We humans are remarkable for our ability to undertake and accomplish incredibly complex tasks. We build and maintain structures in space, create new technologies, and solve complex societal and cultural challenges.
Building a new business from scratch or launching a new product is certainly complex as well.
Just as high-performance military teams (and even astronauts) do, successful business teams take on complex tasks by breaking them down into simpler components, creating a coordinated plan, and then executing the plan with both discipline and flexibility.
My experiences working with startups and mature organizations alike indicates that many find (or make) the Go-to-Market plan too complex, and consequently difficult to execute. To simplify, I like to break G2M down to 3 basic components:
What are you selling? (product)
Who is going to buy it? (markets/customers)
How are you selling it? (marketing and sales)
Many business leaders and their teams often skip this process completely, or skip steps in the frenzy to hire a sales team (or train the existing team) and “go-to-market” before steps 1 and 2 are accomplished. Many fail to adjust the plan after discovering new targets, competitors or pricing surprises. Some make the necessary adjustments, but fail to communicate and share the new plan.
This random approach usually results in spending too much time on bad tactics, missing key value propositions, and misaligned teams that duplicate efforts or skip critical functions. The “strategy of personal agendas” takes over, trust breaks down, and misalignment results. “What in the hell are we doing?” becomes the common whisper following many meetings.
There are dozens of components to each of these 3 basic G2M principles. Included below are just a few examples:
- Is your offering a physical product, or a service, or a combination of both? (many tech companies understandably struggle with accurately defining the product/service mix)
- How will the product/service ideally be differentiated and positioned within the market(s) you intend to target? (hint: you won’t really begin to understand this until you’ve completed 20 or successful and unsuccessful sales cycles)
- Are there direct competitive products similar to yours? Are you a “me-too” product in an existing category?
- What are the verified or potential value propositions? Why would a buyer purchase this?
- Does your pricing make sense, given competitive options and the value it creates for buyers?
- Do Product objectives and strategies align with the larger Corporate strategy?
- Is the addressable market large enough to support revenue targets or profitable volume?
- Has Marketing segmented the market(s) based on various purchasing characteristics and revenue potential?
- Does product pricing make sense with how your prospective Buyers prefer to buy/pay?
- Is Marketing working closely with the Product and Sales teams to help identify unique buyer insights, product insights, or competitive threats?
- Do Marketing objectives and strategies align with Product and the larger Corporate strategy?
The only way to truly understand and validate these first 2 phases of the go-to-market plan is to spend time in the marketplace, listen to prospective customers and market experts, and learn first-hand what makes sense and what doesn’t. Avoid the poison of “talking to yourselves” when striving to validate the right markets, value propositions and buyer segments to target.
MARKETING & SALES
- What are the potentially successful marketing tactics for building awareness of and desire for your product and brand?
- Are you easy to buy from? What does the buying process look like from the customer’s perspective?
- Have all potential sales channels been considered? Direct/indirect. Inside/outside. Online/self-serve. Channel partners and distributors?
- If inside, outside or direct sales channels are employed, has the right talent management plan been developed, ensuring the right sales team is hired to manage your particular buyer process?
- Is the right sales architecture in place to manage the team and revenue forecasts? (Lead generation, Buyer processes, funnels, CRM, forecasting tools, revenue recognition, etc.)
- Does sales management understand the Corporate, Product and Marketing strategies, and able to create aligned sales objectives and strategies?
Avoid or resist complexification, and keep the go-to-market plan simple. Break it down into these 3 components, execute with discipline, and keep the entire team informed of successes, setbacks and adjustments. Your ambitious startup or innovative new product launch will depend on it.
Jack Liles is a Partner at TechCXO, providing on-demand Chief Sales Officer leadership to client companies in need of go-to-market plan development, improved sales performance, leadership and structure. Jack is a veteran Naval Officer and recovering F-14 Tomcat flyer. He has held leadership roles at the ad agency Leo Burnett, Coca-Cola, UPS and at numerous successful (and unsuccessful) start-ups. Connect with Jack at firstname.lastname@example.org.