Building & growth

Creating a go-to-market strategy for your launch

How to create a go-to-market strategy for your startup | digital illustration of chessboard with pieces on a green board | Mercury
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Contrary to the “build it and they will come” school of thought, simply putting in the time and effort to create something — however impressive — is rarely enough in and of itself to guarantee success. As startup founders can attest to, building the product is one thing, but figuring out how to get a product in front of the right customers is another hurdle entirely. This is where a go-to-market strategy comes into play.

As tempting as it may be to simply unveil your product out into the world as fast as possible, especially after all the energy spent in finding that elusive product-market fit, plotting the steps and direction of your entry to the market ensures that you’re reaching your audience effectively. It also ensures you don’t make moves before your audience is ready to buy in.

What is a go-to-market strategy?

A go-to-market (GTM) strategy is your plan for getting a product or service in front of customers. It bridges the gap between your initial business plan and your marketing roadmap, laying out a solid foundation for every launch.

A GTM strategy is valuable in nearly all launch scenarios, whether it’s new products entering an existing market, existing products entering a new market, or new products entering a new market. And regardless of the scenario, all GTM strategies will largely be built around four core components of your launch:

  • The “what” — this is the product, feature, or service you’re taking to market.
  • The “who” — this is the target market segment that you’re launching the product, feature, or service for.
  • The “why” — this is the target customer pain point, i.e., the problem that you expect your product, feature, or service to solve.
  • The “how” — this is the plan for reaching your target customer and creating demand for your product, feature, or service.

Why is it important to have a go-to-market strategy?

The worst thing you can do is invest time and resources into developing a great product or service only to have it fall flat. The GTM plan — by helping connect the dots between your initial product plan and core business goals or milestones — helps ensure that isn’t the case.

An effective GTM strategy will help lay the foundation for a successful launch by establishing a clear understanding of the market and competitive landscape you’re entering, as well as anticipating the best way into that market from a messaging and channel perspective. The GTM strategy will identify ideal promotional channels based on ROI, which can help keep marketing costs down, and will ensure that a product or service’s value props are clear so that messaging is consistent (and resonant with the core audience) across marketing collateral. The GTM strategy will also go beyond strategy to lay out specifics on a logistical level — for example, what paid marketing campaigns and channels will be leveraged, or what the press strategy for announcing a release is.

Another important aspect of the GTM strategy is that it brings in cross-functional stakeholders from across the organization to make sure that all the right people are involved to ensure a successful launch. Typically, this will mean having product, product marketing, sales, comms, customer success, content/social, and paid marketing teams involved — but the exact breakdown will depend on the organization structure and nature of the launch.

How to build your go-to-market strategy

Creating an effective GTM strategy for your launch calls for a mix of big-picture thinking and getting into the details. To get it right, break it into the following steps:

Identify your main personas

As we mentioned above, understanding your target customer segment for a launch is a core component of nailing your messaging and plans for reaching that customer. But this goes deeper than just understanding who would benefit from your product, or who the primary users would be — it’s important to understand other roles that impact adoption or sales. Thinking about it in that context, the different personas might look something like:

  • User: This is the individual who uses your product or service on a regular basis
  • Influencer: This is someone who encourages the adoption of a product or service, despite not being a regular user
  • Buyer: This is the person who owns the budget
  • Decision-maker: This is the person who makes a final approval on a purchase

As you start to break down personas in this way, it becomes an important step in understanding the right messaging for each role that plays a part in product adoption.

Lay out the competitive landscape

Taking your product to market requires a clear understanding of the existing market and where exactly your product fits. An assessment of the current competitive landscape allows you to understand 1. who is currently offering a product, service, or feature that maps to what you’re launching, and 2. how competitor offerings compare to your own. These two layers of information will help you understand the unique value proposition of your service or product, which can inform the messaging you lean into.

Leveraging user research at this stage in the process can be a valuable asset in pulling up themes around user problems and needs. Conducting user interviews with individuals who fit into your target personas can help to understand:

  • What common persona pain points are
  • What solutions users currently like or dislike about existing solutions (and why)
  • What — if anything — could entice a user to switch to a new product or service

Through this process, you can start to zero in on the real value props that set you apart from competitors and position you well to capture a share of the market you’re going after.

Refine messaging with a values matrix

Once you have a sense of the important personas that you’ll need to reach and get buy-in from in order to achieve a conversion, you can start thinking about how to message to each of the core individuals.

Building messaging around your different personas requires having a clear idea of the value proposition that is relevant to each individual. A value prop that speaks to how a product solves a problem for a daily user might resonate with that persona, but might not mean a whole lot to the decision-maker that needs to sign off on the purchase.

A values matrix can help navigate the complexity of multi-persona messaging plans by creating a system for identifying the intersections between personas, business goals, and customer needs. It helps uncover the right way of conveying pertinent information to each persona, such that everyone at a company can understand the value of your product or service within a context that makes sense to them. The messaging should also pull from your market analysis, ensuring that benefits that differentiate you from competitors are a core part of your messaging.

Keep in mind that the plan around how you reach prospective customers and distribute information about your launch will largely determine who from your persona list you’re speaking to most often.

In most cases, your primary point of contact is going to be the user — this is the person who might be actively seeking a solution to the problem you solve, or who will immediately understand the value of your product or service. This is also the person who needs to be convinced before the conversation can reach a buyer or decision-maker.

Here's an example of a values matrix for an AI video editing software that saves marketing teams' time by empowering social media and content managers to create videos more quickly, maintain brand consistency, and collaborate more easily:

Value matrix for AI video editing software | How to create a go-to-market strategy for your product or feature launch | Mercury

Often, it might be the user who is driving conversations with their internal buyer or decision-maker to get buy-in. So by considering the messaging approach for each persona as part of your GTM strategy, you can be prepared to provide valuable talking points or resources to prospective users that they can then use to guide their conversations with those internal stakeholders, increasing the likelihood of conversion — even if you're not marketing directly to those stakeholders.

Determine your pricing structure

As you determine the right pricing strategy for your own offering, you’ll want to consider questions like how much your target customer is willing to pay and how much competitors charge for a comparable product or service. It’s also important to factor in product-market fit — how well does your product or service align with prospective customer needs or gaps in the current marketplace?

Answers to these questions will help you land in a place that feels right cost-wise. For example, if you’re going to market with a product or service that doesn’t necessarily put you ahead of competitors but is just table stakes for your target audience, you’ll want to approach your pricing accordingly. In this case, a way to differentiate from competitors — if not by product or feature offering — could be offering a comparable product at a lower price (so long as the cost makes sense in the context of your unit economics).

Another component of your pricing structure is your billing model — will you be charging customers a one-time cost or will it be a recurring subscription? And if the latter, will customers be charged monthly? Annually? How will these elements change for different customer segments, if at all? All of these questions should also be answered in your GTM plan.

Develop your marketing plan

Once you’ve laid out the foundation for your launch, the last piece of taking your product or service to market is developing your marketing plan. This is where you’ll consider the best channels for getting in front of prospects and getting your message and value proposition across.

This is where cross-functional collaboration will be critical as you launch a roadmap with all of the different marketing collateral — along with timelines, owners, and exact deliverables — needed to support a successful launch. Examples of different deliverables by team might be:

  • Web: Landing pages, homepage assets
  • Email: Announcement campaign, addition of product/feature in ongoing drip campaigns
  • Communications: Press release
  • Social media: Announcement posts for LinkedIn, X, and Instagram
  • Paid marketing: New ad campaigns
  • Content: Announcement blog post and high-intent educational content with product alignment

The marketing plan should focus on a mix of both inbound (content, social media) and outbound (paid marketing) strategies that reach prospects at different stages of the customer journey and speak to them accordingly.

As you work through the marketing plan to go with your GTM strategy, be sure to compile all the information outlined above (personas, business goals, competitive landscape, value proposition, messaging, and pricing details) into a source-of-truth GTM deck or document that collaborators can refer back to often. This will ensure consistency and cohesion across all aspects of a launch.

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