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9 min read

Nailing your GTM strategy with the 4 A's of marketing

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

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 product marketers 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.

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 of marketing