Asia Orangio is the CEO & Founder of DemandMaven. Her superpower is providing software and SaaS companies with the consultation they need to unlock growth.
As part of our Wynter Games virtual event series, Asia sat down with us to talk brand strategy. How do you put together a go-to market strategy? What does a good strategy look like?
Here, Asia teaches us how to map out a go-to market strategy in five simple steps.
What is a go-to market strategy?
Ironically, a market strategy isn’t just about marketing. It’s also about your product.
“The short answer is that go-to market is really the overall arching strategy of how you plan to win in a particular market or a new customer segment,” said Asia.
The long answer is that your go-to market strategy encompasses your entire business. Sales, product, marketing, engineering - every single facet of your company must come together in order to successfully win a new market or customer base.
“The importance of a go-to market strategy is that when it's aligned and when everyone is aligned to that strategy, then the entire business moves as a unit together towards some goal,” Asia said.
If you’re the founder of a small bootstrapped company, this means that every single decision you make is connected to your go-to market strategy.
If you’re a large company, it means that all of your teams are aligned and united under a common goal - whether that goal is growing an existing market or entering a new market for the first time.
Step 1: Identify a clear goal
Above all else, go-to market strategies are goal-oriented. It may seem obvious, but you can’t set off on a growth journey without a road map.
“If we're going to define a go-to market strategy, we ultimately need to know where we're headed,” said Asia. “So one of the most defining moments when it comes to sitting down and creating your go-to market strategy is really knowing what it is that you ultimately want to achieve.”
Goals need to be concrete.
A vague objective is not the same thing as a concrete goal. Asia said your goal should be something you can put in front of someone and say, “Hey, go accomplish this.”
Yes, there is an element of aspirational thinking here. But remember that you’re not formulating a dream or a wish - you’re coming up with a measurable goal that will define your plan of attack.
Goals need to be measurable.
Many companies set out with the goal of increasing market share. But the best goals tie this ambition back to measurable revenue.
“What market, and how on earth do you measure that?” asks Asia. “It's another situation where it's like, okay, I don't know that I could put this in front of my marketing team and say, go gain this share of market.”
A better way to think about it is increasing revenue. And if that’s your goal, how might you achieve it? One option would be by increasing traffic. In this scenario, traffic therefore becomes the main objective.
Step 2: Set up your framework
While there are multiple ways to start framing your strategy, Asia’s favorite is one created by Brian Belfore.
Suitable for businesses of all sizes, the framework emphasizes product, market, model, and channel.
“What I love about this is we get to define ‘product’ and we get to define ‘market,’ but it also forces us to think about, well, okay, how do we ultimately take this to market through what channels and with what kind of model,” said Asia.
It’s quickly apparent that these elements are all interconnected.
- A change to the product itself will have an impact on the market
- A change in the model will have an impact on the market
- A change in the market will impact the channels you use to acquire customers
What product are you ultimately going to sell, or what service are you going to provide? This is the framework section where you write down things like the features you offer, the opportunities you have, the competing alternatives, and the target audiences you can acquire.
Your model is how you're going to ultimately sell and deliver the product. This is the framework section where you outline if you will offer a free trial, per-seat pricing, invite-only early access, a traditional sales demo, or other delivery model. There are endless options, and the model you select should be influenced by your product and market.
Channels are where you're going to acquire customers and partners. Channels aren’t just digital - they also include partnerships that can drive revenue, growth, and access to potential customers. Channels can include organic search and paid acquisition in addition to digital channels.
Your markets are essentially your target audience(s). Here, you define which potential markets you want to pursue and why. What makes your markets unique and special?
Step 3: Identify your target customers
The next step in your go-to market strategy is to identify where your growth will come from.
Your target customers should be intimately familiar to you, inside and out. The better you can speak to customers, the better your message will resonate with them. And the better your message resonates with them, the quicker they’ll press “purchase.”
The idea is not only to get your customers to say “yes!”. It’s to keep them saying “yes” for the months and years ahead.
“Growth is ultimately coming from people in some kind of way,” said Asia. “And it's really our job as strategists to figure out, okay, but is that new customers, is that existing customers, do we need to convert more of them, or retain them better, or all of the above?”
To understand your customers, you need to understand things like:
- Customer pain points
- Competing alternatives that customers have considered
- Why customers settled on your solution as the best option
- Where your customers hang out
- How your customers make decisions
“These are all parts of the psychological profile of the customer,” said Asia. “If we don't know everything about our people that we're trying to acquire in the first place...it's going to get really hard to figure out again how we're going to reverse engineer how we do that.”
Having a proper understanding of your target customer segment will have a huge impact on your future decision making.
Step 4: Identify success gaps
Success gaps are the things that are keeping you from achieving your desired goals. They can include things like:
Identifying success gaps is what takes you from tactics to strategy. Once you identify them, you can begin to work out what resources you need to succeed.
“Do we have the right people on the team? Do we need to add to that? Do we have the right skill sets in general internally? And if not, who are we ultimately going to need to acquire in order to meet our objective? What are we going to need to learn? What do we know that we don't know?” said Asia. Success gaps encompass all of these areas.
A complex business may have a long list of success gaps, while a more defined strategy may have a short list. There is no right or wrong answer; your list of gaps will depend on what you are trying to achieve.
Examples of success gaps could include:
- A need to identify and measure how many free trials convert to paid customers
- A need to identify how well a new customer segment will perform
- A need to hire an experienced content marketer to achieve a goal
The above examples show that success gaps are diverse. They can be related to the market itself, or they can be related to resources that you will need to succeed (such as hiring a new team member).
Note that you don’t need to identify a solution for every success gap before moving forward. “I promise it's not to kind of feel like, oh crap, we've got all these things we’ve got to address,” said Asia. “It's much more that if you document your success gaps, you can start figuring out how to overcome them.”
Slowly, you'll start to identify which risks you can eliminate completely, and which risks you’re aware of but are still comfortable taking.
Step 5: Identify guiding principles
The final step is to set your guiding principles - otherwise known as the mission statement or core values of your go-to market strategy.
The purpose of forming guiding principles is to motivate and inspire your team, and to help you stay the course as you put your strategy into action.
“You can think of them as kind of like little miniature core values that fall into the strategy, or you can think of them as big bets to make,” said Asia.
She gave the example of wanting to lose a few pounds of weight. In this scenario, your guiding principles might include:
- Get enough sleep
- Keep cortisol levels low
- Protein is the most important macronutrient
- Do workouts you actually enjoy
- Drink enough water
- Regulate hormones
“These are bets,” said Asia. “If I make these bets, I'm going to accomplish my goal based off of what I know my success gaps are, based off of what I know I want to ultimately achieve. If I adhere to these guiding principles, I'm going to achieve this.”
To switch to a business example, imagine you’re a SaaS company that wants to improve customer retention. Here, the guiding principles might include:
- Provide amazing experience from sign up to conversion
- Create value from day one in the product
- Focus on attracting the best-fit customers
- Build in public (AKA product roadmap transparency)
Guiding principles are not “owned” by any one team within your organization. Nor are they checklist items on a to-do list, to be assigned to individuals.
“Each of these can technically fall under sales and marketing, or marketing and product, or sales, marketing, and product,” said Asia. “It can really inspire all different parts of the business. That’s the power of a guiding principle. So again, guiding principles are not tasks. They inspire action.”
We hope this five-step process leaves you with the inspiration you need to tackle your next go-to market strategy.
Asia's presentation about the topic is here.