5 Reasons Your Go To Market Strategy Fails

Having a clear route to market is a key piece of the valuation equation that investors will use to value your business. Even when companies give it some attention they don’t see the difference between a GTM strategy and a business plan. This is one of the key reasons why your go to market strategy fails – you haven’t really articulated it with consideration and sufficient depth.

The importance of go to market strategy is something I try hard to impress on my mentees when working with them at The Accelerator Academy and FastForward London. The problem is that putting the time in to develop a solid GTM Strategy is regularly overlooked or poorly executed.

The 5 most common Go To Market strategy fails you can avoid

Why does this matter?  I believe strongly that without a solid, well-differentiated GTM strategy, a company is unlikely to succeed. It’s hard enough to launch or reposition a product, brand or service. But without a true understanding of your customer, their needs, how they buy, how you sell and where to concentrate your efforts why would success be any easier? See my point?

In this blog, I’d like to concentrate on the 5 most common GTM strategy fails I’ve come across over the years.

1. A GTM plan that doesn’t start with the customer

I understand how your company is keen to launch your product. You are excited, possessive and a tad ego-centric about your offering.  There’s lots of discussion about the bottom line, funding, how revolutionary your idea is and how great your commercials will be.

Among many businesses, there is still a belief that ‘build it and they will come’ is a smart idea but, really, it’s not. If you chose the furthest output in the galaxy upon which to build a space station how much passing traffic from Earth would you have? Exactly.

Therefore, a sure fire way to ensure your go to market strategy fails is to not start with the customer. After all, the key to a successful go to market strategy is to put the customer first. They should be at the heart of absolutely everything you do, think and believe. Don’t plough on hoping that your educated guesses are correct.

2. Building the product before thinking about the route to market

You are unlikely to succeed if you’ve built a product without a clear go to market strategy. How are you going to reach your target customers? How are they going to buy your product? Are they able and willing to pay for the product you offer?

This is the scaffold on which your whole business depends. It should inform every decision you make. It is the document to which you refer regarding every decision. Without detailed research, you will not have a deep understanding of customer needs, which means you won’t look at your business from your target customer’s perspective. You’ll always be looking ‘inside-out’, whereas fast-growing businesses focus ‘outside-in’ – they think about the customer first.

As Brian Solis says: “Without applying a digital-first methodology to designing customer experiences it is almost inevitable that you default to solutions of another era.”

Without a well-considered GTM you will also default to ego-centric, inappropriate solutions that don’t help customers get jobs done. At best, your go to market strategy fails. At worst, you could damage your brand.

3. Not validating product ideas before building them

Most businesses build products first before soliciting feedback from the market. When they launch, they’re a damp squib – you blow your forecasts out of the window… and not in a good way. This is a classic go to market strategy failure.

Why would you spend time, effort and money bringing the wrong product to market? Why would you build something that is not solving urgent, pervasive and high-value problems that people need solving?

There has to be a better, more predictable way to deliver an innovation strategy that prevents go to market strategy failure. Thankfully, there’s a simple way to start on this path – for every product idea you have, develop a value proposition.

Identify who the product is for, what job it is helping the target customer get done, the outcomes it helps them achieve, and how it is different from existing solutions being used to complete the job. Through undertaking this process you can quickly validate product concepts to save time, money and build some predictability into your innovation strategy.

4. Not clearly defining the customers’ job map

Far too many products don’t understand the true context in which they are used. Every product is hired to do a job – whether it’s a pack of Skittles or a data analytics platform. While some businesses do understand the job to be done, they don’t understand the whole job map.

It’s important to understand the job to be done in the context of the entire job map. Context is king here. You need to be able to identify how your product improves or transforms each stage of the job – and where it doesn’t, so you can fill the gaps in the whole product solution. Explore the unmet needs and underserved desired outcomes, and focus on solving those problems for customers. They are the space where competitive advantage exists.

The key point here is not to assume anything. Do not think your ideas or experiences relate to everyone else. When making judgments, adopt an outcome-driven customer research methodology. That way you have a chance to get under the skin of how people will use what you are planning to make.

Sometimes entrepreneurs are obsessed with ‘cool’. Yes, it can be a seller but more often than not people will buy something for a specific reason. They want a new product or service to address high-value needs or outcomes that are currently being underserved. They will evaluate your offering and think: ‘will this address my unmet needs better than what’s already available?’

OK, they may not articulate it like that but you get the gist.

This is where people have to face some cold, hard truths about their ideas. There’s no room for ego here. How you move forward should be based on a deep understanding of the customer job map, which comes from quantitative customer research.

5. Not understanding how the customer defines success when they complete the job

If you do not understand what success looks like for your customers, how can you begin to take a product to market effectively? Without clearly defining what success looks like, in the eyes of your target customer, with a consistent framework, your business is unable to qualify and quantify your target customers’ desired outcomes.

By studying your competition you can see what your target audience is currently battling with and which outcomes are underserved. Let’s take James Dyson as an example. When he pitched his idea to Hoover they rejected it saying that they had a perfectly functioning product that sold well – why change?

Dyson knew people were unhappy with their current vacuum cleaning technology, because the existing products didn’t solve all of customers’ desired outcomes sufficiently. There were better ways to solve these problems to better align with customer outcomes.

The iterations we’ve seen were the introduction of cordless technology, bag-less cleaners and now easy emptying vacuums. All the time, the tech works within the clearly defined job to be done, but every iteration improves customer outcomes to get the job done more effectively.

These innovations were not ‘guesstimations’; they came from a deep understanding of what the customer defines as a successful outcome when they complete a job.

If your company’s go to market strategy is failing, let’s chat – I’d love to help.



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