Fitbit has chiseled out a niche within the medical industry with a marketing strategy that relies on community-building and social motivation, word-of-mouth, and gamification to encourage fitness participation—and is expecting 500% user growth in the next six years on top of their current $2.1 billion valuation.

When Fitbit launched its Smart Coach App, it used a more precise GTM Strategy (Go-to-market strategy), with the “Get More With Fitbit” slogan, integration with current activity trackers, and the following goals:

  • Boosting subscription revenue
  • Creating more brand awareness
  • Improving the subscription attach rate

By using both owned and paid channels, such as display ads, along with push notifications, a social media blitz, and digital newsletters, they were able to reach the target audience—existing Fitbit users with smartphones.

The result?

Fitbit’s “Get More With Fitbit” go-to-market strategy earned the company an estimated $192 million in annual revenue.

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When do you need to craft a Go-to-market strategy?

By understanding and implementing an effective go-to-market strategy—a momentary, one-time strategy that launches new products into the market—Fitbit was able to add fuel to their marketing strategy. Remember that a marketing strategy comprises your overall strategy for reaching prospective consumers and making them active, loyal consumers—including:

  • Your value prop
  • Your brand messaging
  • Your use of data

Nike, like Fitbit, has marketed itself as a company that finds fresh, innovative ways to help people stay in shape—with that overall marketing strategy, they keep delivering new go-to-market strategies for creative products. Nike—which started with running shoes in the 1970s—has found creative ways, such as:

  • Aspiration commercials
  • Social activism
  • Incredible social media engagement, especially on YouTube to introduce self-lacing shoes, a Nike+iPod activity tracker, and flyknit technology, among others.

If your startup is in its very early days, your go-to-market strategy and your marketing strategy will be the same. Once you have built some momentum and a broader array of products, your marketing strategy will help you maintain your competitive edge and reach your core, ideal customer profile—while your go-to-market strategy will help you broaden your game plan, bring new products to market, and keep your brand fresh.

Now, let’s dive deeper into what makes up a solid go-to-market strategy and when and why you need one.

What are the 5 Pillars of a Go-to-market strategy?

Golf legend and Nike spokesman Tiger Woods is a champion on the course who wins trophies and helps sell cars, watches, and shoes. When he’s in a big tournament—he knows how to let the game come to him, playing the varying weather, courses, and opponents—sometimes hitting big, powerful shots, and other times tapping a soft putt.

5 Pillars of a Go-to-market strategy slide
5 pillars of a Go-to-market strategy

It’s the same with your go-to-market strategy—or, the art of planning and directing overall the means by which a new product or service will reach consumers. It requires precision and nuance—and you need to ask yourself five basic questions:

What are you selling?

Are you solving a well-known problem or a problem people didn’t know they had. Nike found huge success with their GTM strategies for flyknit technology, self-lacing shoes, or Tiger Woods’ Signature TW shoes, but struck out when it tried to sell golf or hockey equipment.

Where do you want to play?

Some golfers want to win the US Open, while others are happy to play with their friends at the local course. Does your startup want to grab huge logos, find a niche in a B2C market, or create their own category?

What is your target audience?

Nike knows which persona will be looking to buy their next basketball or golf shoe. No matter your ideal customer profile, your startup must ensure that its product or service has a unique value proposition that is driving revenue and traction—or positive momentum for your startup with a business model that captures monetizable value and growth for users.

How’s the competition?

If you want to win the US Open or the Masters, you had best be prepared to be the best in the world. On the other hand, you may find more fun and success—and expend less resources—by winning hundreds of local tournaments. Hence, it’s vital to know your competition, understand the demand for your product or service and what pain point it solves, and if have enough in the bank to make it to the top.

How are you distributing or releasing your product or service?

Will people find you on an app or an online store? Will they get your product via a 3rd-party distributor? Can they buy a subscription? Are there opportunities for renewals, upselling, or cross-selling? Do you work with partners? If so, does your messaging and marketing manifesto match? Nike recently has taken the bold move to drop many so-called “undifferentiated” retail partners and now limits where Nike shoes can be sold.

Answering these five basic questions adequately will help you get started developing a well-polished GTM strategy that will differentiate your brand or wow potential VC backers.

What makes up a solid marketing strategy?

The Nike Marketing Strategy didn’t start with a slick Michael Jordan ad or an inspiring You Can’t Stop Sport video. It didn’t start with a product or even a pair of shoes—it started with a desire to help people get in shape and with the book Jogging by William Bowerman. Bowerman found what his eventual target audience wanted—a better way to get in shape, fitness support, and incredible content—and only then did the running shoes follow.

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5 rules that make up a solid marketing strategy

You’ve probably already heard a lot about the five P’s (product, price, promotion, place, and people), so let’s look at Nike’s famed marketing strategy, which gives startups a tremendous template to follow:

State your purpose

What problem or pain point are you trying to solve? Make your vision crystal clear before you can truly develop your brand and allow yourself to evolve in the future. Nike’s mission—”to do everything possible to expand human potential…by creating groundbreaking sport innovations”—is easily seen in their advertising, and you can easily identify Nike ads, even if the logo is covered up.

Find your target audience

Nike focuses on men and women ages of 15-40, mostly in North America, Western Europe, and China. After you know to whom you’re selling to—and not selling to—you can develop an appropriate pricing strategy.

Speak with one unchanging voice and generate demand

Many companies keep changing their messaging. Nike remains consistent and this helps them build demand year after year. Startups looking to enter the B2B market especially need to have clear messaging, speak in one voice, and make sure—especially in tech—they can explain what their product or service does.

Promote appropriately

Create promotional materials that match your target audience. If you’re trying to reach data scientists with an AI solution, you may need intricate white papers or Medium articles—they may not appreciate Instagram stories or posts that work well to sell shoes and clothing. Nike is a master of finding its audience with a variety of techniques:

  • Ad campaigns and social media posts that inspire regular people and famous athletes
  • Direct marketing via email and online sales promotions
  • Personal selling at Nike stores and “premium retailers”
  • Public relations campaigns, such as helping community centers or local athletic fields

Build strong relationships and measure wisely

Would your clients gladly refer you to other potential customers? Is there any emotional connection with your brand? Few brands will ever be able to match Nike’s emotional connection, but you can still build customer relationships and networks. If you are making great content and getting the word out, be sure to measure some of the following metrics:

  • Website Traffic—how long are customers staying there, and what is the bounce rate?
  • Email Conversion—what is your click-through rate, and how are your CTAs doing?
  • Social Media—are you gaining meaningless likes or thoughtful interaction?
  • Advertising—are paid ads leading to meaningful leads?
  • The Competition—finally, aside from your own marketing metrics, be sure to keep an eye on what the competition is doing.

You have had a look at a few examples of the basics of a marketing strategy and a go-to-market strategy through the lens of two top companies that promote fitness—Fitbit and Nike. Now, have one last look at a head-to-head comparison.

How does a marketing strategy stack up to a GTM strategy?

It’s easy to confuse a marketing strategy and a go-to-market strategy. Let’s take one last look to see how they differ:

difference between marketing strategy & GTM strategy slide
The difference between marketing strategy & GTM strategy

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In the last 10 years Igor helped over 500 startups and venture funds around the globe to raise over $3B+ in funding | Big fan of everything lithium-powered - helped on several battery and bike-sharing investments; and now driving & exploring the world of EVs on his own | Huge believer in the enormous potential of VR, AR and Metaverse | Travel addict - visited over 100 countries & completed 2 round-the-world journeys | Spent his first money on a snowboard and has been snowboarding ever since - 16 years and counting