Building an exceptional product is the first step to success, but without effective messaging, startups and small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) may still struggle to reach their target market and build a strong customer base. Product marketing plays a critical role in customer acquisition, retention, and driving sustainable revenue growth. An effective go-to-market plan is an essential component of product marketing strategy and can make all the difference in a product launch.
A go-to-market (GTM) strategy includes all the marketing activities related to launching a product. It’s centered around engaging new and existing customers, educating them on the new product or feature available, and ultimately convincing them to buy the product. A GTM plan will include product positioning and messaging, pricing insights, and distribution channels. In addition to those strategic decisions, someone leading the GTM for a product launch will be responsible for coordinating deliverable deadlines, educating internal stakeholders on the product’s positioning, and maintaining messaging alignment across functions.
Coordinating a product or feature launch isn’t easy. There are many moving pieces that need to work together in order to achieve success. As you’re building out the tactics for your GTM plan, keep these tips in mind.
Have a deep understanding of the product and the market
Determining the correct strategy and corresponding tactics for a product launch is highly dependent on the type of product or feature being released and the business itself. As the leader of a GTM strategy, you should be working with the product and engineering teams directly to understand the technology and the problem they’re trying to solve for potential customers. At the same time, you should become familiar with the larger market. Find out how people talk about that product category and how your product compares to others in the industry. Determine the differentiators for your product and how you can position the technology in the market.
It’s also beneficial to find out the potential issues that may arise. No product is perfect, and there are always problems that will need to be addressed. Communicating potential problems early on in the process will help the team solve them quickly.
Evaluate and effectively communicate the impact of the product
As you familiarize yourself with the product and the broader market, determine how big of an impact the new product or feature will have on both the company and the market itself. Knowing the potential impact will help you determine the appropriate distribution channels for your message.
The triggers for what necessitates a large release or a small release will be dependent on your business and internal processes. At DigitalOcean, we use release tiers to determine marketing tactics. When a new product or feature qualifies for a large release, we’ll pursue tactics like press releases, blog announcements, email marketing, and paid advertising. For smaller releases, we may simply send an email campaign to the customers who may be interested in the feature or include the announcement in a monthly product updates roundup blog. Consider equating the size of the release with the number of new customers the product or feature has the potential to attract.
Become an expert on your customers
This one may seem obvious. In order to successfully launch a product, you have to know your customers well—and we mean really well. This is an ongoing process. If you’re not in a position where you interact with customers regularly, start going to customer meetings. Learn who they are, what they care about, and what they need to be successful in their own businesses or careers.
If you can, get customers heavily involved before you go to market. Try a beta launch or early availability to let them try out a new product or feature and ask them to provide honest feedback. Listen to what they have to say, whether it’s positive feedback or constructive criticisms.
Anyone involved in product development for any length of time knows that plans change. The final product is often different from the original idea. Changes to plans can come from anywhere—the product team itself, legal, customer feedback, changes in the market, and more. A product launch isn’t shooting a rocket into space, and you’re done. You launch the product and then provide ongoing support with additional messaging and campaigns. Sometimes deliverables or due dates will shift, and that needs to be OK.
Listening and being open to change will help your launch be the best that it can be. Giving everyone the opportunity to collaborate, be heard, and do their best work will benefit both internal teams and the customers you’re trying to serve.
Communicate and collaborate
That brings us to the final tip for success—communicate and collaborate well. Sometimes, the best people to brainstorm ideas with are not technical or not as familiar with the product because they notice things that people who are close to the project don’t notice. Talk to every group that you can about the product. That way, you can learn about the different perspectives others may have about your initiative.
One tactic the team at DigitalOcean has found useful when collaborating on a GTM plan is for the product marketing team to explain the product in an easy-to-understand, simplified way to non-technical teams so that these individuals don’t have to learn about the product on their own. By reducing the cognitive load on the individuals who are collaborating on marketing strategies, they’re able to more quickly and effectively ideate on the best ways to communicate the message. Take the time to walk stakeholders through the product itself, the messaging, and any initial ideas you had as a product marketer.
Finally, there may be times when various stakeholders have opposing viewpoints that are very strong. This is common and expected when a wide range of teams work hard on a single output. When conflicts arise, it’s best to go back to the customer. Consider the customers that the product is meant to help and what’s best for them. That will be your north star in determining strategies and messaging.
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