Think about the last time you went on a road trip (maybe it was just as recent as 2020 when many people chose cars over planes because of the pandemic). A lot of planning probably went into that trip about where to go, what to pack, how much money to bring for gas, which snacks to take, and where to stop to rest.
That type of planning is very similar to how a startup should create its go-to-market strategy framework. Many founders treat their go-to-market strategy a lot like going on an errand to the next town over. The problem is, you’re not going somewhere you know. You’re going somewhere you’ve never been. You need to get from Point A, which is usually zero or little revenue, to Point B, which is acquiring your first customers.
This trip isn’t like you’re going to space, and you won’t know what to do or how to breathe once you get there. It’s like you’re driving a few states away. It’s far enough that you can’t just grab your keys and wallet as you’re running out the door. You need to be prepared.
Where are you going?
Most startups treat their go-to-market strategy framework “road trip” like a quick drive to the grocery store. They don’t get their car checked, pack a bag, or plan a route. They don’t prepare because they don’t take the time to think about where they are going so in turn they don’t know what to prepare for.
This creates an incredible amount of unnecessary risk for most startups. But if you take the time to figure out your destination, then preparing for how to actually get to the destination becomes easy. In terms of go-to-market strategy, your end point is a simple formula: how many customers from a specific ideal customer profile do you need at what average contract value and by when. If you don’t have this destination, there’s nothing you can put into Google Maps to plan your route.
In continuing the road trip analogy, most founders “plan” is to follow road signs as they appear. But you wouldn’t do this if you were going on a cross country trip because you know that you would almost certainly take a slower route or get lost. Most people driving cross-country wouldn’t do this because even a 10-minute detour is inconvenient. If you wouldn’t take a 10-minute detour on a road trip and waste a few minutes of your time, why would you do it with your runway where a brief detour could mean weeks of lost time? Even the most minor setback has significant consequences, like missed revenue.
Planning your road trip (aka, your go-to-market strategy framework)
Once you have a destination in Google Maps, you can see your exact route. You have the ability to zoom in and choose where to gas up, where to stay for the night, and where to refill your snack stash. This is what our entire Market Acceleration Program (MXP) is. We’re zooming in on your clearly defined roadmap and figuring how to efficiently get you from Point A to Point B. Here’s how you can use simple road trip planning to build your go-to-market strategy framework:
Where will you stop to rest?
Instead of planning where to stop for the night, look for the early indicators on your “route” that will signify you’re on the right track or if you need to pause or pivot your go-to-market strategy.
Who do you know along your route?
On a road trip, you might meet up with friends who can show you around town and give you the inside scoop of the city. For your go-to-market strategy, use your network to validate your hypothesis or connect you with customers. Some people in your network might not be at your destination, but they can help you get there faster or teach you something on your journey.
Which sites do you want to see that won’t derail your trip?
Can other markets or segments give you any valuable information for your journey? There might be opportunities along your route to explore these potential new markets and learn from them.
What happens to your go-to-market strategy framework if you hit traffic?
Google Maps sees traffic jams before you get stuck in them and adjusts your route to save time. You could adjust the route yourself but you’re probably only going to make things worse. By identifying patterns and customer friction before they happen, you are able to avoid your go-to-market strategy coming to a halt.
What do you need to pack?
This all depends on the destination. It’s not guesswork. If you’re going to Aspen, you’ll pack ski gear, but you might pack a bathing suit if you’re going to Florida. For your go-to-market journey, focus only on what’s mission-critical to bring. You don’t want to weigh your car down with excess stuff.
Remember that you’re resource-constrained. A lot of founders approach their go-to-market strategy framework as if they have endless resources. But just like on a road trip where you only have so much money for gas, food, and hotels, you only have so much runway to get to Point B, so you need to plan ahead and protect that runway.
Think about headcount, digital ad-spend, product development and consultants. If these line items don’t help you get from point A to point B, what are they doing for you?
Do you need to bring anyone with you?
We just mentioned that you only need to bring what’s mission-critical, and a full-time employee just isn’t going to fit in your car right now. You don’t need a full-time team member to do sales, plan expensive Google Ad campaigns, or build a brand strategy. A brand strategy won’t help you get from Point A to Point B in this stage.
Set the right endpoint
Seeing your go-to-market strategy framework as a road trip in Google Maps will help you stop and think about your first goal. A successful strategy must have a clear destination so you can have a route. The route will tell you where you might be able to deviate, what might be tricky obstacles along the way, and when you need to refill your tank.
Many startups go into this process by picking an unrealistic destination, like getting to IPO. You need to start with a smaller goal, like getting five or 10 new customers. If you pick something too out of reach right now, your “car” won’t have the horsepower to get there, and you’ll end up with a bad strategy and a broken down company. There is no AAA for startups, so you’ll start to hitchhike with the hope that a venture capitalist will pick you up. But those VCs are on their way to meet startups who actually planned a realistic strategy and crossed the finish line. If you do that right, they’ll meet you there.