Growth Insights for CEOs

Forging a Solid Go to Market Plan – Without the Assumptions

Posted by Sharon Spooler


Business owners and entrepreneurs live in a constant state of observation. Equal parts tenacious and curious, they never stop watching, listening, and comparing their product and service offerings to the competition. They ask themselves daily, hourly: “Is the competitor’s product better?” and “Am I really putting an impactful marketing message out there?”-- often secretly wondering if they truly know the answer.

Not to worry – this is especially normal, even for the biggest brands, equipped with multi-million-dollar budgets. So why have global and national branding stars like Coors, Cosmopolitan, and Smith & Wesson failed miserably with new products that they really thought would make a splash?

In our first blog of this two-part series about marketing misconceptions, we discussed three distinct fails of some of the greatest brands of all time: Coors Rocky Mountain Water, Cosmopolitan Magazine Yogurt, and Smith & Wesson bikes. Especially in hindsight, it’s no surprise to us – when we are wearing our consumer hats – that these brands’ seemingly unique and interesting ideas failed to meet customer expectations and gain traction in the market.

Despite each of these companies’ conviction and confidence about their brand and their enthusiasm in getting their new idea out to the masses, they failed to do their homework. It’s more than that, actually; all three made way too many Go to Market (GTM) assumptions.

As a brand leader and former working expert in your market area, you know your business. You just can’t forget about the customer, who actually is on the receiving end of the product! Learn from the mistakes of wounded giants, and follow these four steps to build a GTM plan free of market hunch:

  1. GTM Step 1 – Never Forget Growth Gear #1 

First off, don’t ignore Gear 1 of the Chief Outsiders Growth Gears – Insights. As we previously discussed, brands and their founders make a big mistake in assuming they still have meaningful, current insights months (or years) after they left their last industry position. Instead, utilize current, relevant consumer proof, like feedback and data analytics, to ensure that your new offering is poised to succeed in the marketplace. 

As Chief Outsiders’ principals Art Saxby and Pete Hayes state in the Growth Gears book, companies that stay aligned with the dynamics of the customers and markets they serve always have a greater chance of growing, because they’re tuned to what the market really wants (and needs). For instance, successful brands often combine the original purpose of their standard product with new, refreshed market and customer data and input to grow and get ahead, Growth Gears says.

Survey your customers – and your prospects, too. Conduct interviews, create social media polls, and hold focus groups. Listen to their needs, and bring those fresh insights back to your Product and Management teams for updates and future planning.

  1. GTM Step 2: Remember Your Old Role – and Revisit It

No, we’re not talking about harkening back to a simpler time. Instead, make the effort to chat with former colleagues – many of whom are still in similar roles to the one you were in before you started your company. Is the product or service you’re thinking about launching still meeting a current market need, in his or her opinion? What has changed about the marketplace, if anything? Start with your LinkedIn contact list to complete easy, always-on, valuable market research.  

  1. GTM Step 3: Stay Abreast of Industry and Consumer Trends

As the old saying goes, “you have to spend money to make money.” Attend conferences and subscribe to industry publications so you can stay on the cutting edge of your market. Draw on past experience by tapping into your personal wealth of information and resources that can tell you more about the market problem.

Find out where people go when they need help with the types of problems your product solves. Who (or what) do they consult? How do you make sure your product shows up there?

Most importantly, seek out the answer to whether the problem you are solving still matters. If it doesn’t, pivot your positioning and messaging accordingly. Yahoo’s purchase of Tumblr for $1.1 billion, and Google’s acquisition of YouTube for $1.65 billion are just two high profile, modern examples of lagging companies that had to pivot in a big way to stay successful, says Foundr.

  1. GTM Step 4: Stay on Message

Articulate benefits, not features, to your prospects in a logical fashion. Feed it to them in a way that helps them visualize exactly how and why you built your product the way you did, and what need it’s taking care of for them. 

As business video marketing platform Wistia notes, it’s always marketing and messaging Day One on the Internet, and startups and incumbents alike are on equal footing when it comes to being able to articulate a clear vision for the future – on a mass scale. By following the four GTM building steps above, you can forge a solid, even winning new product and Go to Market strategy and stay ahead of even the most colossal brand fails – for good.  




Sharon Spooler is an Orange County, CA-based CMO with Chief Outsiders, serving B2B and B2C companies across the U.S. Contact Sharon at


Topics: CEO Perspectives, Product Strategy, CEO Marketing Vision, Product Testing, Go-to-Market Strategy