How to reliably get people using & paying for your product, every time

This week is all about go-to-market strategies. What they are, why they matter, and how to create one so you can get your first customers and increase your products shot at winning market share.

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I think it’s now common knowledge that the saying “if we build it, they will come” just isn’t true.

I can humbly say that I’ve definitely built it before— and sadly, nobody came.

You don’t just get people using your product and paying you for it, no matter how great it is. That takes work beyond all the hours you and your team put into research and development.

And that work starts with a great Go-To-Market (G2M) strategy/plan.

Having failed to launch products with any G2M at all, but also having been burnt with bad ones — I can confidently say (along with many other PMs and product marketers) that knowing what makes a great G2M is essential and worth the investment, every time.

So, this week we’re looking at what a G2M is and how to create a killer plan, following this rough template:

  • Define the phases

  • The market

  • Target customer

  • Value proposition

  • Positioning statement

  • Competition and market position

  • Promotion channels

  • Pricing

  • Testing plan

  • Messaging documentation

  • Work plan

Let’s dive in.

Why is a G2M strategy so important?

“If you don't know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else” - Yogi Berra

A go-to-market (G2M) strategy is your plan and roadmap for how you are going to bring your product to your first set of customers, and then grow and win in the market. 

Having built a great product that has a compelling value proposition and trying to launch it without a proper plan in place is a huge mistake. 

It would be like having crafted a beautiful ship, hoisting the sails, and setting sail without a map and just seeing where the wind takes you. You're not just going to end up at the wrong shore, but could end up sailing into pirate-infested waters, running out of food, mutiny, crashing on rocks and sinking, or at worst just floating in the abyss for years. 

Would you want to get onboard without directions? 

As the PM for the product, you're the captain of that ship, and the G2M strategy is your tool towards success. 

Creating a G2M plan can prevent many of the mistakes and oversights that can lead to new product launches failing. Targeting the wrong people, poor product-market fit, oversaturation, and bad timing can all tank a great product. 

The G2M plan creates alignment with your stakeholders and all the teams involved like marketing and sales,  and ensures everyone can execute towards the same goal efficiently. 

So, let's dive into the creation of the G2M strategy.

When and Who

While the G2M plan starts being executed on when you launch the product, it is mostly developed well before the actual launch, and often even before you start building. 

This is a big part of the product's strategy, and you don't want to be doing your strategic thinking just before launch. This reflects poorly on your strategics skills, and increases the risk of failed launches. 

Your involvement and responsibility with the G2M plan will vary across companies. Larger teams will have a product marketer who often runs point, but on smaller teams it's the product manager who owns it.

Regardless of the team size, as the PM you should be closely involved in creating it and it's your job to make sure it's done, documented and been seen by stakeholders before you launch something. 

A handy G2M template

Even if you're collaborating with a product marketer, you should be able to create a great G2M strategy yourself. To do this you need to know what the different elements of a G2M plan are and why they are important. 

Below is a handy step-by-step template to use. 


How are the different parts of your plan going to change overtime?

A G2M plan should ideally take a phased approach. Your strategy and tactics when you're launching to your first customers and just entering the market will likely be different to what you're going to do once you've reached your target audience and are entering a growth phase to increase market share. 

Showing you've considered what the plan is beyond the first step, and that there is nuance as the product evolves in the market, is a great way to demonstrate your strategic skills. 

There's no right or wrong way to phase your G2M strategy, and it could be a simple two-phase plan like “1. Early market entry; 2. Market expansion”, or even something more granular. Whatever your phases are, be clear around how you're defining them and what success in each phase looks. 


What market are you in, and what segments of that market are you targeting? Why?

Be as specific as you can about the market you're entering, whether it's growing or not, and how big it is. This information is gathered when you do your market analysis during early research.

Within the larger market, there will be different market segments made up of unique characteristics and customers with different needs. Some will be harder to win than others.

When you launch, you need to target one ideal segment at first that – this is called your beachhead market. It's your first point of attack where you focus all your time and resources on wining this strategic entry point to the market.

You choose this niche because you believe it's the segment that (1) you can dominate and (2) will allow you to springboard into other adjacent segments of the market.

So, how do you choose this vital beachhead market?

At a very high-level, you take your different market segments and evaluate them on these criteria – your target segment should be the one that ranks highest.

  1. Is it large enough?

  2. Can you access it easily?

  3. Do you have a compelling value proposition?

  4. Do you already have the whole product?

  5. Are there competitors?

  6. Can you leverage a leadership position?

  7. Does it align with your company's interests and values?


What audience are your selling to? Why?

This is the most important part of your G2M plan. Everything is about the customer, and if you're trying to sell to the wrong people, you're wasting your time and will most likely fail.

Be very clear about who your ideal customer is and give as much detail as possible about them, like demographics, distinctive unmet needs, behaviors (e.g., usage of existing solutions), psychographics, etc.
This ideal customer could be different from the very first people that you're targeting to get early traction.

If there are multiple people involved in the decision to buy your product, describe who the end users are, who makes the purchase, and other key influencers.

If you're launching a new product and there is an overlap with your existing customers, don't forget to talk about your Day 0 leverage – the people you already have access to that you can drive into this new offering. It's an advantage, so use it.


What value are you creating for people?

Once you've defined who your target customer is – your value proposition sums up what problem they. The purpose of this part of the plan is to align stakeholders and other teams around the value you want to communicate to the market.

A great way to present this is through a value-matrix – where you list a pain point, explain how your product solves for it, and then write what you'd say to a customer in one sentence about it to get them to care enough to pay you.

This is the reason that believe your target customers will want your product.


What does your product do in a sentence?

If you met a potential customer in the elevator, and had only 30 seconds to tell them about what your product does, you'd want to have a clear and well-crafted message ready to go.

After your very short pitch, you'd want them to say, “Yes, I have that problem, and this sounds great! Where can I pay?".

This pitch is your positioning statement, and it's your tool to create alignment and consistency in all your messaging across all touch-points. 

It's important because people are busy and aren't going to spend time going through pages and articles to understand what you do.

Here's a very popular template.

  • For (target customer)

  • Who are dissatisfied with (the current market alternatives) / Who (statement of need or opportunity)

  • Our product is a (new product category)

  • That provides (a key problem-solving capability)

  • Unlike (the product alternatives)

  • We have assembled (key whole product features for your specific application / key differentiators)

The rest of the G2M plan follows from this statement, so invest time to collaborate with other people and get feedback before moving on.


Who are the most important competitors? Why?

Use the insights from your competitive research and describe who your competitors are and where they fit into the market landscape. Then show where your product is positioned compared to them and why that is a competitive advantage.

You can use a feature table, a Venn diagram, or a market position matrix to show this.

It's important to be brutally honest about where you fit and what your advantage is – don't choose attributes just because that's what you win at. You'd be doing a major disservice.

However you size yourself up to competitors – it has to be on things that customers actually care about.


How are people going to learn that your product exists? 

This part of your plan should cover two key things. First, the methods (called channels) you're going to use to promote the product, and second, the details around what you're going do do within each channel.

Here are some examples of high-level channels:

  • Marketing. Are you going to use online ads, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and content marketing?

  • Sales. Are you going to have an outreach and sales team in place?

  • Distribution. Are you leveraging any other company or product to drive more awareness about your own product?

  • Partnerships. Are you using any channel or platform partners?

  • Public relations (PR). Are you planning to reach out to any specific publications or press to promote your product?


How are you pricing your product and making money?

Describe what your revenue model is and how much you're charging your product.


Describe tests that you will undertake to learn about the efficiency and effectiveness of the promotional channels that you're using. What hypotheses, metrics, and sampling approach will you use?


What should people on your team be saying about the product?

It's all about the narrative you are telling to customers, and you want this to be consistent.

This part of the plan is for all the teams who are involved in communicating the product to other people, and it outlines talking points and information (called tent-poles) that others use as their resource for crafting things like emails, press releases and support articles.


How are you going to make this G2M plan actually happen?

Having a great G2M plan isn't enough. It's the execution of it that's key.

The work plan is how you operationalize things. It shows who's doing what, when and how.It can be a spreadsheet, GANT chart, or anything else that clearly helps project manage the execution part of the plan.

Have any thoughts, questions or feedback? 👇

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Every week, I write about product, startups, growth, working with people, and anything else that I’ve found helps me have a happier and more meaningful career in product management

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