Category design is often led by the CMO, with much of the work executed by the marketing team. That’s why category design often looks like a marketing discipline. But it’s actually a business discipline that the entire company needs to support.
If category design was a marketing play, it would only be about narrative and promotion. But category design guides product roadmap and business strategy. Only later does marketing activity come into play.
A company designing a category needs every department support the process. Your sales teams need to change the way they talk about your offerings. Your finance team must ensure that you have enough funding to pull everything off. Your product teams need to align around a new vision. I could go on, but you get the idea.
If you’re the one leading the charge on category design, how do you get the entire company involved? Here are five tactics I’ve learned from going through this process at BombBomb.
1. Make Category Design an Agenda Item at Leadership Meetings
This is an easy place to start. It’s not necessary to provide an in-depth update or have a long discussion every leadership meeting. A quick update on category design progress is enough to instill the idea it’s a core part of the business.
I also use these meetings to give our leadership team a heads up about discussions we’ll have in the future. Many people need time to think about big ideas before sharing their opinions. Giving a preview of these discussions helps everyone prepare.
2. Have Regular Category Design Talks with Department Heads
Not every department head will be a part of your category design task force. At BombBomb, our task force includes our CEO, President, VP Sales, Creative Director, Chief Customer Officer, VP Marketing Strategy (me), and our CTO. But it leaves out people from customer success, finance, and a few other departments.
However, a company-wide movement around category design requires leadership’s support and excitement. That’s why I have one-on-one meetings with each department head every few weeks. There are a few advantages this:
- You’ll get more thoughtful, deeper feedback
- Giving your personal time and attention shows you care
- You’ll develop better relationships
3. Have 1-1 Conversations With Everyone (Yes, Everyone)
You read that right. Have at least one conversation with every single employee about category design. If you want to embed category design into your team’s way of thinking, this is will make that happen.
The good news is that you don’t have to do this alone. At BombBomb, we divided our list of employees among our category design task force. That leaves about 25 people for each of us to talk to. Talk to 1-2 people a week, and you can get through the entire company in a few months.
If you’re at a larger company, you may consider limiting these conversations to to a certain level. You can then ask your directors, managers, etc. to do the same with their own teams.
This one sounds like a bit commitment, and it is. But it’s the best thing you can do to create broad support.
For example, let’s say your customer support reps get to have a 1-1 conversations with the CEO about strategy. Do think that would make them more or less committed to the cause?
As a leader, you’ll benefit too. By asking the right questions, you can get some fresh perspectives you wouldn’t have access to otherwise.
4. Include Category Design in Company-Wide Updates
Good news, this one is easy to scale. Whenever you communicate to your entire team, include category design updates. Category design represents a big change to the way your company thinks about itself. You want to bring people along on the journey.
Here’s how we do this at BombBomb. Our President, Darin Dawson sends a weekly “state-of-the-business” video to the entire company. He uses these occasions to give everyone an update on where we are in the category design process. For example, when we landed on a solid definition of the problem our category solves, we shared that idea with the entire company.
5. Make Your First Lightning Strike an All-Company Undertaking
I haven’t actually gone through with this one yet, but I’m getting ready to. At BombBomb, we committed to involving every department in our first lightning strike. We want to make it something the company participates in, not a single department or a select group of people. Stay tuned for more on this later in the year.
Category Design Is About Involvement, Not Just Awareness
Approaching category design this way is harder in the short term. It would be much easier to constrain your discussions to a small group and leave it at that.
But the long term will be easier. You’re much more likely to successfully pull off category design if you have the support of your whole team. Make the investment now, and it will pay off later. For more resources on category design, subscribe to this blog or follow me on LinkedIn.