man standing in the middle of a very large chess board, studying the pieces
PHOTO: Zoe Holling

Start-ups and seasoned marketers alike make the mistake of thinking that go-to-market is "marketing." When in fact, it's the process of achieving product-market fit. In a previous article, we reviewed three vital, yet simple questions required to clarify your go-to-market strategy:

  1. What's it for? What problem are you solving specifically, or what needs are you meeting?
  2. Who's it for? Who specifically has the problem that you can solve?
  3. Why you? Who else is doing something similar, and why is your solution a better fit for your target market?

Once you've clarified those three questions, the next step is determining where you can win. Meaning how/where can you generate early interest, revenue and traction. This is where the steps to follow will differentiate whether you're B2B or B2C focused, as the path to purchase for a business buyer vs. a consumer can be quite different.

Although all sales are human-to-human, business buyers typically don't make decisions alone since they buy on behalf of an organization. The sales cycle can be much longer and more complicated. Whereas a consumers' path to purchase can happen in an instant and on any channel of choice. Below is a four-step framework that any start-up founder or marketing leader can use.

The 4-Step Go-to-Market Process for Targeting B2B

Step 1:  Identify where you can win

Set clear targeting criteria for your potential markets. What type of business will you try to connect with? What size? The more detail, the better here. The goal is to pinpoint prospects where your solution is the perfect fit for your value proposition.

Step 2: Rank your target markets

Many start-ups will waste precious time and resources trying at first to target too broad a market. Where will we focus your efforts and budget in the coming year? Is there one market you can dominate? It's essential to think about where you will gain early wins. 

Step 3:  Identify the target accounts and typical buyer

Identify the top 10 businesses or types of companies in the target market that you would like to land. Make a list and be specific. You must then develop the buyer profile. Who are the typical decision-makers for the types of product/services you sell? What do they care about? What are their specific needs? For example, a CFO will have different needs than a CMO, but both might be involved in the decision process.

Step 4: Develop the sales and marketing plan

Once you've identified your target markets and their characteristics and identified the ideal business and the buyer, you are now ready to develop your marketing and sales plan. The plan includes your messaging and positioning (based on the problems you solve) and creating compelling content that provides value and nurtures the prospect towards an eventual conversion. In this phase, it's essential to set targets, test, learn and adjust.  

Related Article: What's Keeping B2B CMOs Up at Night?

The 4-Step Go-to-Market Process for B2C

Step 1: Identify and define the target profile or consumer persona

What problems or needs are you meeting? Describe in as much detail as possible who has those problems or needs. Rather than focus on segments by demographics or geography, Seth Godin, author of "This is Marketing," suggests focusing on their worldview and the beliefs of the people you are trying to serve: 

  • What do they desire?
  • What are they afraid of?
  • How will what you make change this? 

Then, test and learn.

Godin says what we put out the first time around is rarely adopted. We must learn about what customers don't want as much as what they do want. In other words, "It's easier to make products and services for the customers you seek to serve than it is to find customers for your products and services."

Step 2: What will you do to earn their attention?

How will you build awareness of your products and services, and through which channels? What kind of content and stories will create a conversation and generate leads? Test a few story angles. Show up regularly and consistently to build confidence in the change and outcomes you are promising.

Step 3: How will you capture the interest you create?

How will you capture the attention once you've created it? The most valuable asset you can capture is an email address. You can do this with a high value content item, checklist or ebook or a subscription for ongoing relevant communications.

Step 4: Which channels will you leverage to convert to a sale?

Are you removing all barriers to a smooth sale? What is the new customer experience? How will you surprise and delight, retain and reward? By thinking through this onboarding process, you can turn a first-time customer into a repeat customer that generates word of mouth.

Related Article: How the Tables Have Turned: What B2C Marketers Can Learn From B2B

A Muscle Worth Building

The goal of the go-to-market strategy, in particular for startups, is to create momentum and generate revenue as early as possible with great customers that fit your value proposition. However, the go-to-market strategy is a continual process. Whether you’re a founder, marketing or sales leader who needs to develop a solid pipeline of prospects, or a mature company looking to enter new markets, mastering this four-step process will serve you for the life of your business.