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

Category creation is a journey into the unknown. There are rarely clear right or wrong answers at the beginning so brace yourself for the ride. 

Here are a few areas to think about: 

- Category name. You want to find a name that represents the new world and the promise of the category while making it understandable and relatable. Don't be tempted to narrowly represent your product with the name. Think big. 

- Start early with the analysts. Your efforts will likely not move the needle for the first 12-18 months but keep investing in analyst education to help shape their POV.

- Category creation is a company-wide effort. Don't think of it as just the responsibility of the marketing team. Category creation requires the entire company - from sales, CS, and marketing to engineering, implementation, and HR - to rally behind the story and evangelize it with customers, prospects, partners, candidates, and vendors. It's that level of commitment and consistency that is required for the market to take notice. 

- Category creation is not for everyone. Not every new product or solution deserves a new category. Think long and hard if you are really in the business of a new category or disrupting an existing one. 

Scott Schwarzhoff
Operating Partner at Unusual Ventures February 6

One of the biggest challenges we had in the early days was competing against Microsoft. They are the grand-daddy of identity in that they created Active Directory, which has been the authoritative directory for every enterprise for decades. As you can imagine, they wanted to hold on to this critical IT control point for as long as possible as the world moved to the cloud, so they came out with something called Azure Active Directory, which is a directly competitive product to Okta’s.

The reason why this was a huge challenge early on was the integration that Microsoft identity has with Office365, their flagship product. So, if the world is moving to SaaS software, well, the number one initiative for every company out there is to get Office365 deployed. How do you do that? Using Azure Active Directory. So, we had to compete not only against the 800lb gorilla’s directly competitive product, but we ALSO had to deal with positioning ourselves as best for deploying the #1 killer app - Office365.

So, early on, we tried the head-to-head route. But, as you can imagine, the results were mixed as we basically played into Microsoft's hands ("we can deploy Office365 too, but we can do it faster than Microsoft" ... yeah, that didn't win the deal). So, we evolved the playbook. Over the last few years, we’ve had an 80% win rate. Since everyone has asked me at some point, ‘how did you beat Microsoft’, I thought I’d write down our playbook in a nutshell. Below are 10 steps we took to win vs. the market incumbent and 800lb gorilla. Attached is a more detailed walkthrough of each step:

1. Start with a strong founder insight
2. Address a big market with lots of room to expand and/or pivot
3. Build a compelling, simple-to-use ‘core’ product that people love
4. Make IT the transformative hero
5. Sell on customer value
6. Invest in customers first with a maniacal focus on their success
7. Tell your story through the lens of your customers
8. Rewrite the rules to go beyond your competitor’s capabilities
9. Build an ecosystem moat
10. Expand into disruptive market adjacencies

Anthony Kennada
CEO at AudiencePlus January 23

Waiting too long to layer in the tried and true tactics that work.

I mentioned in another response that traditional tactics such as outbound prospecting or PPC did not convert well early in our years building Gainsight and Customer Success. Reason being, no one knew what CS was nor were they doing much searching online!

However once your category tips, game on. I regret waiting 1-2 quarters too late to ramp our paid media spend, double down on SDRs, etc.