“Aspiring ‘to be the market leader’ or ‘to be seen by our clients and partners in their success’ is admirable, but lacks the specificity and clear linkage to action and measurable results to propel go-to-market efforts.”
— IT Industry research leader, Gartner, Inc.,
on the importance of tying goals to actionable strategy and results.
On December 3, 2001, the Segway was unveiled to the public. Dean Kamen’s new invention, the now-infamous self-balancing motorized scooter, was surrounded by buzz twelve months before its release. After the built-up hype, the Segway was expected to sell 10,000 machines a week, instead of the actual 24,000 sold in the first year.
On January 27, 2010, the iPad was revealed to the world. The revolutionary tablet computer was also released amidst a flurry of anticipatory buzz. Within 80 days, Apple sold three million iPads, and once again changed the way people use technology.
Two products. Two releases. Two (drastically) different outcomes.
These stories remind us of the basic questions: What are the key ingredients to a successful product launch? How can you protect your product from failure?
One quick Google-search of “Product Launch Strategies” will reveal that these are the questions people are asking – no matter the business, no matter the product, no matter the current strategy. Although there are a variety of ideas and quick tips out there for perusal, I really think your Go-To-Market strategy can be boiled down to three simple rules. Now, there’s an important distinction between the terms “Go-To-Market” and “Marketing” – at least in the common understanding of most professionals I deal with. “Go-To-Market” captures the thought of introducing a specific product into a specific market context. It is more “action-y” than “marketing,” which can be applied more broadly to all the activities traditionally associated with strategy, pricing, positioning and so on. “Go-to-Market” can serve as a rallying point for your team as it is generally seen as very time-bound (“now”) and results oriented (“launch this product”). (I realize this is not exact – but it is a reflection of how I’ve heard these terms used over the years.)
So here are the three overarching principles for effective Go-To-Market strategy:
1) Define Your Objectives Carefully
- If you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t much matter which direction you take the organization.
- Strategic objectives are the high-level goals that drive strategy and long-term direction. These include corporate goals, financial goals, and market impact goals.
- Tactical objectives aren’t tasks, per se, but are more immediately tangible than strategic objectives. They reflect the key areas of project management, overall efficiency and time management, and translate easily into “to-do list” items.
Objectives are necessary in order to have a clear and clean-cut view of where the organization is going. They should be built around a central concept of messaging, representing a set of promises that your target market will agree is innovative, indispensable, and inspiring (I3). Keep objectives as clear and specific as possible. Use time-bound targets that are measurable. (For example: Sell 100,000 units by May of 20xx for revenue of $$$ million.)
2) Ask the Right Questions
- Throughout the formation of the your go-to-market strategy, four question areas will arise:
- What major issues must be faced?
- What key decisions must be made?
- What information are we missing?
- What expertise or “know how” will we need to carry out this plan?
First, identify major issues as they surface, noting where “gaps” still exist. These issues are either internal or external roadblocks to success. Some issues will require conversations or actions to mitigate their impact on your plans. In other cases, these issues might not be obstacles but rather create other, unintended complications. For example, a particular launch may negatively affect a long-term partner because it has competitive elements within it. This doesn’t necessarily hinder your go-to-market efforts, but it has ramifications in other aspects of your business.
Next, make the necessary decisions. All issues require one or more decisions – even “do nothing” is a decision. So, break down these major issues into key decisions that need to be made while going to market. Frame the decision along with its stakeholders and its impact on the key factors in the overall strategy.
Finally, determine what information and expertise is needed to execute your plan. How will you fill these gaps? All elements should be articulated and measured in terms of their relationship and interrelation to the strategic and tactical objectives of your go-to-market messaging process.
3) Don’t Get Stuck
- Ironically, the most difficult task for companies is often not development of go-to-market strategy, but actually the execution of those plans. It is critical that you keep the elements of your overall strategy at the center of your conversations and current strategic discussions.
- Is this an issue that really requires more discussion and understanding?
- Do we need to make a decision which presupposes a defined set of outcomes to choose from?
- Is this an information gap (a lack of appropriate or sufficient information)?
- Do we have a “know-how” gap (the lack of a specific skill or domain expertise to fulfill the mission)?
When you consider new business opportunities that might interfere with your current go-to-market tasks, ask: Is this consistent with our overall objectives? Our timeline? Our goals? Will this take the focus off of our strategic business initiatives?
Also, go back to the four question areas. They are simple yet valuable tools. Consider the simplicity and power of asking:
Teams can develop a “shorthand” that moves them quickly from an emotional read of the situation to an objectively based one. Be sure to round out your discussions and conversations with an action orientation. You should always “map back” to your overall project plan, and stay rooted in your overall messaging strategy.
Do you have any success/horror stories about product launches?
How have you seen marketing strategies either help or hinder the product’s success?