3 go-to-market strategy models to avoid (with alternatives)

Think for a moment how you intend to bring your product to market. What go-to-market strategy are you going to leverage to begin acquiring customers. If you’re like most founders, one of your first steps is to search the web for various go-to-market strategy models to copy.

If you’ve already done that, then you know that when you Google “go-to-market strategy models” the results are all articles full of unsatisfying, academic theory on go-to-market strategy, a few high level concepts, and tips you should consider before going to market. 

That content isn’t bad, but none of those articles tell you how to actually execute a successful strategy for your startup. This is dangerous because many founders try to copy the strategies they find on websites and blog posts without considering if those strategies are relevant to them.

The three go-to-market strategy models we’ll talk about below are the most common bad models that we’ve seen other articles promote for years. These models almost always fail and when they do they leave founders with even fewer options.

Here are the three go-to-market strategy models you should avoid and what to do instead to get to market faster and more efficiently.

Go-to-Market Strategy Model to Avoid #1: Spray-and-Pray

“Spray-and-pray” refers to building lists of hundreds or thousands of contacts and emailing them all with the same message. This strategy is unfocused and inefficient. 

The problem with a large target audience is that your message and offer will largely be irrelevant to a large portion of the audience. A big, irrelevant audience will get you a lot of irrelevant feedback, and most of that feedback will be in the form of no response. You’re not going to learn anything from that, or worse, you’ll learn the wrong thing. 

What typically makes this model attractive to founders is that: (1) it feels like progress and (2) it’s fast and seems cheap. In reality, it leads founders to one of the most common mistakes when working on a go-to-market strategy model: mistaking being busy for making progress. It’s also one of the slowest and most expensive models.

Building a list, writing emails, and finding the right automation tools takes time. Then, you have to deal with the impact of a bad campaign, like responding to questions, hosting unproductive meetings, inputting wrong opportunities in your CRM, making bad deals, and gaining the wrong insights. 

Another reason this is a model to avoid is that many founders see it as a “set it and forget it” method. They think that once they send the email blast, they can work on other tasks while the market comes to them. Why doesn’t this work?

Because everyone in every industry is competing to get noticed in their customers inbox. A one or two touch email campaign that was hurriedly put together has little chance of success compared to all of the other professionals trying to break in. If you’ve never done it before, the chance of you breaking through the noise is small. 

What should you do instead? 

First, understand that we’re not making a case against email. In fact, quite the opposite. Email is an excellent strategy if you have the discipline to deliver the right, focused message and to the right target market. 

Our approach is straightforward: It’s about less contacts but more contact.

Don’t reach out to thousands of people. Reach out to a small group of the right people more often. If you focus on the quality of the campaign, the results will be better. If the campaign doesn’t work with a smaller audience, it’s easier to understand why it was unsuccessful and pivot. 

Go-to-Market Strategy Model to Avoid #2: Hiring a VP of Sales 

This model is painfully common. In the early stage, founders think, “I don’t know how to do sales, so I should hire a salesperson?”

But, here’s a common question most founders fail to ask themselves before making a sales hire : if you know nothing about sales, how do you know how to hire for sales? 

We call this wishful hiring. A founder doesn’t know much about sales, so they attempt to hire a salesperson, and they assume that this person will know exactly what to do when they get to work.

Founders spend tens of thousands of dollars on this investment and expect the salesperson to quickly produce gold. On the flip side, the new VP of Sales doesn’t know what they’re getting into. They expect that the startup wouldn’t hire a salesperson unless they had a clear and defined need for it. 

In most cases, this “VP of Sales” candidate is too senior to do the actually work of early-stage selling. They most likely haven’t written a cold email or made a cold call in years. Once this person exhausts their professional contact list, they won’t know how to generate more leads. 

Likewise, they also start to fail because they’re used to working in an environment where they’re incredibly well resourced and supported. The previous company they worked for had a marketing team, sales resources and brand recognition. They didn’t have to build the foundation of the sales strategy at their last job, they just had to get results once all the pieces were already in place. 

What should you do instead?

Don’t hire a VP of sales until you have a pipeline and sales process they can pick up. There’s a big difference between optimization and creation. While your VP may have never created a process from scratch, they will excel at optimizing the process you’ve put into place and a market that has already been validated. 

At this stage, you should also embrace founder-led growth. If you’re an entrepreneur who doesn’t sell, that’s a problem. Selling is what you signed up for. 

When it’s finally time to hire for sales, the first person you should hire should be for the top of the funnel. Ideally, this would be an outsourced team that can provide highly targeted leads. Outsourced sales teams are capital-efficient, easy to bring in, and easy to get rid of. Then, if you’re successful with outsourcing, you have what’s necessary to start feeding revenue to a full-time employee.

Go-to-Market Strategy Model to Avoid #3: Spend Money on Marketing

You’re a B2B startup with six to eight months of runway. You need leads, and you need them fast. Well, conversations come from marketing, right? Wrong.

Marketing is a slow boil. It can consist of social ads, paid ads, video, content marketing, or other digital efforts. For B2B companies, it takes a lot of digital impressions, consistent capital investment and a long time to get the right market to take notice in any meaningful way. But, most startups only have a few months of runway. 

Any decent marketer will tell you that if you’re starting from scratch, it will take about three to six months to even see modest results. So, that’s a few months where you won’t see any leads (not to be confused with actual revenue), but you will be spending your precious money. 

You need conversations tomorrow, not months from now. How can you spend your “marketing budget” elsewhere and get faster, better results? Think about what your market milestone is and how many customers you need.

What should you do instead?

Rather than trying to get yourself in front of an audience of 20,000, what if you just got in front of 200?

Before pulling the trigger on any digital marketing campaign, look at that proposed budget and ask yourself how you could spend it differently on a hyper-targeted list of individuals that fit your ideal customer profile. In 95% of cases, what you’ll find is that you can get result faster and in a much more capital efficient manner through direct outreach than you could through broad marketing.

If you’re a B2B business, spend your money on direct, high-quality engagement with your target market and buyers, whether that’s by writing emails, going to conferences, or buying access to various trade associations.

Also, use your existing resources to make the collateral you already have, like your websites, videos, and one-pagers, stand out.

Only start digital marketing once you have solved for the bottom of the funnel and you’re able to predictably get leads at the top.

Then, you can go further up the funnel and start spending ad revenue on filling your funnel with Mr. and Ms. Right Now.

The Right Go-to-Market Strategy Model for You

The number one reason startups fail is that they run out of money. That’s why these models don’t work. They’re slow and expensive. 

The other danger to all of these models is the sunk cost mentality. It’s hard for founders to release themselves from a bad investment. Avoid putting your future self in a position where you can’t emotionally detach or remove yourself.

Good go-to-market strategy models are lean, capital-efficient, and enable you to test something on a small scale quickly. When it works, reinvest at incremental larger levels. Ask yourself, “what’s the best way to get the most amount of revenue with the least amount of effort as soon as possible?”

That’s your go-to-market strategy model.

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