The Category Name Matters Less Than You Think w/Ryan Bonnici

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Equating “category creation” with having an “official” category on a site like G2, Gartner, or TrustRadius seems like common sense. But they’re actually different things.

“Category creation” (or my preferred term category design) is about building a market where one previously didn’t exist. It’s more about showing the world a new way of thinking. Of making them aware of a problem, and demonstrating that a new category of solutions is now needed.

That’s why it’s dangerous to conflate an “official” category name with the actual process of category design. Just because your category language is used by a site like G2, that doesn’t mean you’ve changed hearts and minds. But the latter is ultimately more important. 

To dive into this further, I interviewed Ryan Bonnici, CMO of G2, on the B2B Growth Show.

We’ll break down why…

  • Category creation is more about creating a unique message that helps you stand out
  • Why category creators need to focus their messaging around the problem their category is trying to solve
  • The process G2 uses for naming new categories
  • When category creators should focus on “emotive” vs “descriptive” language

Link to the interview is in the comments.

 Listen below, or find the episode on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play, or Spotify.
 

Transcript of Interview with Ryan Bonnici

John Rougeux:
Are waiting. Okay, cool. And I’ll do a separate intro after we record. So I’ll just do a short one here, sir. All right, so welcome to the category creation series on the B2B growth show. I’m John [inaudible] and with me today is Ryan Bonnici who is CMO at G2. Ryan, how are you doing today?

Ryan Bonnici:
I’m doing really, really, really well. Thanks, John. How you doing?

John Rougeux:
Yeah, I’m doing pretty good. Pretty good. It’s getting cold outside, which I like. And you know, I’ve been wanting to talk to you for a long time. I think a lot of people know of you if they don’t know you personally, but what can you tell us or what should our listeners know about you beyond the fact that your CMO at G2 today?

Ryan Bonnici:
Oh I mean, I can probably tell from my accent that I’m not from the U S I’m Australian spent most of my career living and working in Australia. Love marketing and actually love is like an understatement. I’m obsessed with marketing and I’m obsessed with brands and I’m obsessed with growth and, and category creation specifically. So just like I live and breathe this stuff, it’s not just a job for me. Like I genuinely really love it. As is kind of clearly seen. If you look for my phone image gallery, you will just see screenshots of things like ads, like social media posts. Like I’m literally constantly kind of consuming content and screenshotting it and sending it to my team or thinking about it myself and what we can do. So yeah, that’s kind of me. In terms of my work context outside of work, you know, I love kites a thing, love being in the outdoors and you know, I’m in a big kind of advocate for like mental health and talking about mental health as something that’s, you know, no different to your physical health.

John Rougeux:
Yeah. That’s awesome. It’s awesome. And you’ll have to show me your phone some time cause it sounds like it’s basically just a glorified swipe file for

Ryan Bonnici:
Oh, you’re a little bit, it’s annoying actually. Like, it’s really hard for me to find photos that I’m looking for cause there are so many screen shots I really need to get into a better habit of deleting them after I take screenshots. But alas, like I’m too far deep now to to fix that.

John Rougeux:
Yeah, that’s, this is the life of an obsessed marketer. Yeah, exactly. All right, well you know, all the, all the episodes I’ve done on this series so far have been with people who have either designed categories and we’re kind of talking about that success story or they’re on the front end of that process and they’re just going down this path of category design. And our interview is going to be a little bit different today because unless I’m wrong, and correct me if this is the case, I don’t think G2 is going down the path of category design today. And again, tell me if I’m wrong in that, but you guys have played a huge role in what people think of as categories themselves. Yeah, that’s a good point.

Ryan Bonnici:
I mean, I think most of my kind of experiencing category creation was probably from my time at exact target in building, kind of like that customer life cycle, like three 60 degree view of customer kind of like category space and then inbound marketing during my time at HubSpot. And yes, that’s definitely right. Like a G2. I think like what we’re creating is definitely like unique and different for sure. And you know, I think we were, we were definitely the first company that, you know, build this concept of B2B reviews that are like peer authenticated. But I’m not sure if that is, you know, a category in itself. Cause essentially what we’re building as, you know, the world’s largest B2B marketplace. So we’re building sort of what Amazon is for consumers, you know, we’re building out for businesses. So, you know, I don’t think in that sense, like, not to say that what we’re doing is, isn’t really awesome. Interesting. But I don’t think it’s category creation.

John Rougeux:
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I know you guys have some interesting things on your roadmap that maybe you are you at Liberty to talk about or maybe or not, but it’ll certainly be interesting to see what the, what the future holds for you. But but yeah, so I’ll, I’ll give you a little backstory. I’m curious to hear your, your thoughts on this. So when I first learned about category creation, my mind immediately went to the sites like G2 and some of your competitors. And I equated, you know, category design with like this idea of like someone’s like a term that someone’s using in their messaging is officially coined on, you know, G2 or by Gartner or someone like that. Now I’ve got an opinion on that, but before I, you know, the show is really nice to hear your thoughts. So tell me what, like, what do you think or how do you think categories play? What role do they play in the B2B buying process today?

Ryan Bonnici:
Oh, that’s a good question. I mean I think they play a few different roles. And you know, I think the way sort of we, the, the reason why categories are really important to us at G2 is, you know, we have, you know, millions of reviews from people around the world using different pieces of software technology, right? Really comprehensive in that, you know, like 30 point plus like reviews. Like they’re not like thumbs up, thumbs down, they’re very in depth and for us, right, I think like the value that we are bringing in, you know, the value prop for jitsu.com is essentially that, you know, you can come to our side and you can tell us, you know, what software category you’re looking for, a broad category or service category you’re, you’re looking for. And then you can tell us, you know, what type of company are you B2B to see how many employees do you have, what features do you want?

Ryan Bonnici:
And then we’ll basically give you a personalized recommendation for it for that category specifically that you were looking for. And it’s not just for that category. It’s then based on companies like you that have used software, that category, right? So that’s where we’re, we’re, you know, completely polar opposites to all of our competitors in that, you know, all of our recommendations and content is personalized for you because there’s no such thing as one size fits all. And so I’m quite like anti that like analyst model where there’s like some person sitting at the top of an ivory tower choosing like who is the best CRM or the best marketing automation because like no one is the best realistically. There’s a couple of categories that are like where there are clearly leaders that can seemingly scale to most sizes of businesses very well. But that’s not to say though that like they’re necessarily the best for you of everyone.

Ryan Bonnici:
And so any of the reason why that’s really important in why I share that is that like for us, when we’re giving those really personalized recommendations, you can’t really compare apples to apples if you don’t have like a clear cut of like who are the the potential sellers, vendors products in a certain category, right? Because like, let’s use two different categories as an example at like, let’s use like an artificial intelligence category and then let’s use an email marketing category. You know, for an email marketing category where, you know, it’s been around for 20 plus years, it’s like very firm around like what does that category mean? People have bought those tools many times. So they may be more likely to respond with like more fives out of 10, Oh, sorry. More tens out of 10 or like higher ratings because like the products in that space have evolved and become more kind of tailored to the needs of the user and the bio.

Ryan Bonnici:
Sure. For AI software, right. That’s very new as an example. There might be, you know, a few different players out there, but they may be kind of scattered and they may not be like sub sectors of that broader category just yet. And so you can’t really compare like when you’re post, when we’re personalizing our results to give you the best, you know, advice that you’re looking for. If we were grouping sort of, you know, products across categories in, we wouldn’t really, that’d be able to give very good recommendation. So that’s really important to us to make sure that the recommendations we’re giving are really fair and we’re comparing them adequately to people with similar features in the same space and category. So I think that’s why it’s important to us, you know, in terms of like outdated or not products, but I think it’s important to buyers as well.

Ryan Bonnici:
Right? Because like categories are essentially just shortcuts for them, you know, shortcuts and try and work out like, you know, whether we call it a category or a bucket or you know, like a landscape of different tools. Like it’s basically, you know, there are these different groupings and that helps them make decisions and work out, you know, what are the things that I need for the different parts of my business and for the different functions. So I think like, as shortcuts, they can be very useful to buyers, especially, you know, more beginner buyers that maybe haven’t bought lots of tools before. Whereas to for advanced buys, they may not need eight categories to find the different products may already know a bunch of those products in that space.

John Rougeux:
Sure. So it sounds like for, for someone who’s trying to really kind of find their way through different products out there and they’re not really familiar with what everything does, what they should expect one thing to do and not do your categories for them are a real, like you said, shorthand for kind of finding their way to the right product for the right solution faster.

Ryan Bonnici:
Yeah, exactly. And I always think of it as kind of like a bit of like a Russian doll esque idea in the sense of like, you know, someone might come to our site looking for sales software and then we will ask them some questions on our side. They’ll engage without our AI chat bot to like better help us understand what is it that they’re trying to do. Like if are they trying to increase sales rep productivity or are they trying to increase kind of like reporting on sales activities. And if it’s, you know, reporting, then we might push them down like a BI path of like BI categories and content. If they’re looking for sales enablement or training than it might be more about kind of you know, different enablement tools to help their selves become more productive. So I think categories are useful as a shortcut for sure.

Ryan Bonnici:
But I actually think the most useful thing really is like starting with what are the problems that you’re trying to solve as a buyer. You know, and you know, sales or productivity is one of those. If you’re a sales manager, you know, if you’re a chief financial officer or an accountant, then maybe you’re trying to like solve the problem of how do I close my books faster every month, you know, to report my earnings back to our board. And if that’s the case, then there’s different software that’s gonna be right for you. And so I think categories are very useful. But I think actually like getting down to the heart of like what is the problem that the con the category and the software souls and working from that will, will lead you down, you know, the, the best path for you on your journey in terms of finding what’s best for your company.

John Rougeux:
Yeah, it’s really interesting you mentioned that because one of the ideas in the book play bigger, which is kind of like the, the gospel on category design is that if you’re thinking through the category design process, you really need to think about problem first. So no problem market fit. And if you look at the narratives of companies who have really built some of these major categories, it’s not so much about the, the category name itself that that is important to a degree, but it’s really the underlying narrative, the underlying problem that they’re trying to do use to, to connect with people.

Ryan Bonnici:
Yeah, absolutely. I think like that’s the most important. And I think, you know, as B2B marketers, we oftentimes get too caught up in sort of like features and functionality. And we don’t focus enough on, you know, what’s the problem and like what are the emotions that this thing is solving for.

John Rougeux:
Yeah. I want to go back to something you mentioned a moment ago with this this idea of like Russian nesting dolls with kind of categories within categories. Is, I saw this the other day, I was looking at the account based marketing space and I expected there just be to be an ABM category. And that was, that was kind of it. But what I found was that you have multiple variations on account based marketing software. I don’t remember the exact words and phrases that are used today, but that that’s an example of a category that was in kind of broken up. And then there were sub categories off of that. And so maybe with that example in mind, can you walk us through how your team approaches like naming and doubling categories? Do you look for guidance from the the software companies themselves? Do you look for guidance from buyers? Do you, I don’t imagine you do this in an ivory tower, but what does, what does that process,

Ryan Bonnici:
Yeah, we, good question. Yeah, so you know, to your point, right, so account based marketing, IBM is definitely like, you know, quite a large, broad term, right? And as a campus advertising account, account-based intelligence, account-based execution and account-based analytics is one of different sub sectors. And I think like what’s worth noting maybe is that I think if you look at kind of outside versus a lot of our competitors, we have typically around three X the number of categories let alone products on our side. So we’re going to, Oh yeah, we’re going to a lot more detail, not only in reviews, so we have more reviews than any one individual’s competitor out there. But like we’re going into like a lot more detail in terms of how we’re categorizing those products because the better we can categorize, the better we can give recommendations because right.

Ryan Bonnici:
Like if we use ABM as a grouping, like you could effectively call like Sendo. So, which is, you know, direct mail software that connects into your CRM solution like a sales force and allows you to execute on an ABM strategy like that that kind of is account based execution and software. But that’s like very different execution to, you know, something like a you know, an account based advertising platform that’s like running ads online and the features and how we would compare those different things and the pricing and everything is totally different. And so we spend a lot of time and money on like making sure that, you know, were categorizing properly. And I guess that kind of leads me into kind of what you’re asking. So we, we basically start to look at the space and as we start to see kind of like sectors forming within it and kind of like clusters of products in a new space, that will be how we then start to indicate, okay, like is there kind of like a breakout subcategory within this product category that we should be looking more into?

Ryan Bonnici:
And you know, we have some, we have a lot of rules and like details about how we do create those things. So like I don’t think and we have like some pretty broad like, sorry, pretty detailed guidelines that I want. I’m at a top of mind cause this is our research team that does this. But you know, based on like the number of providers in a space is also important, right? If there’s just like one product out there that’s like doing something new and different, I don’t know if that would then warrant us breaking out a new sub category. We might, depending on kind of like the momentum around people moving to that. If they had a lot of customers and maybe then no one else had cracked the code on how to build a product similar than we probably would.

Ryan Bonnici:
Right. Because like, we can see the momentum that if you look at out of like the way we visualize data in terms of, you know, how satisfied are your customers and then like, what is your market share market presence. So like we’re factoring in both of those things to start to work out. Okay. Like are there enough customers in a new space and are there enough of those different competitors as well as different uses of them to then give kind of sized that new sub category? Sure. and so we, we don’t really then, I guess you, you kind of a this as a sub question, like how much input do we get from sellers or vendors? You know, we’re, we’re always open for them to give us their thoughts. But that doesn’t mean that we will create a category for them. And we most, you know, we’ll often get them asking because like they wanna, you know, they’re trying to coin a term and they want to create a category around that term.

Ryan Bonnici:
And we definitely want to do that unless we can see momentum around that as a true category. And so again, part of what that means is like, we would look into kind of search volume and trends. And are people actually searching for this as a category or is it just one set seller or vendor that’s talking about it? Are people like talking about it on social media, on Cora and Reddit and these different forums. So our research team, you know, or incredibly far thorough in terms of how we go about this. And again, they have kind of internal processes they use, which we don’t completely share all of that externally just so that we don’t want folks to try and like game owl, you know, algorithm. But you know, we share quite a lot about it at the high level, but we don’t share some of the weightings around how our categories work.

Ryan Bonnici:
And you know, we build in like pretty like detailed things like time decay into reviews for example. So, you know, review from five years ago as worth less in terms of you’re waiting then a review from three days ago and there’s so many different sort of like levels that we’ve built into a algorithm over time to avoid folks gaming. Even to the point where like if, if a review came in organically from someone through Google that was just searching as opposed to if it was a customer of the seller and they like promoted that person to leave a review, we would wait that review less than someone that came organically. Like, again, this is just scratching the surface really of how like deeply go on this. But you know, this is literally kind of like the meat and veggies of like, you know, business so we can take it very soon.

John Rougeux:
Sure. So if I’m a vendor and I’m looking at the way my businesses place within G2 and I’m thinking, yeah, it’s kind of close, but not really, but there’s not really a better place for me. You know, they feel like they don’t have a good home. There’s like, there’s kind of two scenarios they have to weigh. One would be maybe the category that they’re in now, maybe it’s not perfect, but there’s good they’re getting some attention because there’s search traffic and interest. It’s a known category. But then there’s also the risk that if it’s not quite a good fit, then people are, they have the wrong expectations of what they’re supposed to do and then when they look closer at the products, they shake their heads no because it’s not quite what they were looking for or not quite what they had in mind. So maybe there’s a case for then creating a new message to kind of break out from that. So what’s your advice to a, to a vendor if they find themselves in that spot?

Ryan Bonnici:
Yeah, I mean I think what I would say is like thinking about a category is still a pretty superficial way to think about products and comparisons ultimately. And we do that just because to what I was saying earlier is like if you are a beginner to a certain category and you’re searching apparent category like sales software and then we hope you can get more granular at the end of the day. That is still just meant to be a shortcut really. I think where the meat of like what we provide is, is, is in lack of the live comparisons, so where you can actually compare, you know, like, let’s see, you know, we were talking about him, you know, account based marketing earlier, right? Like if we’re talking about account based advertising, then you’re like, where you can truly compare Engagio to Terminus, right? Or if it’s CRM software, you can truly compare Infusionsoft to HubSpot.

Ryan Bonnici:
And then when you’re comparing it now you’re like getting into like the actual features that make up the category itself. And so now you’re looking at like, of all of the hundreds of or thousands of people that have reviewed these two software or five pieces of software, right? You can compare more than more than, as many as you want. Then you can start to see like, okay, like where do these folks like rank and stack on those certain features and now, you know, based on what you know about, like what you need from the tool, you can then make a decisions. So the categories, like I don’t want to call them vanity cause they’re not, it definitely more important than that. But again, they’re just like an important earlier step in that process. But a lot of buyers don’t need categories for it. Right? Like they, they’ve already have heard about a few different vendors and they’ll come in already with intent around company X, first company Y. And then from there they may learn about companies add, you know, where they can then add that into that comparison because we’ll then show them alternatives based on what they’ve said to us.

Ryan Bonnici:
So, you know, I think like kind of like, to round out your question, like if you are, you know, building a software, you’re building a category. I mean it’s, you know, it would be educational for sure for you to look at the current categories that exist. But I don’t think that necessarily means you need to kind of design your product or service for those categories. Because again, like I said, no category is perfect for anyone realistically. And there will always be some features that like you are or are not optimized for. They might be crossed over into other categories. And that’s why we have pretty clear and public rules around like, like what is it like, what features do you need to have, if you want to be able to like, show your product in a certain category. So like if we use the account-based sort of like umbrella again, right.

Ryan Bonnici:
Like you know, a platform like Terminus would be in account-based execution software because of their advertising components, but they’d also be an account based reporting software because of their reporting features. Yeah. And you know, one of their competitors may not have any reporting yet. And so if they weren’t and they didn’t have, you know, the more robust reporting features that we require to be in the reporting sub category, then they wouldn’t make it better until they didn’t have that. So, you know, they could work with our research team to better understand what those things are. But again and I raise the same is also kind of like learning as well and evolving these categories at a time. And so if we start to see shifts, then we will, you know, the categories and the products are all very much like living. Yeah.

Ryan Bonnici:
Yeah. So it sounds like what you’re saying is companies shouldn’t get overly hung up on the categories that are president and your platform today. It’s really more important to understand the problem they’re trying to solve, you know, the in the features that are important to those. Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s where like, you know, you know, it can be quite like informative coming to Jitsu and reading, reading literally the reviews about your competitors, right? Everything’s available. So if you’re a really smart CEO, will product leader Mike, let’s go out there and look at the existing categories and see, okay, like what are they all saying? Is there general sentiment in a certain category that like one part of a product isn’t working and like, okay, do you then maybe build a standalone point solution to fill that problem that everyone is mentioning about all of these other products?

Ryan Bonnici:
Like you can learn a lot from that and then create a solution that fits for the current category or creates a new category. So definitely like very useful data for you to have. But I don’t think I would necessarily say you should limit yourself to, to the categories as it is. You know, that wouldn’t be the way I think to build those stupid disruptive business in the long term. Sure. It almost reminds me of how you might look at SEO and that you can get bad SEO advice, which is gonna just focus on like writing content only for SEO sake and not really thinking about like [inaudible] whether anyone actually wants to read that or you’re actually helping someone or adding something of value. It’s kind of a superficial way of looking at it. And there’s almost this superficial way of looking

John Rougeux:
At categories and like, well, getting overly hung up on this, you know, the semantics and this specific name for a category. And then there’s the more, I think the practical and valuable way of looking at it. So for SEO, it’d be like, yes, let’s, we want to rank for traffic, but let’s also make sure we’re writing something that adds value and is as useful to someone. So when they get there, it’s actually gonna do more for us. And like with category, you know, let’s make sure that the way we’ve described our solution to a problem and how we frame that problem, that’s make sure we’re really thoughtful on that because that’s ultimately what’s going to evoke emotion and action and get people excited about what you’re offering. And the category name might be right, it might be off a little bit, but ultimately that’s not the, that’s not the goal.

Ryan Bonnici:
Yeah. I think you’re 100% spot on. And I also don’t think like people realize how hard category creation is. Right. You know, I’m sure people talk about this on book us a lot, but you know, you know, back when I was at HubSpot, right at launching HubSpot in Asia Pacific inbound marketing wasn’t a category in Asia Pacific until very, very recently. Right. So that people in my, in that market just wouldn’t search for inbound marketing. They were searching for terms like digital marketing. So there’s like regional, you know nuances to categories even even if like the features and the benefits and the problems that you’re solving and fixing and whatnot are still the same. You know, the, the way they search and the maturity around the category name even can be very different. So I think it’s just like we’re realizing for folks that like creating a category has a lot harder before it becomes easier and you own it.

Ryan Bonnici:
Right. And I think it’s, it, it doesn’t always end well, but the ones that do it really well absolutely do a great job. So I think it comes down to realistically like is what you’re trying to solve that problem? Like is there a true kind of like opportunity for you to like create new space in that world right now that it currently exists and if so awesome. Like go in hard, if not like maybe that is not the best place for you to focus your time. Maybe it’s best for you to actually focus on an existing category but create a product that is better than all the other tools are easy to use and all the other tools or cheaper than all the other tools. Like there are so many different elements around how you can win in a, in a, in an existing category.

John Rougeux:
Yeah, yeah, that’s right. And both CMOs at HubSpot, Mike and Kip told me that when they first started talking about inbound, it was like yelling into a void where no one was listening for a few years and they just had to have the patience and the perseverance to push through it.

Ryan Bonnici:
Totally. And I think, you know, they had the strength to be able to put that because like they did know that what they were creating and this concept of like pulling people in inbound versus pushing out and interrupting was actually uniquely different and was a, a really different and unique way to package up these like that solve product problems. Sure. Whereas if you just kind of thinking up a pithy name for the sake of it, but it’s the same thing, then I would say like, I don’t know how successful you end up being.

John Rougeux:
Yeah, that’s a little, a little contrived to build momentum I think around that. Yeah. Yeah. And that, that actually leads to an example that I just read about earlier this afternoon. Maybe you, maybe you read the same story, but there’s a category called conversation intelligence and actually did an interview with ’em with gong Chris Royal a few months ago when we talked about the conversation intelligence category. And of course there’s another one who’s promoting this category and just recently gong announced that their categories now called revenue intelligence. And I haven’t really had time to dive deep into this, but I’m wondering what your take is, is, is this just a light or like overly thinking about it, like too hard and this is this more contrived or is there, can you think of a, like a more thoughtful or strategic reason why they might want to choose another term from from what they’ve been using for the last year or two?

Ryan Bonnici:
Yeah, I mean, you know, I can only kind of like make my thoughts just to like what I’m hearing and again, I’m not, I haven’t seen the way they’re communicating about those categories. So like, I, you know, this is going to be a very uneducated response, but you know, I think like a few, a few initial thoughts, right? Like there’s definitely more categories now around conversations. And so conversation intelligence, right? When you immediately said that to me, the first thing that kinda came to mind was, you know, like reporting components of conversational marketing. And when I think a conversation on marketing today and the way people search for conversational marketing and the intent that they’re showing is more around kind of how do I create conversational experiences on the web. So it’s typically like for chat bots in terms of what we’re seeing right now.

Ryan Bonnici:
Right. And I think, you know, drift have done a very good job at trying to like find that space. So I think, you know, you know, just for you saying that then an immediate kind of recall, like I wouldn’t have thought of conversational intelligence, meaning kind of like analyzing the conversations. But did that very naturally make sense? So I don’t know. So could be like a good move. It could be a bad move. I mean going to, was it revenue intelligence you said? Yeah, revenue intelligence. I mean, again, it’s hard to say cause you know, we don’t know you’re either direction of their product, right? Like if their product now is going deeper into revenue and and less into kind of like, if I think about kind of, let me actually take a step back. If I kind of just compare on the surface level of revenue intelligence versus conversation intelligence.

Ryan Bonnici:
What I like about revenue intelligence is that it’s like output focused, right? Like a conversation as the input revenue as the output. So it’s kind of like a bit of a catch 22 if you’re getting me intelligence from the conversations, but you actually don’t really give too kind of rats about the actual conversational intelligent. It’s really about like what that then means for revenues. So I do like that in terms of it being outcome focused and I think that is definitely going to peak someone’s is more more so because it’s focused on like a more meaningful thing, revenue, whereas conversations aren’t really classified as that meaningful in my mind. Like they’re a means to an end. Sure. So I like that. Yeah, I think that’s like a unique way to think about it. On the flip side though, right? Like revenue intelligence, there’s a lot of things that can lead to revenue intelligence and you don’t necessarily immediately think it’s going to come from conversations.

Ryan Bonnici:
So now it might be a more meaningful category to think of it in there in their mind and to their buyer. But now you might be competing with a very different range of other revenue intelligence products that have nothing to do with kind of call recordings. Yeah, that’s right. Better or worse, I don’t know. You know, and conversations can take place in contexts that are not revenue dependent either. So that’s true. Yeah. And I think conversations can happen like a conversation can be kind of in text, right? Whereas my understanding of gong and chorus right now it’s like audio analysis. So you know, a lot of conversations are happening over email, right. Maybe more actually happening of an email than either audio and video. So it’s interesting. And I know, I don’t know if gong intended that if they intended revenue intelligence as a replacement for conversation intelligence or as a new additional category on top of that. So something I need to dive a little deeper into. Yeah, that’s interesting. Yeah. Who do you think is doing a great job with positioning and messaging today?

Ryan Bonnici:
Good question. Besides Jitsu and I think we’ve got a little areas we can improve. Well your team to be here, your team, you guys did win some awards, your product marketing team won some awards receiving it. I know, I was pretty amazed by that. You know, we have a like a small but mighty team of product marketers, Yoni Orban and Gina and you know, yeah. For them to win. Kind of like that. I don’t know if it was, I think it was definitely a America wide award from the potty marking last, but it could have been even global. I’m not sure. That’s, I don’t want to like oversell it anyway. Very big award. They proud of them thing ranked like the number one put up marketing team. So th they’re doing really cool things. But yeah, I think outside of G2, you know, if I think on the consumer side, like I’ve just always been, I always swooned pretty hard over, you know, what Airbnb is doing.

Ryan Bonnici:
Okay. Just love the way they’ve kind of thought a thought about like kind of what is the value that they’re uses their buyers get out of this service. Right. And that whole travel, lack of local or sorry live like a local campaign just like beautifully encompasses that like I love Airbnb and I use it because like I want to feel like a local, I don’t want to be in a hotel. Like to me hotels are stare out and they, they just, they remind me that I am not in a place that I want to like live in. And when I go on a vacation I want to feel like I’m a nurse. So I love what they do. And like the beat of the side. Yeah. I’m a big fan of what a sauna does. Like a lot of their messaging is very much like output focused in terms of, you know, so Osana as a productivity tool, one of many great productivity tools.

Ryan Bonnici:
It’s the productivity tool that we have chosen at GE to do use that. My, me and my team have used, I use it at HubSpot. And they do a really, yeah, beautiful job. As I mentioned, kind of talking about like how they help you do work better and get worked on. It’s not about kind of like the software, it’s about like getting done, you know, your work more, faster and more efficiently and with like joy. And they’ve built that into the product, right? Like there are certain things like when you, you know, ticket to do list item complete, you know, a unicorn will shoot across the screen, right? Like, you know, which is they really done such a beautiful job at like connecting him with those the lot moments, right? Like, cause it, it does feel fun to get work done, right?

Ryan Bonnici:
Like to get like those, to do lists on something that’s like one of the fucking highlights of my day. And so, you know, when you see that little unicorn, you start to connect emotion more with them and their products and their brands. So they do it really well. I think, you know, we’ve mentioned drift before, drifted, done a great job, not only of category creation around conversational marketing, but I think they’ve done a great job with kind of telling a bigger story. Right. because, you know, I think they started from pretty humble beginnings and I’m a big fan of the team at drift and lots of them personally. And, but you know, I mean essentially like chatbots for your website isn’t typically the thing that you would think of as being a super kind of like sexy thing. Sure. but I think they’ve done a really good job at kind of like helping people realize that like that is like, you know, your homepage or your website is effectively, you know, your retail store today and, and out will hold. And so, you know, just like you wouldn’t have kind of like a closed sign, you’d have someone there greeting people, like their product can do that for you. And so I think they’ve done a really good job at kind of like elevating the importance maybe of that category. And I think part of that is through, you know, category creation. But part of it’s also just true, like really good in marketing, tied back to the values that you know, they buy as care about, which is like revenue and efficiency and sales. Yeah.

John Rougeux:
Interesting you mentioned this two examples because Asana is competing in a pretty crowded space. Like I don’t know how many dozens of productivity tools out there, but yeah. Yeah. And certainly they haven’t gone down the path of trying to create a new category, but they’ve differentiated through their branding. And this idea, you mentioned the word joy, which is not your, I’m a word I think you could ascribe to many other productivity tools. So it’s interesting that that jumped out to you and that makes a lot of sense when you talked about the unicorns and like the other elements in the user experience that make it really fun to use. But then with drift of, they are, of course they are going down the path of category creation. But I also see them doing a great job with their branding as well. And that, like, they talk about this idea of conversational or sorry.

John Rougeux:
Yeah, conversational marketing. I was about to say intelligence and and it’s like this idea of like these, you know, now like live conversations, no delays. And when you look at like the colors they’ve used, like they’ve got these vibrant colors. It’s almost like this graffiti type visual aesthetic. Very good job with that. Yeah. And it kind of conveys this idea of like, things that are like happening right now. There’s like this energy behind it, which which is great to see them not just doing category design world, but also using branding to support like, like a visual version of, of like the core problems they’re trying to talk about.

Ryan Bonnici:
Totally. And I, you know, it’s funny that you say that like, yeah. In crowded spaces, like I think that’s definitely sometimes a challenge, right? Because you know, when you’re, and I think brands often oscillate between using descriptive language. So like, let’s use kind of, you know, saunas example, right? Like descriptive language in my mind is like project management software. Yeah. Yeah. Versus kind of like emotive values, output driven language, which would be like, you know, right now their tagline is I just had it in front of me. It’s like make more time for the work that matters most, which is a little bit Woody and what they used to be. It used to be a little bit more succinct. Teamworks right now is like working together full-stop beautifully. Right? So like can you compare them to like that’s very similar. I’ll make more time for the work that matters most.

Ryan Bonnici:
It’s like emotive working, doing the right work and, and working together beautifully. So I think the challenge sometimes can be right when you start to go down those emotive paths is that it’s yes, you sound, you all start to sound semis similar. And also for like some buyers, they may come to your side and then just be a little bit confused around like what is it that you actually do? Right? Like, so I’m on Slack right now, their website and there’s this, you know, their tagline on the hundred pages, whatever work you do, you can do it all. So you can do it in Slack

Ryan Bonnici:
Which is high level. I can understand that. It kind of pulls me in and makes me then want to keep reading a subhead, which is Slack gives your team the power and alignment you need to do your best work. So like they’ve definitely gone down like the outputs and the values messaging, right? Like they’re not saying the world’s number one like internal chat system or like, you know, chat app or a messaging app. Yeah. and, and I guarantee you they would’ve gone down that path early on. You know, like when I was solidifying like who they were. And I think once you start to get momentum and you start to see like the organic and the viral growth, then I think you’ve got word of mouth marketing, driving your messaging around what your product does. Then you can start to play a little bit more in the emotive world. That’s just like my immediate sort of like gut take on it.

John Rougeux:
Yeah. Yeah. With that message, you just read me to Slack. It almost suggests that you maybe have an idea of what Slack does, like it’s a communication spot form and now they’re building on that to say, you can actually do all your work in Slack or, I can’t remember the exact messaging, but it kind of reminds me of the way BMW went back and forth with their messaging. So for years they used a, the ultimate driving machine, which is like a very clear like positioning statement around, it’s like an engineering based statement. Right? I’m not certainly certainly not a motive, but then they, a few years ago they shifted to this idea of joy. I guess I’m kind of like a sauna. I can’t remember the catch phrase. It was like the power of joy or the joy of driving something like that. And then they shifted back to the ultimate driving machine I think after that. Yeah,

Ryan Bonnici:
Which, which I think is a pretty common thing. And I, you know, I think it’s probably worth noting that like, you know, the average tenure of a COO, right, is like a couple of years. And you know, I think depending on like of the study you see like it might be, you know, 18 months, it might be 24 months. But I think what I tend to see happen is companies like if they don’t find the right CMOs, they then they don’t know what they don’t know. And so like they don’t like what it was. The new CFO comes in and they change it to be too far right. And then they don’t like that I posted leaves and then they bring in another CML and then they go too far left. And and I think kind of like marketing and tech anyways in B2B, we’ll just kind of like still in a bit of an optimization phase where, you know, I think for like the last five, 10 years we’ve been, I was in industry and maybe over-indexing into like data-driven demand gen marketing focused on conversion and not ma not enough on my kind of like brand and emotion.

Ryan Bonnici:
And now you’re seeing a lot more brands, some of the ones that we’ve been talking about and just a lot of the, you know, more popular brands today, leaning much more into branding, into messaging. And and I, and I guarantee, you know, in a few years we’ll have another course correction, right. Where we will go too far in that direction and not be driving enough of the metrics and then we’ll kind of maybe land in the middle. Well, maybe go too far the other way. Right. I think that’s just like a bit of a natural ebb and flow.

John Rougeux:
Yeah. And yeah, it’s almost like a pendulum. And we had all these tools that were introduced to us with marketing automation and digital marketing and all the other things that that allowed us to do. And so we got very focused on the mechanics of marketing and and have really shifted away from, you know you know, brands.

Ryan Bonnici:
Yeah. And I think as well, right? Like, I think what’s actually important to think about, and this is where I guess, you know, I’m a little bit kind of like cautious with sometimes categories or these platforms that kind of say they can do everything is that, you know, too, you’re kind of pointless then. Like there has been such an explosion in software and in technology. Right? And you know, thankfully like we’ve been able to ride that wave and that’s why, you know, millions of people come to GE to every week to find software for their business. But I think what’s happened though is a lot of, you know, software companies to try and drive, you know, like double-digit, like a hundred percent year over year sort of growth. They’ve sold vaporware, right? They’ve like sold messages around what their products can do and more often than not, their product can’t live up to that.

Ryan Bonnici:
Right. And I think, you know, it’s still, we’re still at the point where like every company is like totally [inaudible], excuse me, like data first, data-driven, and it’s still not that easy to connect up all of your different tools and you use them properly. And so long story short, like I don’t think today it matters how good like each point solution is because a lot of the time you have technical like technology debt between your current platforms that you use and then your new platforms and if the data can’t like sync up and connect with them all properly, then you know, if we use kind of revenue intelligence that you mentioned earlier with gong, if they can kind of like pull in all of that data from your CRM properly, then connect kind of their own analytics with kind of the output sales to then start to learn about your exact sales cycles and things.

Ryan Bonnici:
You know, their tool will never be able to be as smart as it could be. Right? Cause it’s like limited by your data inputs from other sources. And so I just think like that is something that’s like worth calling out is that like we’re still, I think pretty early days. Like there’s so many great solutions out there, but there’s still a ton of examples where people have connected all of those things really perfectly just yet, where it works doesn’t break. And people are really getting uplift for the amount of money that they’re spending on stuff where, yeah, no, that reminds me of a tool I used or tried to use a few years ago where I was supposed to get a lot more insight on what events on our website lead to certain outcomes and we just couldn’t get the data clean enough and normalizing that to really find it.

Ryan Bonnici:
Anything used, it’s really tough. I think, you know, I think sometimes I hear a lot about, you know, people often times at COO events that I’m at or dinners that I’m hosting or might be a guest at like, Oh, here, you know, the discussion often times about attribution comes up, right? Like first touch, last touch multitouch like weighted all the different types. And I oftentimes think like marketers like spend way too much time trying to like over optimize attribution and realistically like they’re never going to get it perfect. And there are other things that you could spend your time focusing on to drive better results. And yeah, I think sometimes like you can kind of just lean a little bit too hot into certain areas and yeah, so I think like any software that kind of says it’s going to solve all of your issues, like I would be a little weary. Yeah. Yeah.

John Rougeux:
At a certain point you can’t rely on data or split testing or multivariate testing, whatever you want to call it. You just have to, you know, use your, use your instinct, use your gut, use your, use what you’ve learned and make some thoughtful decisions and then just have the courage to, to run with it.

Ryan Bonnici:
Totally right. Like, you know, let’s use a really basic software category like email marketing as an example. And if you’re like stunning up building a company, you know, you might have been told that you need to do AB testing. The reality is like, you’re never going to be able to do AB testing where it works for you. Maybe ever, you know, like, you know, when I was at HubSpot and even the exact target, you know, it wasn’t unless we were sending emails to like millions of people, often times whereby, and again you can do some tests that like what you’re testing is so dramatic that the results be big enough, but often times you’re not doing dramatically different tests because like you’ve already gotten things like pretty optimized and you’re testing smaller things and they don’t drive a big enough change. So then give you statistical significance so that you can then say, okay, like this test categorically one we know it wasn’t just by chance like it was the change that we made.

Ryan Bonnici:
The reality is like if you’re like starting to build an email list and you’re a small medium business, like you know, you might never have more than a thousand contacts in your email list or even 10,000 and you most likely need a lot more than that to get like statistical significance. So I just think like sometimes it’s worth, companies won’t oftentimes share that sort of input, right? They’ll upsell you to get more features. So you can do AB testing, but they went and tell you that AB testing isn’t something that you will ever actually get value out of and until maybe year five.

John Rougeux:
Yeah. Yeah. Well I think that’s a great kind of reminder to conclude the interview with, you know, if you’re going down this path of category design, if you’ve got a new problem you’re solving, that’s, that’s great. But what you’re saying is, look, you can’t get so far ahead of yourself that you end up causing frustrations with, you know, by setting the wrong expectations or selling, you know, they prefer where you really have to be mindful about offering something that’s truly valuable, truly unique and truly usable today.

Ryan Bonnici:
Yeah, absolutely. And I think like, well, it’s usable or valuable to, you know, your buyer doesn’t necessarily need to be disruptive. Right. I think like we get often a little caught up in this idea that like category creation or kind of category success or even company success needs to be because you’re disrupting, you know, the big incumbents and this big old school space. Like there aren’t many companies that do that. And do that successfully. Right? Like you can disrupt competitors by focusing on a lot of other things and more niches and pricing and features and you know, that’s like a more, I think like incremental way to think about category creation of category success versus like category disruption necessarily. So yeah, just I have different ways to skin the cat.

John Rougeux:
Okay, great. All right, well we’re almost at a time, but any other advice or pointers

Ryan Bonnici:
You want to leave our listeners with? No, I mean I hope this was useful really to folks. And you know, I’m super active on social and online and so if anyone has like listens to this and has a question, you know, they can email meRyan@jeetu.com or you know, Ryan Bonnici is my like, handle on all the social medias. So if anyone wants to connect on social, very happy to chat. Oh fuck you. I guess that’s technically online, but anyway. Either way. All right. Well it’s great being with you today, Ryan. Thanks for all the advice you shared. It was a pleasure to have you on. Thanks John. You too. Appreciate your time. Take care. Bye.

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john_rougeux_2019

John Rougeux is the founder of Flag & Frontier and VP Marketing Strategy at BombBomb. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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About the Author

john_rougeux_2019

John Rougeux is the founder of Flag & Frontier. Connect with John on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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