process. This platform will combine all the basic storage, documentation, and tracking tools currently used, enabling a true single-source-of-truth. It will also feature specialized tools for all of the critical work involved around research and communication (both internal and external). All with automation built-in to ensure maximum repeatability and efficiency of process.

Ignition is the first tool purpose-built for Go-to-Market by PMMs

At Ignition, we’ve created the first tool built by Product Marketers and Product Managers, to manage the entire Go-to-Market process end-to-end. From product concept all the way through to post-launch measurement, Ignition helps you to plan, execute, and measure flawless launches.

Ignition provides a central hub for launch activity, which helps increase company-wide visibility into the process and becomes a central knowledge base of all critical positioning and assets. Specialized workflow automation helps ensure a consistent, repeatable, and efficient process. Embedded tools help to collect customer and competitive research to infuse it into plans in a way that provides critical context to stakeholders. Post-launch, Ignition helps extract learnings and prove ROI through internal retrospectives and business impact dashboards.

The best part is that Ignition is built with communication in mind. Every key piece of plan info in Ignition is independently shareable and can be pushed directly to email, Slack, or public pages – so stakeholders and customers get the right info at the right time. Ignition has deep native integrations into the tools each team uses, so extracting info like product roadmaps from Jira, or pushing battlecards into Salesforce is a breeze.

This is just the beginning, but today Ignition is the only platform that combines:

  • Dynamic templating — Unlike static templates, Ignition’s include automated recommendations based on parameters like budget and objectives, and cascade changes easily through the launch plan.
  • Consolidated documentation, task, and asset management — Ignition functions as a true source of truth where launch calendars, strategic plans, executional assets, and approvals all live in a single, organized destination.
  • Customer & competitive research tools — Ignition contains tools to help collect feature ideas from customers, conduct research studies around things like pricing and packaging, and easily track competitive intelligence.
  • Internal comms automation — Ignition facilitates communication across teams by helping push information outwards to cross-functional teams directly to email or Slack at different altitudes. It even allows you to automate updates on a recurring basis.
  • Customer comms tools — Ignition’s public, branded Release Notes pages make communicating updates to customers dead simple and public roadmap subscribers can be easily segmented to enable more effective email comms.
  • Measurement & reporting — Ignition helps you measure the success of your launch via launch analytics and internal retrospective tools which provide a clear view of business impact and incrementality.

Before your next launch, examine the tools you’re using with the knowledge above and give a thought to whether your tooling and process is set up to really maximize your success. Our one of a kind go-to-market software works because it adds repeatability, visibility, and automation into a complicated process. With Ignition, launches are smoother and directly result in more measurable impact to the bottom line.

Article by
Derek

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