Marketing Strategy vs. Go-to-Market Strategy

go-to-market vs marketing strategy

Life is punctuated by special events. For the most part, there are your normal routines of work, family, and hobbies. Then something big happens, like the purchase of a new home or arrival of a new family member. But your normal routines do not stop when these happenings occur — both need your continued attention. The same is true for building and launching products.

Marketing strategy is ongoing — while your go-to-market strategy is focused on how you will launch your next special event.

Let’s start by defining the basic purpose of each. A marketing strategy focuses on how a company can reach an identified market over time and deliver against its overall value proposition. A go-to-market strategy focuses on how to bring new products or services to market. The former is long-term and company-driven, the latter is short-term and product-driven.

In early-stage companies, these two strategies might be one and the same — the primary goal of the marketing strategy will be to bring the company’s product to market. But at more mature companies, marketing and go-to-market strategies involve different teams working towards distinct goals.

Yes, the go-to-market is a subset of the overall marketing strategy, but there are unique components to each. And no matter the size of your organization, you need to understand what is needed for both strategies in order to successfully promote your product to the people who will get the most value from it.

Here are the key differences between the two strategies:

Why
The purpose of a marketing strategy is to lay out the company’s approach for achieving and keeping its competitive advantage for years to come. So, it identifies who can get the most value from what the company has to offer (the target audience) as well as the value proposition. It also deeply considers how the company is unique in comparison to its competitors.  

The purpose of a go-to-market strategy is to make sure that a product launch reaches the right audience, based on the buyer personas. It includes effective product positioning so those customers understand the value of the new offering.

Who
The entire marketing team helps drive the marketing strategy, as you might expect. And they support all teams that work directly with customers. This includes customer-facing teams like sales and support as well as product-facing teams like product and product marketing.

The product marketing team drives a go-to-market strategy. This group coordinates with cross-functional teams to ensure that the go-to-market is a success. For example, they might work with sales to develop competitive pricing strategies or with support to conduct training.

When
A marketing strategy should be ongoing, but that does not mean it is static. Budgets, tools, and teammates will change. Every one of those shifts can prompt changes — adjusting expectations, removing unproductive efforts, and experimenting with new opportunities.

A go-to-market strategy relates to something new, like launching a product or expanding into a new market. Because there is usually a fixed and aggressive timeline for a launch, the strategy highlights the work that needs to be done and the milestones that need to be reached along the way.

How
A successful marketing strategy requires meaningful insight and effective communication. This is so everyone understands how the defined approach fits into the larger company goals as well as the purpose behind the brand story. There must be a constant focus on promoting the brand promise to customers and utilizing tools like competitive analysis, target demographic research, and business models.

A successful go-to-market strategy requires translating a product vision into messaging that will resonate with the target audience. This takes coordination between cross-functional teams — since messaging, training, and pricing all need to tie closely to the fixed timeline for launch.

Meaningful success is always dependent on strategy — both for your company’s ongoing marketing and your go-to-market activities.

Markets shift, companies mature, and industries evolve. So your strategies need fresh data and fresh eyes often. After all, you do not want the routine to overtake the opportunity to create more special moments.

How do you set winning marketing and go-to-market strategies at your company?

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About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product roadmap software — and the author of Lovability. His two previous startups were acquired by well-known public companies. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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