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How should startups mould their go-to-market strategy in current times?

How should startups mould their go-to-market strategy in current times?
Ankur Mittal, co-founder, Inflection Point Venture  |  Photo Credit: Inflection Point Venture
15 Dec, 2020

Strategy can be best defined as making well-informed and at times, tough choices in the face of adversities. The uncertain Covid-19 times disquieted even the global leaders and the state of utter confusion and chaos was enough to plague enterprises across the globe, especially the startups; however, history has reaffirmed time-and-again that the biggest of ideas take birth in the face of adversity. Remember the 2008 global financial turmoil, which left the entire business community flabbergasted and the future appearing more than just bleak. 

In such challenging times, innovative businesses such as Groupon, Dropbox, Pinterest, and Uber were born. These highly innovative and successful startups transformed themselves into unicorns, owing to their strategy during and post the recession period. Another iconic example is Taobao, which was founded during the SARS outbreak in 2003. 

It has been observed that economies bounce back far more resiliently post-crisis periods. Covid-19 created a difficult and challenging operating environment for not just well-funded startups but for those that were just starting out. Good startups with sound business models and resilient founders will find a way to survive and grow. 

The current ecosystem calls for a well-devised and far-sighted strategy and business design that meshes well with the existing business model. Here is the code that is needed to be cracked by startups in finding a strategy that can be moulded into their launch plan to strike that perfect balance. So, what needs to be done? 

How is GTM strategy different from marketing strategy?

First things first! We need to distinguish between GTM and marketing strategy. Although both may seem the same, truth to be told, they are pretty different from each other. 

A go-to-market strategy or plan is a short-term, strategy which is applied for the launch of a new product / next stage of business / next major event. Marketing strategy is a long-term approach that requires on going planning & analysis and efforts in order to sustain your position in the market. 

Understanding GTM strategy doesn’t need to be daunting. A few notable examples to derive some inspiration from are:

  • The FitBit’s Smart Coach launch which involved the ‘Get more with FitBit’ campaign which was extremely successful on both paid and owned channels and eventually earned the firm approximately $190 million.
  • Cisco’s ‘Internet of Everything’ campaign is a wonderful example that showed how phenomenal things happen when we connect the unconnected. These new connections are virtually everything including people, processes, data and even things like buildings, highways and medical devices. At the heart of the design was the philosophy that B2B audiences are real people too. And if you fail to show how your offerings can help real people, it is all bound to doom.

Here’s what needs to be done. 

1. Backup plan and business feasibility

The COVID period has necessitated the preparation of a feasibility plan which takes into account all possible outcomes ranging from short-term to long-term. 

  • Agility/ nimbleness is one of the most important qualities in these times. 
  • Listing out all potential threats that can potentially de-rail your business operations is a good start towards effective planning. 
  • Have a back-up plan for each threat to neutralize them on time. 
  • When a crisis is at hand, be it macro or micro – reduce your discretionary spending and tweak the target messaging towards the audience, which is likely to generate the most bang for the buck! Arguably it is impossible to plan for everything in advance, but such level of detailed planning will definitely help businesses cope with uncertainty better. 

2. Revenue maximization through innovation

Pivoting your business model has always been of utmost importance and in the Covid period, it has proved to be even more relevant for startup founders. To see through these difficult times, they will need to devise innovative methods to find an alternative revenue stream. 

One of the interesting observations during the ongoing pandemic was that founders and investors started seeing revenues and growth differently which wasn’t the case in pre-Covid times. 

3. Value Matrix 

One of the takeaways from the Cisco example highlighted above is that you should be able to describe your target market and create buyer personas. There is a strong need to address the pain points, explaining product value and the message. All of these points put together to create the perfect value matrix for your GTM strategy. These points/information will help you design creative marketing campaigns, pricing plans and distribution strategies.  

4. Know how to scale

The majority of startups go down swinging because they simply don’t know how to scale. Remember that innovation is way much more than coming up with ideas. It is about scaling them to create huge markets. Trying to become better than your competitor isn’t the key. It is all about playing a new game. Thinking of new ways to play the game is what is really needed. 

Established players don’t quite need to respond to startups by adopting the same game. They can simply respond by finding ways to neutralize the new game. As a start-up, you must know that large companies are pretty good at scaling and hence as a startup, your company must be good at what it does. Radical and agile strategic capabilities are a must in these turbulent and dynamic times. 

5. Realize your future requirements  

Preoccupation with day-to-day activities and failing to realize future requirements often adds to your strategic woes. Realizing the most effective GTM strategy, which suits your organisation in the near-term is more important than mundane operational affairs. 

Failing to do so only leads to added frustration, process change and new technology initiatives without fully realizing the underlying problem. As a result, the chaos persists and performance remains on a decline. Rather than going for cosmetic reforms, you must take the necessary steps for sound strategic planning. 

Here one critical component not meant to be ignored at any cost is uniqueness. There are overwhelming choices for customers in the contemporary marketplace and hence value creation must never take the backseat. 

To gain that much needed competitive advantage in the current times, you must be agile, know how to reduce decision and cycle times and generate value by harnessing unique and scalable ideas. It can be safely said that GTM strategy must be pretty much a plan of your marketing strategy.

Ankur Mittal

Ankur Mittal


Ankur Mittal is a co-founder at sector and stage agnostic angel platform Inflection Point Venture. The views in this article are his own.