This article is based on Yoni’s scintillating interview on GTM FM. Pop on your headphones and check out more thought-provoking episodes here.
My name is Yoni Solomon. Over the past 12 years or so, I've had the pleasure of working for a variety of disruptive B2B, digital marketing, and SaaS companies, doing everything from marketing ops to content marketing, and even demand generation and growth. This varied experience allowed me to assemble a strong product marketing toolkit before I took on my first product marketing role.
As someone responsible for launching features, partnerships, mergers and acquisitions, and everything in between, I needed to build a process that would allow me to go to market consistently and successfully, time after time. That’s when I began to map out the five-step go-to-market launch sequence that I’m going to share with you today.
Let’s dive in.
Getting ready to go to market
Now, before you can begin building your launch plan, you need a thorough understanding of the capability and the market, so you’re going to have to do some research. Here’s how to approach it:
- Start with a product demonstration. It's going to be hard to effectively message the product if you haven't used or seen it for yourself.
- Delve into market research. Get to grips with the landscape, who your customers are, their pain points, business sizes, and segments.
- Dive into competitive intelligence. Chances are, you're not the first to market with this product or feature, so it's crucial to understand the competitive landscape and how you position against them, and likewise, how they might position against you.
- Explore the voice of the customer. User-generated content, reviews, and feedback on this product or industry are going to be invaluable here.
- Validate within your CRM that you have the right ideal customer profiles, markets, and segments for this product release.
Before building anything for a launch plan, that's typically the level of research I would go through as a product marketer. It's essentially a five-step research process to prepare for the main five-step go-to-market process that we’re about to look at.
My five-step recipe for successful product launches
When it comes to GTM, our job is to introduce a new capability or feature to the market in an organized, consistent, and repeatable way. For me, this process comprises a five-step go-to-market launch sequence:
- Step one: Ideation – This is where we sit down with the product team who's identified a market need that can be addressed with technology.
- Step two: Build – During this phase, the product team lays out the product roadmap while product marketing works on pricing, packaging, messaging, and the launch plan.
- Step three: Soft launch – This includes an alpha and a beta phase. Here, we test not only the product functionality, but also our messaging and naming to ensure they're effective.
- Step four: Go-to-market launch – This marks our first entry into the market. The keys are in the ignition, emails are sent, and landing pages are live.
- Step five: Go-to-market continued – Here, we're building consistent thought leadership and case studies around the new capability.
These are the five steps that allow us to effectively introduce new capabilities to the market.
Maintaining launch momentum
In my experience, when launches fall short, it's rarely due to the first four steps – these are generally done quite well. What we often overlook is the all-important go-to-market continued phase. Our releases lose momentum after a quarter or two because we've moved on to the next launch.
So, let’s talk more about the go-to-market continued phase. As we discuss in my go-to-market masterclass, when a tier-one product (a really important capability) is launched, you need to create about three to six months' worth of content to release during the GTM continued phase.
This could include a variety of things: thought leadership pieces, earned media, web content, webinars, or podcast episodes. You'll likely be doing a bit of everything. The key here is to build out a roadmap so that your team has a continuous focus on these activities. If not, the launch might get lost in the shuffle once you've moved onto the next thing.
Also, within those three to six months, you should be having conversations with customers and users who are leveraging the tools you've launched. Collect their feedback and then loop back to the product team to start the launch process all over again, from ideation.
This is why I particularly enjoy customer webinar opportunities and even old-school case studies. What better place than in those conversations to ask users how the product or feature is working? They’re the perfect way to organically gather this feedback.
How to align with cross-functional go-to-market teams
Getting buy-in for your GTM strategy can be challenging, especially if your product marketing function is new and you still need to establish a presence and credibility in the company. You might find that some teams, including marketing and sales, just don't know how to work with PMMs. That was certainly the case early on in my journey at G2.
To build rapport with your cross-functional teams, start by understanding their KPIs. At G2, the product team’s focus was on adoption. Taking that goal into account, we worked our way backwards into creating a product launch process that allows us to go to market quickly and consistently to boost product adoption.
Collaborating with marketing also becomes much easier once you align with their pipeline goals. And once you agree that, say, sourcing revenue through product marketing is a common goal, collaborating with sales on ad-hoc programs gets much easier, too.
The future of go-to-market
When I think about the future of product marketing and its role in the go-to-market process, there are a couple of things I’d like to see.
Internally, I'd like to see more enablement within companies. I think we've barely scratched the surface of how we can package our launch materials, training assets, and certifications.
We have to start engaging front-line teams, like customer success and sales, earlier on in the process. We need to make certification fun and memorable, rather than just a test they try to pass as quickly as possible. And then we need to enable continued learning because there are just so many changes with our products and personas.
Once you start exploring this, you realize how much more we could be doing. Also, our industry has changed significantly. Even at full capacity, I feel like I could be enabling teams at least 30-40% more. So, internal enablement feels like a big priority for me.
From an external perspective, I think we should be launching less. SaaS companies have gotten very good at rolling out software quickly, to the point where there's a new deployment every two to four weeks.
As a result, B2B is becoming a really noisy space, where there's a constant barrage of announcements. Although product launches are a great way to get in front of users, if everyone is launching all the time, it’s hard for our buyers to focus on any one thing.
I don’t have a clear-cut solution to this problem yet, but one possibility is to bundle launches into product-related themes so that we’re making larger announcements a couple of times a quarter rather than every week. The goal should be to launch less but do more.
Final tips and tricks
Before we wrap up, I’d like to share one final piece of advice to help make your go-to-market a success.
Talk to as many customers as you possibly can, regardless of the launch or what you're trying to roll out. Your best messaging and positioning will more often than not come from your customers.
If you’re a product marketer tasked with messaging and positioning, don't feel like you need to create it in a silo. Get in front of some users, have some recorded Zoom conversations, and you'll often find the perfect positioning in those discussions. From there, it's on you as a product marketer to polish up the voice of the customer, reframe it a bit, and then release it as part of the launch.
To wrap up, let's summarize some key pointers on how to make your go-to-market a success:
🎯 Dig deep into research: Start by understanding your product, your market, your competition, and your customers. This deep dive gives you a great foundation for what comes next.
🪜 Five steps to success: My proven five-step GTM launch sequence goes like this: ideation, build, soft launch, go-to-market launch, and go-to-market continued.
⚡ Keep up the momentum: After you launch, don't forget the GTM continued phase. This is when you need to keep your content flowing and maintain that product buzz.
👥 Customer chats are crucial: Constantly touch base with your customers and users. Their insights and feedback are gold.
🤗 Align with your teams: To collaborate effectively, understand other teams' KPIs. Once everyone's goals are aligned, the work just flows.
🚀 Future-proof your GTM: Looking ahead, I see more internal enablement, better team engagement from the start, and fewer but more impactful launches.
There you have it – the key takeaways from my journey and the lessons I've learned along the way. As always, remember that your GTM journey will be unique. Don't hesitate to tailor this advice to fit your product, your team, and your market. Keep exploring and best of luck! 🌟