How to design an effective Go-to-Market Strategy for Tech Start-ups & SMB’s?

A significant majority of the innovations happening in the industry are driven by start-ups. Be it because of the risk-taking ability of start-ups or how the majority of the large corporations become too structured to embrace innovation. But aside from product-market fit, the engineering capability of the tech team, the Go to market strategy that Tech startups & SMBs adopt plays a critical role in their success.

There are multiple ways in which a product and service can be launched, but for a Tech start-up or SMB, the Go-To-Market motions are slightly limited. For example, a large corporation can sponsor an event and do a full-fledged launch with analysts from Forrester, IDC, GigaOm, etc covering it. But Tech start-ups might not have huge dollars to go through this exercise.


On a parallel note, the go-to-market strategy for Tech start-ups & SMBs should be initiated much before the product/service launch. For example, to validate an idea ProductHunt can be leveraged, and the number of upvotes that a product gets can indicate the potential of the product/service.


This is also helpful as before building a product, a start-up needs to identify potential users of its app, understand its target customers’ challenges and ask them to be a part of a community. These users can then be kept engaged through a Slack Channel, Discord community, or a Newsletter.

One of the biggest challenges for tech startups is deciding on which strategy to use.

Many start-ups’ founders ask, “How do I launch a new product or service?” If a start-up has already invested s significant amount of resources to build a product. This can be a very scary situation to be in. As for start-up planning, a product launch should be embedded into its product development cycle

To elaborate before building a product doing an MVP is an often-recommended approach as popularized by the “Lean Startup” philosophy. And as part of this process build a prototype, by talking to your ideal customer persona. taking feedback and then scaling product development should be the way to go.

But in case a start-up has not gone through the MVP phase or it has done a limited number of deployments then it can adopt various approaches depending on what go-to-market motion it needs to leverage. This depends on factors like the complexity of the product, contract value, etc.

For example, if the deal size is very small, say around $100, then leveraging Youtube marketing, Appstore optimization, SEO, influencers, review sites like G2, and product hunt should be part of the GTM strategy. On the other hand, if the start-up’s contract value is $10k plus. A Direct Sales and Inside sales-driven approach work better.

As soon as the contract value starts crossing the $ 50 k mark using a combination of direct sales, Inside Sales, partner networks, and events are the most effective client acquisition channel.

Understanding the target customers is essential for any strategy to work.

Before a startup begins designing any strategy, it needs to do a deep dive into its customer persona. This can be done by identifying the answer to questions like:

  • What issue does the product help its target customers address?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how big is this problem?
  • Are there any other product services that are solving this or similar problems?

Types of Sales Channel

Direct Sales

As touched upon earlier Direct Sales works well when the deal size is large and requires complex manoeuvring and strong relationship. In this model which has existed for literally hundreds of years, a sales rep meets prospects in person, understands requirements, discusses pain points, and outlines a solution.

In a technological context, large enterprises like SAP, IBM, Accenture, and Infosys, are typically driven by this model. Where senior-level enterprise buyers and sales teams map various centres of decision-making, ranging from Procurement, Finance, to Tech, they have a fairly strong understanding of their client’s/prospects’ business processes and can map their offering with the client’s business dynamics.

This model is one of the most expensive models to roll out, as it requires senior-level executives to be engaged to build a relationship at these organizations which in turn needs to be supported by a range of Sales Ops and domain consultants.

Along with direct sales, large service providers also leverage analyst firms like HFS Research, ISG, and Gartner as large corporate buyer programs are also driven by how a provider is placed in the there ranking matrix.

In these engagements enterprises float RFPs undertake “proof of concept” and then negotiate SLAs. This process also requires similar sales and marketing motions ranging from attending conferences to participating in analysts’ briefing

Virtual Sales Motion

For small and medium-sized tech corporations leveraging a direct sales motion might be a tough ask. Indeed suggests that an average Account Executive Salary in the US could be around $70K. And this number for a Tech SMB, if it wants to have a team of AE’s on its rolls, is going to be prohibitive, leaving aside the cost involve ed in hiring a sales leader.

So a go-to-market strategy keeping this constraint in mind would involve various aspects of inside sales ranging from calling, social outreaches and demos, virtual onboarding sessions, and deploying proofs-of-concept.

In this model typically, an inside sales rep is assigned certain geographies and s/he works in conjunction with a sales lead to pitch offerings and build a relationship. This go-to-market strategy ensures a human touch while at the same time allowing a corporation to scale while keeping costs low. This strategy is suitable for companies looking at an  Annual Contract Value between 10K- 60K USD.

An important aspect of this Go-To-Market motion is building a seamless pre-sales and onboarding process which includes a strong capabilities deck, product demos, requirement mapping, and deployment processes.

Automated Sales

An evolving Go to Market strategy that corporations like Atlassian, Zapier, and Twilio have perfected is the process of completely no-touch sales and customer onboarding.

This strategy leverages a process involving SEO, content marketing, a freemium model, and automated onboarding. This model relies upon factors like online demos, uncomplicated product deployments, User Experience, customer engagement driven upselling, etc.

This process works well for small Annual Contract Value $1K-$10K and predominantly targets business users.

Blended Motion

Corporations like Salesforce use an approach that combines the best of all worlds, as they tend to get deployed both at large enterprises as well as SMBs In this approach when their product gets trialled at an entity where the contract value is higher they use the traditional method of assigning an Account representative to customize and upsell their platform, but for small enterprises they rely on an automated sales process

This blended motion is pretty complex to implement as teams need to be made aware that they don’t end up competing with each other resulting in a disjointed messaging

Concluding Thoughts

To wrap up, the process to a great go-to-market strategy is pretty uncomplicated for marketers who have done and designed campaigns similar in nature, but if done wrong, it can seriously affect the long-term viability of a venture.

A startup needs to identify what market segments it wants to penetrate, who its ideal customer profile is, and what kind of wallet share it is looking for from within that market segment, and based on answers to these questions it needs to create a plan that will help it reach its goals.

It is important that the Go to Market motion is aligned with its product development roadmap, so that Sales, Marketing, and Engineering collaborate seamlessly

Interesting in doing a deep dive on the effective Go-to-Market Strategy for your  Tech Start-up, please fill in the form here

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