Building Your Next B2B Go-to-Market Design:
The Strategy-to-Execution Toolbox
The Strategy-to-Execution Toolbox
How a company reaches its customers only scratches the surface of a powerful GTM strategy. Most companies know this well, yet many still overlook—and underexplore—rich possibilities. For example, we see companies gather limited information on customer perceptions, fail to assess the size of individual opportunities and overlook detailed financial analyses. Moreover, aspects relating specifically to differentiating services or products, including why customers should choose the business as a partner, how to incentivize long-term relationships, the scope of after-sales services and more, also get left by wayside.
The primary reasons for this are two-fold.
First, many companies begin the B2B GTM journey with a limited view of its organizational impact, choosing to isolate its development within the sales area. Second, repeating a past GTM strategy or copying and pasting tactics from elsewhere in the market is (understandably) a strong temptation. We even seen companies grasp this as a best practice at times.
However, we believe that for a commercial strategy to capture its full value it must 1.) encourage buy-in from the entire company, which is always most effective when led by the C-suite and 2.) to be truly implementable, the B2B GTM must correspond to the reality and needs of the company—an ideal that can never be achieved by repeating a strategy from a different context.
With these two fundamental aspects in mind—sponsorship of the CEO and a fresh space from which to build the new commercial strategy, we offer here our Strategy-to-Execution Toolbox: a comprehensive, three-part guide to tailored B2B GTM design. Although the toolbox represents a proven path, the solutions that result and what implementation looks like in each context are entirely unique. Importantly, the toolbox emphasizes continually linking ideas to practical steps (connecting strategy to execution), which is frequently shared with us as a top-ranking concern of the approximately 500 CEOs we work with each year.
The toolbox includes the key ingredients of Market Foundation, GTM Design, and Change Management and Implementation. However, change management is not the “third element”; it cuts across all components. It is the crux of the transformation and should be viewed as the other half of a complete commercial strategy. As such, we will not cover change management and implementation here—but instead encourage you to visit our quick guide to change management and implementation in the context of the B2B GTM.
The Strategy-to-Execution Toolbox
1. Market Foundation
All GTMs begin with defining their objectives, which should be aligned with the strategic goals of the company. Some B2B GTMs are intended to hit several targets at once but will likely be focused on increasing profitability or capturing higher market volume or share. Once these objectives are defined, the first step is to establish the Market Foundation your company is operating within. Fundamentally, this stage entails robust information-gathering and detailed analysis—and it is a critical moment to understand the reality of your company, from the outside-in.
As we mentioned above, many businesses many businesses start off by recycling well-worn B2B GTM designs that cloud and limit possibilities from the outset. In addition to reducing the likelihood of an effective implementation, these tactics don’t facilitate the right strategies because they don’t respond to the present demands of the business. For instance, where your product or service is sold; what your clients do with your product or service; the role it plays in their businesses; whether you are meeting expectations in quality, service, pricing and more. This has high potential for misfire in identifying ways to differentiate the value of your business for your clients. To achieve this understanding, three core actions are needed to establish your Market Foundation:
i. Voice of the market: a diverse, objective, end-to-end view of the client ecosystem, typically gathered through a questionnaire and/or interviews. A sample that covers all regions and channels is the goal here—satisfied vs. dissatisfied customers; those who value price over service and vice versa; distributors vs. wholesalers vs. resellers, etc. The output should be a clear picture of what matters to each customer type so that solutions can be developed that meet their needs while ensuring the efficiency and efficacy of your internal operations.
One example of how the voice of the market benefits the B2B GTM can be illustrated through the case of a paper and derivatives manufacturer that used interviews to divide their clients into two groups. The first included clients for whom office materials were essential. They placed orders frequently and required the company’s products for everyday operations. For these clients, service and a one-stop shop for goods were more critical than cost. By comparison, the second group comprised clients who purchased paper in bulk and maintained high inventory levels, making price more critical than service. Consequently, the B2B GTM included two commercial model designs that ensured both needs were met while netting a cost reduction for the manufacturer: one incorporated a distributor with a solid service reputation and product offerings to complement the clients’ needs, while the other secured the most cost-effective delivery method possible.
ii. Demand distribution index: an overview of demand by region to gain detailed knowledge of the size of different opportunities by location. This index should be matched to choices about how (or whether) to specialize the commercial model. Likewise, it can indicate where too much effort is being expended on a small opportunity vs. where untapped profit has yet to be captured. As one possibility, the demand distribution index added depth and detail for the paper and derivatives manufacturer described above, solidifying the decision to segment commercial models per client type. However, specializing approaches may not be viable if the regions you serve don’t represent the critical mass and profit needed to justify higher costs.
As one possibility, the demand distribution index added depth and detail for the paper and derivatives manufacturer described above, solidifying the decision to segment commercial models per client type. However, specializing approaches may not be viable if the regions you serve don’t represent the critical mass and profit needed to justify higher costs.
Take the case of a professional services company with a fleet of salespeople. The company was aware that specialized salespeople were more effective in selling products to specific client segments than those with general knowledge. But, this was difficult to maintain across multiple regions. Using the demand distribution index exercise, the company identified that 10 regions represented 40 percent of their revenue, and there were strong business incentives for building a more technical, specialized sales force in these areas. In contrast, in the other geographies the company served, a hybrid model that guaranteed broad coverage (with some specialization where warranted) proved to be a strong solution.
iii. Cost-to-serve: this is a well-known exercise, but in our experience, it usually isn’t done effectively—either per client, or by aggregating results per channel. Similarly, the criteria behind the cost allocation may mask the profitability of some clients, leading to decisions that affect the B2B company’s bottom line. Factors to consider include client-based research and development, selling services, customer service and more. An exacting picture of profit and loss per client makes comparisons between and among industries possible. In turn, this enables adjustments, new service-level definitions and the possibility of cutting clients if needed. A key benefit of cost-to-serve analyses is the ability to break free of a one-size-fits-all service model; service levels may be of importance to your business but are of significant value to discussions focused on profitability.
Returning again to the case of the paper and derivatives manufacturer, after determining the value of service vs. price for each client type, the cost-to-serve exercise was used to select the commercial model for the group focused on price (those who bought in bulk).
Another, more complex example involves a chemical company with a mix of regional and overseas clients. Due to the fluctuation of currency rates, at times the in-country clients were more profitable, but at other times, the export-related clients were more profitable than a subset of the in-country group. This understanding was facilitated by a rigorous cost-to-serve analysis that was performed by channel, giving the company new visibility into logistics and customs costs, among other factors. Ultimately, this led to prioritizing the in-country clients, but the B2B GTM also facilitated a strong service level design for overseas clients, who at times were more profitable than some (but not all) in-country clients. The cost-to-serve exercise further analyzed clients by country to prioritize sales opportunities.
2. B2B Go-to-Market Design
The second part of the Strategy-to-Execution toolbox, B2B GTM Design, is composed of the six fundamental tools we use to ensure a new commercial strategy considers all opportunities. These tools represent choices, as well as vehicles for unique, actionable solutions. The classic approach considers each individual tool depicted below, starting with Segmentation and working around to Commercial Model, Service Level, Sales Structure, Commercial Tools and finally, Customer Action Plans.
As a sub-component of the Strategy-to-Execution toolbox, phase two, B2B GTM Design, is composed of six fundamental commercial strategy tools that are vehicles for unique, actionable solutions.
Companies pursue B2B GTMs for a variety of reasons—some for the promise of conquering new horizons, increasing profits or capturing market share. Others to keep pace with innovation, invigorate their commercial identity or attain clarity about financial results. There are no ready-made solutions—at least not ones that will be as effective as a fresh, bespoke commercial strategy design. There are, however, tools that can be effectively tailored to the demands of your business and your reality. Our Strategy-to-Execution toolbox was custom-built with this necessity in mind, and we hope it inspires dialogue within your organization about how your next B2B GTM will continue advancing your business objectives.
Interested in getting in touch? We look forward to any opportunity to discuss our work further with you. Learn more about our Marketing & Sales practice and how to get in touch here.