Building it doesn't mean they will come
Getting your product or service to your customers takes work, forethought, creativity, and most importantly a deep understanding of your target customer. Too many entrepreneurs think if you build it, customers will just come. Many share the same misbelief that building a website, putting an app in the App store, or running a Kickstarter campaign will automagically bring in customers and revenue. Defining the right strategy for going to market requires customer, partner, and channel discovery.
The methods for discovering the right distribution channels and possible partnerships are similar to customer discovery. Entrepreneurs need to form a hypothesis about customer acquisition, and then get out of the building to talk with customers as well as people in those channels or at potential partners to test their hypothesis. The reason you want to build channels and partnerships is to leverage the network effects they can create. Selling one customer at a time is good, but getting other companies/organizations to sell your product or service to their customers can be more cost effective when reaching for scale.
Selling direct to customers may be an appropriate approach, but it is very likely only one aspect of a complete GTM strategy. A comprehensive strategy identifies which target customers will be reached via what channel, with coordinated marketing campaigns, and corresponding budgets allocated. It’s also important to define the metrics by which you’ll assess the effectiveness of each approach.
Sounds simple and straightforward. So how does one go about identifying the right channels? First, start with asking how your customers satisfy the problem you’re solving now. Are they buying a competitor’s offering? How/where do they buy? See what other related products they use. A related product could identify a possible partner or a channel opportunity. See if there are natural groups of people who need your offering and if a group does purchasing on their behalf (e.g. PTA for after school services, etc). Just as with customer discovery, experimentation is required to find both customers and your initial target segment(s).
The same is true for finding channels and partners. When identifying channels and partnerships, explore different collections of customers (for example, PTAs might do bulk purchasing for parents, professional associations often make purchases for their memberships, or alumni associations for their members). Each channel requires a value proposition (for example, why is it beneficial for the channel or partner) and should be targeted with specific marketing campaigns. The most successful partnerships are win/win propositions, where each side obtains clearly measurable benefits.
Partner/Channel Discovery is as important as customer discovery. Building something you know people want (having validated your hypothesis), but not finding an effective way of letting them know about it or getting it to them leads to costly frustration. So get out of the building to find your customers, partners, and best channels for your products/services.