9 steps to craft a successful go-to-market (GTM) strategy

Caeleigh MacNeil contributor headshotCaeleigh MacNeilNovember 23rd, 202111 min read
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Summary

A go-to-market (GTM) strategy is a step-by-step plan for launching a new product or expanding into a new market. It helps you launch your product to the right audience, with the right messaging, at the right time. Learn how to craft a go-to-market strategy in nine steps and set your next product launch up for success.

When the Swedish company Oatly expanded into the US, oat milk wasn’t top of mind for American consumers. But the brand had a trick up their sleeve—instead of investing in ads, they went straight to the coffee shops. Oatly teamed up with artisanal spots where customers tended to seek out dairy alternatives, and won patrons over with their product’s creamy and latte-friendly consistency. After its launch in the US, the company’s revenue grew ten-fold between 2017 to 2018, bringing a new oat-milk craze along with it. 

Oatly went straight to their target audience at the exact moment customers were smelling the espresso and ready to buy. And you can bet this innovative go-to-market strategy was the key to their success. 

What is a go-to-market strategy? 

A go-to-market (GTM) strategy is a step-by-step plan for launching a new product or expanding an existing product into a new market. It sets your initiative up for success by answering the following questions: 

  • What product are you selling, and what unique problem does it solve?

  • Who is your ideal customer, and what pain points do they experience? 

  • Where will you sell your product? What markets do you want to pursue, and what does the demand and competition look like in those markets?

  • How will you reach your target customers and create demand? 

Launching a product is a big investment. And no matter how cutting-edge it is, the way you market and sell your product can make or break its success. Creating a GTM strategy helps you ensure you’re taking everything into account and avoid costly mistakes—like launching your product to the wrong audience or in a market that’s already saturated with similar offerings. 

Free product launch template

When do you need a go-to-market strategy? 

Whenever you bring a product or service to market, you need a go-to-market strategy. This includes: 

  • Launching a new product in an existing market—for example, an established clothing brand launching a line of beauty products. 

  • Bringing an existing product to a new market—for example, a local grocery chain expanding into a different state. 

  • Testing a new product in a new market—for example, a tech startup launching their first app. 

Even established companies need a go-to-market strategy when pioneering a new product or expanding into a new market. That’s because competition and market forces can quickly change. Even if you’ve had success with a similar product launch in the past, that same strategy might not work as well now. 

What is strategy implementation + 6 key steps to success

Go-to-market strategy vs. marketing plan

A go-to-market strategy is specifically for launching a product or expanding to a new market. On the other hand, a marketing plan details how you’ll execute your overall marketing strategy. Instead of being launch specific, a marketing plan is a long-term approach to help you achieve your marketing objectives—like an annual roadmap or an overarching digital marketing strategy. Your GTM strategy draws from your long-term marketing plan, but it’s tailored to a specific launch. 

Marketing plan example: Sephora’s marketing plan leverages its loyalty program, which offers discounts and gifts to customers who spend a certain amount. This plan isn’t specific to a product launch, rather it’s a long-term approach to build customer loyalty over time. 

Go-to-market plan example: Microsoft executed a go-to-market strategy when launching its third generation Surface tablet. Their strategy was specific to the tablet’s launch and addressed a particular market problem—that existing tablets didn’t have the functionality of a full-fledged computer. 

Strategy vs. tactics: What's the difference?

Organize your go-to-market strategy with a project management tool

Every GTM strategy involves lots of moving pieces, whether you’re launching a new product or exploring new markets. The right project management tool can help you visualize your entire plan in one place—including the status, owners, and dependencies of each task. And as team members collaborate and execute your go-to-market strategy, you can see those updates in real-time. 

[List view] Product marketing launch project in Asana, spreadsheet-style view with project deliverables

9 steps to craft your go-to-market strategy

So you’ve created an exciting new product or want to expand into a new market. You know you need a go-to-market strategy to make sure your initiative succeeds—but what exactly does that look like? 

Step 1: Identify the problem

Every great product launch solves a specific problem. For example, Blackberry phones let business people answer emails on the go, Uber circumvents the cumbersome process of hailing or calling for a taxi, and Dawn detergent cuts through grease and makes washing dishes easier. Each of those products have a unique value proposition—a way they add value for customers by addressing their pain points. And most importantly—when those products launched, there was significant demand for solutions.

This concept is known as product-market fit—the degree to which a product satisfies a strong market demand. Understanding product-market fit is essential to gain a competitive advantage and make sure you’re launching the right product to the right customers. 

Step 2: Define your target audience

In order to have a successful GTM launch, you need to clearly understand your target audience. Start by asking yourself the following questions: 

  • Who is experiencing the problem that your product solves? 

  • What are the specific frustrations your product can alleviate? 

  • How much is your audience willing to pay for a solution? 

The two most common ways to define your target market are with an ideal customer profile (ICP) and buyer personas. These methods work together to narrow down your customer base and specify the types of people within your audience.  

Ideal customer profile (ICP)

This approach defines your perfect customer—in other words, someone who experiences the frustrations your product solves. They’re aware of the problem, already looking for a solution, and are able to buy your product. To create an ideal customer profile, consider the following characteristics:  

  • Industry or demographic: If you’re selling to businesses, identify the specific industry you’re targeting—like financial, legal, or SaaS verticals. If you’re selling to individuals, define specific demographics your ideal customer falls within. For example, a child-care service may target families with kids between the ages of 1 and 5. 

  • Geography: Where do your ideal customers live? For example, a tour company that offers English-only experiences may target customers in the US and Europe. 

  • Size: This one is specific to B2B companies. Identify the size of the business you’re targeting—for example, you may market a new co-working space to funded startups with less than 20 employees. 

  • Budget: To shape your pricing strategy, consider how much your customers have to spend on your product. This will also influence the market’s perception of your product. For example, if your company sells luxury watches, you probably don’t want to go below a certain price point. Alternatively, a legal consulting firm may find it worthwhile to only target businesses who can spend at least $5,000 per month. 

  • Decision-making factors: What factors influence whether a customer decides to purchase your product? For example, do they rely on referrals from trusted friends or colleagues? Is there a primary decision-maker, like the CEO or sales manager of a company?

  • Pain points: What specific frustrations does your ideal customer have? For example, a company selling a financial-planning app may target customers who lose time trying to track their budget with spreadsheets. 

  • Preferred media: How does your ideal customer absorb information? For example, do they use social media, read print magazines, or browse the web with ease? 

Buyer personas

Not all members of your target audience are the same—each person is a unique individual with their own problems, values, and goals. Creating buyer personas helps you differentiate between the different types of people within your target audience, so you can visualize who your customers are on a human level. 

You should create multiple customer personas to fully understand your target audience. Here’s an example of one buyer persona for a tour company launching a new in-destination app:

Persona: Memory-maker

  • Individual between the ages of 25-35

  • Travels alone or with a partner

  • Willing to pay a higher price for premium experiences

  • Values booking flexibility

  • Wants to book high-demand experiences in advance, but also choose some activities after they’ve arrived at a destination

  • Can use technology and apps with ease

Buyer personas may seem similar to an ideal customer profile, but they perform a different function. Personas help you visualize who your customers are by breaking your ICP down into more specific segments—each representing a type of person with their own distinct problems, values, and goals. 

Step 3: Research competition and demand

Now that you’ve identified your product’s value proposition and target audience, it’s time to do some research. Before you invest in bringing your product to market, you want to make sure that there’s enough demand and not too much competition. To guide your research, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Who already offers a similar version of your product? 

  • What audiences and geographic regions do your competitors target? 

  • How does your product differ from the competition? What do you offer that others don’t? 

  • Is there demand for the product, or is the market oversaturated? 

To fully understand the market landscape, conduct a competitive analysis. This method uses research to identify your direct and indirect competitors and uncover their strengths and weaknesses in relation to your own.  

Step 4: Decide on key messaging

The next step is to determine the key messages you’ll convey to potential customers. The best approach is to tailor individual messaging for each of your buyer personas, so you can address their unique values and frustrations. 

To map your messaging to each buyer persona, create a value matrix. A value matrix breaks down each persona, their pain points, the value your product brings, and a key message that conveys how your product can solve their unique problem. 

Let’s continue with the tour company example above. As a refresher, the company wants to launch a new in-destination app. One of their personas is a “memory-maker”—a customer who is willing to pay for premium experiences. Here’s what a value matrix might look like for this persona: 

Pain points

  • It’s hard to verify the quality of experiences when booking online.

  • If they book an expensive tour in advance, they can’t get their money back if plans change. 

Product value

  • An app with customer pictures and reviews gives a feel for the quality of tours. 

  • A flexible booking policy allows them to cancel if plans change. 

Key message

  • Book quality experiences with peace of mind. 

To complete your value matrix, continue this process for each buyer persona. 

Step 5: Map your buyer’s journey

Now that you’ve identified your buyer personas and messaging, you can map the buyer’s journey—the path customers take from realizing their problem, considering your product as a solution, and deciding to purchase. Mapping your buyer’s journey is a key component of content marketing, because it helps you surface the right type of content to potential customers at the right time. 

Most often, the buyer’s journey is visualized as a funnel broken into three sections: 

  • Top of funnel: Customers know the problem they want to solve and research solutions. They may not be aware that your product exists yet. During this phase, you want to grab the customer's attention so they consider your product. 

  • Middle of funnel: Customers weigh your product against other available options. Your goal during this phase is to convince potential buyers that your product is the best option. 

  • Bottom of funnel: Customers decide whether to purchase your product. Your goal for this phase is to convince them to commit. 

Free sales pipeline template

Step 6: Pick your marketing channels

Marketing channels are the different types of content you use to create demand for your product and move potential customers down the marketing funnel. For example, social media, paid search ads, blogs, SEO content, and emails are different marketing channels. The marketing channels you choose depend on two things: your target audience, and where your potential customers are along their buyer’s journey. 

  • Align marketing channels to your ideal audience. You want to make sure the marketing channels you choose align with the way your target audience consumes content. For example, if your ideal customer uses YouTube but not Instagram or Facebook, you may want to focus on YouTube ads rather than paid social posts. 

  • Use different channels for different phases of the buyer’s journey. Depending on where customers are in the marketing funnel, different types of marketing content can help move them to the next phase. For example, search engine optimization (SEO) content can direct top-of-funnel customers to your website who haven’t heard of your product before. Case studies and webinars may be most applicable for middle-of-funnel customers as they consider your product. And at the bottom of the funnel, strategies like free trial options can help convince potential customers to commit. 

Read: Marketing vs. advertising: What's the difference?

Step 7: Create a sales plan

The goal of your GTM strategy is to sell your product, so it’s essential to decide how you’ll sell to your target audience and turn prospective customers into buyers. That’s where your sales strategy comes in. 

We’ve outlined the four most common sales strategies below. As needed, you can combine these strategies to fit your specific product and business model. 

  • Self-service model: Customers purchase your product on their own. This is a common sales process for e-commerce, in which customers can find and buy products online. While this option doesn’t require a dedicated sales team, you need to invest in marketing to drive traffic to your website. 

  • Inside sales model: Your sales team nurtures prospective customers to convince them to purchase your product. This is a good option for products with a medium price point that are a bit more complex, like design software for teams. 

  • Field sales model: Salespeople focus on closing big enterprise deals. This option requires more sales investment and a longer sales cycle, but there’s a big payoff. For example, you might use a field sales model to sell HR management software to large companies. 

  • Channel model: An external partner sells your product for you. While this option gives you less say in how you market your product, it’s the cheapest option and can work well if you partner with a company that sells similar products. For example, if you’re selling a new type of cereal, you could partner with a grocery chain. 

Step 8: Set concrete goals

Every great go-to-market strategy starts with clear objectives. Goals give you specific targets to aim for, a clear timeline, and a way to measure progress. Without clearly defined goals, it’s hard to tell if your strategy is working. 

Here are a few different goal-setting frameworks you can use to set measurable objectives. Depending on your business needs, you can combine these strategies or use them on their own: 

  • SMART goals: This acronym helps you set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. For example, you could set the following SMART goal when launching a new app: “In six months, generate 1M total app downloads and 50K new user accounts.”

  • Key performance indicators (KPIs): KPIs are quantitative metrics that help you track progress toward business objectives. For example, you could track total purchases and ad click-throughs when executing a go-to-market strategy for your new product. Keep in mind that you can use the SMART goal framework when crafting KPIs—for example, “Within three months, generate 100K total conversions and 1M ad click-throughs.”

  • Objectives and key results (OKRs): This strategy pairs the objectives you want to achieve with the key results you’ll use to measure progress. It follows this format: “I will [objective] as measured by [key result].” For example, “The marketing team will increase awareness of a new product, as measured by the following key results: Drive 1M web visitors to the product page, increase social media engagement by 50%, and generate 50K new customers through email signups.” 

Achieve strategic goals with Asana

Step 9: Create clear processes

Creating a great go-to-market strategy is one thing, and executing it is another. That’s why creating clear processes is essential when bringing a product to market—because regardless of how well-crafted your strategy is, it only succeeds when you communicate and execute your strategy with your team. For example, you should consider the following when crafting your GTM strategy: 

  • How you’ll share your strategy and collaborate with team members. Don’t let your strategy gather dust in a drawer—instead, house the plans and projects that comprise your strategy in one easily accessible place. A robust work management tool can help you accomplish this. Asana lets you coordinate plans, projects, and processes in one central location. That way, team members can work and collaborate in the same space where your GTM strategy lives.

  • How you’ll course-correct and track goals. In order for goals to be effective, they need to be connected to your day-to-day work. That means instead of setting and forgetting goals for your GTM strategy, make a plan to regularly check in and track your progress—for example, at the end of each week or month. Share these updates with project stakeholders in a centralized project management tool. That way, everyone is on the same page. 

  • How you can standardize processes with templates. Every go-to-market strategy contains lots of components and moving pieces. But while it’s important to evaluate your strategy for each new product launch, that doesn’t mean you have to reinvent the wheel. To avoid duplicate work, create process documentation and templates to standardize your go-to-market process. For example, you could create templates outlining the steps to determine your target audience, clarify your messaging, and so on—plus an overarching template to guide how you craft your entire GTM strategy. When choosing a project management tool for your team, pick one that lets you create and share templates for processes your team uses on a regular basis. 

Free product launch template

Ready, set, strategize

Bringing a product to market is a big investment. But you can set your next launch up for success with a solid framework to determine your audience and messaging, concrete goals, and clear processes to carry out your strategy. With these nine steps, crafting a great go-to-market strategy isn’t so daunting after all. 

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