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How you sell is as important as what you sell.
You can have a great product and a poor go-to-market strategy plan that leads to your customers not engaging with your product or much worse, not even knowing it exists.
On the other side, there are poorly implemented products ( those that don’t achieve product-market fit) and an aggressive go-to-market strategy that forces your product in front of an audience with the only purpose of driving as many sales as possible, without caring if the customer needs, or could benefit, from the product.
Who doesn’t hate those advertisements or sales calls, that seem to only talk about how amazing the product is without even trying to understand your needs or if you could even benefit from using the product or not?
If you want to create products that solve real customers’ problems and market them in a non-intrusive way, you need to adopt a more customer-centric way.
This article will explain how to look at your business, product, and customer and then build your go-to-market strategy.
Part 1 goes over the elements of the foundation you first need to build in order to have a solid start for your go-to-market strategy plan, detailed in part 2.
Before building your go-to-market strategy you need to make sure you have a clear understanding of your business and who your ideal customer is and what need does your product helps them solve.
Here are the steps you need to take:
Once you have these you can move to creating your actual go-to-market strategy which will define the actual plan that will help you put your product in front of your ideal customer.
Before that, let’s walk through what the above steps mean.
Each brand has, or at least it should have, a clear purpose of why it exists. As Simon Sinek puts it in his TEDx – How Great Leaders Inspire Action- very few people or companies can clearly articulate why they do what they do.
Why is about the purpose:
• Why does your company exist?
• Why do you get out of bed in the morning?
• Why should anyone care?
Some might say it’s about making money, which is of course important, and necessary for your business survival, but it shouldn’t be the main reason you start your business. Without a clear purpose, it will be hard to build a product that brings value to your customers. This purpose is what will drive your actions and shape your product into something people want.
Starting with why, you can define how you will do business: this is your mission or in other words, how will you achieve your why ( your purpose/vision). Only after you have a clear understanding of your business’s Why and How, can you move on to shaping your What, which is what your product or service is.
So go on and watch Simon’s video and try to define your business’s Why, How and What.
A lot of people are still using the old perceptual maps on quality and price and the classic positioning statement taught in business schools that goes like this: For target market,our offering is a market category which provides benefit unlike competition.
This positioning statement focuses on the market and competition instead of addressing the customer’s needs. It doesn’t clearly articulate what your product is and why should the customer care.
In today’s cluttered market, consumers don’t want to hear a bunch of positioning statements that all sound the same. They need to understand what your product can do for them and how it will solve their problem.
Product positioning is about defining the context in which your product fits on the market. Context refers to how people understand and picture your product in their minds.
‘’Customers will use what they know to make sense of what they don’t’’ says April Dunford, to showcase the importance of defining your product in a way people will understand it.
Check out April Dunford: How to Position Your Startup video to better understand how you should define your positioning.
Once you have defined the context in which your product exists, it should be clear who your competition is and what customers you should be focusing on, as well as the ones you should ignore.
It is time to build your buyer persona profiles to better understand your customer’s behavior, needs, and challenges but also where you can find them. You can use tools like Hubspot’s Make My Persona or simply add the details about your persona on a Google Drive doc so you can easily share it with your whole team.
A buyer persona’s profile should include at least information on :
• Shopping behavior
• Industry and job title
• Biggest challenge
• Tools they use and need to do their job
• Where can you find them
To gather information about your persona you will need to conduct interviews, surveys, and research based on your existing customers or reach out to people in your targeted market.
Tip: you can find out about people’s needs and challenges by checking Linkedin job descriptions ( this will give you information on what are the requirements of a job and what are the challenges) or searching for patterns in what people ask for, on social media groups or forums related to your industry.
Now that you’ve defined what your business does and why, how do you position your product and who your ideal customer is, you can move on and build the Value Proposition Canvas.
The Value Proposition Canvas was designed by Strategyzer as a tool to help businesses align their offering to the jobs-to-be-done of their customers. Once you map out the perceived customer’s pains and gains when trying to accomplish a job-to-be-done, you will be able to adjust your product’s offering in a way that relieves the pain and creates.
When you can clearly articulate how your product’s gain creators and pain relievers connect to your target customer’s pain and expected gain, when performing a job-to-be-done, you achieve Product-Market fit.
Take some time and try to really understand your customer’s needs and how your product creates value for them. Once you have the canvas you will be able to easily create Value Propositions that speak directly to your targeted audience in a way they understand and it’s relevant for them.
The last thing you will need to do before starting to build your go-to-market plan is to understand how people find out about your business and what steps they go through before and after they purchase your product. You can achieve this visualization by mapping out their journey using a tool called user journey mapping.
Building this will help you understand the channels where you should be communicating with them and also where exactly do they interact with you and your product and what their expectations are at each step.
A user journey map is a visual timeline representation of all touchpoints involved in the buying process of your product. It allows you to see your product from a user’s point of view across the awareness, consideration, decision, and advocacy stages, and help you improve their experience across the journey.
Check out this beginner’s guide to user journey mapping from UX Planet to get you started.
Once you have all the foundation’s elements in place it’s time to build the actual go-to-market strategy.
This will include all the tactics that you plan on executing in order to get your product in front of your audience and get them to buy your product.
The go-to-market strategy will include the following:
Let’s go through them one by one.
When we say media we are referring to our presence on different online and offline channels.
There are three types of media:
• Owned media = your brand and product presence that you create and control through a channel ( company website, company blog, social media page or group, newsletter etc)
• Earned media = the attention that others generate for your product and brand without being paid to do so ( shares of your content, social media mentions etc)
• Paid media = the attention your brand and product receives when you pay to leverage a third party channel ( PPC advertising, sponsorships, influencers etc)
It’s important to understand your presence on the market as well as your competitors, so you can improve in the areas that are not working well.
Is your website in need of attention or maybe your social media presence on a specific channel can be improved?
It all starts with assessing the media, identifying the channels that are performing well or that need improvement and focus your attention where it’s necessary.
Keep in mind the channels you’ve identified in your User journey. You don’t want to waste time and money on a channel where your customers aren’t spending their time.
Your goal is to identify the channels that will help you get in front of your customers and will generate the best results for your business.
If your brand’s Why ( Purpose) is about the impact you want to have on the world with your business, that determines how you are going to achieve that ( your How) and your What ( your product), now it’s time to look at what your goal is.
In other words, what should be your business objective so you can grow and scale your business profitable?
This is the starting point of your go-to-market strategy.
This business objective is often related to revenue or profits and it’s what defines the tactics you will apply in order to generate sales and grow. It’s about what your business wants or needs to achieve in a specific time frame.
Business objectives, as well as marketing ones, need to follow the SMART framework, which stands for:
In other words, you need to be very clear on what you’re trying to achieve in order to have a good understanding of what you need to do, as well as to know what to measure so you can always know if you’re moving in the right direction.
Business objectives can be short, medium or long term and setting all of them can help you have a clear view of the bigger picture of where your company is going to be in the next 3 months, 1 year or 5 years. Although your short and medium objectives might change often, the long term objective usually stays the same, giving your growth direction.
You should set one main business objective for a specific time frame and communicate it properly across all your company’s departments so they can all focus on the same objective and align tactics in a way that generates the desired results.
Once you know what your business goal is, you should set a budget that you can invest in order to achieve that. There are a lot of tactics you can implement but having a budget set will help you focus your efforts towards the ones that can bring profitable results.
There’s nothing more dangerous for your business than implementing random tactics only to find out at the end that you’ve generated profits below what your actual investment was.
To give you a starting point, know that businesses usually invest between 1 to 20% of their profits into marketing.
The marketing objective is derived from the business objective and it’s a more specific target that you are trying to achieve.
If the business objective is about how much profit you need to generate in a specific time frame, the marketing objectives will detail the milestones you need to achieve in order to generate that profit.
You should usually set 3 to 5 marketing objectives for one business goal, this way you will be able to focus your attention into more granular aspects of the business. These marketing objectives put together are what determines the success of your business objective.
Let’s say for example your business objective is to generate X in revenue across 1 financial year with a profit margin above 20%. This could translate into the following marketing objectives:
• Generate X no of leads per month by the end of the financial year.
• Generate X in sales per month from product A and B combined, by the end of this financial year, with a cost of acquisition below Y.
• Increase conversion rate from trial to customer to above 25% per month by the end of this financial year.
• Decrease churn rate to below 3% per month by the end of this financial year.
The list of examples can go on, what’s important to note is that you should look at your own business and try to understand what specific targets you must achieve in order to drive that revenue.
It’s ok if you are just starting out, you can simply calculate the number of customers you will need to attract in order to generate the sales your business needs to break even or generate profits. Having that number in mind, you will then implement different tactics with the goal of attracting leads and converting those leads into customers.
Once you start getting results, you can analyze that data ( what’s the number of leads you need to generate x sales for example) and start setting more accurate goals and focus on the tactics that performed the best.
Once you have the business and marketing objectives set, you have a clear understanding of what you need to achieve. You should now focus your attention on what tactics you can perform that will generate the desired results.
Marketing tactics are the actions you take that influence the outcome of a specific marketing goal. While the marketing strategy is about where you want to get, the tactics are the ones that detail how you are going to get there.
It’s time to start planning.
There is no recipe for success that you can simply copy and paste. You will need to start by analyzing what you know so far. Think of what you are trying to achieve ( your marketing goals) and combine that with the knowledge you have of your customers.
Look at your customer persona, the user journey, and your online and offline presence. Where should you start? It’s all about building a bridge between where your customers are where they can find your product.
To make this task easier, start by generating as many ideas as you can while keeping your customer and objective in mind. Maybe you need to work on your website’s UX, start generating leads on a specific social media channel, use email marketing to improve the user onboarding and increase the trial to paid conversions etc.
Once you have a list of ideas you should prioritize them, and depending on your budget and team size, start with one, two, or even five tactics at the same time.
To prioritize your ideas give each one of them a score from 1 to 5 based on the following criteria and sort them out based on the highest score:
• Impact: what’s the impact that this idea will have on your potential customers and/or business? If this idea works will it have a big impact or not?
• Confidence: how confident are you that this idea will generate the expected results?
• Ease: will it be easy to implement this idea or will it take a long time and effort from multiple sources to put this idea in practice?
If we look at tactics as inputs, then KPI’s are the output.
KPI’s are how you track and measure the performance of your tactics. This is vital for your business; if you don’t know where you are, how will you know if you’ve achieved your goal or how far away from it are you?
It’s ok to try different tactics until you find the ones that work best for your business, but you should always measure the performance and improve or abandon a tactic based on its performance.
Some important metrics any SaaS business should track are:
• The number of signups
• The number of conversions (depending on your business this could be: from trial to paid, from demo to paid, from freemium plan to paid )
• Average Revenue Per User ( ARPU)
• Customer Churn ( the number of customers lost in a given time period)
• Revenue Churn ( the amount of revenue lost in a given time period)
• Activity Churn ( the number of user at risk of churning based on set activity: for example not logging into your application for one month)
• Annual Returning Revenue ( ARR)
• Monthly Returning Revenue ( MRR)
Apart from the above ones you should also track metrics specific to each tactic and channel you use.
When analyzing the health of your business you will need to look at these metrics globally in order to understand the big picture. One metric alone could say a lot, but when viewing and interpreting metrics together you will get a more accurate picture of what’s working or not.
• Going over all the steps presented here will give you a comprehensive go-to-market strategy that you can now start implementing.
• Don’t forget that this process is not a static one, do it once and forget about it.
• You should always be reviewing and updating all of the elements based on your learnings. With time, you will learn more about your customers and how to engage with them that will help you optimize your processes and tactics, driving more rapid growth.