At Sterling Woods, we have a simple working definition of go-to-market strategy. A go-to-market strategy answers these four questions:
- Who are we targeting?
- What problem are we solving for them?
- How do we solve that problem better (faster, cheaper, more seamlessly) than anyone else?
- How are we getting in front of the correct targets with the right offer (price and product) and message?
By answering these questions sequentially, any organization can create a practical and actionable go-to-market strategy. This approach works for everyone, from startups looking to launch their first product to legacy brands searching for a new segment.
No matter how your brand hopes to expand its reach, a go-to-market strategy ensures you’re sharing the right offering with the right audience.
Let’s explore each of these four questions in greater depth to understand how they come together to form a cohesive go-to-market strategy.
Who Are We Targeting?
Matching your product or service with the appropriate audience is critical. Even if your product is already in the market and meeting with some success, could it perform even better?
This is why we talk about looking beyond basic statistics to find the highest-value segment for your offering. Take this example of a client we worked with in the truck driver-recruitment space.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, only seven percent of truck drivers are women. So in targeting their average customer, our client was speaking to a presumed male audience.
However, when we began to dig into the segments of the business, we discovered something surprising. While men far outnumber women in the trucking profession, women were more eager to take advantage of our customer’s services. In fact, they were willing to pay twice what men paid for the same offering.
If we had not looked beyond the demographic averages in the trucking industry, we would never have uncovered this secret high-value segment.
What Problem Are We Solving?
Once you have identified your high-value segment, it’s time to make sure your offering solves a real problem they face. A common pitfall at this stage of the go-to-market strategy is making assumptions about the problem your audience needs to solve.
Another one of our clients, a business media company, was focused on solving the problem of keeping its audience up to date. However, in talking with real customers, we discovered that staying up to date wasn’t a real pain point. There is plenty of free “breaking news”-type content on the internet.
Instead, what subscribers really wanted from the brand was to understand consumer trends better. They needed insights that would help them refine and modify their marketing strategies. When our client shifted its content focus from news to insights, they’re on track to experience marked growth.
It’s not uncommon to be surprised by what your customers actually want or need. Once you begin to understand your place in your customers’ lives, you may need to adjust your offerings or even create new ones to find the right product-market fit.
How Do We Solve That Problem Better?
In a digital-first world, your competitors are not just in your backyard. You may be facing competition from brands on the other side of the planet. The best way to stand out is to demonstrate how your offering is superior.
“Better” means different things to different people. Maybe your offering is cheaper. It could be easier to use. Perhaps it solves the problem faster.
This piece of the go-to-market strategy is where you start to see product and audience fully overlap. Armed with in-depth knowledge about your audience, you begin to understand how they define better.
For example, you won’t see a luxury brand competing on price because cost is not a pain point for its audience. Instead, the brand may highlight its superior customer experience or elevated product quality.
This is the point in the process where your marketing messaging starts to align with product-market fit. When you understand what makes your product the best solution for your target audience, you can hone in on messaging that hits the right points.
How Are We Reaching Our Audience?
Once you have a fully realized product or service that delivers the best solution for your ideal customer, you’re ready to take your offering into the marketplace.
Marketing becomes so much easier when you already know the who, what, and how about your customers and product. That’s why marketing strategy and tactics are the last pieces in the go-to-market strategy.
While it’s certainly exciting to think about how you’re going to communicate your value to your audience, we’ve seen brands skip over the first three questions to dive headfirst into marketing. Unfortunately, success remains elusive without a clear understanding of who is buying and why they need you.
We’ve written before about a client that dove into LinkedIn marketing without a substantial segmentation effort to guide their messaging. Once we went back to square one and defined their high-value segment, they saw a 78 percent decrease in cost per lead.
All the money you save on shot-in-the-dark marketing experiments can be reinvested in the business. Whether that’s to build out more comprehensive marketing plans, refine your product pyramid, or branch out to new audiences, wiser allocation of your marketing spend pays dividends.
An effective go-to-market strategy requires patience and discipline. While the temptation to leap ahead and make assumptions is understandable, it can cost you in the end. Instead, a slow and methodical approach in which you answer each of our four questions about your audience, your offering, and your messaging will garner more substantial and sustainable results.
About the Sterling Woods Group, LLC
The Sterling Woods Group’s mission is to help clients make sense of their data to predictably grow sales. We apply data science to help you optimize your sales funnel, improve your marketing ROI, launch new products successfully, and enter new markets profitably.
We use a hypothesis-driven, data-supported methodology to discover insights that no one else is paying attention to. Then, we help you assemble the right sales strategies, marketing plans, technologies, and resources to seize this opportunity.
About the Author
Rob Ristagno, founder and CEO of the Sterling Woods Group, previously served as a senior executive at several digital media and e-commerce businesses, including as COO of America’s Test Kitchen. Starting his career at McKinsey, his focus has always been on embracing digital technology and data science to spur strategic growth.
Rob is the author of A Member is Worth a Thousand Visitors and is a regular keynote speaker at conferences around the world. He has been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and Digiday.
He holds degrees from the Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College and has taught at both Harvard and Boston College.
Rob lives outside Boston, MA with his wife, two daughters, and black lab.