8 core go-to-market launch tenets

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Successfully launching a new business or product into the world requires both grit and flexibility. It’s a wild journey, but rarely a unique one. Most ventures follow a similar pathway to how others have achieved product-market fit.

After close to a decade of helping companies grow from zero to one, these are the core launch tenets that I’ve found to be generally true for most successful go-to-market (GTM) strategies.

1. Set an exciting objective, and reject everything else

Your GTM objective should be specific, time-bound, and exciting. An exciting objective often closely aligns with the founding vision and core values of the business. It’s also often what your business partners and investors need as evidence of traction towards product-market fit — the holy grail where your product has taken off on its own at an accelerating pace.

For example:

  • An online ed tech platform releasing a new offering might set an objective of >1,000 net promoters for the year in their Net Promoter Score (NPS). (NPS is a common metric based on how likely a customer is to recommend the business or product.)
  • A zero-waste grocery kiosk manufacturer might set an objective of piloting with one major grocery chain in their first 6 months. 

As you progress towards this objective, it’s inevitable that a variety of ideas and opportunities will spring up. It’s important to be very critical of these shiny concepts. Do they get you closer to your GTM objective? Or do they distract you? 

As a general rule of thumb, you know you’re being disciplined enough with your objectives if you’re saying no to new ideas more often than you’re saying yes.

2. Embrace change

Conversely, your GTM strategy is almost guaranteed to change significantly from when you first set off on your objective. This is where the requirement of balancing grit and flexibility comes in.

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As you and your team make progress, you’ll inevitably uncover insights about your market that fundamentally impact your strategy. These are incredibly valuable nuggets of hard-earned information that will set you apart from competitors if you incorporate them into your GTM plan and objective.

For example:

  • The ed tech platform might discover that students prefer a single comprehensive product over multiple smaller offerings, so it incorporates the new offering into a bundled plan. 
  • The kiosk manufacturer might discover that offices want to provide zero-waste snacks to employees, so it pivots to focus on that audience instead for its initial pilot projects. 

3. The more specific your audience, the better

Products are successful when they meet the needs of an audience better than any other option on the market. By narrowing in on an audience, you can develop solutions and features that specifically cater to their unique needs. On the marketing side, you’re also able to identify and tap into higher-quality channels that are more specific to them. 

Focusing on a small segment of a bigger audience initially gives you the ability to “establish your beachhead” in the market, from which you can expand to other adjacent segments later once you’ve converted a cohort of loyal promoters.

For example:

  • The ed tech platform might niche down from all graduate school students to just those attending business school. 
  • The kiosk maker might niche down from all grocers to just natural food stores. 

4. Customer feedback > everything

Once you’ve narrowed down to your target audience, invest in collecting feedback from them.

Customer feedback, especially a critical mass of it where you’re able to tease out trends from outliers, is far superior to any other forms of feedback you might be getting (articles, expert advice, etc.). The customer is always right. 

Customer feedback comes in various flavors, including surveys, interviews, social media comments. Product conversion and engagement metrics are themselves a valuable form of customer feedback.

Of course, be sure to close the feedback loop and incorporate the suggestions you’re receiving into your product roadmap. As simple as it sounds, this often gets lost in the work shuffle. 

5. Go deep on one or two marketing channels 

With all of the social media platforms, advertising channels, events, and other channels out there, it’s easy for marketing to start to feel like busy work. 

Once you’ve identified a channel that has a substantial concentration of your target audience, invest your effort there rather than casting a wide net. You’re then much more likely to stand out and gather feedback. 

For example:

  • For the ed tech platform, this might entail sponsoring and being an active participant on a business school forum. 
  • For the kiosk maker, this might entail tabling at conferences that focus on the grocery industry. 

6. Understand your competition, but don’t obsess 

Assemble and maintain a matrix of your product versus competitors that compares value propositions, pricing, and audience segments. This is an effective method to understand the core aspects of your competition and communicate how your product is different.

While it’s valuable to investigate how your competition has positioned themselves in the market, be careful not to obsess over it. By obsessing over competition, you’re distracting yourself from your customers, who are more important than everything else. 

7. Abide by the 90/10 rule 

The 90/10 rule states that 90% of results are achieved from just 10% of the total effort. This is a helpful reminder to be scrappy and move quick. 

8. Do things that don’t scale

Your GTM efforts will look very different from the work you’ll do at later stages in your product’s development. Talking to every user that tries your product isn’t scalable, for example, but is extremely valuable at an early stage. 

I hope these tenets are helpful to you on your venture’s journey to market! These aren’t absolute rules to follow but guidelines to check in on as a framework for reflection, perhaps during moments of significant change for the business. A GTM launch rarely goes according to the initial plan, but you’ll know you’re on the right track if you and your team intuitively feel a sense of momentum building around your product. In the end, staying consistent and maintaining motivation are key underlying factors that will feed into your GTM progress. You’ll get there! 

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Hardware Handbook
Kyle Graycar

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