Learning how to strategise in the early days of a startup is crucial — and creating the perfect go-to-market strategy is one to prioritise. But what exactly is a go-to-market strategy?
We break it down, with help from the experts.
What is a go-to-market strategy?
A go-to-market strategy is a step-by-step plan designed to launch a new product or service into a market.
“We see a go-to-market strategy as a plan designed to bring products to market and to accelerate sales,” says David Roldán, head of startups, business development (BD) at Amazon Web Services (AWS). “It brings together price, product, people and a plan.
“It is a competitive landscape,” he continues. “Startups are looking for every little bit of an edge and how they can gain access to more customers. When building a go-to-market strategy, trying to figure out how to build that right value proposition — their differentiating factor — is key as startups think through the challenges they face day to day.”
For example, Roldán says startups often tell him that identifying customer profiles is one of the most important things that they need to think through, and it's a challenge that they continue to come up against.
How to build a go-to-market strategy
Monadd is a home bill management software company that helps users to take charge of their household's bills and subscriptions. Its founder and CEO, Jessica Mendoza, says the startup first launched in the UK and marketed to renters directly, but quickly realised that there was a larger and easier market by going to property management companies and relocation companies directly who were poised to offer its service to their renters.
Even if you're a CEO like me, you're going to have to engage in every step of the process
Mendoza worked with the AWS Startup Loft team to create a go-to-market strategy for Monadd that would help achieve its goals.
“Together, we mapped out a short list of targets, conducted friendly conversations with those target clients to gather feedback on the model, and on occasion if the AWS team had a relationship with the target client, they would introduce us,” says Mendoza.
“By doing this, we were already engaging them in potential commercial conversations, entering early partnership agreements, and gathering information on how they consume information, which helps us understand better which channels to use for the go-to-market strategy.
Mendoza says the biggest challenge that arose when pulling together their strategy was limited resources. She says as businesses grow, no startup is going to have all the necessary team members available to monitor and execute the performance of any strategy.
“For that reason, we had to rely on volunteers, interns, part-time employees and agencies to help us in generating ads, social media content and progress projects,” says Mendoza. “And, when you don't have any additional resources, it doesn't matter the role you have — even if you're a CEO like me, you're going to have to engage in every step of the process.”
The importance of working together
Roldán cites Snyk, a developer security platform that partners with AWS, as an example of the importance of identifying who ideal customer profiles are and thinking through how to align your go-to-market strategy across the entire team.
“How can you extend that mind frame beyond the commercial team to your product, sales, marketing and engineering teams, making sure that it's a mantra across the board?” says Roldán. “Startups like Snyk recognise that adopting that type of methodology has helped them to turbocharge their ability to move faster in making their go-to-market a success at a global level.”
Things are almost inverted in the sense that, before, people only wanted to talk about powering their infrastructure
Roldán is a strong believer in the initial "better together" story of every startup. Having this team mentality is important at every business, he says — when everyone is working towards a common goal, and understands what it is and why that is the target, the result can be impressive.
“I think about my conversations with startups over the last 10 years and then more recently over the last two to three years,” says Roldán. “I'd say that things are almost inverted in the sense that, before, people only wanted to talk about powering their infrastructure.
“Now, it's a dual-pronged approach — asking AWS to help them to have that best-in-class infrastructure, security and architected like multi-tenant SaaS — but also on the commercial side for go-to-market, asking us to help them figure out how to accelerate opportunities and sales pipeline, and how to go to new markets together.”
So, you’re ready to start formulating your go to market strategy. Where should you begin? Mendoza suggests developing your strategy and execution with a reputable and knowledgeable startup ally is beneficial.
In early engagement, always listen more and speak less
“The support needed to grow a business and execute a go to market strategy is insurmountable,” concludes Mendoza. “Two crucial items I've learned from working with AWS are, firstly, to focus on one specific target or segment, testing and iterating based on results.
“The other one is to listen to your customers and clients. In early engagement, always listen more and speak less; this will help you gather more insights to apply to your GTM strategy.”