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How Nailing Your Go-To-Market Can Help You Steal Market Share During a Recession

It might be the perfect time for you to launch that new product, feature, or campaign. But first, you've got to perfect your go-to-market strategy, even if you have fewer resources.

“I was asked what I thought about the recession. I thought about it and decided not to take part,” Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, once said. 

If only we all had the luxury of opting out of a recession. Unfortunately, brands large and small are at the mercy of the economy right now: Peloton, Shopify, Stripe, Netflix, Gap, Wayfair, Tesla, Vimeo, Carvana, Ford, MasterClass, Snapchat, Meta, and, yes, even Walmart have all done layoffs this year.

So let’s get straight to the burning questions on everyone’s minds: How can your brand stay strong and relevant right now? How can you survive—and even thrive—throughout a recession? 

A laser-sharp, well-researched, perfectly positioned go-to-market strategy

81.8% of top-quartile companies report that strong launches have a significant impact on revenue, enabling them to realize 1.5-2x more annual revenue growth. And some powerhouse global brands have even used recessions to their advantage, gaining strong footholds in the market by disrupting stale industries, releasing innovative products, and pivoting to more customer-focused messaging campaigns while their competitors were downshifting.

So now may actually be the perfect time for you to launch that new product, feature, or campaign. But first, you’ve got to nail your go-to-market—even if you have fewer resources. 

3 Ways to Gain an Edge with Your Go-to-Market During a Recession

1. Beat your competitors to market.

Any race car driver or sports enthusiast will tell you speed can be a competitive advantage. The same goes for business. A half-baked launch won’t do you any favors, of course—but an efficient, streamlined go-to-market process that enables you to launch before the other guys have even thought about it? Now that’s a winning approach. 

Historically, many brands reduce or delay new offerings during a recession. There’s also a reduction in R&D, paid marketing, and supply orders. All this equates to less noise in the market, leaving room for smaller brands and innovators to capture attention (and market share) with new products, features, positioning, or even business models. 

For example, the widespread enterprise-level layoffs in 2008 ushered in the gig economy and a new wave of DTC startups. “History suggests that companies that invest in innovation through a crisis outperform peers during the recovery,” notes McKinsey in its analysis of the CPG industry. Low market density made it easy for smaller brands and newer products to find customers and convert them to loyal fans long before competitors returned to market. 

A thorough study of automotive and manufacturing product launches confirms this with its findings: 

  1. “Models launched during an economic recession exhibit better performance, both in terms of market share and survival chances.”
  2. “The longer after a recession a product is launched, the higher the density in the market and thus the lower the expected market share and survival chances.” 

So don’t let the recession put your launch date at risk if you’ve determined that you’re on time and on target. Review your launch calendar to determine whether adjustments need to be made, then march forward. Many of your competitors are no doubt taking their feet off the gas so use the timing to your advantage.

2. Streamline your process to do more with less. 

Does your go-to-market process feel clunky, complicated, or chaotic? You’re not alone. Only ⅓ of product marketing managers say they have a defined, consistently implemented go-to-market process. 

A poor go-to-market process can hold you back during boom times but it becomes even more of a threat during a recession, when resources are often limited and there’s additional pressure to make a splash with each and every launch. 

Ditching your haphazard collection of slide decks, spreadsheets, and Gantt charts for a more efficient approach can help you level up performance while your competitors are canceling projects in their roadmap. Nailing the product cycle with fewer resources means you can release more features your customers are asking for, boost sales by launching new campaigns, or even launch that new product you’ve got in the works. 

It’s time to take a discerning look at your go-to-market process to identify weak spots. In particular, look for key communications that can be centralized to keep stakeholders informed and parts of the process that can be automated to free up your time and enable better scalability. Streamlining these elements can enable you to supercharge your launches

If your current tech stack doesn’t support your launches well, it might be time to use a go-to-market platform that’s designed to house and track all the moving parts of your product and launch cycles. For example, Ignition’s platform captures market insights, stores launch calendars and playbooks, and even tracks release notes and changelogs—all inside a central, transparent location. 

One major slowdown in go-to-market planning is stakeholder alignment. If you’re spending hours upon hours sharing updates or getting bids for buy-in at every stage of the product cycle, consider how you can make communication more efficient and ensure you aren’t missing out on any key insights from your stakeholders. 

Kai Whitaker, Group Product Manager at Resolve, brings up another point of consideration when thinking about stakeholder alignment: The success of the launch itself. “The most successful go-to-market teams are able to align internal stakeholders before launching to customers. Tight alignment between the product, marketing, sales, and customer support teams is vital to the success of a product launch.” To facilitate an impressive launch, every corner of the business needs to be aligned on the key elements of your go-to-market strategy.

3. Emphasize trust in your positioning and messaging.

Consumer and B2B trust sharply declines in times of economic volatility, with trust levels seemingly echoing our collective confidence in the market. Therefore, the tendency to choose brands we perceive as more trustworthy is magnified in a recession. 

Surveys of both consumers and businesses consistently report a trust gap: Korn Ferry found that “9 out of 10 executives believe that their customers trust their organization—when only a third of customers actually do.” 

We all want to position our brands as trustworthy but trust signals often get neglected as brands rush to market with value propositions centered on speed or price. If your ideal customers have any apprehension about trusting your brand, there’s likely a disconnect in your positioning or messaging—which means your go-to-market has missed the mark.

“It’s easy to fall into the ‘Field of Dreams’ trap of ‘If you build it, they will come.’ Translating what your product does into the value it provides your customer is essential to a successful go-to-market campaign. Poor product messaging and positioning is often a symptom of not understanding your target customer, “ says Kai Whitaker.

If your ideal customer isn’t well-defined, dig in deeper. Sit on sales demos to hear from prospects firsthand, survey existing customers to discover which products or features they view as most valuable, and test messaging and creative ideas with a focus group to determine what resonates most. The more you understand about your ideal customers the better you’ll be able to build trust with them.

Compare your findings against competitive market insights to spot positioning and messaging opportunities for your go-to-market strategy: What key differentiators can help you position your brand as the most trustworthy choice? What customer pain points are your competitors failing to speak to? Is there a specific trust signal your ideal customers are looking for? 

Remember, positioning your brand as trustworthy and pinpointing the messaging that resonates with your audience is key to nailing your go-to-market.

View the Recession as an Opportunity, Not a Roadblock

A recession doesn’t have to be a barrier to your success. A strong go-to-market process and strategy can enable you to keep launching, claim more market share, and win over customers.

Now isn’t the time to downshift—now’s simply the time to streamline and sharpen your approach.