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Hila Segal
VP Product & Customer Marketing at Observe.AI | Formerly Clari, Vendavo, AmdocsMay 29

Not everyone should pursue a category creation strategy. It might be appealing but it's a huge heavy-lift and will require significant investment and buy-in from everyone in the company - not just your executives. It really all starts from the story - the strategic narrative - and how strong and new it is to justify creating a new category. Spend time on getting this right, validated, and agreed upon internally and this will naturally guide the team on the category question. The biggest champion and spokesperson of the category in the company is the CEO - collaborate with him/her to get the story super tight. 

Scott Schwarzhoff
Operating Partner at Unusual Ventures February 6

I don’t think there are a lot of completely new categories created these days. In enterprise software, most new companies are improving on existing ways of solving the same problems we’ve had for a couple decades. So, the real question, I think, is how to align on a shared view of what the ‘new world’ requirements are to winning a market that has evolved. At Okta, we had a strong POV on the beliefs customers should have when considering a new approach to identity. For us, ‘cloud-first, enable best-in-breed, simplicity, and secure-by-design’ have been core tenets for how we view the world since day 1. We would shape RFPs, analyst submissions, and early customer development around these core beliefs.

With a shared view of how a customer should solve a problem in hand, then it’s much easier to gain buy-in to pursue a category creation or evolution strategy. Here’s the Citrix Mobility pitch we used, same thing. At Citrix, every capability is rated on a 3-point scale:

* Table-stakes: required capabilities that everyone and where there’s no clear uniqueness.
* Competitive differentiators: everyone has the capability, but your company does it better
* Purple cows: your company provides this capability and no one else has it

So in practice, here’s how that netted out for our entry into the mobility market:

* Mobile Device Management: table stakes. Everyone has it, no one had a big advantage
* Mobile App Management: differentiated. We put a security ‘wrapper’ around applications that protected them from security breaches. Not unique to us but the easy wrapping capabilities were novel.
* Mobile Data Management: purple cow. No mobility vendor offered a secure Dropbox-like capability. We generated 70% of our mobility sales based on this unique capability.

We didn’t create the MDM market - AirWatch did. But we did create a new ‘super market’ called EMM or Enterprise Mobility Management, which we defined as Device, App, and Data Management. PMM and PM collaborated on its construction and presented this to executive management, but only after vetting with early customer adopters, analysts, and influencers. So, we came to the discussion with data in hand vs. an opinion.

Harsha Kalapala
Vice President Product Marketing at AlertMedia | Formerly TrustRadius, Levelset, WalmartMarch 22

Trying to get buy-in over a theoretical outcome is always an uphill battle. I would focus on making meaningful progress by yourself on category design. Ask for forgiveness, not permission. Test things out and gain some traction. And then worry about getting buy-in to do more of what works.

It will also be important to educate your team on why category creation (or redefinition) is the right strategy for your company at this time. Get them to read the book “Play Bigger” by Christopher Lochhead. Follow Christoper Lochhead on LinkedIn for bite-sized insights on the topic. Show them examples of companies in a similar situation winning with category design techniques. Combining this education with early proof that this is the right move for your company can really help your team see the light.

Anthony Kennada
CEO at AudiencePlus January 23

It has to start at the top. Creating a category is very expensive, so you’ll need the board and CEO to be bought in. Frankly, it impacts everything from fundraising strategy to a lot of decision making on deploying marketing spend. 

The question comes back to the strategic value you’re hoping to create for the company – and maybe your first step is framing that conversation with your CEO. Are you trying to build a large business (IPO+) that is addressing a massive gap in the market and an underserved buyer? That market may be a good candidate for category creation. Can your target persona benefit from partnership in strategy definition in addition to products? That may be another good signal.

If the vision of your executive team is to solve a very specific problem set that does not require much business transformation, or access to capital is much more limited relative to peer companies, then category creation may not be the most efficient way to build your go-to-market.