Drive Growth and Outmaneuver the Competition with a Holistic Go-to-Market Strategy
By James Dorn, President
In the business world, “go-to-market strategy” is a bit of a buzzword. If you’ve been in the manufacturing industry for any length of time, you’ve no doubt heard it mentioned countless times. And pretty much all manufacturers accept that they should have a go-to-market strategy. Yet there still isn’t a common understanding of what that actually entails.
The fact is, your go-to-market plan isn’t a comprehensive strategy if it only addresses your route to market or where you sell your products. Instead, your go-to-market strategy should act as a holistic blueprint for achieving your business’s big-picture growth goals. Only then can you drive the growth you desire.
Here’s what you need to know to create a well-considered and well-integrated go-to-market framework that steers your manufacturing firm to success.
What is a Go-to-Market Strategy?
Before getting into the individual components of a go-to-market strategy, it’s important to understand the true purpose of this vital document.
Your go-to-market strategy isn’t just a description of the process by which your organization takes products to market. It should be an extension of your overarching growth vision. It’s where your organization puts pencil to paper and actually maps out the details of how to make your vision actionable across your organization. What do your product, marketing, sales, and customer service teams need to do? Your go-to-market strategy should offer a play-by-play game plan for how your organization will work together to meet its high-level goals.
For example, let’s say your firm is planning to pursue growth by entering a new market or launching a new family of products. The very next step is to write a go-to-market strategy that brings your whole organization into alignment around a plan of attack to make that lofty vision happen. On the flip side, go-to-market frameworks can also be used to put structure around a new product innovation or technology. In this case, the go-to-market strategy not only helps define the new product’s path to the market, but it can also be used to connect the innovation with a firm’s bigger-picture growth goals.
If your organization’s growth vision isn’t yet fully mapped out, then your go-to-market strategy is, by default, premature. If you haven’t already done so, your first order of business is to invest in your corporate growth visioning and strategic planning. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to bring all your cross-functional leaders together to refine your go-to-market strategy.
Go-to-Market Strategy or Go-to-Market Strategies?
Many manufacturing companies create a single, enterprise-level go-to-market strategy. Having one umbrella go-to-market strategy often makes the most sense because it allows your company to gain and leverage efficiencies and capture economies of scale. It also enables you to track your go-to-market strategy more directly with your corporate growth vision.
However, one company-wide go-to-market strategy doesn’t always cut it. The larger and more complex your organization is, the more likely it is that you’ll truly need to construct several distinct go-to-market strategies. These can be segmented by industry, division, or even at the product level.
Of course, more strategies mean greater complexity, so don’t construct multiple strategies unless you have a clear business case for doing so. This may be true, for example, if two-step distribution is the norm in one industry segment and direct sales are the norm in another.
The Four Major Components of a Go-To-Market Strategy
A comprehensive go-to-market strategy should document your product mix, markets, pricing, and marketing strategy. While you need to focus on routes to market, that isn’t the full story. Your go-to-market framework should include the “four P’s” of marketing:
- Product. At the enterprise level, what is your company’s product portfolio strategy?
- Price. What is your firm’s overall pricing strategy? Do you operate on a cost plus model, or do you use dynamic pricing or market pricing? Within the market, is your brand priced low, medium, or high?
- Place. Where do you sell your products, and what is your route to market? Do you sell direct or go through a two-step distribution channel? What about e-commerce?
- Promotion. What is your firm’s marketing strategy?
As you work together to craft responses to each of the four P’s, make sure to ask how each component individually supports your growth vision. Put another way: What about your go-to-market strategy will move the needle on your corporate goals? If you don’t find an immediate connection, keep digging.
How Often Should I Reassess My Manufacturing Company’s Go-to-Market Strategy?
Once a manufacturing company sets an enterprise-level go-to-market strategy, it often remains unchanged for a long time. There are no hard and fast rules about how often you should reassess your firm’s go-to-market strategy. Rather, you should plan to proactively reevaluate your go-to-market strategy depending on:
- Market cycles. Your go-to-market strategy may need to be adjusted as market growth cycles shift. For example, a slowing growth cycle or recession cycle may require a different approach than an accelerated growth cycle. A market cycle analysis is a great first step.
- Market dynamics. Are your customers’ preferences and expectations changing? For example, do they now prefer to purchase your products online rather than from a brick-and-mortar distributor’s office? If so, you may need to adjust your go-to-market strategy.
- Competitive analysis. If your competitors are pulling ahead and eating into your market share, you may need to shift your go-to-market strategy. What are your competitors doing differently? How can you stay ahead of the curve?
- Company performance. Are you hitting your corporate growth goals? If not, your go-to-market strategy may need to evolve to better support those goals.
- Changing corporate goals. If your corporate goals change dramatically, you’ll almost certainly need to shift your go-to-market strategy to match them. For example, if you are seeking transformational growth and willing to place big bets to get there, this will need to be reflected in an updated strategy.
Your go-to-market strategy is at the heart of your manufacturing company’s growth strategy. When you join internal forces to create a thoughtful and holistic go-to-market strategy, you bring your organization into alignment to fully support your growth vision — and ultimately outmaneuver the competition.