Is a Lack of Focus Dooming Your Go-to-Market Strategy?

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In this second post in a series on go-to-market strategy, OpenView Senior Managing Director and Founder Scott Maxwell explains how an aimless go-to-market strategy design can lead your company into product disaster.

Over the course of the last decade, a handful of successful tech companies have brought products to market that virtually sold themselves.

Google, for instance, didn’t need to do much to explain the value of its service or what its customer base was (i.e., any person with access to a computer). Similarly, businesses like Apple, Groupon, Nest, and Amazon Web Services have released products that were so new and compelling that the process of acquiring large batches of new customers was relatively simple.

For most tech companies, however, driving high growth is not that easy.

Read the first part of Scott’s series

 

Is Your Go-To-Market Strategy Built on Focus or Luck?

That’s particularly true for B2B software companies, whose products typically address complex problems with equally complex solutions. For those types of businesses, designing a go-to-market strategy that allows the business to quickly and strategically decide where, when, and how to target its best potential customers is crucial.

Yet, far too many of those businesses seem to ignore the need to do that, instead taking a shortcut — experimenting with individual sales and marketing tactics until they (hopefully) find one or two that successfully deliver new customers — that appears easier, faster, and cheaper.

Unfortunately, those businesses often discover that a blindly executing a go-to-market approach doesn’t just fail to achieve those things, it often impedes growth.

The Biggest Problem with Go-to-Market Experimentation

While it’s true that the only way to discover if an individual sales or marketing strategy actually resonates with your target customer is to try it, that doesn’t mean it’s smart to blindly execute a handful of them until you find one that works.

The reason? That approach is largely dependent on luck and happenstance. And neither of those things is sustainable in the long-term. Furthermore, it could take you a month to pinpoint a strategy that yields large batches of new customers, or it could take you a year. How exactly is that faster or cheaper?

Now, that doesn’t mean that a haphazardly executed go-to-market strategy (or no strategy at all) will completely prevent a business from acquiring new customers. It simply means that the likelihood of it acquiring a large number of customers whose needs truly align with your product’s core features is unlikely.

Why is that a problem?

There are myriad reasons, but at a high level, low quality or misaligned customers typically equate to poor customer retention, higher customer service costs, fewer referrals, and a lack of product clarity in the marketplace. And all of those issues invariably make driving growth a much more difficult process.

Using the Tools of Design to Create a More Focused Go-to-Market Approach

The truth of the matter is that if your expansion-stage company wants to dominate a market niche, there’s a better way.

Using the tools of design (insight, innovation, ideation, execution, etc.), expansion-stage companies can create an externally focused go-to-market approach that allows them to strategically dominate by:

  • Pinpointing and studying their best current customer segment, and then zeroing in on the buyer roles and leverage points that influence conversion.
  • Identifying the sales and marketing tactics (e.g., blogging, SEO, outbound lead generation, inbound marketing, etc.) that are most contextually relevant to their best customer segment.
  • Combining those tactics into an overall strategy that focuses on achieving a shared goal, such as better customer engagement, stronger brand awareness, or improved sales process efficiency.
  • Executing a sequence of actions designed to influence specific behaviors (e.g., visiting your website, agreeing to a sales call, sharing or contributing content, etc.).

Essentially, the overarching goal of go-to-market strategy design is to think more deeply about how, why, when, and where you engage prospective customers, as well as which external forces (influencers, vendors, etc.) are most likely to impact those customers’ buying decisions.

In that way, the process is somewhat akin to the way that a professional golfer approaches a shot. Instead of just pulling out a club, stepping up to the ball, and hoping for the best, he or she will consider things like club choice, wind speed, course elevation, and green speed — all factors that will influence where the ball ends up.

Driving growth within an expansion-stage business should be no different.

The more you understand about who and what influences your target market segment’s key players, the more prepared you’ll be to deliver the right information to the right person at the right time. And that almost always leads to better results.

What tools or strategies do you implement to ensure your go-to-market strategy is focused?

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series diving into the specific steps that growing companies need to take to incorporate the principles of design into their go-to-market strategy. Read the other posts in the series below:

  • hello scott. how do you reconcile investor expectations with a realistic runway for sustainable growth over a constrained investment period? it appears that many entrepreneurs often get lost driving growth focusing on the wrong (even though genuinely believed right) product and/or service lines.

    thank you for your thoughts. enjoy a pleasant labor day weekend!

    blake mendez

  • e98fab

    Scott, thanks for this article. It provides validation to those of us doing market segmentation in web design. I’d be interested to hear your take on how you take your market segments from hypothesis to test phase. Do you use surveys? analytics data? market research?