It’s already September. There are only three months left in the year, and those months will be packed with back-to-school events, holidays, end-of-year planning, and so much more. Not just for you but also for your potential customers.
Between fiscal reports, year end planning, strategic offsites and alike, it can be very difficult to get your potential customers focused enough to get a deal done before the new year.
That said, at GrowthX we actually love this time of year because there is no better time to do the foundation work required to build a go-to-market strategy. With all the distractions that your customers have closing out the year while preparing for the next, you should spend this time developing and validating your go-to-market strategy before you have to launch it.
This way, you can hit the ground running with a pipeline of sales opportunities next year and not be stuck in market development.
Below are a few tips to help you focus on how to build a go-to-market strategy for success next year by making the most of the last few months of this year.
How to build a go-to-market strategy: A timeline
September: Learn as much as you can about how to build a go-to-market strategy
Learning precedes revenue. Take advantage of these next few weeks to hit the pause button and gather data about everything you have learned about your market and your current go-to-market efforts.
If you’re stuck in neutral now, then in all likelihood your next set of customers aren’t coming until next year anyway. But if you take the time to learn from what’s working and what’s not working, you’ll only increase your chances of success when you launch your next strategy.
What is especially important over the next few weeks is finding out exactly who your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) is. In most cases, founders don’t take the time to truly validate a specific target market which in turn hurts the success of their customer acquisition strategy.
Take this time to come up with multiple ICPs, separate Mr. and Ms. Right from Mr. or Ms. Right Now and start doing the foundational research that will help you gain confidence in your chosen ICP.
You have plenty of time to be thoughtful and meticulously plan this out now so that you can begin testing your hypotheses before the end of the year.
October: Build the go-to-market strategy
You spent the last few weeks learning and thinking about how to build a go-to-market strategy and who you will build it for. Now you have to create it. Building an effective, efficient go-to-market strategy doesn’t take forever. In working with hundreds of startups, it really only takes about six to eight weeks of thoughtful development.
During this time, you need to move beyond ICP development and start to build out all the other parts of your customer acquisition strategy. From your pricing strategy to your piloting plan, your messaging strategy and your sales process.
These details need to be analyzed before you actually launch your go-to-market strategy. It’s only when you develop these details that you are then able to make use of the next step, which is to get feedback on the strategy that you’ve developed.
But, you can’t spend six weeks crafting your go-to-market strategy in a silo.
During this stage, you should focus on accelerating your learning by speaking with domain experts, trade associations, friends and advisors who can help you learn about your customers before you sell to them.
This sequencing of events is important because all too often founders try to learn and sell at the same time. When they do this, they come off to their customers as not being very knowledgeable, which is the opposite impression you want to give and in turn, kills good opportunities.
Use this time to try to get as much feedback on your strategy and get people to challenge as many of your assumptions as possible. You would much rather find out you need to pivot now than in January.
November: Validate what you’ve built
It’s time to make the shift from talking to experts to talking to your actual ICP. This doesn’t mean you’re ready to sell to them. What you need to do is to interview your customers (not pitch them!) and get them to confirm all of your hypotheses. Listen more than you talk during these conversations.
Why interview and not pitch? For starters, your sales pitch should always be an interview anyway. You want to learn about your customers and their needs before you try to sell them anything.
More importantly, at this stage, you want to approach your customers for an interview because it will likely make them more open to speaking with you. You want their feedback now so if and when the opportunity arises to pitch them, you’ll know exactly how to approach them.
These are feedback interviews, not lead generation. You don’t need to have a perfect website or work with a branding strategist.
All you need to focus on during this time is having three to five conversations per week with people who can give you honest feedback about your products, ICP, pricing strategy, and your assumptions about who your customers are.
This stage is about networking. Talk to people who are a few degrees outside of your network because the closer they are to your network, the more likely they are to give you really honest feedback.
If your go-to-market strategy gets validated during these interviews, these conversations will naturally progress into actual leads and opportunities for next year. Your goal is validation, not lead generation.
Pre-Thanksgiving Holiday: Tee up your go-to-market strategy
If you see signs of success during your interviews, organize those conversations by using the time and budget constraints of the season to your advantage.
Some entrepreneurs think that these conversations are of no use to them because they aren’t going to close deals by December 31. The opposite is true.
If somebody appears to be a potential customer, start “project managing” the sale or the opportunity for next year. Ask the customer a series of straightforward questions, like:
- What do budget cycles look like for you this time of year?
- How does the end of the year typically look for you? Is it impossible to get new initiatives done or is there room for something like this?
- Is the beginning of the year typically a good time for you to consider working with new vendors?
- When next year is the best time for us to have another conversation?
With these questions, you’re trying to determine the optimum time to have another conversation with this person. It may not be January.
If a company gets back in the office on January 10, maybe that whole first month is a wash. If you don’t figure this out ahead of time, you’re going to mismanage your expectations and set a meeting that will get canceled.
Post-Thanksgiving Holiday: Lock in next steps
Whatever next steps you decided on with the customer in the last section, lock those in now. Time kills all deals. All too often, entrepreneurs are happy to put the verbal pin in it until next year. The problem is, you had a conversation with someone in November that was promising, but by January they’ve completely forgotten about you.
Avoid this by putting the next meeting with your potential customer on the calendar now. Don’t wait until January to follow up about setting another meeting. By then, it will be almost like you’ve never spoken to this person at all.
Don’t just set the calendar invite for the next meeting. Think about what would make that next meeting successful.
Who on the team needs to be there? What information do you need? What are you going to discuss? What information will the customer want to see from you?
If you do this right, the meeting in January will get straight to the point and not be just another introductory conversation.
The more focus you have on this plan, the more conversations you’ll have lined up for the new year. Likewise, following this method for early next year tends to take the pressure off your customers and keeps those doors open.
Most of the other salespeople these customers are dealing with are trying to close the deal before the end of the year. You’re going to cut through the noise and stand out by being the person who’s not in a rush.
If you follow these tips on how to build a go-to-market strategy, you’ll have a solid foundation for revenue and a sustainable pipeline for the first few months of next year. You’ll have a busy calendar, and you can optimize your team and product roadmap to make these meetings as successful as possible.