You believe in the company you’re marketing, and so do your product and leadership colleagues. But, often because everyone believes in the business, companies end up with a hero complex. This leads to dangerous territory: a go-to-market (GTM) strategy that’s missing the customer perspective.
Whether you’re entering a crowded space or offering a bold new product, you need customer input to understand where the opportunities are (and where they aren’t) when crafting your GTM strategy.
It’s important to hear from potential buyers what they actually want before you waste a lot of money on a GTM campaign that won’t land. But lots of companies don’t bother, because they’re afflicted with a raging case of “true believer syndrome.” The thinking goes, “When a competitor has a new offering, of COURSE we should match it!” Or, “There’s a new line of business we’d love to launch. We’ll totally save the day for customers with these amazing solutions.” This mentality doesn’t always work out so well.
Marketing leaders can really save the day by seeking out the voice of the customer to clarify whether there is room in the market for another solution. GTM research can avert disaster should it become clear from customer feedback that a new solution isn’t differentiated enough to be a success. It can also help you understand your customer’s jobs to be done, so you can swoop in with the product they need…or know that it’s time to step aside. It’s smart to invest in this type of research because failure to hear customer voices can have some pretty big consequences.
Famous GTM Strategy Flops
Failed GTM campaigns litter the B2B tech sector. But this isn’t a necessary outcome of innovation. Most mishaps could have been avoided had marketers and product teams had some preliminary customer conversations. Here are some examples.
Oracle Cloud Was Undistinguished
Since the launch of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure 2nd gen in 2016, Oracle’s cloud has struggled to gain market share, landing it firmly in the bottom left of Gartner’s magic quadrant.
Oracle is guilty of that fundamental sin: not knowing thy customer’s “jobs to be done.” Need a broad portfolio of services? Check out AWS. Got a Microsoft server? Azure can help with an easy cloud transition. Others might argue that Google has a faster global network and provides more performance. And Oracle? Well, it’s…Oracle. With an offering described by Gartner as “bare-bones,” that’s not enough of a differentiator to build on.
GTM research could have helped Oracle understand whether existing Oracle users were excited enough about the brand that they wanted dedicated cloud offerings from the same provider. Or maybe they could have learned about integration issues between Oracle products and existing offerings that they could fix. But in the powerhouse-filled cloud services space, without those insights, they aren’t making the cut.
While no one invited us to those early planning meetings, our guess is that True Believers, perhaps Larry Ellison being one of them, just told themselves failure was not an option. Even though it clearly was.
Google+ Failed to Answer a Market Need
Google jumped on the social network bandwagon in 2011 with Google+. *Cringe.* This was seven years after Facebook came roaring onto the social network scene…and before taking the plunge, Google didn’t talk to potential customers to identify a need that Facebook failed to meet. Had they pursued those conversations, they might have foreseen that customers craved a mobile experience for social networking. They could have started Google+ on strong footing in that direction before Facebook retooled to pursue a mobile audience in 2012. But because they didn’t have those customer conversations, they never successfully differentiated Google+ from already-dominant Facebook. So, it shut down without fanfare in April 2019.
This is a huge pitfall for B2B tech companies as well, since there are usually multiple vendors offering the same product or service. In order to determine if there’s room in the market for your new solution, marketers need to understand what pain points existing options don’t solve before bothering to launch an additional solution. With qualitative research, you can learn whether your product is sufficiently differentiated to make an impact in a crowded space. In this case, former Googlers agree that Google+ was motivated from a “competitive standpoint” rather than a genuine market opportunity.
GTM Strategy Disasters Averted
So what kinds of things can you expect to learn from customers that impact your go-to-market strategy? Here are two situations where companies dodged a bullet by getting crucial insight through conversations with potential customers.
GTM Crisis Averted: Positioning
Company A was looking to expand from offering a benefits management SaaS product to a complementary financial management product. They already had trust from businesses and customers to share personal information, and customer perception of the brand was high. People should be psyched about this new offering. Right?
Wrong. Market research revealed that customers didn’t trust that this non-financial entity could handle the day-to-day administration promised by their new solution. So, the company partnered with a reputable financial institution and successfully forged ahead. But without hearing from their customers, they could have made a critical misstep.
GTM Crisis Averted: Messaging
Company B was ready to launch a great cybersecurity tool. They knew they’d built a quality product and addressed a substantial industry concern. So why weren’t customers receptive to the solution in focus groups?
Market research revealed the answers. Customers liked the product, but Company B’s messaging didn’t land. “Mitigating risk” was an unpopular narrative. They didn’t like the use of the word “risk,” which they perceived as negative.
“Providing security and supporting compliance” was better positioning. Customers were more persuaded by this narrative.
Be Your Company’s Go-To-Market Hero
Be willing to look beyond your company’s new product hype and seek out the answers to the tough questions. Is there room in this space for this offer? Are we targeting the right market segment? Does our messaging address pain points? Jobs to be done? How can we support long-term adoption?
GTM research can help you focus your GTM spend where there’s the most opportunity. Sometimes you’ll avoid an expensive disaster. No matter what, you can confidently answer the question, “To GTM or not to GTM?”
This article is brought to you by Cascade Insights, a market research & marketing firm specializing in the B2B tech sector. Check out our go-to-market research services.
Special thanks to CEO Sean Campbell, President & CTO Scott Swigart, and Director of Systems Design Philippe Boutros for advising on this article.