Recently, our team faced a daunting yet exciting challenge:
- Craft a go-to-market (GTM) strategy for a new, experiential product that’s so different and transformative it’s difficult to put its value into words.
- Do not cannibalize, via customer conversions, an extremely large book of existing business for a similar product.
- Beat Y1 revenue expectations and wow internal and external stakeholders with a market-disruptive creative campaign.
How did we approach this challenge? With determination. Plus, we followed these five best practices, which resulted in positive outcomes.
1. Include marketing in the planning and execution.
Typically, organizations bring marketing into the fold towards the end of the GTM planning process (during the execution phase). The other departments have already defined the core product information and all they want marketing to do is produce sales collateral, a website, conference materials, etc.
But, given the scale of this new product launch, we started the cross-functional planning process very early with marketing at the table. We assisted in defining the user personas, participated in the competitive analysis, provided input on pricing decisions, and took part in war-gaming exercises to anticipate competitive response.
All of these activities allowed us to better perform the tasks we were typically asked to do: build sales collateral, websites, etc. that hit on the true customer needs and product differentiation points as we got closer to launch.
2. Develop personas and leverage the voice of the customer
At the start of this project, we formed a core cross-functional team to define and test the key user and buyer personas for this new offering. This internal team comprised stakeholders from marketing, sales, editorial, product development, technology, product training, etc. so we had a rich set of perspectives and experience from which we could draw. We conducted a significant amount of market research and usability testing to uncover the needs of the target audience, which later became a critical part of the GTM internal and external messaging strategy. We also assembled a customer advisory panel made up of a cross-section of each user persona for this new offering. We met regularly with this customer panel and their input proved highly valuable on many fronts, such as testing the proposed feature set, weighing in on the product naming decisions, and providing input on the GTM messaging.
3. Execute the campaign theme in an integrated and innovative way.
Given the size and complexity of this launch, we wanted to ensure that there was a sense of consistency across sales, marketing, PR, and product training. We developed a program messaging deck for all internal stakeholders to use. We also worked with our creative and Web teams to ensure tight coordination of the campaign execution across multiple channels. Because this was such an innovative product, we didn’t want to take a traditional approach to our marketing activities. So, we did a few things differently:
- We proactively engaged thought leaders: Marketing and PR worked together to identify and proactively engage industry thought leaders who had large social media followings and/or speaking circuit influence. We invited them in to tell them our story about the development of this game-changing new product and show them the market research that led to the product development. Doing this made them feel like part of the story.
- We promoted social selling: We have a thriving social-selling model at Thomson Reuters, and we leveraged our content-sharing tools to push compelling content assets (such as white papers, videos, early customer testimonials, and author news) to our sales teams. This allowed them to easily share our content with their social networks. This tactic resulted in great viral exposure and buzz in the marketplace.
4. Customize the marketing approach for each juncture of the buyer’s journey.
Prospects have specific content needs at each stage of the customer journey. We worked with our product and sales teams to identify and develop the content needs for each stage. For instance, we offered strategic whitepapers for those in the awareness and lead generation phases, speaking opportunities at key industry events for prospects in the education and research phases, and customer case studies and user communities to convert prospects and retain them.
5. Be agile—rely on continuous testing and refinement.
It’s so important today to take an agile approach to developing GTM messaging and creative and to continuously evolve your strategy based on customer input and market tests. We attended industry events leading up to this product launch where we held breakfast panels with our core target audience and gave them a sneak preview of the product and its marketing materials. The customer feedback we received as we got closer and closer to the launch date informed our final GTM approach and messaging hierarchy. I remember our team’s surprise when we consistently saw how one feature we decided not to highlight was getting so much praise from customers. As a result of that customer input, we decided to reprioritize the final messaging hierarchy.
We also conducted A/B tests for our email and social marketing and continually optimized the campaign based on those early test results.
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