We've all been there. You're in a meeting with your team, and someone pulls out a copy of "Play Bigger". "I just finished this book and it’s a game changer, they say. We should create a category", they say.
These days, everyone and their mother wants to create a category. The benefits of category creation are many, as Category Pirate Christopher Lochhead often points out.
But as enticing as the idea to create a category might be, you have some questions:
- Is it possible?
- Is it worth it?
- Do we have the funds?
- Do we have a “big” enough idea?
Category Creation Wisdom From Udi Ledergor and Sydney Sloan
Gong CMO Udi Ledergor and Sydney Sloan, who recently joined Zoom as Head of Product & Industry Marketing (🙌🏻 ), prove that category creation IS indeed possible and worth it.
(Udi designed the Revenue Intelligence category, and Sydney designed the Modern Revenue Workspace™ during her time at Salesloft.)
But as Udi pointed out on the latest episode of The Marchitect:
“My first piece of advice to anyone going to create a category is avoid it like the plague. If you don’t have to create a category, don’t do it. It’s painful. It’s expensive. It’s laborious. It takes a really long time. And most attempts at creating a category fail miserably.”
Leslie Talbot, Senior Vice President of Strategic Marketing at Corporate Visions and I, chatted with Udi and Sydney. They explained what it really takes to create a category—and what role product marketing plays in category creation. Enjoy!
Q: Why Did You Create Your Category?
When Gong launched in 2016, it was in a category that was then known as Conversation Intelligence. That category served Gong well for about three years, according to Udi:
“What happened after those three years, there were other players emerging in the market, and their vision and product for Conversation Intelligence was much narrower than ours was. We felt we had outgrown the category.”
For sake of differentiation and positioning, Gong decided to pull away from Conversation Intelligence to create something bigger, broader, and farther looking.
Udi shared a second factor that drove Gong to create a new category:
“Getting and keeping the attention of senior sales leaders. When we came to a CRO and we talked to her about Conversation Intelligence, she said, ‘Oh you should talk to Michele from Enablement because she deals with those tools.’ So we needed to find something that that CRO cared about enough that she could not delegate it … and revenue is something that the CRO cares about.”
→ Listen to the full episode to hear what prompted Salesloft to create its category.
Q: How Did You Set Goals With Your CEO and Leadership?
For Sydney and Salesloft, goal setting began with thinking through brand perception:
“We had to reassess and restate who we were and how we wanted to be thought about in the market. We took 10 months to go through that process. We took our time. A lot of times, people want it faser. But when you’re making an investment in something that has a 10-year lifespan, you have to put the work in to make sure that’s right. The metrics we were looking at were brand reach, brand lift, increase in unaided awareness, and inbound.”
Q: What Is the Role Of Product Marketing Throughout the Category Creation Process?
Product marketing is the steward of the brand and the category, according to Udi:
“Sheena Badani was hired specifically for the purpose of shepherding us through the process of selecting a new name for our category back in 2019 … she’s now a senior member of the product marketing team working with them on all of our thought leadership and category plays because there is a lot of interwoven activity into What is the category messaging? What is the platform messaging? What is the competitive differentiation? How does that translate to use cases and to everyday battlecards? It all weaves into one architecture of messaging.”
→ Listen to the full episode.