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Should you create a category?

Should you create a category?

There was a question a few weeks ago in the Exit Five community from Calvin about category creation and I thought it would be a good one to feature in this week's newsletter:

Category creation seems to be all the rage in B2B marketing these days. I see marketers talk about it on LinkedIn every day."

"Don't compete, just make your own category!" they say.

If only it were that easy.

It takes so much more than writing blogs about it and pitching Forrester analysts.
Let's have an honest discussion. How come everyone fancies themselves a category creator, but yet there are only so few B2B categories that are "official"? It's like being an NBA player. Only 0,5% ever make it.

It also seems to be an ego thing. Creating a category isn't an optimal path to growth for most companies, it's just that a lot of companies want to be remembered as the ones who did it.

IMHO by creating an expectation of becoming a category creator, you're just setting yourself up for failure. If anything, you're confusing prospects because instead of using terms they know, you're introducing jargon they never heard of before which will make them resistant to hear you out.

Now I'm curious... suppose you're still hellbent on creating a category... what would it take to succeed?

How did real category creators like Drift pull it off?
My Answer (and of course, so much nuance here and almost impossible to answer in text/email format, but I have something to say anyway)
  • Depends on how you define a category. Do you need a category or just something to be known for
  • Category creation is hard / not for everyone. Drift had the financing, timeline, market conditions, founders vision, talented team (you need that!!! I don’t think the team gets enough credit . People think it’s so easy as you say)
  • Success was everywhere. It became obvious. Gartner wrote about to. G2 added it as a category. Drift wrote the book on the topic. And became known for conversational marketing in peoples minds. We built an audience of thousands of people who knew Drift = Conversational Marketing and wanted help growing their business and looked at Drift as the expert in a new way of doing things.
  • It has always been the rage in marketing. 1993 Jack Trout and Al Reis 22 Immutable Laws - if you can’t be first create a new category you can be first in
    - you’re only confusing prospects if you don’t have a strong story, strong fit, and there’s a need - at Drift people started calling what we were doing conversational marketing (customers) before we went all in on it. We had originally called it something different.
  • IT SHOULD BE HARD!!! there are no easy paths to building a $1B company
  • No one in my experience thinks it’s as simple as you poke fun at in your graphic. It’s hard and should be hard. Otherwise just stick to a phrase you want to be know for and you can still build a v successful business
  • Why is it the rage now? Same reasons we still talk / argue about the definitions of an MQL people just need some stuff to talk about. IMO history repeats. The playbook has always been the same. And not everyone can execute and win on it.

- Dave 

Podcast: 16 Lessons I Wish I Knew

This week on the Exit Five podcast it's just me! And the recording from my session at Metadata's DEMAND 2022 virtual event where I shared for the first time my talk about the 16 lessons I wish I knew as a first-time B2B marketing leader.


I went from marketing manager to CMO in four years, and only now do I realize how much I did not know :) and I tried my best to pack those lessons into a ~40 minute talk. 

You may have read the lessons in a prior newsletter, but this is much better. Hope you tune in.

Listen on Spotify


Listen on Apple Podcasts

Past episodes include: 

- What is means to be a media company, building an audience, and community

- Building your 2023 marketing plan

- How to make smart marketing bets and scale marketing programs before you need them

- What to do when there's no urgency to buy

- 6Sense CMO Latane Conant on growing 100% YoY the last four years

- Why + how to do win/loss analysis 

- And many more - we put out a new podcast episode on B2B marketing every week and I know you'll get something out of it if you're subscribed here to my newsletter.


Shoutout to my friends at Demandwell for sponsoring the podcast. Demandwell is the best SEO solution for B2B SaaS marketers. They’ve helped customers like Lessonly drive 40% of their revenue from organic search. And they helped Terminus’s make organic search their number one source of demos. Check them out. Tell them you heard about them from Exit Five.


41 Open Jobs Right Now - Exit Five Job Board


It's rocky out there right now. Every week there seems to be another B2B SaaS company you've heard of making layoffs.


But there's a *huge* opportunity right now for the companies that are hiring, and I'm still seeing some good opportunities weekly through the Exit Five job board.


As of today there are 41 open roles from Head of Marketing to Marketing Manager to some channel specific roles like copywriter and paid media specialist.

The Exit Five job board reaches ~4,000 B2B marketing candidates each month and it's a great place to get more eyeballs on your open roles (or to browse if you're reading this and looking for something new).


Learn more at jobs.exitfive.com.

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