The focus of this article is launching an API and keeping it in the market - but you might be wondering what I mean by “keep it there.” I mean driving initial market adoption and usage of your API, ensuring your customers successfully integrate it and use it to make repeat API calls between systems.

In order to understand how to achieve this, I’ll be looking at the following in this article:

  • What exactly is GTM,
  • Building a bulletproof GTM framework,
  • The role of sales and marketing in GTM,
  • Writing a killer value proposition,
  • Measuring success,
  • Closing the feedback loop, and
  • Key takeaways.

What exactly is GTM?

Go-to-market is an extremely hot topic, verbalized across multiple departments, and it can take many shapes and forms depending on whether you're a startup, scale-up, or enterprise tech company. I'll be talking about go-to-market in both a generalist context and also a hypergrowth B2B context, indulging you in a little bit about how we do GTM at Mollie.

So how do we define GTM? Well, according to our friend Wikipedia,

“Go-to-market or go-to-market strategy is the plan of an organization, utilizing their outside resources, to deliver their unique value proposition to customers and achieve competitive advantage.”

The definition goes on, but I'm not going to finish it because, honestly, I feel that it’s out of touch with the reality of go-to-market strategy today. Instead, I’ve created my own version:

“Go-to-market is the overarching framework that details the key stakeholders, milestones, metrics, and deliverables a company cohesively follows, in order to test and validate the market opportunity, readiness, and positioning of a company's product or service, targeted at a predetermined customer segment.”

Of course, this is open to interpretation, but what I want you to take away is that go-to-market is the overarching process of many sub-processes, which are all pointed in the same direction with the goal of delivering the same result. To my mind, that means understanding how to establish product-market fit.

Now that we've explored the definition of GTM, how do you structure GTM in your world? As we know, it can vary in duration and structure, depending on your company and whether you’re targeting business, developer, or consumer audiences.

At Mollie, we have three different tiers of GTM. Having these clearly defined helps us manage expectations about when we require stakeholders' input. It also enables us to gauge how much bandwidth the team has to deliver within the timelines associated with each product launch.

If you decide to take a similar approach, I’d suggest you use high-level parameters to help define your GTM tiers. I find it useful to use these five parameters:

  1. Audience cohort: Who are we targeting?
  2. Channel mix: Through what channels are we reaching our audience?
  3. Stakeholders: Who do we need to keep informed, and who do we need to consult?
  4. Outcomes: What can we expect?
  5. Duration: How long will the GTM take from kickoff to retrospective?

Building a bulletproof GTM framework

Using a GTM framework will help you to communicate the milestones that need to be achieved to all the stakeholders involved. So what does a GTM framework look like? Let me give you an example of a tier-two GTM framework and how we use it at Mollie to steer our GTM efforts forward.

Don't be alarmed by the little black boxes – these are merely sanity checks to ensure that everything’s moving in the right direction. Timings will vary depending on the type of product or API you're launching.

We start with the ideation phase, which is all about determining the feasibility of an API. At this stage, you need to answer some pretty fundamental questions:

  • Why do customers need it?
  • What is the market demand, or at least the perceived demand?
  • How would we go about launching this?

Another key thing to discuss is where you’re launching your API. You’ll be plugging it into an external environment, so what does that environment look like? How is data being surfaced and visualized? These questions are so important and too often overlooked.

Throughout the GTM process, it’s vital to manage expectations with stakeholders. Before you can do that, you need to identify who your key stakeholders are. The range can be quite extensive – throughout any GTM process, you're touching on marketing, sales, customer support, customer success, and product engineering.

Your product engineers will be key partners when it comes to staying on top of timelines. They’re also going to help you get to grips with the key hypotheses going into your API beta tests and the learnings that will come out of those tests.

Another key part of this process is liaising with legal and compliance on the approvals and green lights you need. That's an extremely important checkpoint, especially in fintech.

The last thing you want to do is go live only to discover you don’t have the approvals you need. I've been there before, and the outcome is not pretty, so make sure your legal and compliance or security and risk stakeholders are included early on.

Let’s break it down

This is quite a lot of information, so let’s make it easier to understand by distilling our GTM process into a step-by-step approach with four core phases.

The discovery phase comes first. Before you do anything else, you want to sure that the problem and opportunity are clearly defined. Next, you need to identify all of your stakeholders – the RACI framework comes in handy here.

Psst. Find your RACI framework - and plenty more templates - on your member's dash!

Once you’ve identified those stakeholders, ensure that everyone understands why you’re launching this API, the size of the opportunity, the target audience, the impact it’s going to have, and the revenue it’s going to deliver.

The second phase is validation. Beta tests aren't always a requirement, but they add a huge amount of value when stress testing the product and future-proofing your launch material. This is not just about gathering technical insights; it’s also about using your beta customers to understand if the value proposition resonates with them.

We also need to check if our beta customers understand the technical documentation, and we should look at how far we need to go to teach them how to design the user interface on their end so information is surfaced in the most optimal way.

Next, we have the preparation phase. We need to take all the learnings from our beta tests and implement them before the launch phase so that our GTM material is airtight and we can ensure the team is tracking the right metrics.

Finally, we have launch and iteration. Your soft launch can focus on a single market or several. We typically launch in one market and test adoption there, then if everything goes well, we roll out sequentially across other markets. The iteration part focuses on leveraging internal and external insights to make more informed decisions as product adoption and usage start to grow.

The role of sales and marketing in GTM

Something super important that we sometimes neglect is understanding the roles of sales and marketing. In my experience, our sales and marketing counterparts play a crucial role not only in launching APIs, but in driving initial market adoption and, more importantly, gathering feedback and insights with supporting qualitative and quantitative data.

As you think about the types of questions that a GTM should answer, you need to be empathetic to your sales and marketing teams and understand their roles and how you can help guide them. From a product marketing standpoint, these are the questions I would typically ask myself to make sure we’re on the right track:

  • How have we quantified the demand for a new product, feature, or market?
  • Who are we targeting?
  • What is our message?
  • What is our unique selling proposition?
  • Have we defined the right personas and decision makers?
  • Who are the key stakeholders in our GTM?
  • Which beta customers are we co-launching with?
  • What supporting product material do we need in order to create an impactful launch?

Now let’s look at some of the questions our sales teams might ask:

What material do we have to sell our products? How has it been localized?

When you're dealing in multinational markets, it’s extremely important to locally contextualize materials for your sales teams. For example, if we want to pitch to a new retail customer in Germany, we should use proof points or references from previous retail customers in that region that will resonate with them.

How do we define the eligibility of our targeted customers?

In other words, what kind of profiles are we going after and why? Is it based on revenue? Is it based on vertical?

How have we forecasted the acquisition plan?

When aligning with sales and understanding the perceived demand for your product or feature, you need to keep in mind that sales will be seeing certain trends and potential competitors in the market that you may not be exposed to. Use that intel to create material that can help your sales teams attract, convert and win new customers.

What does customer onboarding look like?

One of the most important things we need to be mindful of when launching an API is that some customers can autonomously read the documentation and complete the integration within a week, maybe even faster, whereas others will take four to five weeks. It’s our job to get to grips with that cycle and help accelerate it.

What is our pricing strategy?

So that sales can better understand their role in GTM, we need to arm them with information on how our pricing compares to competitors and whether there’s any room for negotiation.

Of course, your marketing teams are going to have questions too. Let’s take a look at some of them.

  • When does marketing need to get involved? Do they have a part to play pre-GTM, or do we not need them until the soft launch?
  • What are our marketing deliverables? Is it content marketing, digital marketing, performance marketing, or all of them?
  • What kind of content do we want to market our product with locally? Do we need to create animations? Are we building team one-pagers? Will we use paid media? Do we need a new website landing page?
  • What are the audience demographics? This is crucial to know for targeted performance marketing.
  • What supporting marketing do we need? You might want to get digital PR involved or create some thought leadership content.

Answering these questions creates a much clearer picture of who does what, when, how, and where for your sales and marketing team counterparts.

Writing a killer value proposition

“Value proposition” is one of those phrases like “paradigm shift” and “synergy” that started as a good idea but then got so overused that nobody understands what it means anymore or why it’s important. Allow me to shed some light on what writing a value proposition involves.

I think a good place to start is by looking at how not to write a value proposition. Don't create a value proposition based on internal biases or anecdotal feedback, as this is not representative of your customers' needs or attractive to your customers' intent. You should also avoid making baseless claims. A simple way to do that is to make sure you back up all of your messaging with data.

Now let’s get into how you write an awesome value proposition. I find it useful to focus on three things:

  1. Understanding your customers’ jobs
  2. Understanding the pains: What do they hate about their jobs? Are they time-scarce? Do they lack developer capacity?
  3. Understanding the customer gains: What would make their lives easier?

Once you understand those three points, you need to align your customer’s pains and gains to the product features. Whether you have seven features or two, this is a really simple way to marry your offering to the customer's needs and make their lives easier.

It’s absolutely crucial to validate these claims. Nine times out of 10, even when I believe I’ve written a kick-ass value prop, it’s changed several times before the launch. That’s because we iterate and reiterate with new customers joining the beta, getting their feedback on what resonates strongly and the statements they see as baseless.

Measuring success

There are heaps of metrics that you need to consider when launching an API, so I like to start by taking a very broad approach. A handy way to do this is to categorize the different metrics you need to focus on – I would treat this as an initial shopping list for yourself and your data analyst (if you have that luxury).

Typically, for an API, we focus on product performance. What that means is we have to keep an eye on our bottom-of-funnel metrics. Here’s how we classify the signals that we look for to determine a healthy GTM:

  1. Product launch metrics: API adoption and time to integrate
  2. Product revenue indicators: Attribution to TLR (top line results), BLR (bottom line results), and customer lifetime value
  3. Product usage: Revenue attribution per API call (this is extremely technical and quite hard to determine, but it is possible)
  4. Customer happiness: Customer effort score and net promoter score
  5. Win rates: Sales team close rate and lead to conversion percentage

A term that I like to use is “vanity sanity reality.” The reason I like using it is that when launching an API, it’s vital to focus on reality and maybe a dash of sanity. You need to know what kind of adoption you’re getting and what's driving or inhibiting that adoption.

To do this, you have to make the most of customer feedback loops to understand what customers are seeing, why they’re dropping off,  and what's extending their time to integration.

Closing the feedback loop

Congratulations! You’ve launched an API and the signals coming from your early adopters are looking promising. But when do you close the feedback loop, and who do you close it with?

There are feedback loops throughout your GTM lifecycle. If it's a big GTM, you're going to have feedback after beta testing, you're gonna have feedback after your soft launch, you're going to have feedback after the hard launch, and you’re gonna have feedback in the retrospective stage.

It's an ongoing process and you need to determine who drives it, which stakeholders are anticipating the learnings, and, more importantly, how you’re going to implement those learnings.

Once you've compiled your feedback, you can use it to optimize your product, your offering, and your messaging. You can also use it to inform the way you roll out across different markets.

Key takeaways

So what can you take away from this article? Here’s a quick reminder of the key lessons on how to launch an API into a market…

  1. Clearly define your problem and opportunity
  2. Build your stakeholder matrix
  3. Validate your messaging and material
  4. Follow a sequential phased rollout.

…and keep it there.

  1. Build fast feedback loops between sales, support, and marketing
  2. Focus on bottom-of-funnel measurements
  3. Carry out ongoing research with customers.