To borrow from classic literature and apply it to the business world, the best-laid plans of business leaders and product innovators often go awry. This is true, however, not all plans are created equal and when built on a faulty infrastructure, the chances of them coming unraveled increases.
Though outcomes are never a guarantee, some plans are simply ineffective from the beginning. And where this has the greatest potential to throw any company into a full-fledged tailspin is with the all-important go-to-market plan.
Whether launching a new startup into the market, completely transforming your entire business or even one element of it, or introducing a product or service line extension, a go-to-market plan can mean the difference between success and lackluster outcomes. In creating a go-to-market plan, you'll be able to identify potential roadblocks and unrealized opportunities, account for important deadlines and milestones, and ensure you have the right team in place to execute on the endeavor.
With any business initiative that will potentially impact people, processes or systems, go-to-market planning is key in accounting for the numerous moving parts -- the needs of stakeholders (customers, employees, vendors, etc.), team alignment and accountability, and unforeseeable forces of industry change. In fact, effective plans need to be holistic, actionable, and link business goals to metrics and milestones and customer experience.
The following are the core areas an effective go-to-market plan will address, and what to keep in mind when building one.
When a go-to-market plan is important
Go-to-market planning can be useful across a multitude of key initiatives from transforming an entire business to transforming one aspect of the business like the sales, marketing or the brand. Of course, they're also essential in launching startups into the marketplace and introducing new products, services or brand extensions.
The reason go-to-market planning is so vital to these key initiatives is because when it is effectively executed, it drives alignment across all stakeholders and sets forth a timeline to ensure all stakeholders meet the desired milestones and outcomes -- making strategies and opportunities actionable. An effective plan will require an understanding of the current environment, mapping the work streams, and putting in place a system to manage the program.
This is where a lot of plans miss the mark. The focus is too heavily emphasized on the what --the messaging, design elements, PR, advertising strategy, etc. -- and doesn't take into account the current state of things, how the strategies tie into overall business goals, and the infrastructure needed to support it all.
Use data as your guiding light
The first step is to identify and map the current state of the business, marketplace, and the various touch points across the following areas: people, process and systems. This will enable you to identify where you are and what is needed to get to where you want to go. It also enables you to sidestep potential roadblocks before they become an issue and discover new, untapped opportunities.
Chances are, if you're in the process of building a new product, service or company, you may already have this information gathered. Now it's time to put that data to use, breaking it down and applying it to people, process and systems.
For example, this can be applied to mapping the customer journey (an essential part of a go-to-market). From the beginning touch point through to the end --the engagement, acquisition, nurture, and conversion.
If the marketing is effective, what happens next? How will the customer move through the entire experience from that initial digital ad or piece of high-value content through to purchasing and receiving the product or service?
And, more importantly, how will you create a loyalist out of that new customer? Your data will tell you how to be actionable and effective at delivering messages to the right people at the right time.
Construct a solid infrastructure
When designing your plan, you must consider how the strategy will be supported internally. In other words, the infrastructure needs to be in place by mapping out the work streams --the stakeholders who will execute on them and when.
Mapping the work streams can be specific to the project, whether that's implementing a new company wide customer relationship management (CRM) system or rolling out a new brand. The map can further be dissected by specific stakeholders or departments -- IT, marketing, sales, operations, etc. And there should be one owner responsible for each work stream.
Another critical part of work stream mapping is the timeline. This will establish clear deadlines for reaching specific milestones and outcomes and will hold each team or person accountable to that. The entire process and every necessary element in between must be thought through, otherwise even the most successful launch plan can fizzle out fast.
Finally, how will each of these streams flow together? This is where team alignment comes into play.
Managing the infrastructure
Program management is the final key element in an effective go-to-market plan. This is not to be confused with project management in which you're managing each program individually. This is about bringing visibility and alignment across the entire operation.
The owners of each work stream must be in alignment and close communication to ensure the plan is meeting key milestones and deadlines. The owners will also be responsible for tracking the value being delivered. Remember, the ultimate goal is to drive deeper value and realize a return on the investment of time, capital and resources.
To achieve this, an effective go-to-market strategy will be holistic and granular. It will account for not only marketing strategies, but also business goals and the customer experience, and all of the necessary, interrelated pieces needed to achieve the end goal.