What is Mark’s approach to category creation and design?
To Mark, the term” category creation” is often mislabeled. He would rather refer to it as category discovery, in the same way that archaeologists discover ancient cities and relics, he and his team at Influitive discover categories and trends.
Mark first finds a group of people that he thinks will become powerful and numerous because of important trends that are happening in technology and society.
These were former engineers that were now tasked with generating repeatable demand using the internet and other digital channels. So we created this demand gen automated category.
What Mark does at Influitive is discover and introduce communities, and make them feel like they’re safe and among like-minded people. He does this by:
- Understanding the trends and technology
- Defining the people who benefit from this category
- Understanding these people in-depth
Understand their mental model and how they think, especially in terms of, not just their needs, but their attitudes.
Questions Mark uses to delve into the minds of Influitive’s clients
In order to understand his clients (and their mental models) more, he uses a number of different questions to probe into their minds. A few of these questions include:
- What is influential to you today that was off of your radar screen six months ago?
- What would cause you to do a lot more of this activity than you do today?
- What kind of environment are you looking for?
- If your company was an animal, what kind of animal would it be?
What do your customers really want?
Mark raises the question, “How did Apple beat Blackberry?” During their first editions, Apple’s battery life was incredibly low while Blackberry’s battery could last days. Despite that, Mark admits to swapping from a Blackberry (which he loyally carried for 12 years) to an Apple. But why?
Because the criteria changed.
He rations that it was because Apple was solving for a different problem than Blackberry was. What Apple understood was that there was a subset of people who wanted an ecosystem of different applications; they don’t care how long it lasts.
The lesson here is to learn about your market and community. This insight and proprietary insight into your community will give you a decisive advantage over your competitors. Your competitors might copy your surface features but they will not understand why you are building your products or services the way you do.
Because you actually have the insight, it allows you to create something truly special and long-lasting.
How steps do you take when discovering categories?
Step one is to start with the content for products. What Mark suggests is you create your manifesto. Even theologically and philosophically, leaders often start with some sort of manifesto: a bible, proclamations, or some sort of document which states the beliefs and reasoning behind your platform.
Step two is to create your community. Bring like-minded people together in order to discuss the topic and a better tomorrow. Mark suggests starting on a social media platform before moving to a proprietary platform.
Step three is to ask people what they really need, which leads to creating products and services that are truly powered by the people who believe in your beliefs.
I think by writing your manifesto and by turbo-charging your community, I think you can build a powerful community around group coaching.
How do you name your category?
The names that stick are the names that you hear your customers using. Do your research within your community and online. What phrases or words are people using to describe your community or what you’re trying to do?
What are some resources that Mark suggests for community and category research?
Mark’s book, The Messenger is The Message: How to Mobilize Customers and Unleash the Power of Advocate Marketing is a great resource for identifying your community.
He has also spoke in a few sessions for Salesforce.com including one titled, Building Your Brand Through Employee And Customer Advocacy. He also suggests a book written by Anthony Kennada called, Category Creation: How to Build a Brand that Customers, Employees, and Investors Will Love.
This interview is part of the How We Solve podcast. To hear more from industry experts who are solving everyday business problems, check us out on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and on our website.
About the guest
Mark first revolutionized B2B marketing as the founding CEO of Eloqua (ELOQ), the world leader in marketing automation software, which was acquired for $871M. Mark has also helped over a dozen software companies successfully go to market in asymmetrical or disruptive ways as a consultant and entrepreneur.