What is a go-to-market strategy? And how to build one

What is a go-to-market strategy? And how to build one
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It’s one thing to think about creating an online course or to launching a new digital product or service. It’s another thing entirely to create that product, advertise it effectively, and bring that product to market successfully for immediate profits. So to maximize your business’s efficiency and profitability, you need to understand how to build a go-to-market strategy.

A go-to-market strategy will help you plan each step of your product creation and marketing process. The best go-to-market strategies can help you sell your course or coaching products and continually optimize your marketing results in the long term.

Let’s break down what a go-to-market strategy is, the different types of go-to-market strategies, and how you and your marketing team can build one for your business.

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

A go-to-market strategy is a comprehensive step-by-step marketing plan that you can use to prepare and launch a product or course for its target market. This marketing strategy includes a breakdown of how you’ll:

  • Identify your target audience
  • Design and market your new product
  • Sell the product or service once it is live on the market

You can think of a go-to-market strategy as a roadmap, a guide, or a product creation and sales sequence.

Core to each GTM strategy is understanding a market problem or opportunity. Like the specific value a product can provide to your target audience. And a way to position your product as the ideal solution which is your competitive advantage.

Why do you need a GTM strategy?

Simply put, you might spend a lot of time, money, and energy creating new courses or products. And the last thing you want is for all of that money and energy to be wasted when your customers don’t buy your new products (or aren’t aware that they are available to buy in the first place).

The right go-to-market strategy sets your new products up for success. And it allows you to prepare for the product launch, and design an excellent marketing campaign to draw the right attention. Plus, it enables you to market effectively to your target customer base.


pain points

What are the different types of go-to-market strategies?

Go-to-market strategies primarily come in two different types:

  • Product-led GTM strategies: These use products to acquire and retain customers over the long term. For example, a software app might offer so much long-term value that customers feel inspired to upgrade their package or continue subscribing for years to come.
  • Sales-led GTM strategies: These use marketing materials to build interest in a new product. They may use demo versions of the product or well-made advertisements to inspire purchases.

Either go-to-market strategy can be successful. However, you should decide whether your products are consumable. And whether they’re only meant to be used once or twice or if they should be marketed as providing long-term value to their target users.

product launches

Go-to-market strategy examples

Product-led GTM strategy example #1: Apple

Apple employs a well-known product-led go-to-market strategy with its electronics, particularly new iPhone releases. With its loyal customer base and high-quality products, customers are eager to buy the latest iPhone model once it is released.

apple GTM strategy

Product-led GTM strategy example #2: Spotify

Similarly, Spotify has loyal customers. By providing high value, even with the music-streaming app’s free version, listeners are likely to upgrade to a paid subscription—and retain membership for all the features and access to music and entertainment.

Spotify gtm strategy

Product-led GTM strategy example #3: Dooney and Bourke x Disney

A fan-favorite, customers are eager to purchase limited-edition Dooney and Bourke handbags with each new collection release, due to the well-known reputation of the luxury accessories brand and beloved Disney iconography.

Dooney and burke. GTM

Sales-led GTM strategy example #1: Marie Forleo’s B-School

While Marie Forleo also has loyal following and high-quality offerings, her signature offering, B-School, which opens enrollment annually, would be considered a sales-led go-to-market strategy. This is due to the heavy emphasis on marketing, including free workshops, sample worksheets, and more, to attract new customers.

Sales-led GTM strategy example #2: Storyworth

Storyworth is a fairly new brand that offers personalized books as gifts. Originally sent as a virtual gift, the physical book is assembled and sent to customers after the recipient submits a year’s worth of weekly prompts and photos. This offering is considered sales-led, as the brand utilizes influencer marketing to build interest and is a very personal gift that looks different for everyone.

story worth GTM

Sales-led GTM strategy example #3: Kitsch Satin Heatless Curling Set

Another example is Kitsch Satin Heatless Curling Set. Because it’s most likely a one-time purchase and the brand relies heavily on influencer marketing and social media ads, it is considered a sales-led go-to-market strategy.

kitsch heatless curls GTM

Other examples

It’s easier to understand GTM strategies if you’ve got some real-world examples to go off of.

Imagine launching a product in an existing, potentially crowded market. Say that you run a clothing brand in South Korea and want to expand your products into beauty items, like makeup. Since Korea is famous for its skincare products, your launch needs to be perfect.

In that case, you can use a GTM strategy to:

  • Identify what makeup products your existing audience most likely needs.
  • Develop advertisements that speak to your current audience and that leverage your existing brand voice, and consider a sales team.
  • Devise a pricing strategy.
  • Ensure you accept payments from your target audience based on their preferences. For example, your audience may prefer crypto payments, so you can set up a high-quality wallet ahead of time to receive and store crypto payments from customers.

Or maybe you need to bring an existing product into a new market. Say that you run a restaurant chain and you want to open a place in a new state. You don’t plan on changing much about your operations, but you can still use a well-crafted go-to-market strategy to:

  • Discover the best place for your new restaurant based on your target audience and their likely preferred locations.
  • Dress up the opening day of your new restaurant with advertisements and marketing posters.
  • Offer your foods at prices that make sense for the new state and local demographics.

For a third positive example, you might want to test a new product in a brand-new market. Say that you run a tech startup and you’re launching your first application. You’ll use a go-to-market strategy to:

  • Determine the pain points or problems your target audience members experience daily.
  • Figure out how your product or service best solves those pain points or problems.
  • Integrate that knowledge into your marketing campaign and product launch emails so that your ads resonate with your target customers.
  • Launch your new app at the right price point, so it attracts enough attention for profits.
  • Set up your POS to ensure PCI compliance and proper data governance, as well as pick the most popular payment methods for your customers.

Of course, there are also examples of go-to-market strategies that didn’t perform very well. For example, Apple launched the Apple Lisa computer in the 1980s. This was one of the biggest flops of the computer company in its history. It only sold about 10,000 units because of misleading advertisements and high prices.

How to build a go-to-market strategy

Given the importance of a strong go-to-market strategy for product and course launches, it’s a good idea to know how to create one for the future. Fortunately, you can make any type of go-to-market strategy with the same six steps.

Step 1: Identify your target audience and market opportunity
Step 2: Create a “value matrix”
Step 3: Create and optimize ads
Step 4: Leverage marketing to generate awareness and demand
Step 5: Choose a sales strategy
Step 6: Refine and optimize sales to improve metrics

Step 1: Identify your target audience and market opportunity

First, you must identify your target audience and the market opportunity for an upcoming launch.

For example, if you have a self-owned business where you create website designs or improve business websites for better conversions, your target audience will likely be:

  • Other business owners like yourself
  • Brands expanding into the e-commerce or online space for the first time
  • Businesses that need to improve their landing pages or websites for better conversions

The market opportunity is related to your target audience in many ways. In the above example, the market opportunity would be your ability to produce better conversion rates and improve other metrics for your clients.

Do plenty of market research before outlining other steps of your go-to-market strategy. Only by understanding who your target consumer or student is, what they want, and how you can provide it, can you make a stellar marketing campaign and create a product they won’t be able to resist.

Step 2: Create a “value matrix”

Next, you’ll need to make a value matrix. This is a breakdown of your buyer personas or target audience members. This part of the market strategy includes:

  • Their core needs and desires (which can often include aesthetics)
  • The pain points customers face daily
  • How your product or service can act as a solution and ease the pain points mentioned above

Think of a value matrix as a visual representation of how your product will theoretically interact with your target customers and their needs.

It’s another important tool to help you understand:

  • How your product helps your target audience members
  • How you should market that product for maximum effect

Create a value matrix for every product or service you plan on launching.

customer base

Step 3: Create and optimize ads

By this point, you should thoroughly understand both your target customers and how your product will provide real value to them. Or how it will directly alleviate one or more pain points. You should have all the information you need to begin and launch an effective marketing campaign.

Your marketing materials can include the following:

  • In-person or online posters
  • Google PPC or pay-per-click ads
  • Social media advertisements and posts
  • Influencer marketing
  • YouTube videos or advertisements, etc.

No matter what materials you use, you should create and continually optimize those ads for better consumer engagement in greater emotional resonance. Ideally, your marketing materials should speak directly to your target audience and tell a story.

At a minimum, every ad or marketing material needs to:

  • Introduce the projected pain point you predicted based on your target audience research
  • Show how your product or service alleviates or solves that pain point
  • Include a call to action inspiring your customers to make a purchase or visit your site

As your marketing materials develop, test them against each other with A/B testing or focus groups. So you should only ever use the most effective and resonating versions of your ads so your marketing campaign can be as memorable as possible.

Step 4: Leverage marketing to generate awareness and demand

To successfully bring a new product or service to market, you should focus your marketing campaign on generating both brand awareness and demand for the product. This is especially important if your business is small or new and you are trying to cultivate a loyal audience for the first time. Meanwhile, it’s important to consider the stages of the buyer’s journey—awareness, consideration, and decision—and how to communicate to your audience in each stage.

Emphasize the value and voice of your brand in content marketing. This includes advertisements, social media posts, and other marketing channels. And your brand’s voice and mission statement will help connect it to your target audience members through shared values.

Meanwhile, your ads should also demonstrate why your new product or service is so valuable. Doing so will increase demand among your target audience and the general public. Drum up some brand awareness and value for your company before launching your new product to improve initial and long-term sales.

market strategy includes

Step 5: Choose a sales strategy

To sell your new product or service, you’ll need to choose the right sales strategy. Generally, you can choose and succeed using one of four distinct strategies:

  • Self-service model: This involves the customer making a purchase on their own. And this model is more common with B2C businesses, where the customer finds an online store, makes a purchase and checks out without ever interacting with another person.
  • Inside sales business model: With this model, a prospect/lead has to be nurtured or guided to a purchase by a sales representative. So this is best for higher-value or more complex products and services. The sales cycle can last for a few weeks or a few months.
  • Field sales business model: This model involves having a fully staffed sales department or organization that closes major deals for enterprises or large companies.
  • Channel model: I this model a third-party or outside agency sells a product for you. Dropshipping is technically a type of channel model sales business.

If you own your own business, you’ll likely use the self-service or inside sales business models. Regardless, choose the sales strategy you plan to pursue so you can prep your agents or employees. Deciding on your sales strategy ahead of time will also help you allocate resources appropriately.

Remember, choosing your sales strategy should be easy; it depends on the type of business you run, the type of products and services you offer, and who your target audience is.

Step 6: Refine and optimize sales to improve metrics

Even after you initially launch a new product or service, your go-to-market strategy isn’t complete. Instead, you need to continually refine and optimize your sales techniques. Evaluate the product market fit, as well as improve key metrics like conversion rates, customer acquisition cost (CAC), key performance indicators (KPIs), and more.

To do this, elaborate or expand on your market plan and:

  • Come up with new sales strategies
  • Use A/B testing for ads and web pages, like product pages
  • Test different price points through discounts and special deals to determine where the perfect price is for your customers

Finding your go-to-market, GTM, strategy

The right go-to-market strategy framework can significantly improve your conversion rates and profits across the board. So it’s a good idea to come up with a go-to-market strategy for each of your new products, each time you launch a course or coaching product. And this is especially true since you can use a lot of the same research and knowledge developed previously. Follow the tips above, and your go-to-market strategies will help your business thrive in this competitive market.

Nahla Davies

Nahla Davies, Nahla Davies is a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she managed—among other intriguing things—to serve as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Samsung, Time Warner, Netflix, and Sony.

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