GTM strategy for startups

gtm for startups

The days of gated content and intrusive email campaigns are ending – today’s buyers demand more respect and agency in their journey. Is GTM strategy for startups all so different from enterprise?

Uh… yes

The fastest-growing startups realise chasing and coercing customers no longer works. Instead they focus on understanding needs, building brand affinity and creating graceful experiences. Meeting prospects where they are.

Once attracted, smart companies weigh the long-term value of each against acquisition costs. Guiding strategy with financial discipline, not just blunt discounts.

Gated content doesn’t resonate..

Instead, buyers self-educate through communities and on-demand research. Sales engagement happens only when prospects are ready for a demo (or self-serve demos). 

Founders and GTM startup leads now must concentrate on capturing and converting latent demand efficiently.

 Investing in scalable ways to attract potential buyers even if not active in market. Excellence in branding, demand generation and customer experience ensures products stay top-of-mind.

GTM strategy guides in determining customer acquisition costs, allowing for informed, cost-effective decisions beyond common tactics like discounts.

For early-stage startups, crafting a scrappy GTM plan involves these 6 key steps.

Sales & Pricing Strategy (how you sell it and how much for)

  • Define pricing models (subscription, tiered, usage-based)
  • Establish sales channels (direct, online, partnerships)

Marketing Distribution (how it’s getting out there)

  •  Platform selection (X, Linkedin,blog, email, SEO)
  • Leverage cost-effective tactics (content marketing, YouTube)

Customer Experience & Funnel (how people experience it and at what point)

  • Design user journey (awareness to conversion)
  • Implement support systems (FAQs, knowledgebase, live chat)

Metrics Tracking

  • Focus on key KPIs (conversion rates, churn, customer lifetime value).
  • And analytics tools to track them (Posthog, Amplitude, Segment etc)

Identifying who you sell to (and it’s not everyone!)

  • Conduct market research 

See here

  • Create buyer personas
startup customer persona

Value Proposition & Messaging

  • Highlight unique selling points
  • Tailor messages to audience needs and pain points.
gtm strategy startups
Credit: Author 

GTM vs Marketing Strategy, What’s the Difference?

To many an engineer’s dismay, a successful launch takes more than “the product is good, they’ll buy it”.

A GTM strategy for startups provides a blueprint for taking your product to market. It covers the messaging, positioning, sales methods, and initial metrics tracking for customer acquisition. You need this operational groundwork for growth. 

GTM vs marketing framework

Make the right mistakes

Mistimed or poorly targeted releases are a common startup miststep. Notice I didn’t say ‘failure”? 

GTM strategies help assess market readiness and identify which customer profiles offer the most initial potential.

Unless you have a huge GTM team, a butt load of time, and want to watch before acting, you’re going to miss some things. And that’s okay, that’s experimentation. 

This allows for appropriate positioning of the product and tailoring messaging for resonance. That being said, you *can* launch more than once. 

A “proper” GTM plan covers core activities

Well-constructed GTM plans outline the details on-

  • Ideal customer personas and target segments
  • Pricing and packaging for different tiers 
  • Marketing and content plans for launch awareness
  • Sales enablement and training
  • Customer success and onboarding workflows
  • Optimal sales models such as direct, channel partners, etc.

Marketing Distribution

Avoid over-engineering complex plans and instead focus pipeline on pressing high-value targets through repeatable plays.

Validate personas through direct dialogue rather than guesswide segments, and directly engage 30–50 viable prospects to refine must-have use cases and purchase drivers. (see here for my template)

Double down on high-touch prospecting like email, Linkedin, and X DMs and even event outreach to warm to qualified targets, referrals, and warm introductions outperform broad promotional tactics early on.

Arm your channel partners

Activate collaborators who already engage your buyers by providing simple selling “toolkits” like one-pagers, FAQs, and co-branded content.

Early-stage imperatives center on product signals not complex orchestration. Meet customers where they are and go-to-market often follows.

A short note on LTV:CAC

Setting clear metrics on acceptable customer acquisition costs (CAC) versus target customer lifetime value (LTV) also boosts GTM accountability. Teams can then optimise efforts on campaigns yielding suitable payback.

This may seem like a lot of activities. And it is. So how does your GTM lead or team (or you, as a founder) get it all done? 

With OKRs. (or Objectives and Key Results). Here’s an example of an imaginary product “HeyListen”

OKR planning startup
Credit: Author

Hiring for GTM

So how do you hire for go-to-market strategy planning (and implementation/execution for that matter)?

1/ Start with marketing to drive adoption before sales.

2/ Hire data-driven generalists open to experimenting with platforms.

3/ Set clear 3–6-month goals then transition to a revenue-based quota system.

4/ Add sales capacity to close feedback loop between customers and product.

5/ Support experimentation but balance with responsibility for outcomes (OKRs as discussed)

6/ Foster autonomy and mastery within customer-facing roles.

7/ Equip teams for the scrappy launch environment but expect accountability later.

Knowing when to update your strategy


As products and buyers evolve, GTM plans can pivot to support new markets, releases, and expansion opportunities. They continue providing helpful guardrails for introducing maturing solutions to wider audiences.

Having an intentional GTM strategy de-risks new releases. Organised market launches ultimately allow everyone to focus on delighting users with an incredible product instead of fishing desperately for initial customers.

Read more from me here or check out my templates