The team at Advancing Global EDU have advocated with each of our clients that they must validate their solution with the market before we begin working on the go-to-market strategy. To make sure that you succeed and acquire and activate enough leads, we want to ensure you have built the base of need in the market and validated your unique value proposition.
HubSpot defines a go-to-market strategy (GTM) as a step-by-step plan created to successfully launch a product to market. What it means is that your GTM strategy defines how you literally connect your product with your potential customers.
Your go-to-market strategy covers the questions around:
1. How do you communicate your value proposition to the market (brand messaging & sales messaging)?
2. How do you sell the product to your customers and make them happy (product-led vs. sales-led)?
3. What growth channels and growth activities work best for your product?
4. How do you make money (pricing strategy)?
The Advancing Global EDU team is experience at building and partnering with you to build powerful go-to-market strategies for a digital education solution provider.
#1 Validated idea
Most clients come to us with a completed product and are looking for sales, strategy, and marketing help. We continue this by helping to validate your work with our market analysis tool.
Strategically, what does your MVP look like? Have you written down? You could define your objectives as follows:
· a waitlist of 20 school customers
· 10% of waitlist sign-ups sold a special pre-launch Lifetime Deal
· 20% of all interviewed companies signed a letter of intent
So, when you validate your idea properly, you shouldn’t start with 0 school customers. You should have at least a couple of promising leads in your pipeline. We know how important referral are in the education market.
If you’re testing your business idea with a waiting list, think about adding the following features to your process:
· an incentive to refer other schools or districts to you (e.g., refer 2 other schools/districts and get a special Lifetime Deal)
· creating a community of highly engaged sign-ups & potential brand ambassadors (Discord Channel, Slack Channel, WhatsApp Group)
· following and sharing your company on social media
#2 Know your ideal customer profile’s BIG problem
As you build your GTM, it is important to draft your first version of your ideal customer profile. The best way to do so is by doing customer interviews, surveys, and job shadowing.
Define your ideal customer profile and the niche you are going after. The more precise you are on your niche, the easier it gets for you to know your customer needs and the BIG problem (frequent, important, urgent, underserved) you are solving for them.
Ideally, the problem is frequent, important, urgent, underserved. This means if solving their problem (with your solution), your product is valuable for them, meaning they are willing to pay for it.
#3 Build an engaged audience from the beginning
Knowing the pain points and challenges of your audience will lead you to build an engaged audience from the beginning.
After you’ve analyzed the market and know the segment you want to serve with your product, you can already start to engage with them. The good thing about engaging with educators from the beginning is, that educators are normally interested in the overall problem you’re trying to solve. You will learn about their challenges, problems, goals, and wishes and at the same time start growing your own audience.
Great ways to build an audience are mailing lists, Facebook groups, Slack Channels, content on Twitter or LinkedIn or running a YouTube channel, or your own blog.
Share relevant content for your ideal customer persona, especially around the problem you are trying to solve for them. Also, when you are doing your market research and customers interviews, don’t forget to invite them to your mailing list.
#4 Focus on selling values, not features
Turn your value proposition into a powerful sales message. Your sales messaging is the foundation for all your growth activities (landing page, ads copy, emails, phone calls, sales demos, etc.).
A good way to work on it is to start with the big problem of your customer persona and what it means if they don’t solve it. Then, talk about the values of your product and how you can solve it.
When it comes to all customer-facing communication, it’s crucial to focus on selling the values and benefits of your solution and not on the features. No one cares about how many features you have, what technology you are using, or if you have a patent on it.
Educators care about how you can help them to solve their problems and how you can make it easier to use in the classroom and what impact it will have on their students.
Once your value proposition and the way you communicate your value to customers are clear, you should think about your sales strategy (product-led vs. sales-led), your growth channels, and the customer onboarding journey.
#5 Positioning and sales strategy (product-led vs. sales-led)
Different segments in the market need different sales strategies.
Selling student information systems and their solutions to district CTO’s is different positioning and a different sales strategy than selling supplemental math solutions to individual teachers.
That’s why you need to position yourself in the market and look at how the competition is positioning itself. It helps you to find out how you can differentiate against your competition.
Depending on your positioning, you need to decide on product-led growth (self-service) or sales-led growth. Maybe also a hybrid model makes sense for you (later stage) when you start to expand up-market (hunting bigger accounts) or down-market (hunting smaller accounts).
#6 Test growth channels and growth activities
Knowing who you want to serve your key customer/persona, how to speak to them (brand message, sales message, value proposition) and how to sell them your product (sales strategy), you can now start testing out different growth strategies.
There are many of different growth channels and for every (early-stage) startup. It is important to start experimenting with new growth channels and hopefully find the ones that bring new customers. After testing, you should spend your energy and resources only on the ones that impact traction for your business (and stop the ones that don‘t).
Also, set yourself ambitious goals and align your team on specific growth activities they need to deliver every week. Discuss those activities in your weekly (or monthly) meetings.
Growth goals can be:
· Website traffic per week
· Sign-ups every week
· % Conversion to active user/sale-demos
· Number of new paying customers every week
Growth activities can be:
· Blog posts every week
· Number of cold emails every week
· One webinar every month
#7 Work on activation (customer journey)
Once you’ve figured out how you can get new sign-ups for your solution (for product-led) or new leads in your pipeline (for sales-led), you should (latest) start to work on a smooth activation.
Map out the touchpoints (customer journey) of your customers. For product-led, this mostly means working on a smooth onboarding process to get the customer as fast as possible to the AHA moment (to reduce the time to value). For sales-led, it’s about getting new leads to jump on a sales demo with you and having a great field sales meeting (if you target larger accounts).
#8 Leverage virality features and referrals
Think early about how you can grow by leveraging your existing audience and first users.
There are two main sources on how to get referrals — number one is asking your customers for referrals (using a powerful referral program), and number two is making use of viral features in your product.
Not asking your existing customers for referrals is one of the most common. Make sure you frequently ask your customers for referrals and even incentivize them to do so.
What’s important about a referral marketing program:
· Customer segmentation: Track your customers’ net promotor score and product usage and only target your happy customers.
· Timing and frequency: Ask your customers for referrals at the right time, not straight after the adoption. Give them some time to experience your product and become happy customers. Think about triggers in your customer journey where customers are happy with your product and willing to refer your product.
· Referral incentive: What is the referral bonus (free product usage vs. other perks) and who gets the bonus when? Make sure it’s transparent and use a two-sided referral program and incentivize both parties (the referrer and referred).
· Communication and messaging: Figure out the right messaging and best channels (in-product, email, phone, etc. to ask for referrals; create rules on when (triggers) and how often you ask for referrals.
· Technical implementation and tools: Discuss with your team how you can have a consistent referral tracking and referral bonus payout strategy.
To make use of viral features, Olof Mathé (How to master product virality) gives you a great overview of the different types of virality features:
· Network effects → The more users of the product, the higher the value of the product. Good examples are social media platforms (LinkedIn or Facebook) or Chat Apps (WhatsApp, Slack), or peer-to-peer payments (PayPal).
· Value virality → Users spread the word about your product but simply use the product. Good examples are e-signature tools (DocuSign, HelloSign) or collaborating on design boards (Miro), or sending emails (Mailchimp, Superhuman) — mostly combined with a ‘powered by’ badge
· Exposure Virality → Your users show your product to others to show off (because it’s cool and social status). Good examples are NFTs (e.g., Cyrptopunks) or education badges (e.g., HubSpot Academy, Udemy Courses).
· Invites & Referrals → Your users get rewarded to invite others to your product (mostly used with discount codes or free usage). Good examples are Dropbox (free storage) and a consumer example: Uber (free rides).
#9 Analytics and Tracking of core KPIs
Make sure you can measure relevant information about your growth channel performance (e.g., views, conversions, ad spent, etc.) and about the behavior of your customers.
Ensure you can measure at least:
· Website traffic (Google Analytics)
· Conversions to sign-ups
· Core activities within the product (especially one when users get active)
· Onboarding activities (opened the welcome email, watched academy video, joined product webinar, etc.)
Also analyzing how your customer behaves on your website can help to optimize your landing page. Tools like Hotjar can help you do so.
So, for product led B2B startups start to track your funnel:
· Website traffic
· Active user (PQL)
· Paying user
For sales led B2B startups start to track:
· Website traffic
· new leads
· Demos (SQL)
· Paying customer
Of course, this is the minimum you should track. Over time, when your company expands and grows you can start to track more in-depth funnels.
#10 Set ambitious goals (OKRs)
Finally, you should set ambitious growth goals for your B2B SaaS business. Use a framework like OKRs to set and track goals. Schedule weekly meetings where the whole team comes together and has a look at the goals and your performance.
Thanks to medium.com and their Startup Business Tips for the inspiration of this article.
Of course, the team at Advancing Global EDU has tremendous experience in marketing strategy, go-to-marketing, and executive strategy skills. We are happy to discuss with you in a complimentary session how we can help you achieve your growth objectives. Contact us today.