Start-Ups 101: Essential Tips for Going to Market

Business.com / Starting a Business / Last Modified: April 28, 2017
Photo credit: Shutterstock / marvent

There are many ways to take your product or service to market, some more powerful than others.

Did you know that roughly 50 percent of businesses fail during their first year of business, and about one-third fail in the first two years? That’s a scary stat to see as a start-up. Many of these business failures can be linked back to not having a go-to-market strategy.

Go-to-market strategies provide a detailed and tactical action plan that’s only focused on the best way to deliver your product or service to your target customers.

Why do you want a go-to market strategy? It’s easy. It has several benefits, including:

  • Reducing a product’s time to market
  • Ensuring a successful product launch
  • Cutting costs connected to failed go-to-market attempts
  • Saving time spent marketing
  • Enhancing the customer experience.

In a nutshell, effectively going to market is what gets your product to your target market faster and helps your business grow.

Why are go-to-market strategies more pertinent to start-ups now than in years past? Because today marketing channels are more complex than they’ve ever been, and access to these channels is highly competitive.

When looking to go to market, you need a detailed plan that takes the following into account..

1. Define your product offering

Before you can go to anything, you need to develop a clear vision for your product or service. This involves outlining how you’re going to communicate the value of what you’re offering. What unique features does your product offer that your competitor’s doesn’t? How do those features benefit consumers? Oftentimes this value is given as either offering the same value but at a lower price or offering more value at a slightly higher cost.

An example is saying your product or service is the best. If that’s all you say, no one will believe you and no one will buy what you’re selling. You have to prove what you’re saying, through showing positive numbers, customer testimonials, etc., and make it easy for people to understand what you’re offering and what they’re going to get from you. An example of this is Wallybroom. I was at a trade show in Chicago last year, and they were one of the exhibitors. They had big screens in the background demonstrating how Wallbroom works and doing live demos on the spot. They had no problem providing that their product is the best. Here's one of their videos.

Defining your product offering will help you start identifying your target market, so you can move on to the next stages of planning.

2. Define your target market

Who will purchase your product or service? How will you reach them?

You’ll answer these questions by defining your target market. This is accomplished by researching your ideal target consumer. And in the case of most products, you have to think in segments because a product doesn’t appeal to everyone but specific groups of people. Take into account gender, age, ethnicity, geography and spending habits.

Understand where you can effectively market and differentiate your brand to attract the most profitable customers who will benefit from your product. That’s what Del Sol did. They weren’t seeing year-round success selling their color-changing products in a mall, so instead of trying to attract buyers to their products, Del Sol decided to go to the market themselves and place their products where their customers were—at cruise ship ports. Brilliant, right? Today, Del Sol has more than 100 stores in 28 countries and brings in thousands of dollars in revenue each cruise ship visit at most of their store locations.

3. Profile your target client

Once you’ve narrowed your focus to a short list of prospective buyer types, create profiles or personas for each of them. Buyer personas are what allow you to better understand your customers and prospective ones and makes it much easier to mold your messaging to meet their specific needs and concerns.

Some things to ask yourself and find out, from either your sales team or current customers and prospects:

  • Who are they?
  • What’s their occupation?
  • What’s an average day like for them?
  • What do they value the most?
  • What are their pain points?
  • Where do they go online for information?

4. Figure out your brand positioning

Without a strong foundation for what you stand for, i.e. your brand positioning, you won’t get any traction in the market. To have a strong brand positioning, you should think about three things: being unique, being focused and being pertinent to your target customers.

You have to establish the most effective way to communicate your company’s vision and how you choose to position your products. For example, Walmart’s brand positioning is that they’re the leader in selling low-cost products, while Ferrari only sells to a handful of high-end clients.

5. Execute a relevant marketing strategy

Once you have the above mentioned tips put together, you need to develop and execute a unique and relevant marketing strategy for that target market(s) you defined earlier. You want your strategy to acquire more profitable and higher-value customers who enable and grow share of wallet with your existing user base.

Be prepared to adjust your marketing strategy or specific objectives at any point during the product life cycle. Also, once you begin execution, track and analyze your key performance indicators on a regular basis, be it weekly or monthly, to make necessary changes to get the results you want.

6. Provide an above-and-beyond customer experience

Earlier I mentioned that your go-to-market strategy should enhance the customer experience. You do that by exceeding their expectations, especially with users who will stay longer, buy more, refer their friends, reduce acquisition costs and become brand advocates, because doing so will improve your bottom line year over year. I'm currently reading a book called The Outward Mindset. In this book, it talks about a debt collection company called CFS2, who goes above-and-beyond to help the folks they are collecting money from find employment, better employment and other ways to increase their income so they can actually repay their loans. They are the perfect example of how a company can provide an above-and-beyond customer experience.

Customers expect high product quality, timely and friendly communication, a good return policy and getting exactly what they bought. So do all those things, and if as a start-up you can’t perfect everything, start by becoming great at one and then progress down the list. You’ll also want to get feedback from customers to learn what you’re doing right and what you need to do better to exceed customer expectations.

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