3 Steps to Take Your Product or Service to Market

Cover image illustration for article "3 Steps to Take a Product or Service to Market"

Product or service, creating real value for customers is hard.

Distributing that value to enough customers to drive engagement and retention is also hard – it requires a plan to bring your product to market, which is referred to as your Go-to-Market.

Go-to-Market (GTM) is your step-by-step plan to launch, distribute, and measure the benefits of a new product or service to a specific customer segment. If you don’t know what a customer segment is, check out our guide to customer segmentation.

Why Does This Matter?

If you’re a small business or early-stage startup, especially one with a limited runway, your Go-to-Market can make or break you.

Key Considerations

Is the market large enough in your location?

Like I said above, your GTM strategy (and execution) can make or break your business. With that in mind, why not dedicate more time on evaluating your serviceable obtainable market(SOM) to validate the location of your launch and the direct/indirect channels for this area?

In other words, instead of just launching in a location because it’s convenient, take the time to ensure you’re launching in a location where there are enough people that fall within your target market and are accessible.

Have you formulated an action plan to test your messaging for each channel and its respective audience segment?

How will you get them to care, how will you nurture them through the stages of their decision-making process?

Do your revenue model and your pricing strategy make sense for each customer segment?

Have you tested the end-to-end workflow of your business, sales, marketing, and customer support?

You get the point. 

Our goal of this article is to provide you with a better understanding of how to frame your Go-to-Market strategy and create a plan to measure the impact of your product or service launch.

So how do you write a Go-to-Market Plan?

There isn’t a one-size fits all for writing your GTM Plan. (sigh!)

Yes, you will find similarities within your industry and product or service category, but your plan needs to be tailored if you want to penetrate your test market and set yourself up for expansion.

Expanding too quickly before winning a piece of the market can result in increased churn. This happens if you attempt to expand before you find some semblance of product-market-fit.

Remember, your GTM Plan is meant to iterate throughout your product lifecycle. Expect to draft up a new playbook as your business grows.

Get started with our 3-Step Approach, then customize for you

  • Step 1: Create an Omnichannel Distribution Strategy (don’t worry, I explain the terminology below)
  • Step 2: Pilot your Implementation
  • Step 3. Build up your Brand through Early Adopters

Step 1: Create an Omnichannel Distribution Strategy  

First of all, what is an Omnichannel Distribution Strategy? It’s a hairy beast of nonsensical jargon is what it is.

With that said, it’s not a bad idea for you to get some exposure to marketing industry lingo so you can find more in-depth content in the future.

Anyway, an Omnichannel Distribution Strategy is simply the strategy for how you are going to approach distributing your content across different channels using various mediums. This will make more sense after you read the rest of this section.

Now that we’ve handled that silly beast, let’s discuss business objectives.

Throughout the rest of this article, I’m going to assume that the following business objectives are complete:

  • Who: Determine Target Customers
  • What: Value Proposition & Validated Customer Benefits
  • Why: Uniqueness – You vs Competitors

So you’ve received enough feedback during your customer discovery at this point, and you’re ready to accomplish your goal: take over the market.

Easier said than done.

Let’s first break down our goal into smaller chunks, which we’ll refer to as our initial business objectives:

  • Where: Select a beachhead target
  • How: Identify your customer engagement channels and messaging
  • When: Determine when your customers are ready to buy

Where: Select a beachhead target

A key element to bringing a product or service to market is deciding on the beachhead target (e.g. a city).

This is the strategic location to launch, establish a base of operations, gain competitive advantage, and plan for your next sales territory to win.

Your beachhead target, also called your test market, is selected when sizing the market.

* Refer to your business strategy planning docs, such as your market analysis (TAM/SAM/SOM) and business model canvas, to determine the best location and resources needed for your beachhead target. If you’re reading this and have no idea what I’m talking about, stop right now and click on the business model canvas link above.

How: Identify your customer engagement channels and messaging

After selecting a beachhead target, you’ll need to discuss your customer engagement channels (direct/indirect) and messaging.

Why?

Because the marketing landscape is ever-changing, and today’s customers like to hop around between channels.

Maybe they’ll start on your LinkedIn account, then jump to your website, and then back to your Instagram profile, and then come by your brick-and-mortar store.

Due to the freedom and flexibility of today’s consumers, you’ll need a holistic approach to drive your customers’ purchasing decisions.

Bullseye Framework

Keeping in mind that most entrepreneurs have limited resources, it’s best practice, when launching a product or service, to ONLY select your top 3 channels to test.

You can find out more about the Bullseye Framework here.

Image from Brianbalfour.com

Matching Message/Channel

Products should be designed to fit channels, which is called Product/Channel Fit – But let’s not forget it’s the messaging that we will use to get our prospective buyer’s attention.

And your messaging needs to be crafted based on the specific channel that you intend to reach each audience segment.

If you’re having trouble with messaging, this is the perfect opportunity to run an experiment through your top channels.

Remember, we don’t market the features of our products/service, we market the benefits (functional/emotional) that we intend to deliver.

When: Determine when your customers are ready to buy

Buyer’s Journey

As mentioned in the previous section, you’ll be iterating your messaging to match its respective channel for each audience segment – but don’t forget that many of your prospective buyers will need to go through 3 main stages (awareness, consideration, and decision) before they buy or don’t buy your product.

These stages make up your Buyer’s Journey and there’s messaging strategy for each, see below.

Omnichannel Guidelines

Figuring out the where, how, and when of your GTM Plan will help point you in the right direction for implementing an omnichannel strategy for your customers.

Of course, if you expect to create a frictionless onsite and in-store experience, then you’ll need to take a closer look at the performance of your marketing campaigns to conduct cohort analysis – this will help you understand your customers’ behavior.

Online

Pay attention to page views and bounce rate for online metrics to get a better sense of engagement and drop-off. Maybe you’ll need to switch out your messaging, or the flow of content due to low conversion (information architecture).

You’ll also need to consider the type of device (mobile, tablet, desktop? Apple or Android?) to improve your omnichannel plan.

Offline

Bridging the gap between online and in-store is no easy feat, your team needs to really dig into your buyer’s journey and work on your improving local search (Local SEO) – here are a few questions to consider:

  • (If applicable) Is there a buy online, pick up in-store option?
  • What social channels are you using for customer communication?
  • What type of in-store events are you planning? Which events had the highest online registration and onsite attendance?

This is key if you want to connect with your nearby communities.

Pro Tip: Once you’ve aggregated the above information, then determine a pre-sale asset that provides value for your prospective buyer.

A pre-sale asset can be a how-to guide or pro-tips from industry leaders.

The purpose of a pre-sale asset is to help your customer solve a problem in an actionable way, and way before asking for anything in return, although it wouldn’t hurt to use your pre-sale asset as a lead magnet.

KPIs & Conversion Criteria

You’ll start to improve your omnichannel distribution strategy once you’ve begun your pilot implementation (Step 2).

Make sure to do a team retrospective on campaign performance – this will help you set the conversion criteria for the 3 main stages of your buyer’s journey (awareness, consideration, decision).

But I wouldn’t overthink this. Your objective is to extract customer insights to better understand what channels/messaging is working or where you need to trim the fat. This will also pave the road to testing pricing tactics, which we will further discuss in the next section.

Step 2: Pilot your Implementation

Before opening the floodgates, it’s best practice to carry out a pilot implementation.

Go-to-Market is putting your product/service into an operational mode (think of it as your battle plan, or OPORD for my vet readers), therefore things are bound to break when aligning your sales, marketing, and support teams.

Remember, victory loves preparation!

Pro Tips:

  • Assess Support Teams
  • Verify Revenue Model, Test Pricing Tactics
  • Avoid 12Ps
  • Nail your 7Ps
  • Sales-Led vs. Marketing-Led
  • Build Hype with Pre-Launch Tactics

Assess Support Teams

During your pre-launch, take the time to test your tools (e.g. CRM, analytics) and other business operations/support processes.

It’s also a great opportunity to see your customer support mechanism (feedback loop) in action.

Verify Revenue Model, Test Pricing Tactics

How confident are you about your revenue model?

Is it subscription-based because you’re offering on-demand access to a digital experience? Think Netflix.

Perhaps you’re a consultant providing access to premium content or local brick-and-mortar offering special privileges to customers – this would be considered a membership-based model.

You could have more than one (E-commerce, Advertising, Affiliate, etc.). Your pilot implementation will help validate your revenue strategy for your respective customer segments.

If you’re familiar The Startup Owner’s Manual, written by Steve Blank, he refers to this stage as customer validation. It’s the phase for ‘test selling,’ in order to develop your sales roadmap.

Here’s an example if you’re an early-stage startup:

Steve refers to your revenue model as your strategy and pricing (fixed/dynamic) as the tactics used to determine your price for each customer segment.

Remember, each customer segment will have unique channel & messaging approach.  

When it comes to unit economics, your pricing is a big deal – however, it’s also overlooked by founders. Perhaps you just match the competitor’s price without considering the value of your product. Could you be worth more?

Avoid 12Ps

Plain and simple, avoid:

Piss Poor Preparation, Promotes Piss Poor Performance

AND

Piss Poor Performance, Promotes Pain.

Nail Your 7Ps

Plain and simple, validate:

  1. Products/Services – value prop for the respective target customer
  2. Place – direct/indirect channels to reach each audience segment
  3. Physical Evidence – buyer’s online/offline touch points
  4. Prices – tactics to receive cash from customers
  5. Promotion: Media mix (paid, earned, owned)
  6. People – cross-functional team-leading Go-to-Market, your launch team. Or maybe you’re going stag…Get ‘er Done! #solopreneur
  7. Partners: current or foreseeable partners to help you gain a competitive advantage in the market

Sales-Led vs. Marketing-Led

Is your business Sales-led or Marketing-led?

The sales-led strategy will require lots of upfront customer interaction versus the more streamlined approach for marketing-led businesses.

Build Hype with Pre-Launch Tactics

Here are a few pre-launch tactics to test during your pilot implementation

  • Create a coming soon page for your product/service to build an email list
  • Start early on reaching out building rapport with journalists – be able to tell a compelling story about your vision & mission statement
  • Invest time in your SEO Strategy – e.g. establish yourself as a domain expert through consistent content marketing
  • Social media plays a huge role in your buyer’s journey, so prioritize retargeting if you expect to improve conversions
  • Take part in secondary SEO, such as Quora, to reach new communities

Step 3. Build up your Brand through Early Adopters

Your main prerogative here is to build some street cred with early-adopters, as they are often community leaders, and they can help accelerate the growth of your brand.

Early Adopters will require a high-touch approach…so if possible, you’ll want to aim for an in-person meeting.

When asking for feedback about your product/service from early adopters, let them know that you welcome constructive feedback (false positives won’t help you!)

Once you’ve established rapport with early adopters, making additional requests to critique your product will feel more natural. But avoid too many asks, and be ready to offer incentives (financial or non-financial) to show your appreciation.

Conclusion

So there you have it – the ultimate Go-to-Market Plan to win! Okay, not exactly, but it’s a starting point.

Your GTM Plan needs to communicate how you will deliver the benefits of your product for each customer group.

It involves figuring out the where, how, and when of your product or service launch:

Where will you penetrate the market? What’s Beachhead Target?

How will you reach target customers? Which channels will you leverage? What will your messaging be?

When are your prospective buyers ready to purchase? How does your marketing align with the Buyer’s Journey?

Your GTM Plan should be tested before entering the market, which is done by carrying out a pilot implementation.

A pilot implementation will flesh out the components of your 7Ps Marketing Mix.

7Ps:

  • Products/Services
  • Place
  • Physical Evidence
  • Prices
  • Promotion
  • People
  • Partners

Piloting your implementation will also point out any inefficiencies within your business operations (e.g. CRM/Marketing Automation isn’t integrated, or need to find a better customer service ticket system).

Before your team launches a full rollout of your product, get feedback from early adopters.

Early Adopters will be instrumental in driving growth through word of mouth – their opinions are highly regarded within the community.

Lastly, don’t forget to show the love – come up with a list of incentives for your Early Adopters – be creative, be thoughtful (sometimes just showing your appreciation by granting them access to bonus content or inviting them to a private Facebook/LinkedIn group is enough).

If you’ve recently launched a product/service, or currently planning your Go-to-Market, we’d like to know (leave a comment below).

What would you add/take away from our 3-Step GTM Approach?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.