If all Canadian small and medium-sized businesses were retailers, developing what’s known as a go-to-market (GTM) strategy would be pretty simple. You create or source whatever it is you want to sell, find a store location, stock the shelves, advertise and watch the customers stroll in.
In many cases, however, Canadian SMBs are not only traditional merchants but online-only firms, or startups that are selling to other businesses rather than consumers. And even if they have done all their homework to determine if there is some real demand for whatever they’re going to offer, there will inevitably come a point where they have to formalize everything about how they’re going to take their idea to execution. In other words, a GTM strategy is the point at which they arrive in front of customers in a way that (hopefully) positions them for success.
You might argue that “go-to-market” thinking depends a lot on where (and who) your market is. And that’s true -- but whether you’re targeting Millennial fashionistas or senior-level business decision-makers, there are common stages you can work through that make sense in almost any context.
Look through the GTM strategy outline we’ve presented here. You may have already addressed some of these areas, but not all of them. You may not have done some of them in sequence, but in this case the sequence matters. Do some honest self-reflection and make sure you can pause whatever you’re doing to ensure your GTM is actually a “go”:
Yes, you need to know your customer. But what exactly do you need to know in order to reach them and persuade them to become one of your first customers? This goes way beyond targeting a certain demographic, industry sector or size of business. You’ll want to get granular on details like:
It may seem super-obvious why your products and services should be valuable to your target audience, but you’ll sell more (and faster) if you map exactly how the features and functions you have align with the needs or challenges your customers are going through every day. This is the kind of data you’ll compile and take advantage of as you use Sales Cloud, and your entire organization will get smarter as you do so.
Nothing markets itself. You need a messaging plan, and it should be more than a motto or slogan you add to your business cards. Ideally, the messaging should reflect what you’ve learned about the specifics of your target audience, as well as the mapping between your product and their needs.
Look for messaging that you can repurpose across channels, from your website to email newsletters, social media and beyond. Your messaging should be meaty but simple enough that it can adapt to however your target audience wants to consume information. This will become incredibly useful as you deploy Marketing Cloud to manage the way you bring your message to the places your customers and prospects live.
If you got a new job versus starting your own business, you might create an action plan of what you want to accomplish in just over your first three months, which is the “probationary” period in many organizations.
Your GTM strategy should be similar, in that you’ll look at the overarching goals you want to accomplish over your first quarter of operation, for example. This could include:
This is something you may refine over the course of a few quarters or a year, but you’ll only figure out the right approach if you start experimenting.
Now that you have a rough sense of what you’re doing, sketch out exactly how you’ll do it. This is where you get specific about the list of prospects you’re going to approach, the marketing channel(s) that makes the most sense, the data you’ll gather, what you’ll analyze to determine next steps, and how (and how often) you’ll track your progress. Don’t assume you can make any of this up as you go along.
You’ll need to develop your website. You’ll have to create a solid database of people to call, email or approach via social media. You’ll have to get the right tools in place, such as CRM and marketing automation, as well as more basic equipment to manage day-to-day activities. This is the final “prep” phase in your GTM strategy.
You’re ready to put your plan into action. The thing to remember is that even the best GTM is a bit of a work in progress. As you manage your resources -- whether they’re people on your team or other assets -- bear in mind that you may have to add some things, take away others or gather more data to deal with any of the things you weren’t expecting as your firm starts to get attention.
As noted earlier, going to market is something of a work-in-progress, even for firms that have been around for years. Measure your results and ask yourself whether you’re actually measuring all the right things. One good bellwether might be the volume of questions and complaints you get from your first customers. This is where a tool like Service Cloud can not only help solve those problems, but give you data to reduce the number of problems you see in the future.
Eight steps might seem like a lot of work, but a GTM strategy can be the most exciting time in the history of a startup or SMB. It’s when everything becomes real -- and hopefully, really successful.