On my way home from the office every day, I drive past a shopping center. Because I’m always curious (okay, nosy) about why businesses succeed or fail, I couldn’t resist stopping to chat with the owner of a computer store when I glimpsed large “Going Out of Business” signs hung on the front windows.
The funny thing is, I didn’t even know they were IN business until they were OUT of business. And I told this to the owner.
Could a stronger go-to-market strategy have meant a very different outcome and financial reality for them?
I can’t say for certain, because there are too many variables involved. But I can’t help thinking that telling the local area they existed would have given them a fighting chance.
This is why a strong go-to-market strategy is so crucial. Because if your ideal customers don’t know that you exist—and why that matters–BEFORE you launch your product or service, failure is probably a foregone conclusion.
Take Time to Kiss the Babies
In fact, I think cutting corners in the crucial go-to-market stage is a bit like a politician who runs for office but doesn’t have time for knocking-on-doors, shaking hands, kissing babies, or reaching out on social media. He doesn’t have time for all of that.
When election day rolls around, his name is on the ballot, but who is he? What does he stand for? What does he have to offer his constituents? How is he different from his opponents? What does that guy even look like? Voters have no idea. And if your startup races through this stage, consumers will have the same reaction.
Essential Elements of a Go-to-Market Strategy
Whether you’re B2C or B2B—regardless of industry—pay attention to go-to-market as a distinct and crucial stage, and don’t skimp on these steps:
• Know your ideal customer well. This requires real market research, not simply working from what you already know or assume.
• Understand your offering and how it meets a need for the target market.
• Have a comprehensive customer experience strategy.
• Be ACTIVELY engaged and established on the social media channels/platforms they use. Think conversation, not megaphone.
• Understand their social and professional networks and influencers.
• Understand their entire industry vertical.
• Have a model in place to scale your product or service.
• As you engage, articulate how your product solves unmet needs (that your competitors’ products/services don’t).
• Make sure you have a clear plan in place for outreach and engagement, with goals and metrics to measure your success.
• Don’t just talk. Listen. If you discover major weaknesses in your product/service, don’t be afraid to tweak and pivot.
No Time? No Sale
With shorter product life cycles and the pressure to “get there first,” finding time and resources for a productive go-to-market plan is a huge challenge—but absolutely critical. Resist the impulse to rush straight to launch and beyond without informing and engaging your ideal customers. Instead, take time to lay the groundwork. Reach out, listen, and learn.