Going from Go-to-Market Strategy to Successful Execution: A Guide for Private Equity Operating Partners

Tom
June 7, 2024

Operating partners play a pivotal role in driving the success of portfolio companies. One of the key areas where their expertise shines is in crafting effective go-to-market strategies and seamlessly executing them. However, the journey from conceptualizing a strategy to successfully implementing it often presents challenges that require careful navigation. 

My goal here is to identify who needs to be involved, best ways to remove any risk/constraints, and ensure that you can lead this GTM (for lack of a better word) to market, fully executed the way it was designed.

More times than not, within this journey it becomes like a game of telephone where each time the GTM is communicated by a different person, it starts losing focus and by the time gets handed off to the execution level, they just become other unfocused campaigns. We’re trying to prevent that from happening.

1Establishing the Foundation: Crafting a Comprehensive Go-to-Market Strategy

At the outset, operating partners must conduct a thorough analysis of the market landscape, including competitor assessments, target audience personas, and market trends.

GTM strategy & planning:

A 10,000-foot view approach is essential here, focusing on overarching branding initiatives, messaging frameworks, and identifying unique value propositions.

Fair warning on GTM, it seems like lately everyone has been using this term loosely for a variety of different purposes, so I will clarify which instance we’re speaking through. The go-to-market we’re talking through here is the strategic plan for the brand, product line, or campaign a business is looking to launch or rework.

Collaboration with portfolio company leadership is crucial at this stage to align strategic objectives and ensure a deep understanding of the company’s capabilities and market positioning.

Parties Involved:

Required: 

  • Private equity operating partners
  • Portfolio company leadership team

Ideally Involved: 

  • Insource or Outsourced Marketing and branding experts 
  • Market research analysts (potentially a vendor)

Potential Constraints:

  • Limited understanding of the target market and competitive landscape
  • Lack of alignment between the private equity firm’s strategic goals and the portfolio company’s capabilities
  • Time constraints for conducting thorough market research and analysis

Investments to be Made:

  • Market research tools to gather data on market trends, competitor analysis, and customer preferences
  • Funds for hiring external consultants or agencies specializing in market research and branding
  • Time and resources for collaborative workshops and strategy sessions with the portfolio company’s leadership team

How to Remove Risks:

  • Open communication between operating partners and the portfolio company’s leadership team to ensure alignment of strategic objectives.
  • Invest in comprehensive market research to gain insights into customer preferences, market trends, and competitor strategies.
  • Regular reviews and iterations of the go-to-market strategy based on feedback and market dynamics to mitigate the risk of pursuing ineffective strategies.

At this point, you should have a formal readout of your go-to-market strategy. Share it wide so everyone is aligned on who you’re speaking to, how you’re speaking and what the desired outcomes are.

2Execution Excellence: Overcoming Challenges in Implementation

At the outset, operating partners must conduct a thorough analysis of the market landscape, including competitor assessments, target audience personas, and market trends.

This phase involves decisions regarding marketing channels, resource allocation, personnel requirements, and budgetary considerations.

Operating partners must assess whether to adopt a sprint-based approach for rapid iteration or an evergreen strategy for sustained long-term growth, depending on the company’s goals and market dynamics.

Content support plays a critical role in this stage, with a focus on creating compelling messaging and engaging collateral that resonates with the target audience.

Parties Involved:

Required: 

  • Portfolio company’s marketing team
  • External marketing agencies or consultants

Ideally Involved: 

  • Sales team
  • Financial analysts for budgeting and resource allocation
  • Private equity operating partners (only for review / alignment with goals)

Potential Constraints:

  • Limited budget for marketing initiatives
  • Resource constraints, including manpower and technology infrastructure
  • Uncertainty regarding the most effective marketing channels for reaching target customers
  • Continuing ‘doing what we’ve historically done’ with partners ‘we’ve always working with’ (great partners/people don’t always drive the greatest outcomes)

Investments to be Made:

  • Technology infrastructure to support marketing efforts, such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems and marketing automation tools
  • Hiring or training personnel with expertise in digital marketing, content creation, and social media management

How to Remove Risks:

  • Assessment of available resources and capabilities to determine the most effective allocation of budget and manpower for marketing initiatives.
  • Implement a data-driven approach to identify the most promising marketing channels and tactics based on customer insights and market trends.
  • Regularly monitor and analyze KPIs to evaluate the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and make adjustments as needed to optimize results.

Aligning the marketing plan with the go-to-market strategy is paramount to a business’s success. This alignment ensures that every marketing effort is strategically directed towards achieving the overarching business objectives, especially when entering new markets or launching new products. It acts as a compass, guiding the tactical execution of marketing initiatives to ensure they contribute directly to the company’s goals. As the marketplace evolves, the agility afforded by a well-aligned marketing plan allows businesses to swiftly adapt to changes, capitalizing on opportunities and mitigating risks.

Moreover, investment in marketing should not be an afterthought but a deliberate strategic decision. It is recommended that businesses allocate a minimum of 3-5% of their revenue towards their marketing efforts. This level of investment demonstrates a commitment to growth and the importance of maintaining a competitive edge in the market. It enables sufficient funding for both innovative campaigns and the exploration of new channels to engage the target audience effectively. Importantly, this investment fuels the necessary resources and technologies required to implement the marketing plan, ensuring that the execution is as impactful as the strategy behind it. In summary, the integration of a detailed marketing plan with the go-to-market strategy, supported by a calculated investment, is not just important—it’s essential for sustained business growth and market relevance.

3Execution Excellence: Overcoming Challenges in Implementation

Despite meticulous planning, the execution phase often encounters roadblocks that hinder progress. One common pitfall is the disconnect between strategy and action, where the strategic vision fails to translate effectively into operational initiatives.

We’ve talked to top 20 PEGs that say this is the main problem they’re experiencing. Once you get the implementation, everyone looks around and asks “okay who’s going to do this work?” OR it gets so far removed from the people involved with the GTM that (like a game of telephone) the implementation utilizes nothing from the plan you’ve spent weeks creating.

Resistance to change within the organization, resource constraints, and unforeseen market shifts can also derail execution efforts.

Operating partners must proactively address these challenges by fostering alignment across teams, agile decision-making, and a willingness to adapt strategies based on real-time feedback.

Parties Involved:

Required: 

  • Marketing and sales teams (internal or external, teams or individuals)
  • Cross-functional teams responsible for execution, including product development, operations, and customer service

Ideally involved:

  • Private equity operating partners
  • Portfolio company’s executive leadership team

Potential Constraints:

  • Resistance to change within the organization, particularly among long-standing employees accustomed to traditional methods
  • Inadequate communication and coordination between different departments involved in execution
  • External factors such as regulatory changes or shifts in market dynamics

Investments to be Made:

  • Employee training and development programs to ensure alignment with new strategies and initiatives
  • Allocation of resources for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of execution progress
  • Technology and infrastructure upgrades to support execution efforts, such as implementing project management tools or upgrading IT systems for improved data analytics capabilities

How to Remove Risks:

  • Foster a culture of transparency and open communication within the organization to encourage buy-in and collaboration across teams.
  • Implement clear and measurable goals and objectives for execution efforts, with regular checkpoints and performance reviews to track progress.
  • Anticipate potential obstacles and develop contingency plans to mitigate risks, such as establishing alternative suppliers or adjusting marketing strategies in response to changing market conditions.

Navigating the journey from go-to-market strategy to successful execution requires a delicate balance of strategic vision and operational agility. Private equity operating partners play a vital role in guiding portfolio companies through this process, leveraging their expertise to bridge the gap between strategy and action. By fostering collaboration, agility, and a relentless focus on execution excellence, operating partners can help drive sustainable growth and unlock value for their portfolio companies in an ever-evolving market landscape.

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