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Article 18 min read

10 steps to building an effective go-to-market (GTM) strategy

Learn how to use a go-to-market strategy to turn your product concepts into tangible offerings—without chaos or confusion.

By Donny Kelwig, Contributing Writer

Last updated April 4, 2024

Launching a new product can be terrifying. You’re taking what you believe is a unique selling proposition and telling the entire world about it in hopes that people will give you money for your idea. With fear, anticipation, and deadlines running you ragged, product launches can spiral downhill faster than you can say your elevator pitch—especially if you don’t have a go-to-market strategy to fall back on.

If you have no idea what a go-to-market strategy is or how to make one—fear not. In this article, we’ll take you from product conception to launch with the expert tips and tricks you need to develop a foolproof go-to-market strategy and framework that fits your sales methodology.

What is a go-to-market (GTM) strategy?

A go-to-market (GTM) strategy is a detailed, step-by-step sales and marketing plan for launching a new product or bringing an existing product to a new market.

A good GTM strategy provides your team with a blueprint for:

  • Conceptualizing a product

  • Targeting the right audience and marketing channels

  • Crafting the messaging and unified goals

  • Setting price tiers and sticking to a budget

  • Creating a feasible timeline for the process

  • Keeping various departments engaged and in sync

Ideally, elements of your GTM strategies will also be reusable—with small adjustments, of course. Your products may change over time, but your general audience, teams, and target demographics will likely remain relatively similar as your business grows.

What sections should you include in a GTM strategy?

You can add or remove sections in your GTM strategy plan according to your needs, but here are the fundamental components that most businesses will want to include:

GTM section title
Contents
Timeline Product roadmap with deadlines.
Customer pain points List customer pain points and the category they fall under (e.g., productivity, process, etc.).
Ideas Brainstorm solutions to customer pain points.
Industry analysis Assess your competitors and industry trends.
Product concept Use the solutions you brainstormed earlier to come up with product concepts.
SWOT analysis Analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of your potential product(s).
Pitch List everyone you’ll need to pitch to get buy-in and outline how you’ll sell the product to customers.
Goals and KPIs Set GTM strategy goals and establish key performance indicators (KPIs) for monitoring them.
Status log Keep track of key tasks, who’s accountable for them, and deadlines.
Journey map Map out everything about your ideal customer experience as they move through the sales funnel.
Promotion Settle on the marketing and sales enablement tools you need to meet launch sales goals.

What’s the difference between a GTM strategy and a marketing plan?

Go-to-market strategies and marketing plans generally go hand in hand, but they have some key differences.

  • GTM strategy: This is a large-scale blueprint that guides the reader through every stage of the product launch process, from research and development to release. It includes crucial steps for the sales, marketing, and product development teams to complete a short-term project.
  • Marketing plan: This builds on a small subsection of the GTM strategy and outlines plans for promoting a product to the target audience, including channels, messaging, strategies, and more. Marketing plans also provide long-term suggestions for increasing brand awareness and profitability, which may go beyond a single product.

Why your business needs a go-to-market strategy

product roadmap

Creating and documenting your plan will help you avoid missing any steps and making costly errors. With the right GTM strategy, you can increase your chances of success and establish a foundation for future product launches.

Some other benefits of creating a go-to-market strategy include:

  • Maximizing profit potential by ensuring you’re successfully targeting new and existing customers.
  • Meeting business objectives by staying aligned with pre-determined goals.
  • Drumming up brand awareness by developing a promotional strategy.
  • Sticking to your budget by clearly defining money allocations for each stage and asset.
  • Reducing time to market by setting time-bound tasks and goals.
  • Minimizing productivity-related expenses by defining roles, responsibilities, and deadlines early in the GTM strategy planning process.

Who needs a GTM strategy?

Any business planning to bring a new product to market would benefit from a go-to-market strategy to help streamline its launch and improve results. GTM strategies are especially popular in SaaS, B2B, and startup businesses. However, this high-level planning is also useful to B2C companies because it provides clear direction from product ideation to post-launch performance monitoring.

When do you need a GTM strategy?

Your business should create a go-to-market plan anytime it:

  • Launches an existing product in a new region

  • Tests a new market

  • Rolls out a new product in an established market

  • Creates a new product without an established market

Free + customizable GTM strategy template

Download your free go-to-market strategy template to prepare for the ultimate product launch.

Types of go-to-market strategies

Your business can choose from several go-to-market strategies based on your unique objectives. But we’re going to focus on the top four:

  • Outbound

  • Sales enablement

  • Account-based marketing (ABM)

  • Demand generation

Elements of a go-to-market strategy + example applications

All GTM strategies are based on the three Cs:

  1. Customers

  2. Company

  3. Competition

These Cs inform every decision you make while developing your GTM strategy. You can break down each C by who, what, when, where, and why for a more detailed approach.

For example, let’s examine an office supply store that conducts B2B and B2C sales. Say the store is launching a back-to-school bundle in the summer to get kids ready to return to the classroom.

Customers

First, you need to determine what problem your target customer is experiencing and some other key characteristics about them. Ask yourself the following questions to get to know your ideal customer:

  • Who is your target market? In this case, the target market includes parents who have a household income of over $85K, work busy schedules, and have elementary to high school-aged students who are involved in several activities. They are looking for quality products but also value convenience. Their children may have some leftover supplies from the previous school year, but they will likely need to buy new materials.
  • What do they need to buy? They need to purchase new school supplies for their kids.
  • When do they need your product? Most schools in the U.S. begin classes in August or September. That means your back-to-school bundle would need to be on store shelves by the end of June or the first week of July.
  • Where are they shopping? Many parents that do in-store back-to-school shopping do so at big-box stores like Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and Staples—where they’re likely to find everything they need in one place. It’s a bonus if they can grab the school supplies while grocery shopping.
  • Why do they need it? Oftentimes, schools have strict supply lists, and they expect busy parents to buy all the items on them.

Company

Next, think about what your business offers customers and how it adds value.

  • Who do you serve? Your product serves busy parents who are back-to-school shopping for their kids.
  • What problems do your products solve? Your back-to-school bundle is a convenient way for parents to get all the items on their kids’ supply lists. For added convenience, you can customize bundles based on district lists so parents can grab one and go.
  • When do you plan to launch? Launch in June or July to give parents enough time to shop. If you’re unsure of the best launch date, you should always review historical data to arrive at a decision.
  • Where will you sell? You’ll need to sell in stores where your target market shops the most to maximize convenience. This will likely include stores like Walmart and Target.
  • Why should people shop with you? Parents should buy your bundle because you’ve taken the tedious work out of back-to-school shopping. Now that they don’t have to worry about supplies, they can focus on the happenings of their daily lives or do the “fun” back-to-school shopping, like picking out new clothes and shoes with their kids.

Competition

Finally, keep an eye on the competition to ensure you maintain your competitive advantage.

  • Who are your competitors? Crayola, JanSport, and Paper Mate all sell school supplies, but they stay within their own lane. This is great because they create awesome products within their niche. It just means that customers are missing out on the convenience of picking up all their school supplies at once.
  • What is their selling proposition? Generally, brands that sell school supplies stick to a single category: writing tools, technology, organizers, textbooks, etc.
  • When do your competitors start selling school supplies? Most back-to-school sales begin in early July and wrap up at the end of August.
  • Where are they selling? You may have some regional competitors, but the aforementioned brands will likely also sell their products in the big-box stores you’re going after.
  • Why would shoppers buy from you instead of you? They should choose you because you created a bundle of high-quality school supplies that are affordable and convenient to purchase.

How to build a go-to-market strategy

Build a go-to-market plan to launch your new product in 11 steps:

  1. Set realistic launch goals based on sales forecasts
  2. Set deadlines
  3. Identify your product’s key value propositions
  4. Define your target customer
  5. Select your KPIs
  6. Analyze and repurpose old GTM strategies
  7. Finalize sales cycle updates
  8. Optimize lead funnels
  9. Align sales activities with the customer journey
  10. Prepare your customer service team
  11. Schedule a mini-launch

1. Set realistic launch goals based on sales forecasts

A common mistake is to assume a new product will be a revenue-generating game changer. When you do that, you will spend more on marketing and production than you should and risk not breaking even.

Always assume your new product won’t generate more money than your other products. It’s better to be pleasantly surprised than deeply disappointed. And remember, your sales forecast is there to keep you honest.

  • Tip: Start smaller if you need to ensure you have the resource allocations and inventory to keep up with sales volume for a successful launch.

2. Set deadlines

Holding hourglasses

Task deadlines keep your team on track and ensure your product gets released when it’s supposed to. Just make sure all your departments’ deadlines align so that sales, inventory, marketing, and finance are on the same page for launch day.

  • Tip: Create a live project management document to keep track of deadlines and core accountabilities.

3. Identify your product’s key value proposition

Before you start your new product journey, look at what you want your company to gain from that product. New products are expensive to create and launch with no guarantee of sales, so if the answer isn’t clear, try asking yourself some of these questions:

  • Why are you launching?

  • Have customers requested updates on older products?

  • Are you looking to increase quality?

  • Do you plan to offer a cheaper solution?

  • Are you going head-to-head on a competitor product?

4. Define your target customer

Dropping item in card

Understanding your audience is one of the most important parts of a successful GTM plan. As you think about your ideal customer, consider the following:

  • What pain points are they experiencing?

  • How can you resolve their problem(s)?

  • How does the customer feel about their current situation?

  • What features are most important to your target customer?

  • How do they intend to use your product?

5. Select your KPIs

You can’t assess the success of your strategy if you don’t know exactly what you’re measuring. For example, do you want to track conversions, brand awareness, customer retention, or something else?

When you start tracking your metrics from the very beginning with sales funnel software, it’s easier to pinpoint any problems and find solutions. A few of our KPI suggestions include:

  • Number of visits to your product page

  • Number of inbound interactions

  • Revenue per customer

  • Cash burn rate

  • Customer satisfaction score

  • Number of ad clicks

  • Number of outbound interactions

  • Tip: Before you select specific KPIs, determine which categories are the most important to you and how you will track them. Do you have proper access to track performance-related metrics?

6. Analyze and repurpose old GTM strategies

Magnifying glass

If you’ve used a GTM strategy in the past and it worked, consider using it again. Consistency isn’t just beneficial for your company; it’s also beneficial for your customers.

Brand consistency means your prospects and repeat consumers will feel secure buying from you. A huge shift in tactics can sometimes backfire and deteriorate customer trust.

  • Tip: Create a GTM template and make copies to customize the launch strategy for each new product your business creates.

7. Finalize sales cycle updates and establish data collection methods

If you know your sales team is working on implementing cycle changes and new sales strategies, make those improvements before you launch.

Changing or condensing a sales cycle usually involves a fair amount of experimentation. If you’re trying to analyze sales data on a new product during cycle changes, you won’t be able to separate your product data from your sales activity data.

  • Tip: If you’re expecting internal updates, plan out all product and sales-related activities at least a year in advance, so your product launch team isn’t tripping over other departments.

8. Optimize lead funnels

Coach holding clipboard

It doesn’t matter how much you hone in on your target audiences or buyer personas—each new product will have its own niche.

A new audience niche means your teams need to take the time to do a bit of market research, create a new market strategy, and optimize your lead funnel for maximum conversions. If your new product is a huge shift for your company, it’s worth updating your prospecting strategies and creating an alternate sales pipeline.

  • Tip: Pack your lead funnel with prospects who are a good match for your new product before you officially launch.

9. Align sales activities with the customer journey

Sales activities will vary based on where your prospect is in the customer journey. Here are some examples of activities your sales reps can do as a buyer progresses through the sales funnel:

  • Awareness: Let buyers know you’re an option through prospecting and marketing.
  • Discovery: Score leads and schedule discovery meetings to assess their needs.
  • Evaluation: Send the prospect a proposal.
  • Intent: Negotiate and finalize the contract.
  • Purchase: Collect payment and send the buyer to onboarding.
  • Loyalty: Deliver the product and follow up for customer feedback.
  • Tip: Clearly outline what actions you expect salespeople to take at each stage of the sales funnel to ensure consistency across your entire organization.

10. Prepare your customer service team

Team huddle

No one wants to think about product issues during a launch, but new products always come with an unavoidable onslaught of customer questions and complaints.

That’s why it’s critical to brief your customer service team on new products and prepare them for any known issues.

  • Tip: Host product demonstrations for your support team to make sure they’re equipped with the knowledge to answer customer questions when the time comes.

11. Schedule a mini-launch to test performance

Your launch doesn’t have to go from zero to 60 with no seatbelt on. If you’re jumping into new territory, try setting up a mini-launch with a small group of loyal, valued customers.

These customers know your company, so they’re primed to offer insights into your product’s successes and failures. Mini-launches can also be huge money savers. If you find out your product needs to go back to the drawing board, you’re not stuck shutting down a full-size launch.

  • Tip: If you want to A/B test your product, you can set up a couple of mini-launches and test results with two sets of customers.

Go-to-market strategy examples

Here are examples of how some popular brands have used GTM plans to launch new products.

Go-to-market strategy template

Use the editable sections in this template to conceptualize a new product idea, document your research, and prepare a launch strategy. You can also check off the boxes of the built-in checklist to keep track of your outreach decisions. Inside, you’ll find a template for determining:

  • Plan and timeline overview

  • Consumer pain points

  • Idea generation

  • And more

go to market template

Download template

Plan your product launch

Any business can benefit from following a basic GTM strategy—it ensures you’re creating a marketable product that people will purchase, maximizing profits for your business.

Once your product is ready for the public, use Zendesk Sell to pitch to new and existing customers. Using its industry-leading features, you can create custom experiences for each prospect and gain visibility into your sales pipeline.

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