You have big plans as a SaaS founder. While your journey is in its beginning stages, this is the crucial time to build a solid foundation for breaking into the market and then rising to the top.
Launching a new product comes with several challenges, and that’s why you should develop a go-to-market strategy.
You’ve probably heard the famous quote from Benjamin Franklin that says, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” If you think your daily life is busy now with maintaining deadlines, raising capital to offset limited resources, and watching for ways to overcome competitors, just wait until you experience that first growth spurt.
The key to overcoming each challenge from early-stage startup to full-fledged SaaS market leader is laying out a North Star plan that guides every decision. That’s where creating your go-to-market strategy comes into play.
Here, we cover everything you need to know about building a go-to-market strategy that will help you achieve the success you envision for your company.
What Is a Go-To-Market Strategy?
Simply put, a go-to-market strategy is your action plan. Within this strategic plan, you outline each step required to ensure a successful launch.
A go-to-market strategy is useful when doing any of the following:
- Launching your company
- Launching a new product
- Relaunching your brand
- Aiming your product at a new market
Another way to approach the concept is to look at it as a narrower version of your company’s strategic marketing plan. In this case, you’re focusing your attention specifically on one product offer.
Keep in mind that you’re building a fluid document. While a go-to-market strategy should be detailed, it should also be flexible enough to allow for continuous updates based on the latest marketing, customer, and conversion data. It’s also important to share the plan throughout your organization so everyone remains on the same page regarding the company’s overall direction.
Why Is a Go-To-Market Strategy Essential to Success?
Ambiguity breeds failure. Too many companies fail because their leaders didn’t clearly define the company’s vision and long-term direction.
Use your go-to-market strategy to clarify why your product exists. Here are the things to consider:
- What specific problem does it solve and why is it important to solve that problem?
- Who benefits from using the product or service?
- What’s your plan for getting the attention of your target market?
- Why will your target customers buy the product or service from you?
It’s easy to get excited about your product and what it does. However, it’s important not to use industry jargon with your audience. While that sort of language may make sense to you, it will not resonate with your audience. They won’t understand how your product tangibly makes their lives better, and as a result, you’ll struggle to make sales.
Putting together a go-to-market strategy forces you to define a “best fit” target market. It also helps you brainstorm the challenges you’ll face when placing your product in front of that audience.
Think about what questions and objections your audience may bring up. How will you answer those questions in a clear way so customers understand why you’re the best option to fix the problem they are facing?
Finally, you need a go-to-market strategy because it provides the framework from which you can measure short-term and long-term progress. It also helps you identify threats to that progress so you can decide what must happen to overcome those threats. If you take the time to put this process in place, you’re putting yourself ahead of most of your competitors who continue to fly by the seat of their pants.
Step 1: Define a Clear Target Market
You can’t launch a SaaS startup or new product by simply saying, “Our product is so good that we can help everyone.”
It’s time to get specific about who wants your product or service. This means your thought process must shift from focusing on the product to looking at the problem that caused your product to existing in the first place. From there, think about the group—or groups—who can benefit most from having their problem solved.
For example, let’s say your product is software that solves all the pain points met by people running coaching businesses. These folks get mired in piecing together their Google calendars with various customer CRMs. They’ve also tried a couple of different payment processors.
In general, they feel overwhelmed by the record-keeping part of scheduling sales calls and coaching calls, sending follow-up messaging, conducting monthly payment processing, and doing a host of other tasks that take them away from the work they enjoy, which is coaching their clients.
Your target market is online coaches. However, that’s too broad of an audience to impact with your messaging. You’ve got to break it down more.
Define Avatar Channels
The key is to get more specific with the target market in your go-to-market strategy. You can start by looking at the following:
- Geographic location
- Personal and professional interests
- Psychological makeup
This is where most SaaS founders stop when doing target market research—and that’s a mistake. The above information helps, but it gives you an incomplete picture and hinders you when you get to the next step, which is defining your messaging.
Using the example from above, it’s time to dig deeper into the target market of online coaches. Which online coaches can you serve? Start by sectioning the online coaching market into verticals or sub-niches such as:
- Health coaches
- General marketing coaches
- Weight loss coaches
- Addiction coaches
- Relationship coaches
Can you see how different your messaging might look when targeting weight loss coaches vs. coaches who help the family members of drug addicts?
Every market has an overall target audience that can be broken down into smaller sub-niches. Your job is to identify how your market breaks down.
Questions To Ask When Defining a Narrow Target Market
Use these questions to jumpstart your brainstorming sessions:
- Who is your overall target market? (For example, online coaches)
- How many sub-niches exist? (relationship, health, marketing coaches, etc.)
- How big are the sub-niches?
- Do those sub-niches have sub-niches? (For example, weight loss vs. diet vs. fitness coaches)
- Which sub-niches provide you the hottest prospects?
The bottom line is that you must come out of Step 1 with a clear picture of who you can serve the best.
Step 2: Define Your Value Proposition and Brand Positioning/Messaging
The first task in defining your brand’s positioning and messaging is figuring out how to verbalize what you do.
While that may sound simple, it’s alarming how many SaaS founders struggle to do this without falling into industry jargon that confuses prospects about how the product improves lives. Step 1 above focused on who you want to serve. Now it’s time to focus on the problem your SaaS product solves for customers.
Our example SaaS company above might say, “We help health coaches eliminate 100% of the time-consuming activities around scheduling and payment processing so they can invest more time and energy on what they love—working directly with their clients.”
However, that’s different from the way many founders describe their products. It often sounds more like, “We sell a scheduling platform where you can enter names and emails of clients and send them calendar invites. You can also accept payments and even communicate with clients.”
After hearing that description, people might react by saying:
- “Oh, so it’s like Slack?”
- “I just send Google calendar invites, which seems to work OK.”
- “So it’s kind of like my Drip account?”
Have you experienced similar reactions and objections after telling people about your product? If so, then you probably need to rethink your brand’s value proposition and messaging.
How To Hone Down Your Brand’s Messaging and Positioning
Inside your go-to-market strategy, ask yourself what problem you solve with your product. Brainstorm this out on paper to see where it takes you.
Here are several questions to get you started:
- How does your audience describe the problem?
- What do they complain about or say they’re frustrated about?
- How do you usually describe the problem?
- Do you solve a problem within the health, wealth, or relationship niche?
- What sub-niches exist within that larger niche?
Work through how you help your target market solve the problem. Pay close attention to if you’re describing the problem in the way your best-fit customers talk about it. The more likely scenario is that you’re talking about features or using too much industry jargon that customers don’t relate to.
Use templates like the following to flesh out your messaging ideas: We help [target market] solve [the problem] so that they can [main benefit(s)].
Look at your messaging and positioning statement and ask yourself if that’s the way you’ve actively heard your best-fit clients talking about the problem.
You might get frustrated doing these exercises while developing your go-to-market strategy.
This just means you’re too close to the situation. You may want to consider hiring outside consultants, brand experts, and copywriters to help you narrow in on the value proposition, messaging, and positioning that will ultimately hook your best-fit customers.
Step 3: Decide on Your Pricing Strategy
Because it’s one of the key factors that impact revenue, your pricing plan should be set inside your go-to-market strategy. Many SaaS companies briefly think about their pricing strategy, come up with some numbers, package it into an offer, and then don’t think about it again.
You can’t afford to look at it this way. Understand that one of the inherent challenges to launching a product is that you don’t have historical analytics yet. There’s no way to know if you’ve selected the correct balance between pricing and value until you’ve had the opportunity to test the idea.
Choose Your Strategy With a Willingness To Adjust
With that in mind, permit yourself to choose a SaaS pricing strategy based on your current knowledge about the market, your audience, and your competitors. Proceed from there with an openness toward adjusting pricing and the offer based on data and experience.
Choose from one of these SaaS pricing models:
- Flat rate
- Pay-as-you-go (or usage pricing)
- Per feature
Don’t become overwhelmed by the number of potential pricing options. It’s crucial to start somewhere without getting bogged down in paralysis by analysis.
Narrow in on the best pricing fit for your company by thinking about the psychological impact on customer-buying decisions balanced against meeting sales and growth goals.
Remember what we said at the beginning: Your go-to-market strategy is a fluid document.
Therefore, you can make pricing changes based on results. For example, let’s say you suffer from high churn rates after launching. Pricing may not be the only factor that contributes to the churn, but at least you will have collected pricing data to use in your ongoing decision-making.
Step 4: Distribution Plan
A go-to-market strategy needs to lay out how and where you’ll distribute the product. This includes the channels you’ll use for marketing, as well as your method for closing sales.
Decide whether your product fits the sales page-to-conversion model or the marketing-to-sales-call distribution method.
Pricing plays a part when making this decision. Lower pricing typically equates to selling straight from the sales page. A high-ticket, enterprise product, on the other hand, will typically require a sales call to convert prospects into customers.
Factor in product complexity when deciding whether you’ll close business via marketing or sales calls.
Is your SaaS product self-explanatory, meaning prospects can easily understand the need to buy after reading your online copy or going through a demo? Or is a salesperson required to provide a detailed explanation of all features and benefits?
Are you marketing primarily to individuals? If so, then online marketing campaigns work well. Working in the B2B space usually requires a longer sales process that induces decision-makers to shift from your online presence into a sales-call funnel.
Define Your Marketing Distribution Channels
Include the specific distribution channels you intend to use for marketing in your go-to-market strategy. These might include:
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Email marketing
- Social media
- Paid advertising
SEO plays a critical role when marketing SaaS products. Your potential customers go to the search engines to conduct research. Search engine optimization should become a big part of your marketing and distribution plan.
The typical SaaS product has a relatively long customer life cycle. Include a plan for email marketing in your go-to-market strategy so you gain the ability to cultivate a lasting relationship. Email gives you multiple touchpoints as you use newsletters, product demos, surveys, blog post blasts, and feature announcements to close the sale.
Use social media to attract leads and announce new features. This distribution channel also works well for personalizing your business by showing interesting company culture examples, as well as showcasing employees.
Use paid advertising as a direct distribution channel that helps gain exposure before your long-term SEO efforts pay off. A paid ad campaign lets you leverage the extensive customer avatar work we described above by showing ads to your specific target market.
Webinars help educate prospects. They also offer one of the most effective methods for attracting quality leads. Conduct “on-demand” presentations for your lead generation campaigns. Use live webinars as monthly promotions and invite subscribers from your email list. These presentations offer you opportunities to build trust and then sell into the offer.
Now that you understand what’s involved in developing your company’s go-to-market strategy, it’s time to get started.
A word of caution: Don’t forget the reason you launched your SaaS company in the first place. As you dive into the details of your go-to-market strategy, it’s easy to lose the excitement you felt when you first came up with the product idea.
You’re right in the middle of the interesting challenges that come with building out a new target market audience. You don’t have a brand to protect—that comes later. There’s no need to worry about how your audience might react to a new product. Now is the time to experiment.
A day will come when you’ve successfully built an idea into the company of your dreams. You’ll think back fondly to these startup days, so enjoy them for what they are and don’t hold back.
Lastly, you might feel overwhelmed with everything we’ve detailed in this article. You may wish you had someone to advise you on the best go-to-market strategy decisions. If so, then we invite you to contact us at Harmony Venture Labs. We’ll answer all your questions and make sure you’re comfortable considering working together on making your SaaS company as successful as possible.