Going to the market is often overlooked, although it might be one of the most common reasons why investors pass. I will try to give you a simple, actionable recipe to help create a credible go-to-market strategy. Let’s go.
A sound go-to-market strategy involves four elements + one:
Product / Customer / Competition / Channel, and Product Roadmap
The most common mistake is to think that you need a complete product to address the market. Instead, think value not product. What matters is to deliver some kind of value, not a full-blown product. Then the question becomes, what is the smallest product I can build that can deliver value.
What you want is to go to market very quickly and avoid the vicious circle where you are never ready, and when you are, there is something additional you could add. If you think value and minimum product, that will accelerate your launch. You want to face the market and validate your vision fast. Forget going to market with a strong product, first products are usually bad, customers will be tolerant if you deliver value…and vision.
Little bonus: Try to create something memorable, a wow feature, that not only delivers value but engages customers and makes them want to share the experience. Indeed a young startup does not have a lot of marketing/sales power, a wow feature might help.
Going to the market is not targeting the whole market. You are not trying to scale, you are trying to validate your product vision. You want to prove that you can have a few clients that love your product and your vision. Indeed, the first step is to validate product fit. Product fit is when you can showcase few customers loving your product with a high level of retention and engagement. Once this is accomplished you can think of achieving product-market fit which is having an overwhelming number of loving customers.
So for now target wisely your first customer segment best option. The segment must be small and reachable, the segment must be representative of the market to come. Most importantly analyze what value you bring to the market and how this value converts into a benefit for a client. Once you have cornered the benefit, try finding which cohort of customers would find it most valuable, in other words, who has the most pain that your benefit can ease. That is your first target, keep it simple, try selling where your value resonates best.
You are not launching a product in a vacuum. A market is a very structured environment and competition is active. Competition is not a similar product, it’s another way of solving the problem. When you go to the market you become the new kid on the block, everyone ignores you; you need to prove you can become real. Going face to face with established solutions would be fullish and unwise. Analyze competition weak points and target a segment where your value proposition is much better.
It’s a necessary positioning exercise, you need to exist in the clients' minds as unique. Think of it that way, if you are perceived as just a little bit better than what exists, why would anyone take a bet on a small, unproven startup?
Creating value is one thing, delivering it is another. If your take is to run a marketing campaign, think again. There are three things to keep in mind when addressing channels and go-to-market.
1-How to reach and convert clients. That depends on the type of product but it will be either marketing or sales. It could be both, but one will be dominant. Know if you are better of with sales or marketing and create a playbook for going to market.
2-How to deliver. Onboarding and fostering real usage is next. It’s quite a challenge as the first products are usually poor in both aspects. However, remember we are trying to get loving customers.
3-How to support. Granted it’s early, however, do not underestimate support. One, it’s the only way to have loving clients, and second, it’s how you stay in touch with the market. You need customers’ feedback! That is the main reason for going to market fast.
In one sentence
A sound go-to-market strategy combines creating a minimum product that delivers value, to a very precise customer market segment, where competition is weak, and where you are in a position to reach out to the potential clients, onboard, and support them.
The entire point is learning. You want to validate that your product vision is real by getting your first loving clients.
A go-to-market strategy would not be complete without matching it with the product roadmap. Both are connected.
When you’re going to market you need to think of addressing market segments in sequence and matching the different segments with product improvements. Your first segment is your original go-to-market. However, with time you will expand to outreach the first segment and deliver to a wider audience. So in essence your roadmap should be designed around that.
Hope this helps. Don’t wait too long, face reality fast, go-to-market!