GTM Advice for an Unpredictable World

go-to-market advice from April Dunford

One of the most important aspects of any go-to-market (GTM) strategy is ensuring that your offering is properly positioned. Getting this right from the get-go helps bring in qualified customers who understand the value of your product/service and are hungry to buy! 

With COVID not yet in our rearview mirror and a possible recession looming, marketers are being forced to accept that the market is ever-changing, and customer needs are changing with them. You need to be able to pivot your strategy and adjust your positioning to react effectively (and swiftly) to the changing tides. 

To dig into the topic of go-to-market advice and strategies in an unpredictable world, we sat down with the talented April Dunford: expert in market strategy and all things positioning. She has an extensive background working in executive roles at SaaS firms, where she has helped successfully launch or reposition several different products. She’s also the best-selling author of the well-known marketing book “Obviously Awesome: How to Nail Product Positioning so Customers Get It, Buy It, Love It”. 

In this blog, we’ll highlight the conversation we had with April, pulling out key insights and takeaways. Watch the recording below, or keep on scrolling for additional highlights beyond the fireside chat.

What are some key market and consumer trends that have emerged post-pandemic, and how have they affected organizations’ market strategy? 

April says something we’ve all come to realize: “This pandemic has been weird.” Before the pandemic, it was thought that when you’re selling to businesses, you’re adding value in one of two ways:  

  1. Helping them make money.
  2. Helping them save money.  

Common wisdom tells us that helping companies make money is always a stronger value proposition when the economy is good. Generally, when there is a market downturn, organizations shift to cost-cutting mode. When this happens, you as a vendor have to switch your value proposition from helping them make money to helping them save money. 

What has made COVID so unique in April’s experience is how uneven its effects have been across market segments. She says, “There is this mix of some buyer segments that are on fire, and they’re totally in make money mode. While some buyer segments are just the opposite, they’re in conserve cash mode.” This has made it much more difficult to make predictions because we aren’t seeing the same trends that we have in previous economic downturns where spending has come to a halt across the board. 

So, what’s the solution? April says that you really need to understand your customers and how their business sits in the current market. Her go-to-market advice is to be close to your target market because their behavior might be very different from a market that’s right adjacent to them. 

What are the best ways to connect your marketing plans with your corporate objectives? 

According to April, “this is harder than it’s ever been, simply, because things are changing so quickly.”  

In the past, companies may have been able to interlock across departments to discuss the plan and lay down how everything will go once a year, then not meet until the next planning cycle unless a significant event happens that makes changing the plan necessary. Now, with COVID, things are changing in the span of a couple of months, if not sooner. Because of this, April has seen more frequent interlocks across companies to ensure that everyone is aligned with the current challenges and objectives. 

She explains that while working at a tech start-up, a year can seem like an eternity, but planning for six months ahead can work in times of stability. 

That said, with the instability caused by COVID, six months may seem totally unreasonable. April says, “I don’t think anybody can predict what the market’s going to look like in six months from now.” She goes on to say that “you don’t want to be in constant planning mode, so right now, a quarterly planning cadence might be the way to approach it.” 

Tips on how to remain agile as a marketer. 

In April’s experience working with different companies throughout COVID, the ones that were able to stay agile and respond quickly were the ones that had excellent communication channels to their customers. 

One way the organizations she works with have gone about fostering this communication is through the creation of customer advisory boards. These groups allowed companies to ask the questions that needed answering and get immediate feedback to help them make informed decisions. 

Another option is to be in close contact with the sales team and make sure that you are monitoring the sales conversations they are having with customers to see what feedback is provided. April knows of a few companies that would meet with the sales team daily to see what they were hearing from customers and what insight they were gaining. By doing this, many of these companies were able to identify the early warning signs of their customers’ priorities shifting, which allowed them to respond rapidly. 

How to align your budget to your go-to-market strategy. 

There are plenty of ways to tackle this problem, but April says, “the bigger thing for marketing teams to get in front of is, do we really understand to a detailed level which customers we’re targeting? Because if we don’t understand that, then we don’t know what channels we need to hit.” 

Identifying this is especially important when things are changing as they have been during COVID. Who you were selling to one month may not be the same the next. April explains, “When you can hone in on what the profile of your customer is that is a good fit for your stuff at that specific moment, then you can look to identify what the right routes to market are that will give you the biggest bang for your buck from a marketing ROI standpoint to get in front of those people and engage with them, at the right moment of their buying journey.” 

Have you seen a change in the way companies are positioning themselves due to the pandemic? 

COVID and all the changes it has brought have definitely caused companies to change how they position themselves. In an extremely short time, many companies saw the priorities of their target prospects completely change. 

April has worked with many companies that saw their target market flourish, such as companies that aid remote work. These companies looked to double down on positioning their value proposition around helping their customers grow and manage that growth. 

On the other hand, April recalls working with a company that mainly focused on hospitality (which was practically shut down), but they had a tiny sliver of their target market that was tech. Because of this, they adapted to position themselves to focus on tech in terms of their growth prospects while at the same time working on the existing hospitality market to make sure they don’t churn out. 

How often do you update your marketing positioning?  

For positioning work, April likes to do a check-in every six months. Even if the positioning hasn’t changed from one meeting to the next, these check-ins are still very useful. It is a great time to identify the following: 

  • Has anything changed in our competitive landscape? 
  • Are things that differentiated us in the past still doing so, or are competitors catching up? 
  • Have we released something new that might impact our value?
  • Does our value need to change? If so, does this change who we are a best fit for? 

April adds, “Right now, it’s not a bad idea to check in on the positioning every quarter.” Even with how fluid COVID has made everything, she still wouldn’t expect the need for a massive change in positioning when meeting quarterly. It will likely just be some fine-tuning. April says the “the real value of checking in on it more frequently is as an early warning signal that maybe something’s changing, that we need to keep an eye on.” 

Are there ways to measure the strength of a company’s positions 

This is a question that April gets a lot. Unfortunately, there is no magic number or metric that can tell you if there is a problem with your positioning. However, April explains, “If the positioning is good, it’s good all the way across your funnel.” On the other hand, she adds, “If it’s bad, it’s bad all the way across too.”  

Although there is no single metric that you can look at to see if you are positioning yourself correctly, You can often identify if you have poor positioning by spending time with the sales team. Here are a few identifiers that can signal poor positioning: 

  1. Customer Confusion: When you have weak positioning, you can clearly see it on a sales call. If a customer is still confused after a rep pitches the product, that is likely a sign that you’re not positioned correctly.
  2. Bad comparisons: Another sign that you might not be appropriately positioned is if customers compare you to companies you don’t compete with.
  3. They don’t see the value: Probably the worst case of these scenarios. The customers get what you do, they just don’t understand why they would pay for it.
  4. Skepticism about you: They like your pitch and the offering. They just don’t think you or the product can do what you say it will. 

On the other hand, when your positioning is on point, the sales conversation feels completely different. You get well-qualified, good-fit prospects hungry to buy and quickly get through the sales process. 

Share

Similar Articles

marketing strategy operations
Processes

Strategy vs. Operations: How Splunk and Acronis Balance Both

Image of Shannon Lussier

By Shannon Lussier

|
agile marketing
Processes

Implementing Agile Marketing? It Doesn’t Have to be Scary

Image of Betsy Lillian

By Betsy Lillian

|
Agile Marketing Podcast

Marketing Ops Now

Episode 30

Processes

How to Implement Agile Marketing

Image of Scott Brinker

By Scott Brinker

|
Agile Marketing Podcast

Marketing Ops Now

Episode 27

Processes

How to Avoid Common Martech Rollout Pitfalls

Image of Dr. Ralf Strauss

By Dr. Ralf Strauss

|
Agile Marketing Podcast

Marketing Ops Now

Episode 26

Processes

How to Merge Martech Stacks

Image of Scott Brinker

By Scott Brinker

|
Agile Marketing Podcast

Marketing Ops Now

Episode 24

Processes

Bridging the gap between strategy and customer experience

Image of Dr. Ralf Strauss

By Dr. Ralf Strauss

|
Processes

Improving Operations to Optimize Customer Experience

Image of Dunja Riehemann

By Dunja Riehemann

|
Processes

How to create a marketing playbook

Image of Frans Riemersma

By Frans Riemersma

|
Agile Marketing Podcast

Marketing Ops Now

Episode 15

Processes

Playbooks with Ralf

Image of Dr. Ralf Strauss

By Dr. Ralf Strauss

|
Processes

Why use marketing playbooks?

Image of Frans Riemersma

By Frans Riemersma

|
Agile Marketing Podcast

Marketing Ops Now

Episode 14

Processes

Playbooks with Scott

Image of Scott Brinker

By Scott Brinker

|
Processes

Marketing ops & maturity

Image of Frans Riemersma

By Frans Riemersma

|
Agile Marketing Podcast

Marketing Ops Now

Episode 12

Processes

Marketing ops & maturity

Image of Scott Brinker

By Scott Brinker

|
Agile Marketing
Processes

Is marketing ops the driving force behind agile marketing?

Image of Frans Riemersma

By Frans Riemersma

|
Agile Marketing Podcast

Marketing Ops Now

Episode 11

Processes

The agile marketing manifesto

Image of Scott Brinker

By Scott Brinker

|
Agile Marketing Podcast

Marketing Ops Now

Episode 7

Processes

Marketing Ops Strategy Execution

Image of Dr. Ralf Strauss

By Dr. Ralf Strauss

|
Processes

Marketing ops’ role in strategy execution

Image of Dr. Ralf Strauss

By Dr. Ralf Strauss

|
Defintion - Icon Books
Processes

Defining marketing ops

Image of Dr. Ralf Strauss

By Dr. Ralf Strauss

|
Agile Marketing Podcast

Marketing Ops Now

Episode 4

Processes

Defining marketing ops territory

Image of Scott Brinker

By Scott Brinker

|
Agile Marketing Podcast

Marketing Ops Now

Episode 1

Processes

Marketing ops represents a major enterprise opportunity

Image of Scott Brinker

By Scott Brinker

|
opportunity
Processes

Marketing ops represents a major enterprise opportunity

Image of Frans Riemersma

By Frans Riemersma

|