Have we taken agile too far?
HBR first asked that question. I ask it again, knowing we all must be agile to thrive and survive in today’s omni-commerce marketplace.
That agility too often equates to a short-term sprint in planning – especially when it comes to innovation launches. No time to ask the right questions. Or validate make-or-break assumptions. Build it and they will come? Not really.
As a buyer, I saw many a promising product die on the vine without a solid, go-to-market (GTM) plan. Yes, today’s competitive environment demands speed, but “going slow to go fast” has never been more important.
A GTM strategy can lead to better execution and business performance.
To set up for success, work toward a three-year GTM plan that includes 4P strategies and sales, distribution, and investment expectations.
• Ensure strong shopper fit and appeal: Start by identifying your target market and developing a differentiated value proposition that clearly defines the problem solved or gap filled by your product. Only by offering value beyond price can you generate significant consumer demand.
• Assess the retailer/marketplace landscape. Take time for a comprehensive quantitative assessment to help inform size of prize assumptions. Look closely at trends and the retailer/marketplace landscape. Do a deep dive into the category, including competitive and analogous brands. What are the lessons learned from relevant case studies? The must-do’s? The watchouts?
•. Consider the alternatives. Develop launch scenarios with various risk levels and align on one that best meets the brand’s goals. Consider: Retailer options, launch cadence, assortment priorities, pricing, promotion, merchandising strategies, investment requirements, competitors, potential issues, sourcing and operational factors.
• Understand retailer requirements that can derail success. Line review and resets timing, first ship dates, on-shelf availability, and other retailer-specific requirements must be considered when developing your sell-in strategy. Analyze trade margin requirements, investment needs, and costs of entry to understand the impact on brand margins. Know and prepare for the penalties when retailer expectations aren’t met.
• Remember: All channels are not created equal. A successful launch requires a thoughtful channel strategy to reach the target consumer and generate trial. Think about how and where the consumer shops, category size and level of historical innovation, competitive activity, and the priority the category has for the retailer.
• Get your pricing right. Otherwise, you won’t gain consumer traction and a desirable profit margin. Premium price point? Ensure differentiation and proven consumer demand. And be ready with appropriate levels of merchandising, marketing and promotional investments.
• Reduce time to market; ensure in-stocks. Develop effective sales and distribution channel strategies that reduce time to market and maintain consistent in-stocks. Selling DTC? Online? Brick-and-mortar? Use resellers and distributors? A combination?
• Ensure consistent brand identity. All channels. All retail platforms. Sounds like a no-brainer, I know, but you’d be surprised by how many don’t do this and suffer sales losses due to consumer disconnects.
• Connect, connect, connect. Develop an omnichannel marketing plan that creates strong connections with your consumer. During an economic downturn, brands that differentiate and create a strong, emotional connection with their consumers have the best chance of growing profitability.
• Win-Win Storytelling. The best sell-in approach? A compelling story that showcases brand and retailer partnership as they way to achieve joint growth and profitability. Use positive data from DTC experience as proof points if expanding to brick-and-mortar.
When people ask if it’s really worth the upfront time and effort that goes into a GTM strategy, I point to the recent success realized by a global natural food brand that “went slow” to dig deep before launching in the US. Through the GTM planning process, important category and consumer insights emerged, leading our team to reposition the brand to leverage increased US consumer interest in functional foods. A targeted retail channel strategy, compelling retailer selling story, and a multi-touchpoint consumer communications plan followed. The result? Key retail distribution, expanded eCommerce sales on dot coms, and dramatic growth across the full omnichannel marketplace. Lots more to know…If you want the full story, call me!
So, my advice:
Stop the sprint in launch planning. And think about what a well thought-through GTM strategy can do for your brand performance. What are you waiting for?