The essential go-to-market strategy guide for marketers

Published May 9 2024 Last updated May 16 2024 11 minute read
go-to-market strategy
  • Sean Dougherty
    Written by Sean Dougherty

    A copywriter at Funnel, Sean has more than 15 years of experience working in branding and advertising (both agency and client side). He's also a professional voice actor.

Have you ever spent months developing a brilliant product, then watching powerlessly as the consumer applause-o-meter barely registers a twitch?

Or maybe, after a decade of experience and perfectly honed marketing skills, you took on a role with a brand new yet promising start-up. Instead of a sit-down meeting to go over a marketing plan, the term go-to-market (GTM) strategy is tossed around like a hot potato.

Maybe you look around the room like this guy:

Image Credit: Know Your Meme

This wouldn't be the first time the world's most famous meme fell flat — just as flat as a brilliant product without a go-to-market strategy. Because what is a GTM strategy?

Even the most seasoned marketing professionals might ask this question (after pretending they understand…or giving a little side-eye).

Like, "Why the fancy words?"

Truth is, a product marketing plan and a go-to-market strategy are two very different approaches to a product launch.

Businesses create a go-to-market strategy or GTM plan to minimize potential risks and boost potential success when preparing to launch a product.

But what is a GTM plan, exactly? And why is this type of strategy important? You'll learn what it is and why it's important, how to create a go-to-market strategy, why researching your target audience is so important, and how to choose your MVMs (Most Valuable Marketers) when assembling your go-to-market strategy team.

What is a go-to-market strategy?

A go-to-market strategy or plan is a comprehensive business plan used to introduce a new concept, service, or product to the marketplace. Businesses design the usual GTM plan to mitigate the typical in-built risks of introducing new products, services, or concepts, so this strategy requires:

  • Creating comprehensive profiles of:

    • consumers in your target audience 

    • companies targeting the same consumers

    • roles or departments in those companies responsible for go-to-market strategies

  • A solid marketing plan

  • A strong, yet flexible strategy for sales and distribution

So, what wouldn't be considered a go-to-market strategy?

What a go-to-market strategy is not

It's easy to draw similarities between GTM strategies, marketing strategies, and marketing plans, but these terms do not define the same thing.

To break it down:

  • Marketing strategies are holistic. A marketing strategy outlines a company's (or brand's) target audience, brand positioning, and overall marketing objectives (i.e. the company or brand's big-picture goals) using input from the marketing team's content writers, graphic designers, social media experts, data analysts, and product manager(s). 

  • Marketing plans are tactical action plans. A marketing plan outlines every single step necessary to carry out a marketing campaign and is aligned with the product, detailing the team's specific marketing activities. For example, a marketing plan might describe:

    • the product itself

    • the product's pricing

    • where the product will be distributed and available for purchase

    • the promotion plan, including the specific channels the team will use to reach the intended audience

  • GTM strategies are product-specific. A go-to-market plan contains all the elements of the marketing strategy and the marketing plan, such as a heavy focus on introducing a new product in the market, but it doesn't necessarily go into detail regarding its promotion.  The GTM strategy should be jointly created by the marketing, sales, and product teams.

GTM plans can:

  • Be tied to marketing plans

  • Be guided by marketing strategies

  • Inform marketing plans and strategies

But no marketing plan or marketing strategy fulfills the requirements of a robust go-to-market strategy.

Why is a go-to-market strategy important?

Product launches are risky. A go-to-market strategy is important because it minimizes this inherent risk. What would happen in a market flooded with every product ever conceived?

Every person who ever had a product idea "knew" their idea was brilliant.

In fact, most ideas truly are brilliant. Most inventors see a consumer issue, devise a solution, and voila! The Do-Hicky 3000 is at your service!

The problem with bringing this product to market is that, often, consumers have no idea the issue the Do-Hicky 3000 proposes to solve even exists. Even after they have an "a-ha moment", they may find novelty in the product or be otherwise intrigued, but it isn't something they're going to race out to buy.


Well, for starters, you just introduced an issue! Now consumers have to come to terms with it and decide if it's really a problem they need (or care) to solve.

This race-to-market scenario also doesn't factor in all the products consumers already purchase and budget for — breaking into someone's general product rotation isn't easy. There's a lot of competition.

With a go-to-market strategy, the Do-Hicky 3000's inventor could have anticipated these competitive challenges by:

  • Identifying and defining the product's target market

  • Clearly conveying how the Do-Hicky 3000 meets a need and why people should buy it

  • Drafting a detailed marketing plan

  • Deciding how, where, and who to sell to

  • Developing a clear plan for distribution

GTM plans aren't just important — they're a must for a successful product launch.

Core components of a winning GTM plan

So, what should be in a GTM strategy? 

A well-structured go-to-market strategy defines:

  • Target audience and ideal customer profile (ICP): Who are you trying to reach? What are their shared key characteristics?
  • Value proposition: What is the product's/service's unique value? What problem-solving benefits does your product/service offer?
  • Competitive analysis: Do you understand your market and how to differentiate yourself from your competitors?
  • Pricing and distribution: What is your pricing strategy? What are the best channels to reach your target customers?
  • Marketing and sales messaging: Have you developed clear messaging for this product/service launch? Hint: Your messaging should speak the language of your ideal customers and highlight your product's/service's value in a way that's specifically intriguing for this audience.
  • Launch plan: What are the specific steps and tactics you'll use to introduce your product/service to the market? What is your timeline for these steps? This plan coordinates your efforts for an impactful launch.
  • Metrics (and how to measure them): How will you measure success and track progress? Choosing your key performance indicators (KPIs) gives you the data to make necessary adjustments to your strategy when needed.

Sven Hamburg, our Chief Strategy Officer, likes how Richard P. Rumelt defines strategy: "I'm paraphrasing, but in essence, it's a combination of:

  • Goal(s): what are we trying to achieve?

  • Diagnosis: what's going on?

  • A guiding policy: an overall approach to overcome any obstacles highlighted by the diagnosis.

  • A set of actions: what we will do in practice to achieve our goals?

This can then be applied to a business as a whole," Hamberg explained, "or to a particular function, like go-to-market."

What sales and marketing teams need to know about go-to-market strategies

At some point, someone somewhere decided that sales and marketing departments were meant to be separate teams. But today's sales and marketing teams no longer work in separate vacuums. In fact, this teamwork is important when putting together a go-to-market plan, and it shows in the results: an awesome GTM strategy.

Some common benefits of effectively executed go-to-market plans include:

  • Achieving a greater, more comprehensive understanding of your product market fit and the overall market through market research, the competitive advantage you present for the target audience in the existing market you're targeting, who your potential customers are, the pain points of target customers in the buyer's journey, and how a potential product fits in.

  • Maintaining low marketing spend by distinguishing the channels that offer the greatest ROI and the least customer acquisition cost.

  • Troubleshooting, or role-playing, in a sense, to define your business model and explain why your product fits in a certain niche, anticipating push-back on poor placement, inadequate pricing strategy, and massaging the messaging until it's in the Goldilocks zone.

  • Using your market research, creating a concrete sales distribution roadmap complete with your value proposition, a pricing strategy, sales strategy, sales channels, marketing costs, distribution methods, and sales funnel logistics to raise brand awareness and ensure maximum impact with the least amount of friction.

And all before actually releasing the product into the market.

That requires having a team of colleagues that play well together and don't self-silo into their respective departments.

It also requires an honest review of your business objectives, and a genuinely caring approach to customer insights. (When was the last time you reviewed the typical customer's journey through your sales process?)

Knowing exactly what a go-to-market strategy is — and what it's not — makes all the difference.

Building your GTM team

 "Coming up with, and continuously evolving, your GTM strategy is important, but it's not sufficient. Communication is equally — if not more — important," said Hamberg. "Anyone who's expected to contribute to executing your GTM strategy needs to understand it and buy into it."


Sven Hamberg, Chief Strategist at Funnel

The got-to-market team should have a blend of leaders and teammates who enjoy collaboration. Hamberg continued, "I think the best way to achieve this is to involve them in the creation of the strategy, which can be hard at scale. The next best thing is probably to run as transparent a design process as possible and, upon 'completion,' provide ample opportunity for Q&A and discussions around why the strategy exists, what it means, and what's expected from it."

So, when preparing to assemble a team of individuals from various departments, look for team players. Who are to look past any interpersonal or interdepartmental differences, understand and buy into the strategy, and work towards a common goal? 

Timing is everything

Creating the GTM plan is only half the challenge. The real meat of a go-to-market strategy lies in its execution. It's all about how each member of the GTM team carries out the duties outlined in the GTM strategy, and a hitch can happen at any step.

The ultimate goal of a GTM plan is to (successfully!) bring a product to market, and achieving that goal depends on multiple variables. Most importantly, it lies in the timing.

So, when is the right time to actually release your product into the market?

Is there such a thing as releasing too late? Too early?

The right time to release a product is after all the steps of the GTM plan that must occur prior to product launch have occurred with no hitches.

One way a product launch could be considered too late is if competitors manage to get their hands on your product idea and they launch first.

Launching too early, however, can be much, much worse. For example, it's too early to launch if there are any tasks remaining in the GTM strategy planned to occur before you launch. Say you launch your product and it's an immediate hit with consumers — if you haven't entirely lined up delivery methods or distribution channels, your success could fizzle by the end of the day.

Types of Go-to-Market strategies with examples

Some of the most common GTM strategies include:

  • Direct sales

  • Content-driven

  • In-bound

  • Account-based marketing (ABM)

  • Demand generation

Each GTM plan can incorporate a different type of growth motion, or combination of growth motions.

What are growth motions?

There are three main ways a GTM plan "grows" a product, known as growth motions. These growth motions include:

1. Sales-led growth (outbound)

Sales-led growth motion depends on the sales team nurturing leads and making deals. Enterprise software is often propelled by sales-led growth motions.

  • Example: Salesforce

    • Salesforce is a pioneer in the enterprise software space known for its robust sales-led growth approach, utilizing highly-trained sales teams to close high-value deals within complex B2B environments.

2. Marketing-led growth

Marketing-led growth can be driven by advertising, or reliant on organic channels such as organic search or organic social reach. A marketing-led growth strategy requires the marketing team's effort to drive a product's awareness, growth, and user retention.

  • Example: HubSpot

    • HubSpot is a champion of marketing-led growth. The company demonstrates just how powerful inbound marketing is, attracting customers through ongoing valuable content, robust SEO strategies, and a nurturing approach that turns leads into customers and customers into loyalists.

3. Product-led growth

Product-led growth strategies focus on letting the product do the talking. Product-led growth is — as it sounds — led by the product.

  • Example: Dropbox

    • Dropbox is a popular example of how effective freemium and referral-based growth tactics can spur a winning product. Dropbox offered a compelling file-sharing solution with expanded storage — unheard of when it was released — incentivizing users to share their storage with friends, family, and colleagues, leading to a viral growth loop.

Combining different growth motions

Many companies combine different growth motions. For example, a company can attract users to their website using multiple marketing channels, such as organic reach on social media or paid ads, while still acquiring new customers using traditional sales methods. In this type of example, marketing and sales work together.

You can even see this here at Funnel. We combine several different approaches in our own go-to-market strategy:

  • We offer a free plan.

  • We incentivize affiliates and brand ambassadors through our partner network.

  • We use traditional tactics within our marketing and sales departments.

But here's a case study of a company that tops us with an even more brilliant GTM plan:

Case study: Oatly

Oatly, the Swedish plant-based milk disruptor, employed a brilliant go-to-market strategy. Instead of targeting entire grocery stores, where its product could get lost in the mix of all the other new-age milk products, the company set a laser focus on specialty coffee shops, calling baristas far and wide to become brand ambassadors.

By partnering with baristas, Oatly gained immediate influence from the very individuals who understand the product and, through their career, know exactly how to sell a cup of coffee and anything that a coffee connoisseur might add to it. Oatly's partnerships with influential brand advocates put the company's proverbial finger on the pulse of the tastemaker community.

Oatly's focus on product quality — specifically, a specially formulated Barista Edition — and its alignment with (and understanding of) the café lifestyle were critical in generating the word-of-mouth buzz needed for genuine product growth. This brilliant, niche-first approach allowed them to build a loyal following before scaling to the wider audiences frequenting the plant-based milk section at their local grocery store.

Go to market strategy red flags

By now, it might seem like a go-to-market strategy is a no-brainer. Plan out everything from concept to distribution to launch and beyond.

You've checked all the boxes and yet — something's not quite right. Where'd you go wrong?

Some of the most common mistakes GTM teams make include:

  • Glossing over target audience research and definition

  • Neglecting risk identification as early as possible

  • Defining a goal, but not the metrics to measure your success

  • Failing to integrate aligned marketing strategies across all channels

According to Jimi Guldstrand, U.S. Vice President of Revenue at Funnel, some companies don't spend enough time researching and defining their target audience, addressing pricing strategies, and working on customer retention activities. Guldstrand says metrics are important but that, while common, "overly focusing on a massive number of metrics" can do more harm than good. "I would suggest trying to keep it to between three and five metrics, maximum. These metrics should be known by everyone in the organization and everyone should know how their team's actions impact those metrics."


Jimi Guldstrand, US Vice President of Revenue at Funnel

How do you know if you need to revise your GTM strategy?

If any of the above mistakes hit a little close to home, those are signs you need to revisit your GTM plan. A huge red-flag, though, is once you've put in all the work, you've written a brilliant go-to-market plan, your product is ready or you're ready to start providing a service…but where's the fanfare? Where are the balloons? If your team isn't as excited as you are, that's a bad sign, and a sign than your GTM planning could use another look.

Whether it's a product or service, new things take time to be accepted — see the Do-Hicky 3000 example above. Glossing over important items, rushing to launch with an unprepared team, or worse — rushing to launch with an unprepared team that doesn't believe in the product — risks your entire message. How you feel when you think of your product is the exact vibe anyone representing your product needs to ooze so they can create the customer experience you've envisioned.

Can you adapt your GTM and ensure success?

Or, how important is it to be flexible with your GTM Strategy?

In 1978, Henry Mintzberg considered strategizing more of a mode of thinking with two distinctive types: one adaptive; the other, planning. Mintzburg had honed his take on strategy by 1985, coining the phrase emergent strategy. Mintzberg said strategies aren't meant for cultivation and constant pruning, but rather to initially be left to grow "like weeds in a garden."

Funnel Chief Strategy Officer Sven Hamberg considers a company's "explicit strategy" as only "part of the puzzle," explaining that he believes "emergence is definitely a thing and, while it might not affect the design of a strategy much, it should certainly affect your expectations for how things will evolve once you begin executing."

So, in conclusion, being flexible and adapting your go-to-market strategy is crucial. Regularly reviewing your GTM plan—ideally every quarter—allows you to implement learnings and make necessary adjustments. This iterative approach ensures that your strategy remains relevant and effective, enabling you to navigate market changes and optimize your product's success.
Funnel can help prepare your marketing and sales team for your GTM strategy

Adapting your strategy is a learn-as-you-go approach. Every business has similarities, yet every business, product, and service is so unique that learning how to adapt is something you learn in the moment, as your process unfolds — it's in the doing that you can build your unique processes and design your own strategies.

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How does a go-to-market strategy differ from a marketing strategy or a business plan?

A marketing strategy is often planned several years into the future and outlines a company's marketing objectives, whereas a marketing plan is an action plan definitively outlining every single step necessary to carry out a marketing campaign.

A go-to-market plan is product-specific. It strategically outlines every single step — and all the incidentals of each step — that support the investment in, and that are necessary for the release of a new product or service to the market.

GTM plans can be tied to marketing plans, guided by marketing strategies, and inform marketing plans and strategies, but no marketing plan or marketing strategy meets the stringent requirements of a go-to-market strategy.

What metrics should be used to measure the success of marketing efforts?

Stick to using just three to five metrics to gauge your marketing efforts' success. Some of the best metrics to measure include ROI per channel, customer retention rate, customer churn, and customer analysis to discover how to proactively spot retention and churn; nurture the customers who stay and genuinely reach out to the customers likely to churn.

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