Once companies are out of the startup phase and are selling beyond early adopters, it is time to invest in a true go-to-market strategy. While not enormously complex, a true go-to-market strategy, just like a true marketing strategy, is integrated with Sales and Client Success. In fact, a strategy that drives demand and revenue must be a collaborative, integrated effort. If it is anything less, the strategy will fail.
During my career, I have applied this go-to-market playbook and these fundamentals many times, building them and fine tuning them when needed. In every case the outcome was clarity within the company, transparency about the strategy, and a willingness to continually improve.
The four key elements of the go-to-market playbook are:
Each element is essential to build the right strategy. Missing one of these building blocks heightens the risk of not understanding your market or wasting time on the wrong prospects.
There are several outcomes of building a go-to-market strategy using these fundamental building blocks.
Go-to-market teams constantly strive for these outcomes. A strategy build on these fundamentals makes your team more efficient, enables clarity, improves metrics, and drives healthier conversations about what is working and what needs improvement.
Defining your ideal customer profile (ICP)
An ICP is a set of demographic, techno-graphic, and sales actions that identify potential customers who are most likely to buy. Your ICP should be a simple statement that clearly outlines the ideal customer, in plain terms, easily understandable by every company employee. Arriving at this statement requires analysis that should be readily available within any company, including:
Once analyzed and brought together, this data results in a clear and simple statement about the ideal client. Here is an example of an ICP for a fictions company:
The ACME Corp ICP is...
A company over 2,500 full-time-employees
Hiring in high volumes across decentralized locations
Focused on client facing roles
With outsourced employee training
This does not mean that your company ignores all other sales prospects or opportunities. But, it does mean that those prospects and opportunities within the ICP get special treatment and focus. As you can see, the statements are clear, simple, and objective. Exactly what you need to enable your sales, client, and marketing teams to drive performance.
Developing Target Personas/Buyers
The next step in the process is to define exactly who the people are that your company sells to within the ICP. The buyer persona is the person that we write messages for and call on every day. Personas should give your team an understanding of not only what to say, but how to deliver the message in the most compelling way.
This isn’t to say you have to build a comprehensive map of all prospect company employees. The purpose is to develop a rich profile of the key two-to-three buyers and influencers. Any more that three and you risk getting bogged down in the research, not to mention overwhelming your go-to-market teams.
As you think through the right persona, you should again turn to the data in the CRM and Marketing Automation systems. Who is signing your contracts? Who is the champion? Who was the first touch lead? The answers to these questions should quickly narrow down the key titles. At this point, it is imperative to involve Sales and Client Success. Do the titles resonate with those teams? If so, you are on the right track.
The final step in identifying persona is to build out a matrix describing each persona at a high level, starting with each persona’s unique need and unique value proposition. For example, a CMO requires a different value proposition than the director of search marketing. This step is critical in developing a compelling message that drives demand, creates pipeline, and ultimately conversion.
Outlining the Buyer Journey
This is the stage in which you develop an actual map of how a buyer experiences your brand and go-to-market strategy. This step is specific, tactical, and actionable. Like the previous steps it involves both qualitative and quantitative data. Like the previous steps it is critical to involve the Sales and Client Success teams. To truly do this right, you will also need to involve the Content and Demand Generation teams.
The general “map” outlines the buyer's stage along the buying lifecycle, most commonly referred to as:
Building this matrix requires detailed data on first touch conversion and the buyer's pathway through the buying process. Some buyers start with education, other buyers start their journey in the middle or close to the end of the process. Your maps need to be robust enough to satisfy buyers at each stage, giving those buyers content that is meaningful for their level of engagement.
Creating Account Scoring
Account scoring is the way you operationalize the ICP. An account score enables your team to focus on the highest probability accounts in your existing systems or accounts that come in through the demand generation process. Account scoring enables account-based marketing (ABM) programs as well. Account scoring illuminates those accounts likely to buy now.
There are several critical steps to creating account scoring. Before building the program, your team must first accomplish the ICP, Persona, and Buyer Journey work outlined above. Without that work, you won’t have the criteria to build the scoring engine.
There are five main steps to build the account scoring engine. The outcome of these steps will be an overview of how well your existing client base and your prospect base align with your ICP. This is an eye opening exercise and clearly illustrates your strengths and weaknesses as well as the cleanliness of your sales data. The basic steps include:
Building the scoring engine requires a dedicated cross-functional team from Sales, Client Success, Marketing, and possibly even Product, Finance, and Sales Enablement. This exercise is highly analytical and requires clear communication of the outcomes so that teams agree on the scoring algorithm as well as the specific output. Without alignment, your teams will continue to chase low scoring, low converting deals.
Building Lead Scoring
Like account scoring, the objective of lead scoring is to ensure that the leads generated from any part of the demand generation process are automatically scored against criteria that align with the ICP as well as clarify where along the buyer journey a lead is traveling.
There are two main types of score. First is the demographic score which is mainly the account score based on ICP. Second is behavioral scoring, which is mainly how a lead (or, more specifically, a person) gets scored inside the CRM system. The first step is developing a set of actions that you want leads to take such as “attending a webinar” or “downloading a white paper.” Then, you assign points to each of the actions.
Once you have the basic algorithm, you then review past deals and the paths those leads took through the sales process. You manually score the leads along the journey. After manually scoring about 20 leads, patterns emerge that illustrate the “sweet spot” for sales intervention. For example, perhaps after a lead collects 30 points, an opportunity is opened. This suggests that future leads should be nurtured to 30 points and then sent directly to the territory rep for intervention.
There is no perfect number or specific score. This algorithm depends on your business and your actions. One company's ideal score could be 30 while another's could be 100. What is important is the process once that ideal score is reached. Like account scoring, sales teams should focus on those leads that meet the scoring threshold, for those are the best potential opportunities.
And, just like all the stages in this process, alignment is critical among the Sales, Client Success, and Marketing teams. This is also not a “set-it-and-forget-it” process. Scoring requires iteration and optimization on a regular basis.
There are many steps in building out a go-to-market strategy. While these steps could seem seem daunting and complex, it is important to remember a few key principles:
A go-to-market strategy build on these fundamentals makes your team more efficient, enables clarity, improves metrics, and drives healthier conversations about what is working and what needs improvement.
Chronicle of my career focused on in brand equity, integrated communications, client acquisition, and client retention strategies.
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Read about a go-to-market playbook that drives clarity within the company, transparency about the strategy, and a willingness to continually improve.
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