If go-to-market (GTM) strategy sounds intimidating to you, you are not the only one in the business world who feels that way. GTM strategy is a concept perfected by big-name consulting firms with major resources devoted to outlining, explaining, researching, and developing its different models. As far as mid-market companies and smaller organizations are concerned, GTM strategy stayed in an intimidating realm of very sophisticated and resource-intensive projects with questionable success at the implementation stage.
The truth is GTM strategy is much simpler than imagined by many: it is a structure around activities conducted by certain participants (channels) connecting products and services to customers. In its simplest definition GTM strategy is an approach agreed upon the decision makers in a given company on WHAT they will sell, to WHOM and HOW (how the audience will be reached). Often in academia, it is defined by a simple triangle that looks something like this:
To answer What, How and Who questions, it is reasonable to assume that research needs to be conducted to uncover the answers. However, the research does not necessary need to be complex or expensive. If I could summarize in 5 sentences the type of research questions a company should focus when defining its GTM strategy, it would read as follows:
• First, let’s define what is unique about us as a company that nobody else or a rare competitor can replicate. (as you may see, this will require a pretty deep understanding of our competences and our competition)
• Next, let’s understand what market segments and what type of companies within these segments benefit the most from this unique value proposition.
• As we start learning about our best target audience, let’s get very familiar with their path-to-purchase-decision process and specific needs that this audience has.
• As a follow-up on this, let’s be frank with ourselves, and compare whether our current products, services and distribution channels match the peculiarities of our target audience’s processes and needs. (here lies our chance for product/service improvements and new product development ideas!)
• And finally, combine all the learning from prior steps into a simple approach that makes sense to ALL: our target audience, all participants in marketing, selling, and developing-new-product processes, and all the rest of stakeholders who have keen interest in the company’s success!
One very important question (often ignored) that an executive team needs to answer before engaging into defining the strategy is who will be championing the project and the implementation of strategy once the visionary and research parts of the project are completed. It is important, because while solid, unbiased information is vital in making decisions on what you will offer to which market segments, with what type of message and through what kind of channels, the success of your strategy will always depend on who will be responsible for implementing it.
A dedicated team of champions, and ideally cross-functional team, takes the strategy, which is yet an unrealized possibility, and turns it into a systematic way of conducting business that brings victory every time, many times! Needless to say that early participation in the project by this cross-functional team is detrimental to its future success. So is a consistent support by the company’s executives.
Marketing, if available as a resource, can play a leading role in the development of GTM strategy. This business function is responsible and comfortable with stretching the boundaries, asking deeper questions, going beyond the norm. The boundaries of the GTM strategy run across functional lines inside an organization, but marketing is well positioned to lead its creation and implementation: marketing interaction with two other functions in a company makes it a perfect intermediary in this process. First, marketing interacts with product development via product marketing to convey market requirements, to test target market acceptance, and to manage entire product life-cycle. Besides product management, marketing also interacts with sales by providing content for communications and sales tools, building demand and generating lead pipeline.
Developing GTM strategy can be a culture-changing undertaking that will require commitment of the entire organization from senior executive team to the customer-service representative, but it does not have to be complex. To prove the new strategy successful it is important to focus on one or two core issues and not spread resources too thin. Once it is a success, adapting it as a way of doing business will be easy!