Go to Market: The Strategy For How Your Company Plans to Reach People

On August 28, 1963, more than a quarter-million people participated in March on Washington, where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech.

So how did one man gather 250,000 people on the right day, in the right place, and at the right time with no go-to-market strategy…no marketing, no website, no social media, no Twitter?


Go to Market is perhaps the most misunderstood business discipline. The term itself not only limits its use-case but relegates it to an afterthought. “We built the widget; what’s the go-to-market plan”? And true, in the basic sense, go-to-market (GTM) helps you define your ideal customers, coordinate messaging, and position your product for launch.

GTM can also have a broader impact on your overview business model, growth strategy, M&A, and Customer Experience. And like Customer Experience, the most successful companies have a GTM intrinsic to their core business model and products.

Go-to-market strategy is not the same as Marketing Strategy.
GTM strategy is a comprehensive action plan that details how a message, product, or a service will reach people.
A Go-to-market plan is a short-term, one-time strategy that is applied when launching a new product and/or entering a new market.
80% of new consumer products fail.

Rather than create products before demand
Apple incites demand before a new product

Go-to-Market and Business Expansion

Apple uses go-to-market to expand its business. When Steve Jobs famously returned to Apple in the late 90’s, he refocused the company on its core business, PCs, specifically the Mac. After its much-heralded stabilization, he new Apple needed a breakthrough product to drive growth. So, in a sea of consumer product categories that Apple could have entered, why did they choose an MP3 player? 

By the late 90s, the Market was filled with MP3 players fueled by music pirated from Napster and other P2P sources. But in this mess, Apple saw an opportunity:


   The products were poor quality.
   Device storage capacity was low.
   User experience (slow download time) was horrible.
   Content sources were typically illegal.
  And the market and growth opportunity was huge.


Plus Apple had long started laying the foundation by opening retail stores across the US to put future products into the hands of consumers, who could then use them, fall in love with them and then buy them. In January of 2001, Apple launched the iTunes Music Store, which simplified obtaining music content with a flat (and legal) fee of US$0.99 per song. Apple’s FairPlay software handled Digital Rights Management, limiting the number of devices downloaded music was assessable. Their FireWire technology developed for iMovie, and already shipped with every Mac could download massive amounts of content 30 times faster than current solutions. And finally, Apple had created a 5Gb hard drive capacity in very thin form-factors less than 0.20 inches thick.

Apple had all the ingredients for a breakthrough product with an intrinsic go-to-market foundation. Of course, that product was iPod.

By no means am I comparing the Civil Rights Movement to Dell, but I am saying that when people say “Apple is like a Religion,” it is because their go-to-market is founded on strong beliefs, not products. Perhaps the greatest cornerstone in Jobs’s transformation of Apple was when he clearly stated its core value: “We believe that people with passion can change the world for the better. That’s what we believe!”

On the other hand, Google tends to take the opposite approach to go-to-market. In 2013 Google launched Google Glass to create a new product category called “smart glasses,”; wearable computer glasses that add information alongside or to what the wearer sees. After developing a $1500 beta product, Google shipped them to Universities, Developers, and Influencers to explore use cases for the product. Despite several interesting features, initial users primarily only utilized a few, ultimately concluding that Google Glass was pretty much an expensive camera.

Given this limited use case, Google Glass, was also seen as intrusive to wear in public. Imagine being approached by someone wearing a camera who appeared to continue filming and recording your interaction throughout your engagement? For this reason, initial beta users were often termed a “Glasshole”.



Noun. A person who wears Google Glass and refuses to remove it when directly interacting with other people, private gatherings, or public events.


Before Google Glass was the Google Plus, or Google+, social media platform., a direct “me too” product targeted at Facebook. Google reasoned that it could almost intuitively disrupt Facebook with its sheer size and substantial user base. Another problem was that Google purpose for entering the social media space was vague and uninspiring; “we believe online sharing is broken.”  What?! So their take on the Social media Market that would resonate with Facebook’s 750 million users’ was that it was broken?

More problematic was that Google forced consumers to create a Google+ account to comment on its other services like YouTube or when creating a new Gmail account. Being force-fed an unfamiliar social platform didn’t sit well with consumers. If the goal was to take on Facebook legitimately, Google+ was in trouble from the very beginning. So by creating the product first, Google’s resulting go-to-market approach was a fluid series of missteps that ultimately failed to find or reach a target audience.

Google can afford to take risks to expand its business model; most likely, your venture cannot. The key takeaway is that your go-to-market strategy should focus on what your product can do, not what it is. The most iconic and studied go-to-market strategies focus on beliefs and benefits over speeds and feeds.

Benefits & Beliefs

Go-to-Market is a critical element in launching a product or startup, rethinking your current portfolio, or assessing ways to improve growth and customer experience. In either scenario, spend time thinking about getting people to use your products and services solely from the user benefit point of view. Remember, you’re selling the benefit, not the innovation.


How I can help:

I use my expertise and lived experience to help your leadership team understand your company, products, and services from the customer’s perspective.

I can help facilitate discussion to help your team better understand the unknowns your business may face due to changes in customer expectation, technology, and forces outside your control.

And support you in scenario-planning based on your knowledge of your company’s strengths and weaknesses.


If you would like a download of this article, other case studies, or to discussion your current project, drop me a quick message. Your email will not be used for any other correspondence.