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How you need to approach your go-to-market strategy right now

Andy Lihani, product marketing manager at Salesforce, talks about how companies need to think about their go-to-market strategies right now.
go-to-market strategy

We’ve talked about how, in the wake of COVID-19, founders need to rethink their business models in order to have compelling pitches. So, what should your go-to-market strategy look like? Andy Lihani, product marketing manager at Salesforce, gives advice on how to prioritize your efforts and think about your go-to-market strategy right now.

What’s the right way to approach a go-to-market strategy given the current climate?

Convey empathy and social awareness.

First and foremost, everything we do moving forward as marketers, in general, needs to be respectful and sensitive to all of the challenges that our customers are feeling in both their work and personal lives. Every message, outreach, and touchpoint has to be delivered with empathy and awareness for the current climate.

Second, we, as marketers, have to address the elephant in the room. We have to be upfront that we are facing unprecedented times and challenges. If we keep the status quo of our go-to-market strategy and messaging and ignore the reality of the situation we can come off as insensitive and tone deaf.

This might mean shifting our prospecting email messaging from “Here’s an awesome customer story/reason to buy” to “Here’s what we’re doing to keep our product up and running; here’s what to do if you run into a problem.”

Do right by your customer with pricing and packaging.

Another thing to consider in your go-to-market strategy: Is your current pricing and packaging feasible right now for your customers?

With so much uncertainty, your customers might be having trouble just keeping the lights on. They may not be able to commit to a 36-month SaaS deal right now. How can you tweak your pricing and packaging to help? Can you offer a “lite” version of your product — a minimum-viable-product of features and functions?

Also, think about how you can remove the friction from buying. It could be as simple as adding flexible payment options, billing terms, late payments, or cancellation. It could also be waiving service fees. If your product requires implementation or separate license and partner fees, can you bundle them together into a single number to help get your customers live faster?

Add on to a cause — donate product for product and look for ways to help.

If you’re not in a position to cut price and costs of your product, take a cue from Buck Mason. This is an example of a company who, rather than discount goods, has initiated an effort called Masks for America where they donate medical supplies to healthcare workers with each online purchase.

Given fewer resources, how should product marketers prioritize their efforts right now?

First, focus on messaging and positioning.

Remember that your customers are people, too. Prioritize your messaging so that you’re empathizing with the specific problems your customers are feeling today. Their challenges might have shifted from what they were a few months ago. Your product and solution might be able to help solve for them in a new way, or help with solving new challenges altogether.

Embrace digital tactics.

With social distancing in place for the foreseeable future, you need to adapt your tactics and embrace going 100% digital. You can launch engaging and awesome virtual events, online meetups, and even conferences.

And, news flash: Similar to your favorite stocks you’ve bet on, digital ads are on a fire sale right now — however, if you’re advertising, you have to do it with sensitivity, empathy, and a carefully crafted message, or else it could backfire and come off as tone-deaf.

Experiment with new content.

Have you been wanting to try your hand at podcasting? Now’s the time. Mulling over that webinar mini-series you’ve been thinking about,  but never got around to doing it? Go for it. This is the time to try new channels and mediums. In order to stand out in a world where (nearly) every company is marketing online exclusively, you need to put your creative-problem-solving hat on.

If a new channel seems overwhelming, try mixing up what’s worked. If you prefer blogs, people love “how-to” content, information that they can quickly apply to real life. Bonus if you can teach them a new skill. Hell—we’ve all got a little extra time on our hands.

Also, consider un-gating your content, or release an educational video; Make a “Masterclass” for your industry.

What is the biggest mistake you’ve seen startup product marketers make?

Publishing your content, message, positioning, or customer value props without ever talking directly with a customer to validate it. That might sound crazy, but we’re all human, we have  stresses, deadlines, and sometimes too few hours in the day, and it’s easier to cut corners. But, assuming your message is correct without first testing and validating with a real-life customer is a recipe for failure. You might be able skate by in the short term, but you’ll run into issues as you scale.

What would you say to a small startup that has no marketing department?

In a small company, everyone is a product marketer to some degree. Leadership is molding and broadcasting your positioning and go-to-market strategy when they talk with high-profile customers (or potential customers) and are pitching VC firms for funding. Customer Success and Sales teams are on the front lines and learning new use cases directly from the end users and are identifying new value propositions. Business Development reps are quickly finding out what messages resonate with your target personas. In this situation, cross-department collaboration is key. All of these insights can act as an early function of product marketing as your startup finds its identity and place in the market.