From inadequate research to lack of leadership to using the wrong tools, here are some of the most common go-to-market mistakes for product marketing teams.
Whether you’re a CPG brand launching a product or a software startup with enterprise aspirations, there’s a critical juncture that will make or break your chances of success.
No, it’s not hiring a team of ravenous, cut-throat SDRs or a market-whispering guru from LinkedIn — it’s creating and implementing an air-tight Go-to-Market strategy (GTM).
Sure, it’s not real rocket science, but the stakes are still high. With the number of releases growing by over 27% per company, failure to gain a return on each launch isn’t just catastrophic for your campaign, but for your business altogether. On the flip side, getting your GTM process right can boost revenue growth rates by 1.5-2x.
In this article we’ll walk through 8 critical Go-to-Market mistakes and missteps made by product and brand marketers that can make GTM expeditions fall flat on the launch pad.
But first let’s make sure we know what we’re talking about.
A Go-to-Market strategy is a comprehensive plan that outlines how a company will introduce a new product, message, feature, or service into the market. It outlines the key stages your GTM teams will pass through during the build up and launch phases, including:
One often forgotten but essential component of GTM is that it’s a repeatable and scalable process. Once you find the right one, you can apply it across Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 launches.
Tier 1 launches provide the most value to your business and customers — they’re high priority. But they’re also they require extensive timelines, a lot of coordination across the organization, and are costly to pull off.
Tier 2 launches, have moderate value to both parties — your business and your customers — and make up the bulk of your launches. These are mid-sized launches, such as a major new feature or a minor product launch. They still require a lot of planning but are usually shorter and more direct.
Finally, you have the lowest priority launches at Tier 3. That would be a minor feature updates or bug fixes. These provide value for the customer, so you want them to notice, but are of relatively low value for the company, so you don’t want to spend lots of time and resources on them.
Regardless of whether you’re overhauling your entire website, tweaking a small feature, or adjusting some copy on your packaging, all launches require a dedicated GTM strategy.
To justify increased investment in GTM strategy, product and marketing leaders often lean on fluffy generalities like “alignment” or “competitive edge.” Don’t get us wrong — these things are still important. But at the end of the day it’s the hard numbers that companies really need to worry about: cost and revenue.
Unfortunately, what most C Suites don’t realize is that the GTM launch has a major impact on the bottom line.
The cost of bringing a new product to market reached $10-million just a few years ago, and the costs of launching have only increased since then. That’s a big problem considering that anywhere from 40-95% of new products fail to meet targets, depending on the industry. Companies fumble the bag on the revenue side as well, with the IDC reporting that over 10% of all revenue is lost in the GTM phase.
With millions of dollars invested in new products, and many more hanging in the balance just waiting to be realized, you need to get loud
For something that is clearly so important to the success of a project, campaign, and company, we’re notoriously bad at them. Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen noted nearly a decade ago that many of the 30,000 new consumer products launched each year fail.
While major brands like Apple or Proctor & Gamble can afford to roll the dice, this isn’t the case for most businesses, and certainly not for up-and-comers in the tech or consumer packaged goods.
The Product Marketing Alliance’s (PMA) 2022 State of Go-to-Market Report highlights the mission-critical nature of a structured GTM in a time where success is hard to come by: Companies with a defined launch process saw 10% higher launch success rates on average (63% vs. 53%) and 3x higher median revenue growth rates (35% vs. 9%) than those that don’t.
The average PMM is launching 10-16 products/features per year, spending 50+ hours on each launch, and working with 10+ stakeholders on each launch. At 50% failure rate, that’s 5-8 failures per year and an average of 325 hours wasted, and that’s only for the PMM — never mind the 10+ stakeholders.
These figures are unacceptable — wasting that amount of time and resources is just not a viable strategy for any business. If you're failing at a rate of 50%, either you're building the wrong things or your GTM process needs some serious attention. These things are avoidable, and you should be investing in the right process to fix them.
First, you need to know what’s wrong. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top 8 Go-to-Market mistakes you need to avoid.
For all the LinkedIn posts and seminars expounding on the importance of research, product and marketing teams still miss the mark — often.
That’s unfortunate because businesses invest tons of time and money into researching markets, extracting information, and developing key assets to help steer the launch, such as:
When this information is inaccurate, not only is it a waste of resources, but it sets the GTM launch up for failure. It results in products that, despite their potential, fail to resonate with their intended audience and struggle to gain market traction. So, you end up paying twice for the same mistake.
Are these mistakes the result of incapable product and marketing teams? Of course not.
Often, it’s because GTM teams feel that they’re in a time crunch. The PMA’s report shows that 49% of GTM teams struggle to collect consumer research fast enough to develop plans. Inevitably, teams jump the gun in the rush to launch date. They either scoop up too much data or zero-in on the wrong segment, proceeding to the next stage before getting any confirmation that it will help meet the objectives and key results (OKRs).
Regardless of the launch size, PMMs and GTM teams need to approach research in a structured, repeatable process — one that includes reviews to ensure they collect the right data before moving on.
Another glaring issue for product marketing managers — a lack of communication with the product team during GTM planning and launch. This is flat-out unacceptable, especially considering all the macro and micro tasks that product and marketing teams need to collaborate on.
A McKinsey survey of top product launch teams finds that the number one factor for success is team collaboration. And yet, most companies still fail to reach their launch targets.
Establishing lines of communication and a regular sync schedule to keep the team aligned isn’t the sexy part of marketing; it’s not something they focus on in Mad Men. But it is what helps get the job done right, especially when the launch timeline is determined by only one part of the GTM team — product.
Using GTM tools that connect executive stakeholders and PMMs to the PM establishes the lines of communication that keep all parties informed and eliminate those pesky silos.
For example, Dennis Duckworth, Director of Product Marketing at software company EDB, schedules bi-weekly stakeholder meetings from the jump and then bumps them up to weekly as the team approaches the launch date.
More GTM teams need to take a page out of Jacqui Gilchrist’s book: the VP of Product Marketing at Curriculum Associates says, “Before you start anything else, get feedback on the messaging.”
A value proposition that isn’t aligned with customer needs or doesn’t differentiate your product from competitors takes all the wind out of your sales. It makes demand or lead generation excruciatingly difficult and can even eliminate any edge you may have over competitors.
This can happen in a number of ways, from unspecific language around features and benefits to over-complicated, technical or salesy phrasing. But the underlying culprit is simple: missing the mark on research.
If your value proposition doesn’t clearly ring through in your messaging it’s not only going to be ineffective, but it’ll waste any insights you gained from the research stage, leading to low adoption rates.
A product roadmap is another must-have piece of a GTM strategy, informing all relevant teams and stakeholders about everything from development milestones to key outcomes. Unfortunately, in many cases, “all relevant teams” don’t include Product Marketing, though this lack of transparency is a problem for everyone involved.
Earlier issues, like a lack of communication and collaboration, can lead to silos within the GTM team. As a result, gaining access to the product roadmap feels like pulling teeth to the PMMs, while PMs begin to look at marketing as a nuisance. At best, it’s a sibling rivalry. At worst, it’s a GTM cold war.
Regardless of the specifics, lack of access to a product roadmap makes it very difficult to create messaging, develop assets, and track launch success. This issue ties back to the earlier mistake of lacking communication and collaboration, reaffirming that silos and gate-keeping are the silent killer of GTM launches.
Many of the major issues outlined in the PMA report arise from two issues: a lack of infrastructure and a lack of leadership. Not designating one person to oversee your Go-to-Market strategy is the cardinal sin of the latter. Having dozens of people lead the way may have worked in ancient Rome, but it doesn’t cut it for a product launch.
Whether they are from product, marketing, or another department entirely, your Go-to-Market leader orchestrates your GTM team, ensuring the launch sounds more like Beethoven and less like the 6th grade symphony. Here are some of the ways this leader can help keep your product launch on track:
It’s also important to empower this leader with the right process.
You don’t want a GTM dictator who follows hunches and whims on the right way to launch. You need someone who can work cross-fucntionally with departments and stakeholders, directing traffic using the project roadmap and GTM strategy as a North Star. With the right platform to facilitate the processes of research, communication, and asset management, you can greatly increase the efficiency of your leader and the overall project management process.
GTM teams often suffer from lack of alignment, not lack of strategy. A unified leader working through a central process and platform helps keep all stakeholders in sync.
“How can you leverage one launch event for maximum impact by maximizing distribution of your product-related content?”
That’s the question Aimen Chouchane, Sona’s Head of Content and Product Marketing, posed in the 2022 PMA report. It also highlights a key contributing factor to the massive number of products that fail to launch:
Not hitting target audiences across multiple channels and failing to generate sufficient demand.
For instance, if you’re rolling out a new product or feature, you can hit potential users across the social channels they frequent, gain access to their emails with free trials or freemium offerings, and drive adoption with support material on your owned channels. If your sales and marketing teams are leading growth, you’ll need to create sales-enablement assets to go along with launch content distributed across owned and paid channels.
Regardless of whether your long-term growth strategy is product- or sales-driven, you need to establish a strong messaging infrastructure.
Unlike major efforts in departments like sales, customer success, or product development, most companies don’t have a central hub for GTM.
The project wiki lives in Notion. The plan and roadmap live in Productboard. The project management lives in Asana. Internal communications live in Slack or Teams. Assets are created in Google Docs, and shared through several platforms. Research and competitor analysis are carried out in different ways depending on who’s doing it, not always shared with the right team members, and stored in separate places, making it difficult to compile and make sense of the outcomes.
Worse yet, your team lacks the GTM-specific automations necessary to move from research to asset creation to monitoring.
However, integrating the key components of your GTM strategy scattered across your tech stack feels like herding cats. With the average PMM using nearly 6 tools per GTM — some using as many as 11 — it’s clear that GTM teams could do with some consolidation. But this puts you in a tough spot: how do you get all these different functions into one platform that provides a single source of truth?
Finding an end-to-end GTM platform can make all the difference for your launch, providing the automations, communications channels, asset management, and sales enablement tools you just won’t get from run-of-the-mill project management platforms. GTM platforms like Ignition aren’t just a single source of truth, but a function aggregator that provides the following:
Many PMMs and PMs make the mistake of thinking that the campaign is done after the initial launch. Or, as they say in the rotisserie infomercials: “Set it and forget it.” This same strategy will burn your Go-to-Market launch as badly as that hands-off rotisserie oven burns your dinner.
In the same way that product teams tack and analyze data throughout the entirety of their lifecycle, PMM and GTM teams need their own Go-to-Market tracker that captures data on inefficiencies and potential areas for improvement throughout the process.
A successful product launch is about more than a scheduled follow-up email through HubSpot.
You generate demand and convert leads by creating the omnichannel experience your customers are used to. Without a monitoring and follow-up process, those goals are unattainable.
The importance of monitoring doesn’t just apply to the launch itself — you need to consistently evaluate the entire GTM apparatus. Leaders, stakeholders, processes, and platforms in all.
Brands are constantly moving in and out of the launch phase, whether it’s products, messaging, or features. By taking a meta view of your Go-to-Market approach itself, you can avoid future issues and help tailor your process for improved ROI.
Through Ignition’s Go-to-Market ops platform, PMMs and PMs across industries finally get access to single-source-of-truth for the entire product cycle. It’s the first platform to truly enable teams across CPG, software development, entertainment, and other industries with the GTM-specific tools for:
Transform your next product launch with the Ignition Go-to-Market platform and make sure that the only failure to launch is in your DVD player.