In part one of this series focusing on the importance of building a strong go-to-market (GTM) strategy, we looked at the overall fundamentals and how a well-defined GTM plan can provide the foundation and direction for key business imperatives, from revenue and sales to marketing and partners.
While many principles of good GTM planning are valid across organizations of any size, there are some important subtleties that smaller companies should be aware of. High up the list should be an understanding and controlling your exposure to risk. Whereas larger companies can often afford to place more ‘bets’ on key areas of GTM strategy such as product development, marketing and international expansion, for their smaller counterparts, the impact of failure in any high risk strategy can put the entire future of a company in doubt.
Looking more closely at the issue of international expansion helps illustrate the challenge. If you want to go global, you must understand which countries are applicable for your product or service. It goes without saying that research should form the basis of this work, and in the case of my organization, for example, we were able to look at our data to determine where our international leads were coming from to identify the locations that offered the most real world potential for success. This helped inform our planning and prioritization, enabling us to understand which territories offered the greatest potential and how we could then meet the needs of potential customers.
Focusing on the detail behind this kind of insight can help identify the potential levels of risk in establishing a presence in a new territory and what financial and organizational flexibility the company needs to have in order to tolerate those risks. This will vary — for U.S. companies going international for the first time, for instance — expanding to the U.K. and Canada may make logical sense for a variety of reasons, including the obvious cultural and language similarities. For smaller businesses with more limited resources, jumping into a foreign language market right away, without understanding the culture and ecosystem can be a step too far.
One advantage SMEs have over large enterprises is their inherent decision making flexibility and all-round agility. For smaller, high growth companies with a higher tolerance for risk, this might mean acting quickly to put people on the ground or work with partners in a foreign market with the objective of establishing themselves to build sustainable growth. This can enable companies to take advantage of new opportunities without delay or properly test a new territory before the risk becomes too significant over time.
Whatever approach a company chooses, setting ambitious but realistic growth goals is critical and will be different for every SMB depending on their market, their level of funding and the support they have on the ground in any new territory. For instance, some companies are happy to grow at 20% and can consistently maintain that every year – it fits with their objectives and meets their needs on a financial basis but allows them to manage the scale of growth given the resources they have available.
It’s not uncommon, however, for many companies to focus on more ambitious targets like doubling revenue each year, or if aspirations dictate, aim even higher still. While this can deliver enormous success, smaller businesses shouldn’t target growth in an arbitrary way or just because it’s impressive to investors or other stakeholders. Instead, growth planning should be a bespoke exercise in reasoned analysis.
This illustrates a wider point about how SMBs should approach their GTM plans, in that they shouldn’t be dictated by hard and fast rules around issues such as these – each business must focus on what is right for their unique set of circumstances and the opportunities they have to develop. When possible, take advice and look for partners who can provide services that can help facilitate success in key areas such as international growth.
A well thought out GTM plan can give SMBs the confidence to build success, manage growth and turn ambition into reality. It’s important to remember, however, that every plan needs to be regularly refined to allow for changing circumstances, new opportunities and emerging risks. But by doing so, businesses of every size can put themselves in the best possible position to thrive in the short and long term.