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10 min read

Nailing your GTM strategy with the 4 A's

Membership content | Go-to-Market | product launch

This article derives from a presentation at the Product Marketing Summit London in 2021. Watch this presentation, and others, via our OnDemand service.

Hey, everybody. I’m Spark. My parents aren't crazy – they didn't name me Spark, but it's a little bit cooler than Susan Park, so that's what I like to go by. I work at Meta, in the VR Work Experiences division.

What I'm here to do for you today is something that I wish someone had done for me. Are you the first product marketer at your company? If so, I'm here for you. I know it's tough. Are you the first product marketer your cross-functional partners have met? If the answer is yes, this is also for you.

What I want to do in this article on go-to-market (GTM) strategy is to give you a jargon-free framework to explain what we do across the launch process. I hope to give you the language tools to explain what we do very simply, and a concrete framework that, hopefully, will get you 90% of the way in a go-to-market launch.

I’ll specifically be covering:

  • The launch process
  • The first A: Audience
  • The second A: Angle
  • The third A: Accomplishments
  • The fourth A: Activation

The launch

Let's start with the launch process. This can differ between products and companies, but the idea is that you go from an idea to research, and then you build, test, and launch. I love to kick off GTM planning in a different place than most people expect.

Most people think it should kick off in the testing phase; I think it should start with the research function. You should be thinking about your customer during the research phase and using that to shape the product.

That is where we kick off the four A's of go-to-market – in the research phase. But what are these four A’s?

  • The first is your audience.
  • The second is your angle, also known as your core value prop. What’s in it for your audience?
  • The third is what you are trying to accomplish, also known as your goals or OKRs.
  • The fourth is how you are going to activate. This “A” differs the most between organizations.

Let’s take a closer look at how we should be approaching these four A’s.

The first A: Audience

“As product marketers, we are the voice of the product to the audience, and the voice of the audience to product.”

That’s a quote from one of my favorite leaders, Jon Steinback, who I was very lucky to work with for a number of years at Meta. He is now Head of Creative and Marketing at Deep Mind.

This was his tagline for our product marketing function, and I can’t think of a truer statement. We’re here for the audience, to explain to them what the product is. Then we need to consistently communicate the audience's needs back to the product team.

How do we do this though? How do we make sure our target is right? Let me walk you through a few tips.

  1. You have to define your audience first. Don't wait. You shouldn’t be creating any messaging without knowing who you're going to speak to.

    Create personas and anecdotes, not from personal experiences but, from observed and documented findings in your user or market research. This is going to allow you to fight your corner at the product management table if your vision clashes with somebody else’s.
  2. Always try to find overlapping points between your target audiences. This is going to help you create stronger messaging.
  3. Always know your audience and how they rate you versus your competition.
  4. Make sure you understand how your audience makes purchasing decisions. One of my biggest mistakes, early on in my product marketing career, was doing research on everything about the audience but not honing in on how they decided what to buy.
  5. Don't be too narrow, especially if you're trying to drive improvements to your product or increase adoption. One of the best ways to drive innovation for your product is by expanding your audience. Who should we be going after next? Don't leave that on the table.
  6. Always remember your target audience when you’re recruiting for alpha and beta tests. In the past, I’ve made a beta test too wide and forgotten to keep track of our target audience. The beta turned out great, but when we went to launch, it flopped.

    We realized later that we hadn’t recruited enough of our target audience for beta testing – the people this product was supposed to drive change to.

    When we launched for that audience, they were like, “This doesn't work,” and when we went back to our beta results, we saw the same. Make sure you're keeping track of your audience throughout the process, and you're just not going through the motions.
Tune in to the episode of Meet the Masters, with Lauren Culbertson to learn all the important things you need to know about customer research and the voice of the customer. 

The second A: Angle

Next is the angle, which is the fun part of marketing. Audiences are asking three things about your product:

  1. Will it save me money?
  2. Will it save me time?
  3. Will it improve my life?

These questions come from Jim Lecinski, who I had the pleasure of working with at Google Chicago. He is currently an MBA professor at Kellogg of School of Management and the author of Zero Moment of Truth. Those three questions really sum up the angle we're trying to drive here. It’s all about what’s in it for the user.

There's going to be a list of things, and it’s up to you to rank their importance. Take the strongest points and make sure they're woven into the messaging framework.

You need to make sure that everything, right down to the product’s name, resonates and everything rings true. Test all angles of the messaging. You might have different angles for different target audiences, but they have to work well with each other.

If you're working at a bigger company, the product angles that you come up with have to work across the entire company's product suite. It doesn't look good if your angle doesn't work well with another product.

For instance, we came up with a virtual reality conferencing product earlier this year, Horizon Workrooms, and we had to make sure that we weren't disparaging video conferencing. Yes, it's a different play, but we also want people to join with video calling. You have to think about the holistic message you're trying to drive across the entire suite.

Pro tip: Do not conflate user research and market research

When you’re trying to find your angle, you’ll need to do market and user research. Market research should be done commercially with hundreds of users (at least!) to drive distinct purchase decisions and audience segmentation.

User research is done in smaller groups, centers around anecdotes, and often has the aim of driving product changes to remove friction. Do not conflate the two.

Market research is very different in terms of the insights that you'll get, which you can use for a more factual understanding of how your audience will react. User research is helpful for coloring your market research with some anecdotes.

When you're referencing data points from market and user research, make sure you understand the populations they were derived from. I’ve made the mistake a few times of accidentally using user research as market findings and vice versa, but these two data sets don’t always go well together.

The third A: Accomplishments

Let's talk about accomplishments. This is my favorite part because it’s all about what you're trying to get done. Here’s another quote for you:

“A goal is not always meant to be reached; it often serves simply as something to aim at.”

This is one’s from Bruce Lee. Now, when I worked with Bruce Lee… Just kidding.

I think this quote epitomizes what we're trying to do as product marketers, although it can be hard to shift the way you look at goals. That said, you need something to aim at, and you need to be thoughtful about what that is.

You can think of big hairy audacious goals as larger objectives, but you have to think through several layers of objective types. It’s not always about product adoption. Maybe it's about changing user behavior – maybe we want people to do X instead of Y.

Please don't confuse objectives with key results. Key results should have a number. If your key result doesn't have a number, it's not a key result; it's most likely an objective.

What are OKRs in product marketing? Your complete guide
OKRs stands for objectives and key results - a simple management framework developed to help your organization see progress. Discover how to set your OKRs within your product marketing team for future development. Learn more.

You should also enlist the whole launch team to work towards your goals, especially the most important ones, and make sure you agree on which goals are the highest priorities.

A mistake I've made in the past is not taking enough time to build goals. They take a long time to build well. When we launched one of our more complicated updates to an ad-serving system last year, it was hard to figure out our goal.

We had to enlist data science, sales, and operations to figure out the current trajectory of the product, what kind of uptake our sales team would be able to drive, and what the product could drive on top of that.

We spent a long time figuring out that goal, but I'm so glad we did because once we launched the product, we realized right away that something had gone wrong in the back end and that was impacting our revenue. Your goals are there to help reveal failure points and to ensure your go-to-market is going the way you want it to.

On top of that, as a leader, I love goals. They help ground a lot of the performance conversations I have with people on my team. I'm not going to ding them if they’re not hitting their goals, but they need to understand why.

That helps them understand the product, our audience, and the broader context, so they can be the voice of the product and the voice of the audience back to product.

The fourth A: Activation

Last but not least, let’s get into activation. Even though, as I said, this is not the most important A, it’s where we spend a ton of time, and it tends to be the most visible work we do as product marketers.

Let’s look at a quote from Erin Clift, who is the former CMO of Waze. I worked with her when she was Head of Marketing at Spotify. She says,

“You should build for and with the community that loves your brand and products.”

Again, it’s all about going back to the audience, thinking about what you're trying to drive, and activating ways for your product to go out into the ecosystem and create a life of its own. I’ll show you how to make that happen.

When it comes to activation, a lot of people just think, “Here's my RACI document, my spreadsheet, here's my checklist, and here's what I want to do.”

Every time I come into a launch, whether it's from zero to one, or I'm coming in as a coach to make the launch more effective, I always ask for a go-to-market overview, which should outline our audience, core messaging, angles, and what we want to accomplish. Then we talk about the activation plan.

I don't just want to see the activation plan. I want to see everything we're trying to accomplish from a GTM perspective so that the whole team gets a clear view of what we're trying to do with this product.

On top of that, if you build a more holistic presentation, it’ll be much easier to get other executives to sign off on it and make sure you're aligned. That way, you're bringing people on this journey together.

Then, please have an asset deliverable and RACI document. You're going to need them to help you keep track of everything because, like I said, product marketing's job is not to do everything. That's what I have to tell my team every day. Your job is to empower others to make sure the job gets done and to keep track of it.

That goes into my next point: please empower the GTM team. I bet that in five years, people will talk about product marketing and burnout in the same breath because we are such a big unifying function.

Don’t do that to yourself. You don’t have to throw your whole body into every task; instead, empower your cross-functional team to drive bigger and better launches. That’s a key part of activation.

Next, align your executive leadership to evangelize the product. Hopefully, you can partner with your product director on this. However, I will say doing this can lead to excessive amounts of unblocking not only internally, but externally.

I’m going to tell you a little anecdote about this. Mark Zuckerberg is really into the Metaverse and virtual reality, so he took a very strong perspective on our Horizon Workrooms launch earlier this year. He even did interviews with Gayle King for CBS News, talking about how work in the metaverse could look.

He was enlisted to do that by our Product Management Director, and it opened so many doors in terms of knowledge about our product and the effectiveness of our launch. If you have executives in your suite that you can enroll in your launches, think about how you can use them to tell your story.

My last tip on activation is to always think through worst-case scenarios. Nothing is worse than assets and deliverables not arriving on time, but you need contingency plans for when that happens.

Thinking through these worst-case scenarios will make you feel better when it comes to launch day. It will also help your team to plan ahead for every eventuality, rather than being in scramble mode if and when something goes wrong.


I’m going to round things off with a quick recap of the four A's of go-to-market:

  1. Understand your audience.
  2. Make sure your angle is solving a problem for the audience.
  3. To drive and track your accomplishments, create goals and milestones. Last but not least, activate. Think through the tactics of your plan and ensure that you can hit your goals.

Written by:

Susan Park

Susan Park

Susan is the Head of Product Marketing, VR Fitness, Media, and Work QUEST at Meta.

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Nailing your GTM strategy with the 4 A's