December 4, 2023 Content Chat Recap: How Content Marketing Fits Into Go To Market Planning

A Content Chat header image featuring an array of flowers behind a text overlay that says today’s topic is how content marketing fits into go-to-market planning, with guest Pam Didner.

A company’s go-to-market (GTM) strategy, at its best, can generate a surge of demand that catapults the brand to mainstream success. At its worst, a failed GTM could destroy a company—but don’t worry, it’s not always that dramatic.

Given that content plays a crucial role in enabling GTM success, in this #ContentChat recap Erika joins Pam Didner, an award-winning B2B sales and marketing keynote speaker and consultant, to explain how content marketing fits into GTM planning.

Watch the full conversation on YouTube or read through the highlights below.

Q1: What is go-to-market (GTM) planning for those unfamiliar with the term? And what is the content team’s role in GTM?

GTM efforts aim to get a new or updated product or service in front of a new or existing market. It is a concentrated effort to launch or promote a specific product or service. Demand generation, which is related, focuses on driving ongoing leads.

“Go to market means you actually have a product that you want to bring to market. Your plan is to find a way to engage with customers and convince them to buy your product or service so they can be more efficient and effective. When people say go to market, they tend to have a new product that they want to market, either to an existing market or new market. So it’s not typical demand gen, which you run demand gen to get leads; this is more like you have a new product or existing product that you want to launch.” – Pam Didner

Q2: Are there different types of GTM? Does different content come into play with the different types?

Different types of GTM vary based on the product and market maturity.

“There are different types of go to market. Some of them are kind of what I call a soft launch, or some called a hard launch. That’s just terminology. Or [teams aim to] be a category leader for a specific product segment.” – Pam Didner

Product updates can merit a GTM cycle.

“You have to define what go to market is for a specific product. For example, if it’s just an existing product and you add features to it, you want all your existing customers to know now there’s AI being added to all products and it will help [them] to do more.” – Pam Didner

Launching a brand new product—especially in a new market—and seeking to be a leader in the space takes a more detailed strategy.

“If you have a brand new product, let’s assume your goal is actually to be a category leader of that product. It’s a long play, chances are you want to be on the Magic Quadrant. Or you want to—kind of expensive, you need to have budget set aside—build up your product for that specific category. You need to build thought leadership, messaging, and content to build yourself up.” – Pam Didner

“There’s another type of go to market: new product to a new market. That one is also very expensive, because it’s a brand new product, and it is also to the market that which is brand new.” – Pam Didner

All GTM strategies involve product, sales, and marketing components.

“It doesn’t matter what type of go to market, there are three components: You’ve got to have a pretty solid product to start with, there’s a sales side, and there is a marketing side.” – Pam Didner

And content is integral to GTM success.

“Sales needs to be trained. Well, the training stuff, that’s content, right? Product-specific type of content, you train your salespeople. And there’s a product-specific type of content that on the marketing side you need to share. Content plays a huge role as part of go-to-market planning. Period. You have to involve with subject matter experts on the product side to understand the product, get feedback, understand the messaging. And then from there, the content marketer’s role is to take that information and then craft the content, specifically on the sales side and on the marketing side.” – Pam Didner

“The content creation always needs to be bottom up and top down. Top down tends to be the certain kinds of content that you probably need to create because it’s a new market and it’s also new products, therefore you need to create some product-specific content. Depending on the objectives of your go to market — let’s assume that analyst testimonials or endorsements are critical, then working with the key research firms or analysts to co-create content is also super critical. And you can incorporate that as part of the go to market, especially from content’s perspective.” – Pam Didner

Q3: How frequently should company teams set or revisit a GTM strategy?

Some executives believe there is no timeline for GTM, but setting a timeline helps with planning.

“Depending on who you talk to, some of them feel like go to market [has] no timeline. The way I create a go-to-market plan, there is a timeline. There’s a lot of preparation that needs to happen. Let’s assume you have a product launch day, and we call it ‘T’. ‘T minus four’ is four months prior to launch, ‘T plus two’ is two months after launch. Any go to market, especially new products or new market, you need quite a bit of preparation to launch a brand new product to a new market, especially if you want to build category about it.

The GTM team needs to identify what should be done before the official launch date. Content planning and preparation happen during this phase.

“The four or five months of planning for the new product is actually kind of essential. And during that preparation the content creation and content editorial is also a major topic as part of the planning. You also have the campaigns, possibly including PR campaigns, analyst interaction, and a lot of demand gen. And you set up a ‘T plus two’ ‘T plus four’, so you set up a time in terms of ‘during this period, everything we do is GTM.'”

A company’s product roadmap will determine how frequently the team needs to develop or reset its GTM strategy.

“How often do you need to update a GTM? It really depends on the product roadmap. How often do you update your features or add a new feature? How often do you launch a new product? On a SaaS-based platform, chances are you probably do that a little bit more often than if you just have a physical product that you are selling.” – Pam Didner

“If the product team can share their product roadmap, even though it’s changing on a regular basis, that’s totally OK. You give the sales and marketing a little heads up in terms of what is coming.” – Pam Didner

Q4: Which teams within a company are often part of a GTM planning process?

Product, sales, and marketing representatives are essential for GTM planning.

“Remember, I said the three components of GTM: there’s a product side, your sales side, [and] there’s a marketing side, in general. So if you’re looking for a team that needs to be part of it, it [has] to have representation from the product side, the sales side, and the marketing side. You can also add a marketing research team, a user interface team, legal team, PR team. But in general, the big pillars are product, sales, and marketing.

Other representatives will depend on your strategy and which channel(s) are involved.

“Within marketing, you have to determine who should be invited. That has a lot to do with your go-to-market plan. What is your marketing outreach strategy? If you’re going to have a launch event, event marketing team. If you’re going to do paid ads, media buy. If you’re going to do email marketing, digital marketing. Website needs to be updated? OK, the web team.” – Pam Didner

Large companies will often have larger GTM teams, whereas startups will have smaller teams.

“In the big corporate world, a GTM is a lot of people. There are different people doing different things. But in a startup when your team is very small, a lot of marketers are wearing multiple hats, then the team is going to be smaller.” – Pam Didner

Q5: Is there a framework or template that teams typically follow to document a GTM strategy?

Pam shared her GTM strategy template for you to use. She explains how she formats the information:

“I have what I call a two-pager, which is: What’s the GTM goal, objective, and strategy, and also sales enablement initiatives, who are the target customers we talk to, along with KPIs.” – Pam Didner

“The other three slides, in general, you have to scope your GTM. Let’s assume you have a launche date. You have four months of planning, that’s T minus four. Then you have three months of promotion and demand gen or brand awareness, that’s T plus three. So if you scope it that way, your next three slides should be T minus four (what you do in terms of preparation), T, and then T plus three (what does your campaign look like?). You created two slides talking about objective, the scope, the strategy, then the next three slides are timeline driven.” – Pam Didner

Q6: What do company executives need to see in a GTM plan to increase their likelihood of buy-in?

Executives say no when they don’t understand something, which requires education.

“Why do people say no? A lot of things. From my perspective, there are probably two reasons (but there are more). Number one is they don’t know what they don’t know. Number two, they have done it in the past and it didn’t work. Assume that all of us are very logical and rational, we we say no not for an emotional reason. If they say no to SEO just because they don’t know, then it is your job to educate them. You have to do some education way before you present. Find time to do education, or do a little bit of education when you present.” – Pam Didner

Or they’ve tried something before and it didn’t work. In this case, you need to identify the root cause of what went wrong and explain how your strategy is designed to perform better.

“So they have a bad experience? Then you have to address that head down and you basically say yes, this happened before, and this was not done right. Identify the root causes.” – Pam Didner

Be prepared to address individual concerns.

“Gather a lot of information upfront about who might say no. Who are the managers that are going to come to this meeting? Gather intel in advance about your senior management and their personal preferences so you get in there and address their issues accordingly.” – Pam Didner

It often helps to include an appendix of research and background to answer questions or show sources when needed.

“Include an appendix where you have slides showing what your plan was for the previous launch, and some of the metrics too. You can always send it later, [however] it’s so nice when you just have that stuff and you anticipate the objections.” – Erika Heald

“The formal deck is not a lot of slides. But you need to substantiate them. For example, if you’re going to say SEO is not working very well and you want incremental budget for it, you need to be able to explain why you need more budget. You need to be able to substantiate your recommendation. Have the information ready in case they ask, and you can actually jump ahead and say ‘we have this information.'” – Pam Didner

Q7: What challenges do marketing teams face when defining or executing a GTM strategy?

GTM launch dates frequently move. This adds work to the team—who has to shuffle their plans—and potentially wastes the budget.

“The most common challenge that marketers run into tends to be the moving target of the GTM date. I have done many GTMs. They still change the date, like literally a week before launch. Not having a finalized date in terms of day can impact marketing tremendously, especially if you do a launch event.” – Pam Didner

Align on the priority messages for a GTM cycle as early as you can. The finalized messages will inform all your content, and changing those messages will change all content (again, creating new work for the team).

“SaaS-based platforms or even any products that sell to the enterprise, especially on B2B, have many many features in the product. So, what are the product features we need to dial up? What are the product features we need to prioritize as like three things we need to say? With so many product features, how can we distill down to one value proposition that covers all the features? What to say tends to be a lot of debates among management, marketers, and even subject matter experts. I have discussion on what to say and what features to dial up for months, months, that we cannot settle. If you cannot determine what say, you cannot create content.” – Pam Didner

“You have to know in advance, is the story that we are doing something that is differentiating that no one else has? Or is the story that we’re closing a gap that we had with a competitor? What is the vision behind this launch? What’s the narrative and the story? Nobody wants to read your blog post with the 28 different new features and functionality.” – Erika Heald

Q8: What should teams do if their GTM approach is not meeting its intended goals after three months? After six months?

Not every GTM is successful, and that’s OK. Be realistic about what worked and didn’t work so you can improve your strategy next time.

“Not every GTM is successful. It’s just like your marketing campaigns — not every single email marketing campaign you run works. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.” – Pam Didner

“The GTM is kind of like a committee decision, especially in a big enterprise. Many people need to agree on messaging, launch day, launch plan. Your launch plan was approved or wholly watered by management. Everybody’s in it together. You’re not alone. Now the GTM is over and you pull your actual results, and it’s not achieving what your KPI is set up for. When something fails, you have to identify the root causes. You can identify that and you will say ‘we learned a lot and we will do our GTM better next time because of [reasons].'” – Pam Didner

Be transparent and focus on what you learned.

“It’s OK to communicate bad news. I communicate bad news all the time. When you share your plan and your plan is pretty solid and everybody agreed to it, and in the end it is not going well, as long as you can explain and you keep everybody up to date along the way. Just be very transparent, and don’t sugarcoat it. Just say the way it is, and then have a plan. Explain why it didn’t go well, and say what to do next time and do it better.” – Pam Didner

Ensure you have a clear project manager for the GTM.

“Go to market is a team sport. You put the team together, then somebody needs to rally the whole team. You need to actually have a project manager, the go to market manager to actually herd the cats, if you will. The key thing is you have to have a GTM project manager.” – Pam Didner

And remember that content can take a while to catch on and deliver ongoing value.

“From a content perspective, content can sometimes take a while to catch on. But once it does, the longtail can be amazing. I do byline content as an influencer, and if [some content platforms] give reports every month to tell you how the content that you created for folks is doing. And what was fun for me is I would see a post that I had written for a client years before kept being one of their top 10 most shared, most interacted with pieces of content on a regular cycle. When you’ve created something that’s part of your go to market plan, it doesn’t mean that those three months is the only time that you have to get value out of the content.” – Erika Heald

“When you are sharing your results, you always have to say this is digital. All the content created for digital sits on the internet for a long, long, long period of time. It’s very important to remind the management of that. We take a point at the time to evaluate how we are doing against our key performance indicators. But there is a long tail effect of the digital marketing communication that will continue to happen.” – Pam Didner

“Old content can help new content that you have. We can get into that one and done, ‘oh, that’s old content, we don’t care about it’ mindset. But if that content has really found its own audience and it’s being found in search and it’s being linked to, keeping that stuff in mind is so important. Because when you’re doing a new campaign you have to think about how to use that content to drive some people to what you’re doing for the go to market plan. Too often we get stuck in that idea that every time we have to create X amount of net new content, which always makes me sad. That should never be a goal. You should always have meaningful engagement results, and you shouldn’t overwork the content team.” – Erika Heald

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