How to use research to inform your B2B go-to-market strategy

How to use research to inform your B2B go-to-market strategy
Contents

Why a go-to-market strategy matters in B2B

Why research is essential to shape your strategy

What to include in B2B go-to-market strategy research

Best practices for go-to-market strategy research in B2B

Why a go-to-market strategy matters in B2B

Everyone wants to make the most of new opportunities when entering a new market. It’s exciting – but of course, there are risks too.

Based on the classic Ansoff Matrix, you could just maintain the status quo, seeking greater penetration in existing markets. It’s a low-risk strategy with potentially lower rewards though and often if you stand still, you get left behind.

The other strategies – introducing a new product into an existing market, an existing product into a new market, or a new product into a new market – all need very careful planning. The risks are greater, but if you get it right then you’ll reach new customers and grow rapidly.

You only have one chance to get it right though. That’s why it’s so important to aim for the perfect launch, by planning meticulously – setting out a carefully crafted, comprehensive go-to-market strategy.

If things don’t go well, then it’s tricky to recover from a disappointing launch. It’s not just budget that’s at stake, but brand reputation too. It’s a struggle to shake off any bad initial perceptions after entering a market – and in B2B, you don’t have very long to do it.

Out of frequent B2B customers, 80% change providers at least once every two years if their expectations aren’t met, according to Accenture. This is a threat, but also an opportunity when you enter a new market:

  • On the one hand, buyers could quickly switch away from their incumbent provider, to your brand instead, if you can supply something that meets their needs better
  • However, it also means that if your go-to-market strategy is bad, B2B buyers won’t hesitate to switch away from your brand quickly after trialing you unsuccessfully

To maximize your chances of a new product or service’s debut going according to plan, make sure you put your go-to-market strategy to the test with sufficient research.

Why research is essential to shape your strategy

In this article, we’ll outline the benefits of go-to-market strategy research in B2B, how to do it, and our best practices to make sure your product or service launch goes smoothly. 

To get your strategy right, it must be well-informed, based on robust research data and insightful analysis so that you can launch with confidence.

Also, your research findings need to be embedded across your organization, so that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet when you go live.

Comprehensive go-to-market strategy research will identify implications for the product team, sales, marketing, and other departments.

But, before thinking about your go-to-market strategy, we recommend conducting comprehensive B2B market assessment research first.

Some consultancies treat a market assessment and go-to-market strategy as the same thing, but they’re very different. 

In short, market assessment research evaluates opportunities – it: 

  • Informs go/no-go decisions
  • Collects competitor intelligence
  • Explores usage and attitudes (U&A)
  • Identifies your target audience
  • Sizes the market

In contrast, go-to-market research evaluates your planned approach to launching and growing a product or service – including how to shape your sales and marketing strategies.

In other words, you may have a great product and you’ve assessed that it’s something the market is ready for. However, if you don’t launch it in the right way, it still may not succeed. Or, it may perform ok, but not to its true potential. 

Benefits of B2B go-to-market strategy research include:

  • Identifying risks that could derail the launch
  • Testing your market-specific marcomms strategy
  • Improving launch success
  • Identifying how to measure launch success
  • Planning the optimal way to scale up and grow post-launch

What to include in B2B go-to-market strategy research

Once the business case for your new product or service launch has been approved, it’s time to work on your go-to-market playbook.

Details to consider researching to inform your go-to-market strategy include:

  • Pricing specifics
  • Tailoring and trade-offs
  • Roadmap
  • Launch timing
  • Distribution channels
  • Marcomms campaign
  • Sales approach
  • Support required
  • Success metrics

Here’s how to conduct go-to-market strategy research in detail:

#1 Pricing specifics

From market assessment research, you may already have tested an approximate price and used this to estimate the size of the opportunity. You can use research to go further though, by testing which model works best and which price points to charge.

Specifically, you should consider the price…:

  • Models
  • Approaches
  • Tactics
  • Points

There are plenty of options to explore here. 

For example – the former includes flat-rate, tiered, usage-based, and per-user pricing. The latter requires a technique such as Van Westendorp’s Price Sensitivity Meter, Gabor-Granger, and so on via a quantitative study.

Many businesses overlook the importance of this and it’s needlessly affecting their profits. According to Bain, 85% recognize there is significant room to improve their pricing. 

There is also a tendency to underprice, which is harder to identify compared to overpricing (where sales will stall). A 1% price rise could increase EBITDA margins by an average of 22%, based on a McKinsey study.

Researching the right model, approach, tactics, and price points for your market entry has the potential to significantly improve your launch strategy.

#2 Tailoring and trade-offs

B2B buyers are rarely satisfied with a one-size-fits-all product or service. If you haven’t already, segment your audience. You can then test detailed product concepts, or prototypes, with different segments.

This will help you to better understand if your offering needs tailoring, to meet different buyers’ needs more effectively. Assuming it does, you could also run trade-off research to inform your adjustments. 

Trade-off research lets you see which features are most relevant and which ones can be deprioritized for different groups. If buyer budgets differ sharply, some trade-off testing can factor in price trade-offs too.

Trade-off research and similar statistical techniques include MaxDiff, TURF analysis, cluster analysis, various types of conjoint, and self-explicated scales. Again these are typically quantitative approaches, but self-explicated scales can be used qualitatively too.

#3 Roadmap

Based on the above, you can also evaluate when new product features or service elements should be rolled out. This is particularly relevant for B2B SaaS and fintech.

Similarly, you should have a plan for when and how to tell customers and prospects about your plans.

Customer journey research can help you understand post-purchase behavior for current products or services, to predict patterns for your market entry.

For example, you can explore product use cases, customers’ use of after-sales services, and retention strategies.

#4 Launch timing

Timing your launch right may sound easy, but plenty of companies get this wrong. According to CBInsights, 10% of startups fail because of mistimed products.

On the one hand, if you’re too late to market, competitors may snap up most of your target market first. 

On the other hand, if you launch before your offering is completely ready, you could receive poor customer feedback – putting off others. For example, Microsoft Windows Vista launched in 2007 with compatibility and performance issues, reportedly causing many customers to leave.

Plus, if you’re looking for media coverage, there are good days to launch and bad days to launch. If you’re launching in a different country, watch out for public or religious holidays, or any event that will divert your target audience’s attention away from your big announcement.

Depending on the circumstances, consider:

  • Competitor research: to find out if and when rivals are planning to launch something similar
  • User testing: to make sure any notable issues are picked up before launch
  • Secondary research: to identify good weeks, or bad weeks, to launch in a particular country 

#5 Distribution channels

If there are lots of potential options, then make sure you learn where your buyers would expect to find your offering. For example, you don’t want to overlook a lucrative opportunity by missing out on a highly relevant, nascent channel if it’s showing strong potential. 

Find out which is the best route to market too. If there are multiple options, validate which are the best-performing ones.

Again, exploring distribution channels is an important part of understanding the customer journey, pre-purchase this time. By focusing on competitors, you can find out how prospects source their products and services, as well as how well that works for them.

#6 Marcomms campaign

Your typical marcomms strategy may not be as effective in a new market. 

Consider evaluating the best channels and message themes, to ensure your campaign is efficient. One way to do this is via qualitative media diaries, for a reliable long-term view of an audience’s engagement with marketing communications.

You can also test specific materials qualitatively, to make sure your messages are credible, informative, unique, and land as intended. For different countries or languages, test the translated versions to check that they make sense and are free of mistakes, whether minor or major.

If you need to validate your choice of advertising materials, use an online survey.

#7 Sales approach

The purchase decision-making unit is more complex in B2B than in B2C. There were 6.8 stakeholders involved on average in 2017 and this number was increasing, according to Gartner. It often includes a mix of seniority levels, roles, and departments.

Understanding your target audience’s buying decision-making process will show your sales team who to focus on and what information they need to make a final call.

The overall sales approach should align with other findings from your research so far. For example, sales teams should be familiar with customer pen portraits from any segmentation work.

#8 Support required

Any new launch puts extra pressure on your support team. You can plan ahead by predicting your customers’ questions post-launch, via qualitative user testing.

Identify the most likely issues or queries that new customers will have, then prepare your customer service staff.

You can also use the findings to make your FAQs pages or customer service chatbot’s answers more comprehensive, hopefully saving your support team some time.

#9 Success metrics

Finally, decide in advance how you will measure your launch’s effectiveness – beyond essentials such as revenue, number of downloads, and so on. Start a program of brand tracking for your new market as soon as possible.

You want to be able to determine quickly if your market entry is on course to succeed long-term, or if it’s underperforming and needs adjustments. 

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a common default for this, but in B2B it’s rarely the best metric to use. It doesn’t factor in the different types of loyalty found in B2B relationships.

Instead, you should prioritize a ‘hero’ metric – a single score or number you’re focused on increasing. It should be tailored to your offering – for example, it could be weekly active users, monthly paid users, or average orders per customer.

Best practices for go-to-market strategy research in B2B

#1 Know your offering’s jobs-to-be-done before creating your strategy

You may think you understand the market you’re moving into, but it’s important to be precise. Following the jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) framework will clarify the unmet needs your offering should be addressing.

The ideal time to use it is at the outset of market assessment research. It also has value when setting a go-to-market strategy though, to help capitalize on the new opportunity.

For example, you can use it to shape your marcomms approach, making sure that your messages are communicating the most important ‘jobs’ that your offering can do. The JTBD framework helps you focus on outcomes, rather than features.

#2 Allow for flexibility – be prepared to revise your strategy

Any research you run to inform your go-to-market strategy may reveal that sticking to the current plan won’t work well.

For example – you might find out that you can’t charge as much as you thought, your offering needs significant tailoring before launching, or the intended launch date isn’t viable.

If your go-to-market strategy is essentially set in stone, you’ll struggle to implement any recommendations and see the benefits from the research. Ideally, start your studies as soon as possible, before plans are fully formed so that the research can contribute to them.

#3 Measure your marcomms’ impact

Aside from tracking your brand in a new market, or the success of your launch campaign, it’s worth measuring the impact of your marcomms campaign too.

For example, test your brand and product awareness – unprompted and then prompted. Test for marketing and CTA recall too.

If your communications aren’t cutting through, take action soon otherwise there’s a risk that your launch campaign will lose momentum and struggle to recover.

#4 Get feedback from a soft launch

This is particularly important if you have had to bring forward your launch or rush your pre-launch planning.

A soft launch is a good opportunity to test for any major issues before fully entering a market. 

By this stage, it’ll likely be harder to make significant changes to your go-to-market strategy, but early customer feedback can be highly valuable to improve the prospects of your full launch.

 

Summary

Why a go-to-market strategy matters in B2B

Out of frequent B2B customers, 80% switch at least once every two years if providers don’t meet their expectations. That means either: Buyers could quickly switch away from their incumbent provider, to your brand instead, if you can supply something that meets their needs better; If your go-to-market strategy is bad, B2B buyers won’t hesitate to switch away from your brand quickly after trialing you unsuccessfully.

Why research is essential to shape your strategy

Running go-to-market strategy research offers these benefits: identifying risks that could derail the launch; testing your market-specific marcomms strategy; improving launch success; identifying how to measure launch success; planning the optimal way to scale up and grow post-launch.

What to include in B2B go-to-market strategy research

There are several aspects to consider in go-to-market strategy research: pricing specifics; tailoring and trade-offs; roadmap; launch timing; distribution channels; marcomms campaign; sales approach; support required; success metrics.

Best practices for go-to-market strategy research in B2B

We recommend that you: know your offering’s jobs-to-be-done before creating your strategy; allow for flexibility – be prepared to revise your strategy; measure your marcomms’ impact; get feedback from a soft launch.

Chris Wells
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