When technology companies enter consumer and CPG markets, one of the biggest challenges they face is that they don’t truly know what value they add.
Startup founders usually begin by trying to address a need in a particular industry that they’ve worked in and understand. But when it’s time to expand into new markets, they don’t say, “How am I going to position our product in this new world?”
A strong business development and go-to-market (GTM) strategy can help you answer this question and find success in consumer and consumer packaged goods (CPG) markets.
When you think about GTM, think about it as spokes on a wheel. Most companies take an approach where the owner of GTM is a product person, and then they bring in sales, marketing, etc. But they don’t realize it’s so important to have that link between them all — one complete view, one clear strategy. GTM needs to link product, sales and marketing throughout the funnel, with a deep understanding of your customers’ needs.
When I started at a previous company, there was no owner of the GTM process. Everyone was trying to play a role. I sat all the department heads down and said, “Everybody can’t own the process. We need everybody to buy in, but we ultimately need one group to be in charge and make sure that all the other groups are doing their part.” If you don’t do that, there’s no accountability.
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A Whole New World
When selling into consumer and CPG accounts, you need to understand the buying timelines and processes of each industry. For example, the timelines and processes at a large enterprise technology company would be much different than those at a sneaker manufacturer. When prospects need to see you, when they make their purchasing decisions and marketing’s role in the process are all very different.
Certain CPG industries such as apparel, luxury goods and athletic footwear work in super-long timelines. You may be operating under the assumption that you don’t have to start talking to someone until September to close a deal for this year, but in those industries, if you haven’t started by February, it’s too late.
Business development is also important because, in different industries, there are different groups making the buying decisions. You need to create a clear business development function through your GTM strategy so that you’re talking to the right people and providing the information that makes sense for them.
Another mistake I see a lot is founders who try to do GTM into a new market without bringing an expert on board. Of course, a problem that all startups face is not having enough resources, but there are still ways to do business development and GTM successfully.
When you get into the CPG world, it’s all driven by consumer needs and wants. Take the time to think about the market you’re entering. Do some market research to truly understand the competitive landscape and what consumers are looking for.
But by the same token, you can’t do everything. Prioritize your efforts, and don’t be afraid to bring in people who can lend the expertise that you don’t have. This doesn’t mean you have to hire two or three people to handle GTM for a new channel, but you can work with an agency or have someone on retainer until you’re able to afford those in-house positions. A lot of companies neglect this entirely, and it leaves a vacuum in their GTM strategy.
Curtis Charles is managing partner and CEO of FFB Collaboration.