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What Is Go-to-Market Strategy? A Comprehensive Guide

With so many Go-to-Market strategy templates out there, what's *really* important to consider when building your launch plan?

And how do you truly define go-to-market?

To find out, Demandbase conducted a survey of 224 high-level B2B sales and marketing leaders. Some 40% of respondents say they define "go-to-market" as taking a new product to market, 32% define it as all customer-facing activities, and 15% define it as how they position their company in the market.

Those survey results make it pretty clear that most people don’t really understand what Go-to-Market truly means and often use the term interchangeably to describe an assortment of different marketing and customer-facing activities.

Go-to-Market (GTM) strategy isn't just some random to-do list. No, it's way more intentional than that. It's a carefully crafted blueprint. It's the art of aligning all the vital components to flawlessly introduce a new product line or service or reposition an existing one, ensuring it captivates the market strategically and irresistibly.

But here's where the confusion kicks in. You've got GTM strategy, GTM plan, and GTM process thrown around like they're all the same thing. Well, they're not.

The GTM checklist (often called a project plan) is exactly as it sounds — a checklist. More specifically, it’s full of to-dos that come out of your research and strategy phase.

Now, the go-to-market process? That’s the aggregate motion your company follows for how you put the project plan into action. That's where the rubber meets the road. It's the hands-on, get-your-hands-dirty execution phase. We're talking research, launching those marketing campaigns, reaching out to customers, setting up distribution channels — the whole shebang. It takes the plan and turns it into reality, step by step.

But remember, folks, the GTM strategy (often called the GTM Plan) is the North Star in all this. It’s the overall plan, the big picture, the guiding light. It’s what keeps us on track, ensuring everything we do aligns with our strategic, tactical, and executional plans.

So, strategy, plan, and process are all important pieces of the puzzle, working together to make something truly special happen.

Dissecting macro vs. micro Go-to-Market strategy

Alright, let's break it down. We've got two flavors here — Macro GTM and Micro GTM.

Think of Macro GTM as the big picture, the grand scheme of things on a company level. This is where we're talking about the overarching brand strategy, how to launch a whole new company, the grand plan for company growth, and even how we're going to get our products out there through various distribution models. Oh, and competitive analysis? That's not just about one product; it's on a whole company level. 

Now, shift gears to Micro GTM. This one's more like a solo act within a bigger show. It's all about launching a specific "thing" within an existing company, not starting from scratch. That "thing" could be a shiny new product, a fresh campaign, an activity like an event, or a cool feature we're adding to an existing one. This is the GTM we’re talking about.

But here's the deal, people: a strategy is the secret sauce that makes all the difference. When you've got a solid strategy in place, magic happens. Adoption soars, the cash register rings, customers are over the moon, and your team's morale? Through the roof! Plus, you can launch that new thing at warp speed. 

Without a strategy, well, it's like trying to find a needle in a haystack, blindfolded. You might end up chasing the wrong customers or diving headfirst into an overcrowded market.

Are you launching a product or feature? We know, it's a whirlwind of tasks and details, but we've broken it all down, focusing on what really matters in a killer GTM strategy. It's the roadmap to success in this wild, competitive world we're in.

To sweeten the deal, we’ve included a free GTM Planning Template at the end of this article that we’ve used in-house to help plan and launch successful product launches at companies like Playstation, BBVA, and Rippling. 

10 components of GTM strategy

Your GTM strategy, or "Get-This-Moving" plan, is your roadmap to launch that shiny new thing. Nail your GTM strategy, and you're well on your way to a triumphant launch. Here are the 10 components you’ll need to understand and execute on along the way:

1. Objectives

2. Metrics and KPIs

3. Budget

4. Target audience

5. Positioning

6. Price and packaging

7. Product messaging

8. Rollout phasing and tactical plans

9. Asset needs

10. Executional plan (tasks)

1. Objectives

With product launches, clarity is the name of the game. Each launch should have a crystal-clear business objective — something tangible, like making more money or boosting customer loyalty. It’ll also have a single marketing objective, like category creation.

Ideally, you’d follow the SMART framework by ensuring your objectives are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. But here's the key — the approach depends on your product's unique charm, the market's maturity, and who you're battling out there. 

Each unique launch will have key strategic objectives, which you’ll review post-launch to determine its overall success.

2. Metrics and KPIs

Alright, let's get down to brass tacks — you need a set of real, tangible metrics to know if your launch is a smash hit or a total dud. Think of these as the "key results" that'll make or break your grand objective(s).

For instance, if your business objective is all about increasing customer lifetime value, then you've got KPIs like average order value (AOV) and retention rate.

But here's the twist: tweaking one metric can have a domino effect on others. So, for every metric you're tracking, you've also got to keep an eye on its counterpart. Some usual suspects include audience penetration, search volume, the Net Promoter Score (NPS) of your brand-new customers, and that all-important attach rate. Keep those metrics in check, and you'll have the scorecard for your launch's success!

3. Budget

Let's talk money, honey. This is your total budget for the big launch and how it's being sliced and diced among teams and activities. Those lucky teams need to make do with the budget they've got, or chat with the launch lead if they need changes.

Now, for some budget wisdom: start with the aim to spend about 10-15% of what you expect to make from your product on marketing. If you're gunning for lightning-fast growth, you might nudge that number up to 20-25%. 

And here's where the 70/20/10 rule comes into play:

70% goes to proven tactics on proven channels. 20%  is for testing new stuff on those trusted channels. And the last 10%? Well, that's for going wild, trying all-new crazy tactics.

4. Target audience

Your target audience is a group of people who you think are most likely to benefit from and purchase your product. This audience could consist of people who share the same problem but work in different fields or are nothing alike demographically, making it difficult to market to them, let alone build a product around them.

Identifying your audience is a bit like detective work. You've got to roll up your sleeves, do those customer interviews, and fire off those surveys. Find out who's a match made in heaven for your product and who's just not feeling it.

But hold on, it's not always about the customers. Sometimes, you're aiming at the press, partners, investors, or even your own team to communicate the value of your new release. It's a mixed bag.

Now, here's the secret sauce: niche down, focus like a laser.

Target the audience who'll go absolutely bananas for your product, not just the biggest or most appealing crowd. Get those 1000 die-hard fans before you cast your net wider. But, and it's a big but, think about the customer's wallet too. Going after someone who adores you but can't afford you? That's a one-way ticket to nowhere. 

Let's switch gears and dive into ideal customer profiles (ICPs). ICPs are like the fan-fiction version of your dream customer — they're fictional but oh so important. You're painting a picture of your perfect target company and considering things like size, revenue, industry, and where they're located.

Why bother with this fan fiction, you ask?

Well, it's about knowing where you can be the undisputed champ. Sure, you want everyone to adore your product, but targeting every company on the planet is a recipe for disaster. You'll end up with a sea of unsatisfied customers and just a tiny island of happy ones who genuinely need your product and don’t get enough love. 

ICPs separate the wheat from the chaff, so you can focus your marketing, sales, and engineering. 

Now, think of ICPs as the big umbrella under which buyer personas hang out. Buyer personas are the individual characters in this story, not companies. Knowing them helps you tailor your product to each person and their pain points. Plus, they spill the beans on what your persona is willing to spend, which is pure gold for setting prices and packaging your products.

5. Positioning

April Lunford says, “Positioning defines how your product is a leader at delivering something that a well-defined set of customers cares a lot about.”

Essentially, positioning in marketing is like trying to find your place in a crowded room. It's all about figuring out where your product or brand stands in relation to your competitors. Think of it as a game of musical chairs — you want to grab the best seat before the music stops.

But here's the twist: positioning isn't just about finding a spot; it's about crafting a perception in people's minds. You want consumers to associate your product with something unique and valuable. It's like convincing everyone at the party that your homemade guacamole is the best they've ever tasted, even if it's just avocado and a hint of lime.

Positioning can be a north star showing you the way through the fog of choices. But it's also a frame of reference, like comparing your guacamole to the canned stuff at the supermarket. It helps consumers make sense of the crowded room and choose your seat — or your product — over the others.

So, when you hear the term "positioning," remember: it's not just about where you are; it's about where you want to be in the minds of your audience. It's the art of staking your claim in the marketing circus without using a trapeze or a lion tamer's whip!

But how do you even figure out your positioning? Well, you dive into what your customers think about your product and what category it falls into. You listen to your loyal customers, the ones who rely on your product like it's their sidekick. And you figure out where your product shines brightest compared to the competition.

There are five common positioning strategies you can consider, and they're a bit like choosing your superhero costume:

  • Characteristics-based positioning — Think of Apple and its sleek, stylish devices.
  • Pricing-based positioning — Like buying a Kia because it's affordable, not because it's the flashiest car on the block.
  • Use or application-based positioning — Adobe dominates the graphic design world because you can do practically anything with it.
  • Quality or prestige-based positioning — Patek Philippe, anyone? Their watches are a symbol of luxury. They don't care that their watches aren't sold at Walmart. That's not their market.
  • Competitor-based positioning — Are you Team Apple or Team Windows? That's a whole debate in itself!

But remember, bad product positioning can be catastrophic, like the New Coke disaster back in the '80s. Coca-Cola tried to change its beloved formula, and it was a massive flop. People weren't ready to let go of their nostalgic connection to the original.

So, don't make the same mistake; do your homework, listen to your customers, and understand how you want to be seen. It could make all the difference in the world.

6. Price and packaging

How should you price your product to stay competitive in its space? In terms of strategy, determining how it’s priced, bundled, and discounted helps you plan your business activities around projected ROI. Proper customer and competitive research helps you suss out optimal price points to maximize the revenue your product or service generates.

Picture this: a CRM software company wants to price its solution. They find out that businesses would pay around $200 per user per month to fix their customer data and communication woes. So, what do they do? They set the price at $199, just to sweeten the deal. Then, they shout from the rooftops about how their software is the answer to all those customer management headaches. And if things change — customers love it, or competition heats up — they're ready to adjust that price tag.

That's value-based pricing in action, making customers feel like they've struck gold.

Then there’s the packaging component. Packaging defines how you’ll bundle your product according to your customer’s preferences, needs, and wants. Companies hoping to build a GTM strategy should pay close attention to their competitors in this space and run frequent customer surveys to define how to package and bundle their products for maximum ROI.

Both pricing and packaging can be determined through customer survey tools, such as the Gabor-Granger Pricing Analysis survey, Conjoint Analysis, and Van Westendorp’s Pricing Sensitivity Meter.

7. Product messaging

Product messaging my friends, is essentially the art of coining why your customers desperately need the thingamajig or service you're selling. Your messaging should include a value proposition, which is the one-line articulation of the core value your product will bring to a customer, but said in a language customers can actually understand. 

This little gem becomes the foundation for your pitch and messaging hierarchy. It's not the actual copy that you'd slap on a website but rather the grand idea you want your copy to convey to customers. Think of it as the bumper sticker of your product's essence.

However, let’s make one thing very clear, messaging is explicitly NOT copy. Messaging is like the secret sauce of strategic talking points, not the flashy words your customer sees. It's what guides the copy you craft in the vast galaxy of marketing.

When done correctly, you can communicate the value, features, and benefits of your product without ever having to explicitly state them outright. In terms of messaging strategy, you’ll want to lay out what your product is to your customers, the benefits your customers will experience when using your product, and how you’ll communicate all of this to your customers.

8. Rollout phasing and tactical plans

At a more granular executional level, you’ll need to determine how to roll your new product or service out to customers. When will you ship to Alpha for early, highly focused design feedback from a few trusted users? When will you roll out to a Beta for a wider, controlled test among a real-life audience to discover any final polishing needed? When will you open the product to general availability and make your big announcement? 

If you think about your launch in terms of simply the last step, you’re missing out on valuable opportunities to collect customer feedback about the product, your messaging, and more.

It's essential to have a strategy to gut-check your channel tactics every time you're launching something. You might be cruising as a product-led company, but then, surprise, a new product idea comes along that needs some serious onboarding or integration magic. In those cases, it might just be best to let the sales team take the wheel. 

Sales-led GTM is like this dynamic duo where marketing gets the party started, and sales swoops in to seal the deal. If you believe your product needs that extra push to really reach your crowd, then sales-led GTM is for you. It's all about deploying the sales force alongside the marketing magic to stir up that interest.

Sales led vs product led gtm strategy

Product-led GTM is all about letting the product do the talking, no salespeople at the forefront (at least, not at first). This strategy serves as a prized advantage, particularly for companies fully committed to their product. It's the favorite choice of many startups because it lets them stay nimble and quick to adapt to their customers' ever-changing desires.

Now, don't get me wrong, it's not an everyday occurrence. You won't be having a debate on sales versus product strategies every time you launch. But it’s something you need to at least consider for every new development or product launch.

In the grand scheme of things, the strategy you choose will dictate your marketing channels. 

Now, choosing the right channels is like selecting the right tool for the job. It's all about audience reach, messaging, and distribution. It also impacts the customer experience and how we measure success. There are typically three buckets of channels: 

  • Paid channels are scalable very quickly and include things like social ads, TV ads, or sponsorships. 
  • Earned channels are when you use another person or company’s platform to promote your product via pitching, like press, partnerships, or analyst relations. 
  • Owned channels are the ones you have full control over, like your blog, website, or in-product messaging (IPM).

In essence, your choice of channels is the tactical plan of attack, guiding your marketing endeavors toward optimal results.

9. Asset needs

Once you know the tactics you’re going to use, you’ll also need to develop asset plans outlining all the marketing copy and collateral needed to support those channels. GTM planning is a lot of work, huh?

Think of assets as the building blocks that help you educate, engage, and persuade your audience. Whether it's flashy marketing creatives or solid product demos, these assets are the informational backbone of your strategy. You've got content assets like blog posts, white papers, graphics and videos, sales enablement material like battle cards, release notes, marketing materials, and more.

A common mistake when creating copy assets is focusing on features over benefits.

Features vs benefits

The solution is to speak to customers' needs, showcase real-life success stories, and use customer-centric language. Make it like a magic show where the real wonder is the positive impact on your customers' lives, not just the tricks up your product's sleeve.

So, in the grand scheme of things, asset needs are like the backstage crew that makes the show a hit — without them, your GTM strategy wouldn't have the tools to shine.

10. Executional plan (tasks)

Here’s where the rubber hits the road, and ideas turn into action. Executional plans are, essentially, tasks. Once everything else is complete, you need to break your launch down into digestible chunks people can bite off over time to bring your launch to fruition. Once you have everything laid out in simple tasks, you’ll then assign them due dates and owners. 

Your best bet here is to break the tasks down into pre-launch, launch, and post-launch phases to keep everything in order.

Here are some examples by launch phase:

Pre-Launch Phase: Dive into market research and get cozy with the competition. Create messaging that'll make your audience swoon and start crafting content that'll knock their socks off. Don't forget those trusty sales materials and budget planning to get the party started.

Launch Phase: Launch those marketing campaigns like fireworks on the 4th of July. Unveil that new product with all the fanfare it deserves. Get your sales teams out there, making calls and sending emails. Offer a warm welcome with top-notch customer support, and keep a close eye on those metrics — they're your report card.

Post-Launch Phase: Engage with your customers, tweak your strategies based on feedback, and think about scaling up if things are going swimmingly. Keep an ear to the ground for changes in the competitive landscape, and always, always listen to your customers.

And there you have it, the recipe for a successful GTM strategy, from pre-launch prep to post-launch glory! Now, you just need a tool like Ignition to help keep everything organized. Here’s an article on How To Greenlight Ingnition at your Company. 

In the eternal words of the infomercial king Billy Mays, “but wait, there’s more” because in the next section, we’re going to breakdown all the reasons why you should have a clear GTM strategy, cap off with some GTM FAQs, and finally give you that GTM template we promised.

Why yes, you should have a GTM strategy — here’s why

Probably one of the most important parts of a go-to-market strategy is that it provides a roadmap for taking a product idea and turning it into reality. But beyond just helping you bring a product to market, GTM strategy helps you bring that product to market the right way. Without a GTM strategy, all you really have is an idea and a whole lot of hope.

A GTM strategy means quicker time-to-market

Time-to-market (TTM) refers to the length of time between product conception and when the product is finally released. The faster your TTM, the more revenue you can generate. A study from McKinsey revealed that if your product is six months late to market, it earns 33% less revenue compared to a product that launched on schedule or ahead of schedule.

GTM strategy helps you delegate tasks to their respective teams and gives everyone a 10,000-foot overview of the plan. Teams like marketing know their role and what they need to execute on during the messaging and validation stage of the GTM strategy. Executives know the launch plan and how to apply it to managing people. Sales knows who their ICPs and buyer personas are and how to talk about the product.

But, much to the joy (or chagrin) of some product managers, TTM isn’t defined by how much they can accomplish in an eight-hour day but rather by how much cross-functional teams can accomplish in the span of a few weeks or months. For better or worse, GTM strategy is a team sport. Not having a strategy before going into a launch is like going into a game without a plan.

A strong go-to-market strategy translates to less financial risk

Good strategy work prior to launch tells you that you’re less likely to launch a product that’s a complete flop. There are some exceptions to this rule, but it follows that if you can verify product-market fit, do customer research, and price and market appropriately — you know, do your homework — you’re probably going to launch a more successful product than if you had just thrown darts at a board and made a few guesses as to what your loosely defined ICPs and personas want in a product.

With a GTM plan, customers see better outcomes

GTM strategies are, from the ground up, built around a customer’s wants or needs. After all, this whole mission you’re on started with you or your company trying to address a problem the customer is facing. When approaching a problem with strategy and planning, you can actually build your product, delivery, and pricing plays around the customer’s preferred pricing points.

With a GTM in place, you can now better equip agents in Sales and Support with background info on where the product is headed. Imagine your employees out on a sales call with no idea of how an update, feature, or product works.

It's crucial to remember that these efforts have a direct impact on your company's financial health. Introducing new products to customers effectively unlocks new cross-sell/upsell opportunities and also helps retain customers. By keeping your customers satisfied and engaged through well-planned strategies, you contribute to robust net revenue retention, which is a key metric in measuring business success. So, in the end, it's all about finding the right balance between addressing customer needs and achieving financial growth.

A go-to-market strategy is your roadmap to future success

So, let’s say your launch goes off without a hitch, and you’ve got some loyal customers under your belt. If you want to iterate on that product or bring another product to market, your initial strategy work can be repurposed or, in some cases, translated to different product lines. And while no two launches can ever be the same, regardless of tier, it’s safe to say that if you’re consistently launching products, you can enshrine good launch habits in your team members. 

That means having highly visible launch plans (that cross-functional teams are aligned on), transparency on launch dates and subtasks relating to strategy, stronger inter-departmental communication on what the launch is going to look like, and clearly defined ICPs and personas.

Now, build a repeatable go-to-market strategy

Regardless of your launch size or tier, creating a go-to-market strategy is crucial for your launch’s success. In the present, it gives you a roadmap for success that goes beyond just sending a few emails to your prospective customers and buddies or posting a few blurbs on LinkedIn.

Most importantly, it helps you build a repeatable launch process for the future and enshrines good habits in your team that are harder to break when you launch again or when you build upon an existing product line.

It can take time to build out and operationalize a launch process, let alone launch a product. We get it. That’s why we built Ignition — a Go-to-Market software that’s built by experienced product managers for teams that don’t have a launch process or are done with data silos and trying to cram their existing GTM strategy into tools not designed for product launches.

Go-to-market template

Frequently asked Go-to-Market strategy questions

In the world of GTM, questions are like breadcrumbs on the path to success. From launching products to reaching customers, we're here to tackle those burning inquiries and shed some light on the complexities of GTM strategies:

1. What is the go-to-market timeline?

The go-to-market timeline is the amount of time it’ll take to complete the activities outlined in a go-to-market strategy. 

Go-to-market timeline

Imagine this timeline as a grand roadmap, a visual masterpiece that lays out the tasks, stages, and campaigns from your strategy. 

2. Is GTM the same as marketing strategy?

No, it’s not. A GTM strategy is your grand plan for expanding into a new market or launching a product. Imagine you're a tech company eyeing Germany — your GTM strategy gets into the nitty-gritty, like researching the German tech scene, handling regulations, and setting prices in Euros.

Now, the marketing strategy zooms in on the day-to-day stuff in Germany, like ads, social media, and local events, all part of your broader GTM strategy. So, while GTM is the master plan, the marketing plan executes the genius tactics that make it all happen.

3. How do product marketers handle the stress and fast-paced nature of taking a product to market?

Sometimes, you have to embrace a harsh reality — there'll never be a magic wand that grants you unlimited time, funding, and resources. 

Get comfy with the fact that you'll often be in the hot seat, juggling tasks with a lean team and a budget that's tighter than your favorite pair of skinny jeans. But here's the silver lining: This is where creativity and optimism shine.

For your initial launch, think MVP – that's "Minimum Viable Product." List the absolute must-haves, sprinkle in a few nice-to-haves, and everything else? It's on the back burner, waiting for its turn in the spotlight. Remember, it's not about having it all; it's about making the most of what you've got.

4. What are some common mistakes product marketers make when putting together a fresh strategy?

Mistake #1: Making the product, brand, or a certain feature the hero of the product launch’s narrative or focus instead of what it should be — the customer.

Solution: Craft messaging that resonates with their needs, highlight how your offering makes their lives better, and share real customer success stories. Engage them, listen to their feedback, and personalize your approach. By putting your customers front and center, you create not just buyers but loyal advocates. 

Mistake #2: Spending too much time on the external strategy (marketing) and not enough time on the internal strategy (operations).

Solution: Start with clear objectives for each strategy, resource allocation that reflects their importance, and synchronized timelines and milestones. Create a feedback loop so that insights from marketing inform operational decisions and vice versa. Data and analytics from both sides should drive informed choices. Encourage cross-functional teams to bridge the gap and prioritize internal operations that directly impact customer satisfaction.

To truly master your next launch, check out our Ultimate Guide to Go-To-Market.

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