The 7-step DIY GTM Playbook (that everyone will want to use)

Jon
June 7, 2024

Why is GTM so important?

GTM – or go-to-market – is often how Private Equity prefers to talk about Marketing. It’s more strategic. More sales-centric. Whereas marketing, if we’re being honest, is difficult to have a business-level conversation about. It’s creative, subjective and hard to prove out ROI. 

When helping a portfolio company think through organic growth, marketing needs to become a foundational layer. This is the engine that develops brand, fosters loyalty, and most importantly – drives demand. When under-funded and overlooked, eventually signs of flat growth will surface. 

A go-to-market, or GTM, ultimately helps establish clarity about WHO you are selling to, WHY they care, and HOW you are going to capture their attention.  You’d expect any mature business to have this solved by default. Unfortunately, these basics are often taken for granted, residing in the minds of leadership and sales, leading to a web of varying interpretations.  Resellers and partners add to this complexity, often fragmenting and fracturing the brand. A GTM helps get all of this aligned and moving in one direction. 

  1. Buyer
  2. Benefits
  3. Value Prop
  4. Positioning
  5. Sales Modeling
  6. Sales Motions
  7. Adoption

How does a GTM Playbook get used?

A GTM Playbook is an actionable series of steps meant to help teams start to build their go-to-market strategy and plan, creating alignment around all of their marketing and sales activities. Realistically, this is a monumental effort that no single document can solve. However, when crafted intentionally, leaders and teams will certainly find themselves invested as momentum has a new platform to grow from.

Try to avoid…

Letting finances cloud the intent of a GTM
We’ve seen GTMs that have goals like “Own the CyberSecurity Narrative” which, while certainly bold – is entirely unrealistic. Goals like this tend to disenchant the audience and lose adoption.

Forgetting to build in OKRs that get traction moving forward 
A playbook means there’s a coach and players. Players have assignments to execute a play. You don’t draw up a playbook and leave it up to everyone to figure it out. 

Ignoring that operations will likely need to change to support all of this
A GTM Playbook will end up challenging Rev & Marketing Ops. Data & Insights are integral. If these are not in place yet, they certainly will need to get there. Preparing for a data-centric evolution will be necessary.

Setting unrealistic goals Far too many organizations, especially when they are investor-backed, put a financial lens on all key growth strategies. With GTM, we’re fundamentally analyzing buyers (people) and their thought process, then extrapolating that into a type of business plan. If it’s done well, revenue growth will follow. But if finances tell the story here, we’re losing the entire point. 

1 Start with the buyer

You’ll hear this often referred to as an ICP – Ideal Customer Profile. Since we deal mainly with B2B, we’ll call it an Ideal Buyer Profile. Whatever you use, this is an opportunity to invest collective thinking on selling to human beings, not companies.

Humanizing this is critical
It helps everyone better connect with an abstract audience or community. If you keep this as data points, then you’ll have a tendency to be less authentic in your outreach, which can significantly impact results.

Create pain points
These are obviously the problems they are trying to solve. They may or may not be directly related to your products and services, but they should create different avenues to open doors later.

Narrow this down to a maximum of three buyers
However, high-growth companies are likely to only have one. The focus is intimidatingly narrow but establishes clarity.

Build a buyer’s journey
In its simplest form this is the path the buyer takes from their initial thought process through making the decision to buy. This is actually a great exercise for broader participation. “What have you experienced?” “who helps them make these decisions?” “what else is going on when they are evaluating this?” etc etc. The more ideas, the more fidelity, the better.

Here’s a simple buyer’s journey

simple journey mavenray

And here’s an overly complex example of a buyer’s journey. The game-board format is helpful, but with this much going on it can be hard for leadership to take seriously and adopt in most scenarios. 

complex buyers journey

2 Features & Benefits

Normally when you hear the word “features” your mind probably goes straight to a consumer product. An iPhone. A new SUV. A lawnmower. But really this applies to anything a business has to offer.

This exercise needs to whittle down the essence of what your business sells and what, in its simplest form, is going to benefit buyers and consumers. We’re then going to map these benefits to buyer needs later. This should not be a full cataloged list of all products and services or a log of every reason why people want what you offer. It’s a distilled, focused list.

This is an example of a simple feature/benefit map

feature benefit mapping

3 Value Proposition

You hear this phrase a lot no doubt. Basically, it means this: How does what you offer seem more valuable than what a buyer is willing to pay for it? Some people also think of this as a differentiator…but it goes deeper.

I work on a MacBook Pro. Love it. I don’t think about the amount of ram, the graphics chip, the aluminum shell or even the retina display. While I’m buying it? I’m comparing to other Macbooks. Not a PC. That’s brand equity, which is fueled by value proposition. I’m drawn to the sense of quality, the care put into the OS, and the simplicity. The value is really that it is designed to fit my life, instead of me having to feel like I’m operating a machine.

Now this is subjective of course, but still – this value proposition means I could spend thousands on it and feel fully justified in doing so, long after a competitor’s laptop is released with a more powerful processor.

Everything in business works this way. No exception. You don’t need Jony Ives to design beautiful products for this to work.

A few tips on designing your value proposition:

  • Grab the pain points from the buyer profiles/ICP. This is where it starts.
  • Create solutions (not your products or services, but how do you solve) these pain points.
  • Distill those solutions down into statements.
  • These statements can then become a headline for a value proposition profile. Here you might add differentiators, assign buyer personas, show competitors value props in comparison. But this isn’t entirely necessary.
  • And don’t bother with value prop canvases or maps, this just tends to make it more convoluted than it needs to be.

A simple example of a value proposition map

value proposition table

4 Positioning

This is more or less a way to understand how your company might compare based purely on first impressions to your peers. This can also be done before Value Proposition, to better inform the direction – i.e. here’s what the competitors are doing, so here’s what we should say that’s unique.

This is more or less a way to understand how your company might compare based purely on first impressions to your peers. This can also be done before Value Proposition, to better inform the direction – i.e. here’s what the competitors are doing, so here’s what we should say that’s unique.

Positioning is often done in a quadrant graph. You decide which spectrums to measure, and more or less subjectively position brands appropriately.

In this example,  a fabricated consulting firm – ABS – can see some competitive congestion with firms who are A) targeting broad verticals and services and B) staying more strategic. James Button is succeeding with a more tactical/niche approach to the market, and ABS sees that as a potentially unique space to slot into.

Positioning Quadrant

5 Sales Modeling

We want to confirm how we’re going to approach sales. Generally, businesses know this already and don’t need any strategy to tell them otherwise. However, it’s important to make sure everyone is on the same page, and the exploration of a variety of sales models remains on the table.

The four primary sales models

Inside Sales Typically this means your sales team is sending emails or making phone calls – exclusively – to nurture prospects. This involves less consultative selling, and is often more scripted. This can work really well for selling commoditized products or services, like vinyl windows.

Self-service Here, your buyers will basically evaluate, decide and purchase what you offer on their own. Pretty much standard in ecommerce. However it does rely heavily on marketing that drives traffic to a website, and CX/Customer Support that can solve any problems.

Outside or Field Sales Broader, more complex B2B is normally here. You’ll see a lot of RFPs. Prospects likely include a number of contacts. This relies heavily on consultative or solution selling, where a seasoned rep dissects a buyer’s pain points and then recommends solutions before getting to products. These are typically bigger deals, and will often involve on-site visits.

Channel Sales Someone else outside of your organization sells for you. It requires a great deal of governance to assure the brand, value prop, etc are consistently used properly. However the payoff is considerable, and the potential for scale is unlimited. If you make laptop stands, then Best Buy or Amazon might be resellers. If you provide value creation services to Private Equity firms (thats what Mavenray does), then consulting firms like Bain or Grant Thornton make great channel partners.

6 Sales & Marketing Motions

This is basically a process that helps marketing and sales follow the buyer’s journey. It’s meant to help the sales team think in a more structured way about nurturing a lead into an opportunity. This helps to make sure everyone is speaking the same language.

This is an example of a simple sales motion and marketing motion mapped to a basic buyer’s journey.

sales and marketing motions mavenray

7 Injecting GTM into the bloodstream

Finally we want to see your newly minted GTM find adoption throughout the company, not just an archived document in marketing’s file share.

Measure & Report Build out KPIs that everyone can get behind. Try to avoid vanity or pocketed metrics that don’t really roll up to GTM. Build a real time, cohesive dashboard that layers these metrics in an all-up view.

Strategies and plans are meant to evolve Execution will cultivate feedback & insights. New opportunities will arise, as well as speed bumps. Iterations should be constant, and everyone should be feeding this. None of this is ever rigidly set in stone, it’s meant to organically take shape and expand as the audience deems it necessary.

Build Ownership This is by far the most important variable. It’s frankly true in almost any aspect of leadership, but is amplified with something as subjective and open to interpretation as marketing and brand. This might involve:

  • Survey all key stakeholders, or better yet all employees. Make sure sales is fully engaged in what this survey looks like.
  • Interview clients with sales staff present. These interviews are for the most part POV style, and should be very conversational. You want to really get to the nuances of why they care and what draws their attention, while avoiding the nuts and bolts of customer satisfaction.
  • Train leadership, especially the CEO, on the value of marketing and brand. They have a lot of fires to put out, so brand or marketing gets little attention if any at an executive level. But if asked to ‘design the perfect client or the perfect market’ they tend to get engaged.
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