Ep. 7 James Ricks – The Proof is in Creating a Category

If you can’t be first in a category, then you should create a new one. And that’s exactly what James Ricks and his team and the leaders at RTA have been working on!

What you’ll learn in this episode:

  • How to roll out a new category internally and how to “measure” initial success
  • How to get employees involved in creating content about the category
  • How to use a random viral video to sell your leadership on category design
  • How to get your team active on LinkedIn
  • A few examples of “lightning strikes” (a category-defining event/initiative): a book, a podcast, category training and certification
  • How to get information from your customers

James’ recommendations:

  1. What got you here, won’t get you there. As the market dynamics change, you have to do something you have never done before
  2. The entire team needs to be on board with the category, and it’s important to have agreement on what embarking on category design can mean for each team – finance, product, sales, etc. not just marketing.
  3. Your category has to be bigger than your product.
  4. Read the Category Creation book by Anthony Kennada.
  5. Talking to customers is mission critical to seeing patterns and validating the idea and need for a new category.
  6. A “lightning strike” doesn’t need to be something expensive or resource heavy.

You’ll need to listen to the full episode if you want to hear the Lightning Round, but here are a few highlights:

  • James is very excited about RTA’s new podcast
  • Don’t use the word “unprecedented” around James

Proofpoint’s POV:

 

Category design isn’t new, but that doesn’t make it any less impactful. Creating a category is the best way to differentiate your business.

When you create a category, you create an opportunity for your company to take a POV on the issue the category is dealing with. At that point, you are no longer selling your product. You are simply getting people to either agree or disagree with your POV. And once they agree with your POV, you are the only game in town.

Doing so makes the work and decision making across all teams easier. Sales no longer needs to sell the better widget. Instead they are just promoting the POV. Marketing doesn’t have to wonder what content to create. All content needs to support the POV. The product team doesn’t need to wonder which features to prioritize. All features need to support the POV. Hiring becomes easier because your candidates either understand and get excited about your POV, or they don’t.

The list goes on.

What I love about what James brought up is that their new category of Fleet Success is allowing RTA to over time stop competing and start leading. Specifically James mentioned declining unit economics of paid media in the Fleet Management space. This is something that many businesses, not just SaaS, are starting to see right now. Traditional intent-based channels like paid search have been becoming more and more expensive over the years – paying $15 – $30 per click is often not feasible, even when you are selling a $20,000 – $100,000 ACV product.

Creating a new category allows you to avoid this over time, since a new category creates a new category of keywords which initially will be less expensive, and if you are the leader, then you will also own the organic as well. Not to mention the mindshare captured in awareness channels like social.

In short, creating a new category allows you to change your marketing mix.

A bit more about James:

 

James is an entrepreneur, marketer and a risk taker (follow his LinkedIn handle #takingricks). At one point pre-pandemic, James and his family decided to sell their home, put their stuff in storage and move to Hawaii all while James was starting The Consulting Launchpad.

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