This article originates from Janani's presentation at the Product Marketing Summit in San Francisco, 2022. Catch up on this presentation, and others, using our OnDemand service. For more exclusive content, visit your membership dashboard.

Why do you need a GTM strategy? Well, not to freak you out, but 95% of new products fail in the first year. Those launches could fail because of poor timing – for example, I worked in an automotive company that was trying to improve energy efficiency, and then electric cars started entering the market.

Maybe it comes down to product issues – let's just blame it on the product team. It’s always the product and never the marketing, right? Well, no.

The truth is you could build the best product in the market that solves all your customers’ pain points, but if they don't know where to find it, they're not going to buy it. That’s why you need a rock-solid GTM plan that puts the product or services in your customer's hands.

In this article, I'll look at:

  • The key questions your Go-to-Market strategy should answer
  • The target customer
  • Value propositions
  • Routes to market
  • Our multifaceted approach to Go-to-Market
  • A communication plan
  • Pricing strategy
  • Operational readiness
  • Metrics
  • Key takeaways

The key questions your Go-to-Market strategy should answer

So we know we need a Go-to-Market strategy, but what are the key questions it should answer? Let's see.

Who is your buyer persona?

This is critical. When I was consulting for a data analytics company, they told me their buyer persona was everybody. I said there was no way it could be everybody. They said anyone who uses data is their persona. We all use data – we use email and we have shared folders, but we're not all their customers, right?

After much probing, that buyer persona went from everyone to one particular target market. We found out that their buyer persona is IT vendors who build data warehousing products.

What are you trying to sell?

Not the features, not the capabilities, but what is the pain point you're trying to solve for your customers? Why should they care about your product? What is the unique selling proposition of that product?

How do you reach your customers?

This is where routes to the market play a critical role. You want to make sure customers can find your product. You also want to look at how they’re going to buy it. Is there a promotion or a discount? Are you in a very competitive market, where you need a solid pricing strategy to be attractive to customers?

Why would your target customers want to buy this product?

Is it unique and disruptive? Is it paradigm-shifting? Is it a price play? For example, imagine that you have an anti-virus product, and, I come from CrowdStrike and I say, “Hey, I have a product that'll do it better and cost you less.” That might be a pretty tempting offer.

When are you launching?

Timing is everything. Ideally, you want to have the first-mover advantage, but if you don't have it, you at least want to make sure that you hit the market before your competition gets there.

Where are you going to focus your marketing and sales strategy?

How are you going to enable your sellers to reach the target audience? What is your marketing mix going to look like?

These are the six key questions, and I’ll repeatedly touch upon these themes as we move through the article.

Now I’m going to lay out a seven-element activation plan that will enable you to answer all these questions, nail your GTM strategy, and measure your success after your product has launched. Whether your company is big or small, you’ll want to keep all of these elements in mind as you prepare to go to market.

Target customer

Who are you selling to?

The first thing you want to do is identify your buyer personas. Once you’ve researched them, you want to make sure you validate them – people often forget this step. Validating your personas means talking to analysts, talking to your customers, talking to your sales reps, and making sure that your personas hit the mark.

Because I'm in the cybersecurity space and I don't want to get into trouble, I'm going to use a fake company for all of my examples. It’s an amalgamation of all the companies I’ve consulted and worked for – we'll call it AcmeCloud.

Sample AcmeCloud Personas - Champion CIO, Influencer CISO, Decision Maker Head of IT, Users IT Operations, Users IT Support and Ratifier CFO. There's a large red circle to the side of these personas split into 5 different circles inside. They're broken up into Persona, Buying Group, Buying Center, Account, and Market. Underneath the circle it says "North America then Global 2000 then Enterprise IT, then IT Operations."
Image courtesy of Janani Nagarajan at CrowdStrike

These were some of the sample personas we came up with at AcmeCloud. You might think six personas are a lot, but they each fulfill different functions. There’s not just a buyer; there could also be an influencer or a ratified.

For example, we found out that procurement and the CFO office were questioning why the company was buying products and what problem these products would solve.

From this list of personas, we built persona cards that talked about their problems, possible solutions, and where they’re shopping to boost our sales playbooks.

Value proposition

What should you address in your messaging?

Now you have your buyer persona, it’s time for the fun part. I see a lot of product marketers get excited about writing the messaging document, but in order to write that document, you need to understand the market and what it is about your product that uniquely solves the customer's pain points.

You also need to also understand how the product works so you can translate it into something the customer understands.

A slide that says "What is the value proposition and messaging" then underneath, five bullet points that read Customer problem solved by your product or service, benefits for the customers, competitive differentiators and advantages, proof of value creation, and finally value statements and key messages. Then, next to it is a yellow revision card which says "For - target customer" "Who - statement of the need or opportunity" the "product or sevice name" is a "product or service category" "that - statement of benefit" unlike "primary competitive alternative" we "statement of primary differentiation."
Image courtesy of Janani Nagarajan at CrowdStrike

For this, it's critical that you get the messaging and the value proposition right and make sure your competitive differentiation really stands out.

Rather than simply saying that your feature sets are better, communicate to the customers why the old way doesn’t work and how you’re going to fix that, always keeping in mind the brand experience you want to drive for the customer.

Sample AcmeCloud Positioning Outline. The first table is split into two columns - Sections and Messaging copy. Underneath sections there are five rows which read "brand promise, positioning statement, target audience, vision and mission, elevator pitch." underneath messaging copy there are five rows again which read "tag line, how AcmeCloud is different, who are the key personas, company internal and external statements, and 30 second outcome pitch." then the 2nd table is split into four columns "messaging pillar one, messaging pillar two, messaging pillar three and messaging pillar four." Underneath messaging pillar one and two, it reads, supporting points one and two, benefits one and two, key use cases, and features. Underneath messaging pillar three and four, it reads supporting point three and supporting points four, benefits three and four, top use cases for customers, and main features with competitive advantages.
Image courtesy of Janani Nagarajan at CrowdStrike

The final thing you want to do is create messaging pillars. Your marketing team needs to be able to tease apart each of these pillars and use them to run campaigns that will hit different target audiences, so you want to give them options.

For example, at AcmeCloud, our first pillar was, ‘Everyone is adopting digital transformation, so you need to think about moving to the cloud.’ Great, but maybe they're already in the cloud.

For those customers, we zoom in on the fact that we’re faster or cheaper than their current cloud solutions. That’s just one example of why it’s important to have different messaging pillars to hit a broader audience.

Routes to market

How are you going to reach your target audience?

Now you’ve figured out our messaging, let’s dig into where you’re going to share it. You’ll need to make a lot of important decisions here:

  1. Direct vs indirect: Do you want to go after direct sales, or will you be selling indirectly, through a reseller or distributor?
  2. Push vs pull: Are you pushing the products through advertising, or are you waiting for people to search for content before you serve up your products?
  3. Horizontal vs vertical: As I said earlier, your persona cannot cover everyone. Maybe you want to target finance because they’re early adopters.
    Maybe you want to go after retail because you have data warehousing for retail customers. Maybe you want to go after defense because you're a cybersecurity product. Your channel mix will depend on the horizontals or verticals you’re focusing on.
  4. B2B vs B2C: Are you selling directly to your users through, for example, Facebook or Instagram, or are you selling to enterprises that service other users?

Our multifaceted GTM

At AcmeCloud, we took a multifaceted approach to our GTM plan. We started with a direct sales team, which consisted of field sales and inside sales, as well as some more specialized folks.

Next, we looked at strategic services. This meant identifying specialized GTM partners for the verticals we were targeting, plus sales and services partners.

For example, as a cybersecurity firm, we went after legal firms because they get a lot of questions from their customers about how to make sure they were secure. Those legal partners would then recommend AcmeCloud.