Entrepreneurship, Marketing

What a Startup’s Go-to-Market Strategy Looks Like


An early-stage venture needs to do more than build a product that solves a particular market need. It also needs to sell the product. The ability to sell a product can make or break the success of a startup.

Startups are often cash-strapped, having little room for mistakes and misdirections. So when it comes to selling a product or service, a startup necessarily needs a go-to-market strategy that defines the marketing and sales direction and eliminates the risk of failure.

What Is a Startup Go-to-Market Strategy?

A startup go-to-market strategy is a plan for a startup to launch its offering in a market. With a clear strategy, a startup positions its offering in a relevant market, appeals to the right persona and lands paying customers.

A go-to-market strategy ensures you don’t waste resources on inefficient marketing that attracts the wrong buyer, creates confusion and leads your business nowhere.

In essence, a go-to-market strategy functions as the bedrock on which any future marketing campaign will rest.

Pre-requisites for a Go-to-Market Strategy for Startups

Before building your GTM strategy, here’s what you should have.

Potential customer interviews

You must have already interviewed potential customers to understand the problem they grapple with and the solution they need.

Idea validation

Before jumping off to build a GTM strategy, you must have validated your ideal by pre-selling it to a select group of your ideal customers.

Customer feedback

At this stage, you also must have gathered feedback from your early users about the price point, usability, friendliness and approach of your product in solving their pain.

Pricing strategy

Before a GTM strategy, you need to have built a pricing strategy that factors in the competition, the customer’s willingness to pay and your business model.

Customer persona(s)

At this stage, you must already have a clearly defined user persona(s) who are the ideal users of your product.

Competitor research

You must have researched the competition in depth, knowing who the top players are, how they position themselves and where the opportunity lies for you.

Positioning strategy

At this stage, you ideally also have a positioning strategy to become a leader in your industry and dominate the market.

Once you have those fundamentals in place, you can move forward and build your startup’s go-to-market strategy.

Steps To Build Your Go-to-Market Strategy

Focus on one customer persona

Early on, startups are tempted to get any and all customers they can. However, it helps to focus on one customer persona after identifying which would most benefit from your product/service and be most willing to pay. Your best persona will change as you grow. However, generalizing your product at this stage can mean ineffective marketing, positioning and product roadmap.

Identify acquisition channels

After picking a customer persona to prioritize targeting, you need to know where you’ll find this customer base. Which channels does this person use to interact online and offline? Based on that and the budget you can set aside, you now identify the customer acquisition channels you’re willing to bet on. 

Use the ICE (Impact, Confidence, Ease) test to prioritize acquisition channels. You want to pick a medium that would be highly impactful, that you feel the most confidence in and one that wouldn’t be resource intensive.

Set KPIs for each channel

Acquisition channels can include content marketing, SEO, email marketing, social media, PR and more. For each acquisition channel you shortlist, set clear KPIs to define success.

What is a good enough metric for you in the first six months of your GTM strategy for each channel? What defines success for each channel? KPIs help you keep track of progress and steer back if you go astray. They also help define success and failure.

Who is responsible for each channel?

Startups need anchors to stabilize team efforts. Identifying at this stage who is responsible for what in your teams is critical. Additionally, you need to set deadlines for each marketing activity so that things run smoothly and on time.

Remember, each customer acquisition channel only works if you put in the work consistently. At this stage, it’s advisable to keep things simple and add complexity eventually.

What’s happening in the competitive landscape?

At this point, you have a competitive research sheet already. The task now is to see how different competitors are positioning themselves and the messaging they are employing to attract buyers. This is also a good point to notice the look and feel of your competitor’s brand. Is it friendly and casual or witty and humorous?

A competitive analysis of their marketing across channels also helps devise your marketing strategy per what seems to be working for your competitors and how they approach different acquisition channels.

Your differentiation and positioning

Website visitors must instantly know your differentiation and positioning. Your value proposition must clarify the problem you aim to solve, your approach to the solution, why other approaches fail and why yours is better.

Instead of babbling on about product features, take time to weave your value proposition into a story- a real or imagined one highlighting how your product impact a customer’s social, work or personal life.

Sales funnel

A sales funnel defines a journey your buyers embark on with your brand. They begin their journey, let’s say, by signing up for your newsletter. They take a series of subsequent actions, such as downloading a white paper or watching a webinar. And finally, they convert into paying customers. But the sales funnel doesn’t stop there. Startups then figure out how to retain customers and/or upsell and cross-sell them on the next logical product/service.

What does your sales funnel look like?

Content marketing strategy

Once you have a buyer journey laid out, you need a content strategy to attract buyers at the beginning of your sales funnel and nudge them through the funnel to sales. Content marketing is an integral piece of inbound marketing, which takes time to build but pays off dearly in the long haul.

A content marketing strategy defines the kind of content you publish (blog posts, white papers, social media posts, webinars, podcasts), how often you publish each (daily, weekly, monthly, annually), who is responsible for what activity and the KPIs for each effort.

Honing the strategy

Your startup go-to-market strategy has come together at this point. However, your job is far from done. Any marketing strategy needs constant tweaking and evolving to meet business goals. You must always strive to optimize your GTM strategy per your business’ changing needs and priorities.

A go-to-market strategy forms the foundation on which sales and marketing processes can run smoothly and yield results. It might look like a handful initially, but with the right kind of knowledge and expert guidance you can make it work for your startup.  

For a deep dive into your GTM strategy with our marketing experts, reach out to KiwiTech today!

Subscribe to our Newsletter
Stay current with our latest insights