In a recent blog post, I discussed my top five tips for startups to effectively plan their go-to-market strategy. It’s now time to shift towards executing that plan.
In this article, I’m going to reveal the best ways to execute your go-to-market strategy that are proven to significantly improve success in acquiring customers and growing revenue.
As we like to say at GrowthX, products and markets are unique but the path to finding product-market fit, or in this case a successful startup go-to-market strategy, is not. There is a formula.
If you do these Seven things right as you execute your go-to-market strategy, you’re going to improve your company’s chances of success.
1. Stop talking about what you do, and start talking about what you do for your customers
The majority of startups assume everybody wants to hear about their product and how it works. But, customers don’t care about your product; they care about their problems. To test your go-to-market strategy for your startup, take control of what you communicate to your customers at every interaction.
You have to understand what exactly you do for your customers and communicate that to them in their language across all channels. Customers don’t go out looking to buy a “business analytics platform” or an “AI-based marketing automation platform.” They go out looking for solutions to their problems and, in most cases, those problems are economically driven.
In working with hundreds of startups, what we see is that messaging consistency and clarity is one of the most common failure points of a startups go-to-market strategy.
Want to take control of your messaging? Go through all of your messaging (emails, decks, conversations, website, etc.) and ask yourself two simple questions:
- Who am I writing this for? Be specific.
- What problem am I helping them solve. Again, be specific.
If you don’t have the answer to either of those, your customers won’t be able to answer it either. In which case, you need to change your messaging.
We’ve seen dozens of founders make this one simple change and experience new revenue growth overnight! Instead of potential customers saying, “Sounds interesting, let’s circle back later,” they started saying, “I didn’t know you could do that! How do we try it at our company?”
2. Control every step of your sales process
We get asked thousands of times a year, “how do I shorten my sales cycles?” Most companies want shorter sales cycles, but they’re not doing the work to get them.
Sales cycles are not random. They’re an intentional process that you must design for speed and efficiency.
If there is no thought being put into your sales cycle, then your go-to-market strategy will become a no- or slow-to-market strategy.
The most common reason why sales cycles slow down is because founders either hand off control of the sales cycle or unintentionally give their customers “homework”.
For example, say you go through your entire product demo, and the customer ends the call by saying, “Thanks, we’re going to talk about it with our team and get back to you.” Most startups would be OK with that outcome. In reality, you just ended the interaction with a completely undefined next step.
What are they going to talk about? What should they talk about? When should you all meet again to discuss next steps? The customer has their own business to run and likely won’t take these questions up themselves.
Your sales process needs to be nearly effortless for your potential customers. If you give your customers homework, they’ll likely never get back to you because you aren’t their priority.
If you don’t define a tangible, effortless next step, it won’t get done. One of the easiest ways to do this is to never end a call before putting the next meeting on the calendar. If you don’t set that meeting, you risk constantly playing phone or email tag and stretching out your sales cycle.
3. Hold back your product demo
Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of jumping into their product demo during their very first conversation with a potential customer. This is one of the most common mistakes that stalls otherwise good startup go-to-market strategies. Why?
For starters, most product demos are entirely about features, functions and a product roadmap.
An effective demo that engages and excites potential customers is all about value. What does your product do for your customer.
The other reason these demos fail is that they completely lack context. You don’t know the problems that the customer is concerned about so your only hope is to throw enough features at them that they get excited by one or two.
If you want your go-to-market strategy to build momentum and generate revenue, you need to stop providing a demo on the first call.
Instead, the first conversation should be about two things:
- Qualification. Are you and the customer in agreement that they have a problem you can potentially solve?
Nailing the Context. An effective demo needs to be custom tailored for each potential customer. To make your demo shine, you need to acquire information that enables you to show them three simple things during a demo:
- Something they’re already doing that they can do using your solution;
- Something they want to do but can’t until they have your solution; and
- Something they haven’t even considered doing because it’s not possible with their current workflow.
4. Focus on the 50
Focus makes a go-to-strategy extremely effective. As we talked about in our last article, the end goal of this early go-to-market strategy should be small.
“Focus on the 50” means building the world’s greatest list of 50 human beings – not companies – to reach out to. If you find 50 people who share your worldview, they’ll move through your sales process faster. We’ve all heard the saying “garbage in, garbage out.” Well, just remember: “great leads in, great sales out.”
Another significant benefit of having 50 similar people is that it allows you to learn, test, and iterate your process to have more effective conversations in the future. If your group of people is too big or keeps changing, then you can’t tweak your strategy and run the experiment again.
5. Build a go-to-market MVP
A lot of startups are comfortable with a product MVP. They know it isn’t perfect, but they’re going to spend time learning, iterating, and figuring it out. Unfortunately, this thought process hasn’t made its way over to sales and market development.
Startups typically spend a lot of time and precious capital paying others to build resources like their brand strategy, pitch deck, websites and customer acquisition campaigns. They do this even though they have yet to find product-market fit.
When the go-to-market strategy fails, they fall into the sunk cost mentality. If the market isn’t resonating with the messaging, the startup doesn’t want to change it because they spent so much time and money on it. Instead, they’ll just point it at another market and hope for different results.
Product MVPs are built to change and adapt. Your go-to-market MVP needs to be built the same way.
You don’t need to build something that’s perfect. Build something that’s lean, communicates your value, and can easily be changed as you figure out what works and what doesn’t.
Only when you find something that works, should you make an investment into having it built out for scale.
6. Be persistent
Didn’t hear back from a lead? Try again. Someone didn’t show up to your first meeting? Reschedule. Continue to stay in front of people because nobody is going to do the work for you.
Look at your own inbox. How hard is it to get your time and attention? Even if somebody had the perfect solution for you, you would probably miss that first email. Gartner found that it takes about 18 phone calls to connect with a potential buyer.
Is there a line between persistent and annoying? Yes, of course. But if you are solving a problem that is a priority for the person you are reaching out to, they will thank you for your persistence.
Check out our recent article to learn how you can leverage persistence to grow revenue.
7. Manage your startup go-to-market strategy’s progress
Sometimes start-ups confuse execution with automation. They’ll create an email campaign and then set it and forget it. They think the market will give them feedback, and the data will somehow all come together to show them a clear path forward.
It doesn’t work like that. It takes a lot of time, effort, and nurturing for your go-to-market strategy to work. You must plan, act, pause, orient, decide, and act again.
Don’t wait for the strategy to end to realize it’s not working. Actively evaluate it as it runs, and don’t start adding on other priorities once it starts.
Many startups think that because their go-to-market strategy is running, they’re freed up to work on other aspects of the business.
A go-to-market strategy for startups is a full-time project that happens over weeks or months, and you need to see that project through.
If you don’t actively manage your go-to-market strategy, you will miss opportunities to stop obvious mistakes before they happen.
Most startups learn about the importance of these seven tips the hard and slow way. They try to hack their way around these seven truths.
The fastest path to successfully executing your go-to-market strategy is to actively implement these seven tips so that you can reduce execution risk and sales cycles.