“I want my company to become a category leader, only the category I believe we belong in doesn’t exist. How do you create a category?”
I was almost finished my workshop on Thought Leadership, Creating Category Leaders and one of the students asked me this question.
He explained to me that he was the Chief Marketing Officer of a post Series-A scale-up (fast-growing startup) and felt that the best growth for his product was to become a category leader. The company had been placed inside a Gartner Quadrant already, but the Executive Team felt that the placement wasn’t quite right. They believed they were leaders in a category that didn’t yet exist. They had been working to educate the market. However, even though they were talking about it, no one was listening.
Perception is reality. They were not becoming leaders of a new category, because no one else acknowledged the existence of that category.
Here’s the thing, if you’re the only company in that category – it doesn’t exist. One does not a trend make.
A category consists of several players inside it. This means you have to find another, complementary company, to be in that category with you. Together you create a movement which becomes the category, and you a leader in it. If you can’t find a complimentary company, then find a competitor that sells to a slightly different space also works – think Pipedrive and Salesforce. Or the beginning of Marketo (selling to small enterprises) and Hubspot (selling to smaller companies and agencies.)
Work with a group of companies on co-promotion. Think:
- Lounges at major conferences
- Co-hosted event for the new industry
- Group webinars
- Co-branded white papers
- A category blog with multiple players contributing
- All of you pitching the leading analysts about the new category
- Creating an industry organization that is to be separate from all of the companies
Creating a new category is about the group. That means a category consists of more than one. The lone company is ignored, until a group is created. Instead the leader welcomes the first follower, and together they welcome the group. This what makes a category and gives birth to a movement. This is how category leaders are born.
In my workshop I referenced this video – which is from 2010 and still holds true today.