Building Strong Go To Market Plans For Successful Product Launches
So you’re ready to sell your product or service. How do you begin thinking about making it happen?
Enter the go to market plan.
Typically featuring information on target customers, product positioning, marketing activities, and resource needs, a go to market (GTM) plan outlines how you’ll manage a successful launch. GTM plans put the kibosh on running by the seat of your pants and give you the structure you need to stay on track, get your team on board, and maximize the resources you have to build business success.
WHAT A GO TO MARKET PLAN ACCOMPLISHES
GTM plans are not unwieldy documents. Rather, they are intended to be high-level outlines you can share amongst your team so that you can:
- Clarify the Who & The Why: GTM plans explicitly state who your product is for, why they would want to buy it, and how it fills a need that no product currently fills.
- Develop A Path To Success: GTM plans take your marketing strategy and begin converting it into tactical elements that outline exactly how you will reach your core customers.
- Determine What It’ll Take To Get It Done: Bringing any product to market takes time and likely money. Your GTM plan will clearly define the people and tools you’ll need, and the financial resources needed to get them.
- Create Organizational Focus: By defining your customer, your target market, and how you’ll reach them, you’ll create a vision and plan that your entire team can rally around.
A GO TO MARKET PLAN OUTLINE
Once completed, a GTM plan could be handed to anyone within your organization (and perhaps externally too!) and give them a strong understanding of your complete plan of attack. While go to market plans certainly adjust from campaign to campaign, you’ll generally find that they follow a similar outline…
Customer / Market Target
Your product or service can’t be everything to everyone. That’s why strong GTM plans explicitly outline the customer segment you’re targeting. By clearly defining the demographic and psychographic parameters that make your customer tick, you’ll begin to create a clear persona around who it is that you’re selling to. By having clear customer and market definitions in place, you’re laying the foundations for a clear product positioning and also the reasons you’ve chosen the marketing activities you’ll be outlining down the line.
Product Positioning & Brand Tenants
As we just mentioned, a brand or product position is usually the next part of your GTM plan. A positioning statement takes the customer definition you’ve already begun to codify and then explains why, given their needs and pain points, your product is the best one for them. This is part of any strong brand foundation because begins defining exactly what your product stands.
With a brand position in place, you can then build out brand tenants, which are the core two or three value propositions your product offers, and the supporting elements that allow your product to offer this value. With brand positioning and tenants in-hand, you now have the basis for the messaging you’ll use across all future marketing materials (e.g. website, advertising, sales collateral).
Price & Pricing Model
If you’re launching an entirely new product or service, you’ll also have to figure out what to charge, and how to charge for it. There are a host of ways to assess what the ideal price point. While the simplest way is doing competitive audits to see what different companies charge today for similar products, this sometimes isn’t sufficient for novel products or services. If that’s the case, you may want to consider some simple market research to gauge price sensitivity.
Relatedly, you’ll have to determine how to charge your customers. Will it be a one-time purchase, a monthly fee, an annual subscription, or something else entirely? Can they cancel at any time or will they be locked in for a certain duration? These are key decisions you’ll have to make so that customers can fully evaluate your product or service.
Now that you know who your customer is, how your product fits their needs, and what you’ll charge for it, it’s time to establish how you’ll get their attention so they know that your product is available for purchase. This means making deliberate choices about which marketing activities you’ll be investing in, which generally include one of three categories:
- Owned Channels: These are marketing activities that you have 100% control over, and include things like your website, social media channels, and email marketing.
- Earned Channels: These are marketing activities that you earn as a result of putting in time and effort. While you can’t fully control them, you can influence that they come to fruition with the right work. Earned channels include customer ratings and reviews, SEO, and PR.
- Paid Channels: Just like they sound, these are activities that you pay for, and include options like Google and Facebook ads, sponsored content, and paid influencers.
The one thing to keep in mind is there is never a marketing silver bullet. That is, one marketing activity will never make or break your business. Rather, you’ll have to consider the right blend of marketing tactics given who your customer is and what it’ll take to convince them to buy.
Further, as we wrote in this earlier post, each of these marketing types comes with their own set of pros and cons (e.g. budget requirements, time before efficacy sets in, etc.). You only have so much time and money, meaning you’ll have to pick the blend that makes the most sense for you.
Once you have your marketing tactics nailed out, you’ll want to build out your marketing calendar. This is a very simple sheet that lets you visualize exactly when each and every activity will be going live. While it certainly doesn’t define when you’ll need to start planning each activity (usually that’s months in advance!), it’ll help you see if you have activities spread throughout the year, and also plan the layering of activities which is often beneficial during key seasonality periods.
Resource Needs & Budget
Of course, no good GTM plan would be complete without knowing the resources you’re going to need to execute the plan, and how much money you’ll need to get those resources. You’ll often want to consider your resource needs in a few key areas.
- People & Payroll: Obviously, you need to know how much you need to pay people. But, more than that, thinking about your payroll line item is a way to force you into thinking about the skills you need on the team and what it’s going to cost to get those skills in-house.
- Agencies & Contractors: Depending on the marketing tactics you’ve chosen for your launch, it may not make sense to bring in full-time employees to manage it all. Early on, this often includes designers, web developers, paid media agencies, and content marketers. You’ll want to think about which resources can be brought in as contractors or agencies, and then the amount of funds you’ll need to find high quality, 3rd-party talent.
- Software, Technology & Tools: You’ll also want to think about the technology resources you’ll need to get started, which can include everything from website software to email marketing and analytics tools. Essentially, these are the tools you need not just to run your marketing activities but also your marketing operations so that you have strong visibility into marketing activity performance.
- Acquisition & Media Fees: If you’ve selected advertising as one of your core tactics, whether it be digital advertising like Google and Facebook ads, or offline advertising, you’ll need to allocate funds to each of these activities. Taking time to map these out on your budget will help you understand just how viable the tactics are given the money needed to fund each one.
Projections / Expectations
The natural thing that will be asked with any go to market plan is, “how many customers will we get?” While this is absolutely a reasonable question, it’s not something that can can be concretely answered for quite some time. As a result, as part of your go to market plan, you’ll want to develop both short term business performance benchmarks to work towards.
These generally include:
- Conversion Rates: These are the expected conversion rates you can expect through your funnel. In B2C businesses this can mean estimating the email follower to lead to customer conversion rates. In B2B it’ll likely be tracking conversion rates from marketing qualified lead to sales qualified lead to trialists and finally customers.
- Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): This metric defines how much money is needed, on average, to acquire a single customer. It sets a standard for how much money you’ll need to raise or put aside for marketing to actually build a customer base.
- Lifetime Value (LTV): This metrics refers to the average lifetime value of a customer. When compared against your CAC, you’ll be able to see if your customers are valuable enough, or if they aren’t bringing in enough value relative to the money needed to acquire them.
- Payback Period: A measure of how long it’ll take to recoup your marketing investment, Payback Period gives you a good sense for the runway needed to begin seeing returns on your investment.
These projections let you assess the viability and health of your business. While you rarely get it right out of the gate, having these benchmarks gives you something to work towards and also something to see if rates are trending in the right direction.
GO TO MARKET DEPENDENCIES
While the items mentioned above are the standard parts of any go to market plan, it can often be wise to include a few pieces of information on dependencies. This is a great way to communicate how outcomes may change depending on certain factors, or how you might adjust your approach given access to resources. Two common dependency areas are:
- Budget Dependencies: While you can build an ideal budget, you are likely to receive fewer funds than you might like. You can plan ahead and build two budgets (or even three!) instead. One that plans for an ideal scenario and one that plans for a lower budget allocation. This will force you to identify and communicate the must-have marketing activities versus the good-to-have activities.
- Revenue / Customer Dependencies: Since projections around customers or revenue acquisition require you to make assumptions about conversion rates and customer acquisition costs, you know going in that you may be over or under estimating. To factor for this, it can be valuable to build two or even three revenue / customer models using low, medium, and high conversion rate estimates. This will help manage expectations about what the organization can expect in terms of overall acquisition.
Of course, your business may have other dependencies too, including things like government laws and regulations, behaviors of competitors or other relevant factors. You don’t want to over plan. However, having a few considerations in place will let you adapt more quickly when, and if, you need.