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What to avoid when creating a go-to-market strategy

August 24, 2021

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Ric Williams
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Ric Williams

This is part two of our two-part series on creating a go-to-market strategy for the consumer food industry. If you missed part one, check it out here and learn all about the foundations.

As we learned in the first part of our series, creating a go-to-market strategy takes a whole lot of planning, considerations, and research. The good news is that once you have those in place, you’re ready to take off and find food fame. Well, almost.

In my years of experience working in start-ups, established businesses, and now on the agency side, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of go-to-market strategies. I want to share that wisdom with you today so you can avoid the missteps I’ve seen.

While most of these points are tailored to the food industry, much of this applies to other types of go-to-market strategies as well. 

Common mistakes in go-to-market strategy creation

1) Thinking that marketing is only responsible for promotion

If marketing was the marketing department’s only responsibility, it would be very easy to push responsibility for failure to the product development, manufacturing, and sales teams and vice versa. A team approach to the 4P’s is the best thing that can happen for a brand—making sure everyone feels responsible for the complete marketing mix. Having a strong leader at the head of the organization or a Brand Director who is responsible for the 4P’s will drive consistency and the team approach you need.

It’s also important to note here that having that brand foundation from your marketing team in collaboration with the organization is vital. Getting the brand platform established within the context of the positioning and consumer needs/need state is so important. Without that, you are shooting in the dark.

2) Not being honest with yourself about your competitors

“I don’t have competition, or nothing like my special snowflake exists.” or, “Yes, I have competitors in market, but they don’t do x, y or z.”

Does the consumer really care about your product, or about the small differences between you and your competitors? Are you fulfilling a need that no one else is fulfilling? The answer is probably no. You need to determine if your competitor is fulfilling the entire market. Ie. is there room for another competitor in the market with a different brand proposition?

Things can get really confusing here. Particularly when you launch into existing markets, how much elasticity is there in the market size? Does your brand carry enough weight to drive additional consumption in the market? This is called “driving category consumption,” and it’s something category buyers love. If you can expand their category by bringing in new buyers, this grows overall supermarket revenue, and if it’s profitable (the price part of the 4 p’s), we all win.

For truly new products to market, make sure you have a frame of reference for the consumer to compare to so that you can successfully sell to both buyers and consumers. Stealing wallet share of another category or adding to their shopping list is extremely rare and dangerous territory, as most consumers only have so much to spend on their weekly groceries. Unless you are truly groundbreaking and the consumer can create room in their budget, you are replacing something else in the shop.

3) Overpricing competitors, without good reason

Just because you think your product is the best quality, has the most features, or brings the most emotional benefit to the table, doesn’t mean the consumer sees it the same way. The worst thing we marketing professionals can do is assume we’re the customer. Just because we would pay $20, it doesn’t mean the consumer will. More likely than not, we are thinking of the upper salary level by demographic, and this demographic is rarely the target consumer for mass-market products.

4) Misunderstanding price behaviour and volume expectations

There is often a belief that price promotions (sales) drive volume at stores and after a sale, we will see a rise in the base level of sales. This happens because we assume that we’d bring more people to the brand vs. our competition. Pretty simple math. However, Byron Sharp et al. have done a bunch of research in this area and proven this wrong— particularly in price promotion-driven categories.

Today I would say that while sales as a tool for brand awareness is still a concern, the biggest issue is assuming your promotional mix can just be in one online channel.

When we have clients who spend money in one single channel, it isn’t sustainable for them and doesn’t create brand loyalty nor affinity. While on the surface, promotional mixes are seemingly more complex, they really aren’t. Just go back to basics: who is your customer, where are they hanging out and how do you disrupt or help their day? Always be relevant and more creative than the rest.

Things to avoid when creating your go-to-market strategy

  1. Spend a lot of time getting the product right.
  2. Get brutally honest with yourself and your product. 11% survival is real. This is just another reason to perfect your product — you need to make sure your offering is truly better, different, or more in demand.
  3. Just because you can make it, doesn’t mean you should.
  4. Be honest with yourself about opportunities. You may have the best $20 muffin in the world, but how many people are really willing to pay $20 for a muffin? This needs to be reflected in your go-to-market strategy; maybe one, small $20 muffin shop in NYC will work for you due to the number of people and distribution needs, but it won’t go farther than that.
  5. If you are testing the market with a new idea, maybe go to a contract packer. Launching into 4,000 stores may not be the right way to go about the launch. Sites like Uproot can help you to launch your products to broader audiences at price points that help you to establish your brand to an eager-to-try audience.

Go-to-market strategies need to be as unique as the product and audience you are going after, however, the framework shouldn’t change. There are lots of good resources available to help online. And don’t forget to lean into your agency ­– we’ve done this a few times ourselves.

Have more questions I wasn’t able to answer? I’m happy to help. Connect with me on LinkedIn or send me an email and I’d be happy to share more.

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