Many organizations set themselves up to fail by creating a B2B Go-to-Market Strategy that is doomed from the start. Why? Because these organizations frequently look at developing a go-to market strategy and tactics as just another task to complete. Usually the approach taken doesn’t start from a white sheet of paper or an outside user’s perspective. Unfortunately it is frequently constrained by an existing organizational structure, development team, distribution system, other systems, processes, people and a traditional mind-set. In addition, a timeline is often selected without fully considering the actual amount of time and resources required for success.
Best-in-class companies develop a B2B GTM strategy by clearly defining the desired outcome and then reverse-engineer the market strategies and tactics needed to achieve that outcome. It’s important to break the historical go-to-market strategy planning mold and think about the specific use case the offering is designed to solve. By doing this, 99 times out of 100 the sales organization will learn to effectively sell that offering.
A Great B2B Go-to-Market Strategy for Creating Unicorns
Some of the most valuable companies in the world started with a unique business concept: build a great company and let the market valuation – or even revenue – follow. In the beginning, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and many others weren’t positive on what their company “was” until they became what it was. But what they all did do was focus on the user – i.e. what the user was trying to accomplish and then provide an addictive user experience. True, all of these companies had a good idea and great vision, but it was the journey, a journey in-tune with the market and its needs, that guided the development of the solution which resulted in a great company.
B2B Go-to-Market Strategy – Organizational Structures
Organizations have to ask themselves, “What organizational structure will best support the vision and ability to execute flawlessly? The question NOT to ask is, “What organizational structure exists today and how do I reshuffle the people in the organization today?” It’s critical to determine which functions and skillsets are critical to successfully go-to-market. The hard reality however is that the organization may not know what is required and then many people may “not have a chair” when the music stops. These are hard choices but ones that must be made if companies are to be successful.
The usual suspects (development, sales, marketing) are required functions, but what about legal, support, finance, human resources and professional services? Also, the team in its entirety needs to be assembled before the development effort is ever funded. It should never be done “as we go.” This CORE go-to-market team represents the entire organization and must guide the development process through a number of go/no-go milestones that will result in the projects’ being continued, modified or stopped. Granted, some functions will have a primary voice and others a secondary voice in the decision-making process, but this will change as the offering moves through the product lifecycle. However, ALL functions should be included in the process – with a clear understanding of how they will contribute to the offering’s success at every step.
B2B Go-to-Market Strategy is not a Checklist Item
Some companies develop their go-to-market strategy once. This can be before development commences, during the development process or after development has been completed. To complicate the situation, some organizations believe that developing a GTM strategy is created at a point in time (versus over a period of time). And other companies may believe that a go-to-market strategy should be created in a unidirectional manner—i.e. top down.
Developing go-to-market strategies must be a forethought, not an afterthought and can definitely benefit from a kick-start with a GTM plan template. Creating and executing successful go-to-market strategies and tactics requires vision as well as a holistic planning approach integrated throughout the product lifecycle. Organizations that operate in silos where things are handed-off or thrown over the fence with little transferred knowledge or context are usually those with a check box mentality only seeking to cross things off lists. They approach tasks like a hot potato or a group of school kids in a circle where one child whispers in another’s ear and the last child hears nothing close to what the first child communicated. These organizations celebrate tasks completed versus achieving positive business outcomes.
Companies that are serious about designing, developing and executing successful go-to market strategies are those that organize themselves so that an integrated, holistic, cross-functional team manages the offering over the entire product lifecycle. In its simplest form there are three key steps in the go-to-market process that most companies get wrong. These are: create the solution, build the brand and acquire customers.
B2B Go-to-Market Strategy & Product Development
How an organization defines product management and product marketing (industry, marketing, solution marketing and vertical marketing) will go a long way towards the organization’s success in developing effective go-to-market strategies, and whether those strategies contain cascading go-to-market tactics that support the overall go-to-market strategy.
Product management and product marketing contain some mutually exclusive responsibilities. While the former primarily serves development and the latter the sales team, there ARE some tasks that MUST be mutually owned by both functions. Specifically, these tasks are transferring knowledge of why the solution was built, what business problems it solves, the quantification for that value and the specific people and functions that derive value. In addition, the deliverables (first pitch deck, demo, use cases, value drivers and differentiation) must be in a “sales-ready” format.
These two functions should be joined at the hip from conception to grave. And they should jointly establish vehicles to maintain a bi-directional flow of information from prospects, customers, analysts, subject matter experts, thought leaders, sales and every other relevant input source.
B2B Go-to-Market Strategy & the Brand
The brand promise – the promise an organization makes to a customer regarding the value the solution will provide – has to be real, resonate with the target audience and motivate them to act.
David Packard once said, “Marketing is way too important to be left to the marketing department.” In a sense he is right and in a sense he is wrong. Packard was right if marketing is perceived to work in a silo, does not collaborate nor integrated into the business. Packard is wrong if an organizations’ marketing function is respected, has a seat at the executive table and is part of running the company. Marketing has to embrace and drive a holistic, integrated approach to product lifecycle management inside the organization. Furthermore, marketing is on the hook to ensure that the go-to-market strategy supports the customer’s business problems, the offering, the customer buying process and the sales cycle.
B2B Go-to-Market Strategy & Field Marketing
B2B customer acquisition is a key spoke in any go-to-market strategy and is the reason that field marketing functions exist. One way to set the field marketing function up for success is to align its objectives to be fully consistent with the sales organization. The goal should not be for marketing to generate leads that are passed to the sales team through the sales automation system. The mutual goal for sales and marketing should be customer acquisition – both new customer acquisition and expanding the installed base. Granted, marketing does not control the sales process (what happens after the hand-off from marketing to sales) and sales does not own the marketing process (what happens before things are handed off to them). The synchronization of sales and marketing is dependent on the two functions working in harmony. Setting sales and marketing up for success requires that the two are joined by a common vernacular, metrics, communications, processes, systems and goals.
If organizations embrace a holistic and integrated approach to the product lifecycle, developing the go-to-market tactics to be executed by field marketing are relatively easy to implement. Why? Because the specific use case, the economic value, the customer buying process, the differentiation, the before and after scenarios, the benefits, the proof points, the negative consequences and the discovery questions have already been thought through and documented. The messaging for campaigns is documented, the themes, analysts, thought leaders, subject matter experts, content throughout the funnel and sales tools have all been discussed and agreed upon as well. The last step for field marketing is to sit down with the sales team and build a specific sales and marketing plan for the sales rep or sales region for attaining or exceeding their sales targets (new business, existing business, products, services).
Summary: B2B Go to Market Strategy
Customer acquisition, market penetration and revenue are all tangible, specific, quantitative measures of whether go-to-market strategies and tactics are successful. If an organization embraces a continuous approach to developing and executing go-to-market strategies and tactics it will elevate itself above the majority of the pack. Furthermore, if B2B organizations focus on product development, the brand and field marketing as they build their go-to-market plan, they will greatly increase the probability of being successful.