What Is a Go-To-Market Strategy? And How to Create One

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn how creating a go-to-market strategy can prepare you for your product launch.

[Featured image] A woman in a business suit presents a go-to-market strategy to her team in a conference room.

A go-to-market (GTM) strategy is a comprehensive plan businesses use to introduce a new product or service. Designed to mitigate the risk inherent in the introduction of a new product, a typical GTM strategy includes target market profiles, a marketing plan, and a concrete sales and distribution strategy. 

Creating a go-to-market strategy is as important for established companies as for new entrepreneurial endeavours. In this article, you will learn more about the purpose of GTM strategies, encounter examples of them in action, and find out how to create one yourself. 

Go-to-market strategy: Purpose 

Businesses prepare GTM strategies to minimise risk and optimise potential success when introducing a new product to the market.

Entering a new marketplace or launching a new product comes with many risks. Go-to-market strategies anticipate the challenges of this competitive space by thoroughly identifying the target market, articulating the product’s value proposition, crafting a marketing plan, and developing a strategy for its sales and distribution channels. Some of the most common benefits of compiling an effective GTM strategy include: 

  • Gaining a comprehensive understanding of the marketplace, the target market, and the proposed product’s place in it

  • Keeping marketing costs down by identifying promotional channels with the highest return on investment (ROI)  

  • Troubleshooting product positioning and messaging before going to market

  • Concretely defining the logistics of distribution and sales channels before launch to ensure maximum market impact

Go-to-market strategy: Benefits

In addition to helping you launch a product successfully, compiling an effective GTM strategy can benefit your business in several ways. These include clarifying your business mission, understanding the market, reducing costs, reducing time to market, building brand awareness, and increasing growth potential. 

Clarifying the business mission 

Creating any business strategy, including a GTM strategy, is an excellent opportunity to review your organisation’s mission and to make sure your product efforts are aligned. Why does this organisation exist? What will it achieve for its employees and customers? What values drive this mission? How do new products support this mission? 

Understanding the market 

Compiling a GTM strategy involves understanding the marketplace, the target market, your competitors, and the proposed product’s place in it. With more insight into customers and market conditions, your organisation will have more tools to thrive in all business areas, from product launches to introducing a new brand identity.    

Reducing costs 

With a solid GTM strategy, you can keep marketing costs down by identifying promotional channels with the highest return on investment (ROI) and developing marketing messaging and content that will resonate with your target market.  

Reducing time to market

GTM strategies also help you launch products more quickly in the following ways: 

  • Prioritising tasks that are essential for a product to enter the market

  • Troubleshooting product positioning and messaging before going to market 

  • Concretely defining the logistics of distribution and sales channels before launch to ensure maximum market impact

Depending on the kind of product you are launching, consider the minimum viable product (MVP) approach. This approach includes making sure the product has enough features to attract early adopters, validating the product, and learning what product updates or improvements could improve customer experience.

Building more brand awareness

With the launch and promotion of a new product, you can bring more attention to your brand and even attract new niche markets, thereby expanding your customer base. 

Increasing growth potential 

Overall, a GTM strategy, when skillfully executed, can increase your organisation’s growth potential. With access to new niche markets, organised market data, and an efficient product launch process, you can seize growth opportunities more quickly than without a GTM strategy.  

GTM vs. marketing strategy vs. marketing plan 

Although they have similarities, a go-to-market strategy, marketing strategy, and marketing plan differ. 

A marketing strategy is a long-term strategy (often many years in the future) that outlines a business’s overall marketing objectives.

A marketing plan, meanwhile, is an action plan outlining the concrete steps required to undertake a marketing campaign.

A go-to-market strategy, finally, is a strategic outline of the concrete steps and considerations required to bring a new product to the marketplace. 

While a GTM can include a marketing plan and use a marketing strategy for direction, neither a marketing plan nor a marketing strategy consists of a concrete GTM strategy. 

How to create a go-to-market strategy    

A go-to-market strategy combines several other techniques and marketing methods to ensure that a product enters the market with the best possible success.  The following guide includes critical elements you should develop throughout the process to help you better understand what goes into compiling a GTM. 

1. Identify your target market.

The customer is the centrepiece of any marketing strategy. 

Consequently, whether you are introducing a new product to the market or refreshing an existing one, it is very important that you first research and identify the target market that will be most interested in purchasing it. 

A target market is a group of individuals with a shared set of features, such as demographic or psychographic similarities. Segmentation is the process of identifying these shared similarities between groups and involves researching the kinds of individuals or organisations that would be most likely to purchase your product. 

As you identify your target market, answer these questions: 

  • Is your product sold to everyday consumers (B2C) or other businesses (B2B)? 

  • Will you use demographic, psychographic, or other segmentation types to define your target market?

  • What are the pain points of your target market? What problem are you solving with your product?

2. Clarify your value proposition.

A product’s value proposition is the benefit it provides consumers and the problems it solves. In other words, your product’s value proposition articulates why the target market should purchase the product. 

As you prepare your go-to-market strategy, you should clearly understand the value proposition that your product provides to direct your marketing efforts.

The value proposition you identify should be as much about the target market you are selling to as the product itself. For example, while some products position themselves as a cheaper alternative to another, others position themselves as the solution to a particular problem with no market solution. 

Your product or service's exact value proposition depends on what it is and its target market. To define your product's value proposition, answer the following:

  • What pain points does your product remedy?

  • How does your product stand out from your competitors?

  • What unique features or experience does your product or service provide potential customers?

3. Define your pricing strategy. 

Price is an essential factor for any product. You don’t want to sell a product for too much or too little. If you do, you risk not selling enough products or overeating your profit margin. 

Once you understand your target market and your product’s value, you can better ascertain the price a consumer might be willing to pay for your product. 

As you consider your pricing strategy, some questions you might ask yourself include:  

  • How much does it cost to manufacture your product or service? 

  • What price do you need to meet to make a profit?

  • How much do your competitors charge for a similar product or service? 

  • What is your target marketing willing to pay for your product? 

  • Will you use a subscription or transactional model? 

A reasonable price fits your business objectives, matches your customer profile, and makes you competitive. 

4. Craft your promotion strategy.

Your promotion strategy is your action plan for promoting your product to your target customers. The best strategy is to craft a marketing plan outlining your steps to reaching your customer base. 

The techniques you use to promote your product will depend entirely on the product or service you are selling. For instance, while one business might use a sales team to pitch its product to other companies, another might focus on social media marketing to raise brand awareness and organically draw in potential customers. 

As you craft your promotion strategy, some questions to consider include: 

  • What is the best channel to reach your target audience? Online or offline?

  • Does your customer respond better to outbound marketing methods like phone calls,  radio advertisements, or inbound marketing efforts like SEO? 

  • Where does your target audience spend most of their time? What marketing channels penetrate that space?  

  • What marketing methods can you realistically implement now, considering your current budget? 

5. Choose your sales and distribution channels.

Sales channels are where consumers can purchase your product, while distribution channels are how your product reaches your customers.   

Sales and distribution channels can often be the same, such as when a consumer buys directly from a manufacturer. In other instances, distribution channels can be much more complex, such as when a producer sells to a wholesaler, who sells to a retailer, and finally sells their product to a consumer. 

Whether you sell your product in person or online, directly to a consumer or wholesaler, or some other variation depends on your product's unique needs. Whatever you pick, the buyer’s journey should be as seamless as possible to reduce friction and increase sales. 

Some points to consider when choosing sales and distribution channels include: 

  • What is the nature of your product, and does it have any specific sales and distribution requirements? 

  • What are the manufacturing needs of your product, and how does that impact its sale and distribution? 

  • Where does your target market shop or buy products?

  • How can you make the sale of your product as seamless as possible? 

6. Set metrics and monitor your performance.

The success of your go-to-market strategy is entirely dependent on the goals that you set. In setting these goals, you also identify the metrics you will use to measure your success. 

As your GTM strategy goes from idea to reality, keeping track of your metrics and making any necessary adjustments as you go along is important. For example, if it turns out that you are paying more to acquire customers than they are paying for your product, then you will need to adjust your strategy to reach a better customer acquisition cost. 

Some common metrics for measuring the success of a go-to-market strategy include: 

  • Customer acquisition cost (CAC)

  • Cost per pound of sales expense

  • Closing/conversion rate

  • Length of the sales cycle

Go-to-market success story: Apple’s iMac G3

Businesses can create go-to-market strategies for virtually any product launch, whether it is an entirely new product, a new iteration of an old one, or simply a rebranding of one already on the market. Whatever the purpose, a business’s GTM strategy can make or break a product launch.

One example of a successful GTM strategy is Apple’s 1998 launch of the iMac G3, which effectively saved the company from financial ruin. Apple targeted three primary consumers: first-time computer buyers, loyal Apple users, and PC owners (who were 85 percent of the market) [1]. To reach its goals, Apple needed to convey that the company was now stable, that its product offered an experience unlike its competitors, and to create excitement around the product launch. 

Its strategy began with a presentation revealing the product, which then interim CEO Steve Jobs started by emphasising the strength of the company’s leadership, its stabilising finances, and its employees' hard work [2]. In doing so, Jobs began the company’s strategy of changing the public perception of Apple as a failing company.

Later, Jobs described the unique value the iMac G3 could bring consumers by citing its differences from competitors. Unlike other devices, which were slow, had bad displays, and often required a lengthy process to connect online, Jobs noted that the iMac had a much faster 3G chip, a 15-inch display, and a built-in internet port for a fast connection online.

Afterwards, he revealed the physical iMac G3 body with a unique egg-shaped design. It also sported a transparent case that could become illuminated and featured an eye-catching blue called ‘Bondi blue.’ The design starkly contrasted to the grey boxes consumers were used to, and Job’s presentation emphasised that fact. 

‘This is incredible compared to anything else out there. It looks like it’s from another planet—and a good planet. A planet with better designers’, Jobs joked to the audience of journalists, who responded with a chorus of laughter [3]. 

The successful presentation set off a USD 100 million marketing blitz to reinforce Jobs’ talking points. Large inflatable Macs went up in select stores so customers knew where to buy them, and television commercials were rolled out during prime-time shows to attract consumers who weren’t already techies. To reinforce that this was a new kind of computer, billboards, and print ads read, ‘Chic. Not geek’ [2].

The strategy was a huge success, saving the company from imminent failure. Apple’s success hinged on a go-to-market strategy that thoroughly understood its target market clearly articulated its computer’s value proposition, featured a detailed marketing plan, and highlighted where consumers could purchase products.

Get market-ready. 

A great go-to-market strategy begins with insightful research into your customers’ needs. As you prepare to make your product market-ready, consider taking a flexible online course to meet your educational needs.  

For example, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Innovation: From Creativity to Entrepreneurship Specialisation demonstrates how course takers can make innovative value propositions and discover new market positions to create sustained competitive advantage.

Meanwhile, Michigan State University’s How to Start Your Own Business Specialisation provides a comprehensive guide on the mindset, ideation, planning, action, and strategy required to create your business. 

Article sources


MBA Knowledge Base. “Case Study: Apple iMac Ad Campaign, https://www.mbaknol.com/marketing-management/case-study-apple-imac-ad-campaign/.” Accessed June 4, 2024. 

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