What Go-to-Market Strategy Is, and Why SaaS Providers Need It

May 19, 2023
Contributor: Amita Jain

Drive the need for your products and services in your target market with a solid go-to-market plan.

Bringing a product to market without a clear roadmap to reach the target customers can be a costly mistake. If you are promoting your software among the wrong group of people, introducing it too soon or too late in a region, or facing stiff competition from many similar solutions, you risk pouring time and resources into a plan without any chance of profitability.

To avoid these common pitfalls and hangups, software marketers must create a detailed go-to-market action plan ahead of time that outlines all you need to undertake business expansion. However, this process is anything but easy to navigate.

For demand generation professionals and product marketers working on new product launches or updates, this article will delve into what a go-to-market strategy is and why it is essential for your success. We’ll also break down the key components of a go-to-market strategy and provide tips on how to approach each of them.

What is a go-to-market strategy?

A go-to-market (GTM) strategy is a comprehensive plan that outlines how a product will enter and capture the targeted market. The GTM strategy focuses on two main aspects: 

  • The “who”: Identifying the ideal target customer for your offering, whether introducing a new product to an existing market or taking an existing product to a new market. 

  • The “how”: Determining the best way to get the product in front of your target users.

Unlike marketing campaigns or sales strategy, a GTM strategy is a holistic approach that unifies all business strategies and sets the groundwork for them, from product development and marketing to sales and customer success.

Why does it matter for software providers?

Software providers are challenged to stay up to date on the market and competitive dynamics given the fast-paced nature of the technology industry. They must understand how buyers evaluate a product, what benefits they seek when adopting it and how ready they are to adopt it. For instance, software buyers are now prioritizing the security of software over price, according to our Global Software Buying Trends Survey 2023, indicating a willingness to invest more for enhanced safety.

Crafting a GTM strategy can help SaaS providers:

  • Develop a market analysis by sizing up target segments, including key stakeholders and serviceable available market (SAM).

  • Assess the competitive landscape and gather their position in the market.

  • Learn the factors that influence buying behavior.

  • Inform marketing and sales efforts — particularly messaging and channels to reach the audience. 

The three strategic "go-to-market" options for software providers

When developing a go-to-market strategy for your software product, there are three main options to consider: a fully product-led approach, a sales-led approach, or a hybrid of both. Pick an approach that suits the nature of your product and target market.

Product-led go-to-market strategy relies on the product as the main vehicle for user acquisition and expansion. It focuses on enticing users to try a product and experience its value first-hand. This approach assumes that delighted users will increase their adoption and spread brand awareness to other potential customers. Therefore, it’s also called bottom-up or user-influenced go-to-market motion.

Companies using this approach typically sell freemium models, where the basic product is free, and users can upgrade to premium versions with additional features. Since it relies on customer success stories to drive user acquisition, it requires marketing teams to continue taking user feedback and focus on messaging that highlights the product’s features and functionalities. 

Consider this strategy when:
  • The target audience includes technically savvy users in smaller organizations.

  • The entry price is low and scales with increased usage.

  • The users can independently adopt the solution and have a significant influence on buying decisions.

  • There’s an internal agreement between product and customer experience teams that the product is of superior quality and meets the needs of end users.

Sales-led go-to-market strategy relies on a heavy focus on marketing and sales efforts to drive customer acquisition. It focuses on building a strong sales team and channel partnerships. This approach requires a deep understanding of the buyer’s business challenges, and building a business case on how the product can deliver tangible value and ROI to them. Therefore, it’s also called outcome-based or value-oriented go-to-market motion.

Software providers who offer high-end, complex products, such as enterprise software solutions, which require a more consultative approach with buyers take the sales-led GTM strategy. Marketers using this approach allocate considerable resources to promotional tactics, such as ads on software review sites, trade shows, events and advertising campaigns.

Consider this strategy when:
  • The target audience includes non-technical users in large organizations.

  • The sales process is complex, requiring high-touch sales and support, and involves multiple stakeholders.

  • The users of the product have little to no impact on the buying decision.

  • The price point is high and custom prices may be quoted in consultation with sales reps.

The hybrid strategy combines elements of product-led and sales-led strategies to create a comprehensive approach that leverages the strengths of both. It depends on product-led GTM tactics to drive awareness and make inroads into prospects' minds, but it relies on sales to bring most of the revenue.

Companies using this approach may offer both free and premium versions of their products but also invest in sales and marketing efforts to increase adoption. Create self-sustaining growth loops to encourage your users to become loyal customers and advocates who help bring in new customers and perpetuate the growth cycle. 

Consider this strategy when:
  • The target audience is diverse with different needs and preferences.
  • The software has a broad market appeal but requires sales and marketing support to motivate users to try and adopt it.
  • The customers are not fully aware of the value of the product.
  • The product falls within a mid-range price point, but a custom price may be quoted depending on the number of users. 

Five essential components of a go-to-market strategy

No matter which path you choose, crafting an effective go-to-market strategy relies on these five key components.

1. Identifying and targeting your ideal customers

The performance of your marketing and sales efforts is heavily dependent on a clear and well-understood market focus. Decide which segments to target by evaluating market-specific data, buying journeys and buyer personas, gaps in the competitive landscape and unmet needs.  

For example, say you’re launching a project management solution. While it can be useful for a broad range of buyers, you realize the market need is high among small to midsize businesses in the construction industry. Identifying that will get you a step closer to understanding the pain points and preferences of your target buyers. Based on this information, you can create ideal customer profiles, such as a project manager, a team lead, or a CEO.

Ask these questions: 

  • Who’s the audience that will quickly say “yes” to the product?

  • What factors influence these buyers, from buying and owning to renewing a product?

  • Will the end users of the product also be the buyers?

Pro tip:

Use surveys, interviews and feedback to refine your customer personas continually.

2. Articulating clear value propositions

A software value proposition is a clear statement that explains how your software solves a problem or fulfills the needs of customers better than your competitors. Creating a strong value proposition requires analyzing the challenges your target audience faces, understanding the competitive advantage and assessing the potential demand for your software.

Use this simple statement to define your selling point: We help <target audience> <take action> so they can <desired result>. Then, develop it further by adding your uniqueness and differentiation. For example, the value proposition for a project management software solution might say, "We help project managers streamline communication, task management and project tracking with an all-in-one tool so they can save time on everyday management and boost productivity.”

Pro tip:

Consider the user-buyer dynamic when defining your value proposition. Be sure to align your messaging to both end users and decision makers involved in the purchase.

3. Setting metrics to quantify success

Once you know who you want to sell to and what makes your product or service unique, define performance metrics that mean success to you. This means deciding on specific metrics and quantifying them, such as click-through rates, bounce rates, conversion rates, or website traffic. Jot down your goals; for example, "We want to get X number of people visiting our website within Y months." 

To do this, you'll need to work with your sales and product teams to define what those numbers look like for you. Once you arrive at a consensus on that, work with your sales team to figure out how many marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) you'll need to achieve your targets.

Pro tip:

Give yourself at least one quarter to monitor your success. That way you’ll have an entire quarter to hit your goals and observe outcomes.

4. Choosing distribution channels to reach the audience

Consider which channels your audience uses most frequently and use them for marketing and promotion. There are two types of distribution channels you can target, organic and paid. Organic channels include blogs, email lists and social media, among others, which work well to reach existing customers. Paid channels, such as advertising and public relations, amplify your message and help you reach new audiences.

The Software Marketer's Guide to Paid Media

The Software Marketer's Guide to Paid Media

How to generate more high-quality leads with less budget

One channel that's worth considering for software providers is customer-review-and-rating sites. Most software buyers (86%) consider verified customer reviews as an important part of their software selection process. Use these sites both as organic (by creating a free product profile page) as well as paid (with PPL option) distribution channels. 

Pro tip:

Try not to cast a wide net as you’ll end up spreading yourself too thin. Focus on four to five distribution channels that’ll work for you. Keep testing and measuring the effectiveness of your chosen channels.

5. Crafting compelling content for selected channels

Develop a content marketing plan to create compelling content for each distribution channel you’ve selected to generate those valuable MQLs for you. 

For example, if your distribution channels include blogs, email campaigns and software review sites, you’ll need different versions of similar content for each channel. Blog posts will be more in-depth and informative, optimized for search engines. Email campaigns may require building a landing page and creating personalized messages based on the recipient's behavior and interests. For software review sites, create a product profile page, optimize it for visibility and request your existing customers to submit a review on them.

Pro tips:

  • Use customer testimonials and case studies to illustrate the value of your software in real-world scenarios.
  • Use storytelling techniques to make your messaging more engaging and memorable.
  • Place effective calls to action that are relevant to buyers. Offer something of value in return to them and inspire action.

Expand into new markets with high-quality leads

Growing into new markets is a challenging but rewarding process. Once you’ve created a GTM plan you’re confident about, remember to regularly monitor your website traffic, bounce rates, conversions and other metrics and adjust your approach as necessary. 

Boost engagement with prospects you plan to target with Gartner Digital Markets’ lead generation services. Connect with a monthly visitor base of 9 million software buyers and cultivate a presence in international markets with 60+ localized sites. 


Amita Jain

Amita Jain covers B2B content creation and strategy to help businesses reach their marketing goals. She received her master’s degree from King’s College London, U.K. Exploring the world of art and reading fiction are some of her usual happy distractions outside of work. Connect with Amita on LinkedIn.

Get the Gartner Digital Markets Newsletter

We value your privacy. By submitting this form, you agree we may use your information in accordance with the terms of the Gartner Digital Markets Privacy Policy.

Connect. Convert. Thrive.

Connect to millions of in-market software buyers around the globe with our all-encompassing suite of marketing services.