How To Pull Off An Internal Category Design Launch

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If you read my last post, hopefully I convinced you why doing an internal category launch is such an important part of category design. But how do you do that? To show you how, I’ll break down the process we used at BombBomb, where I served as the VP of Marketing Strategy.

First, here’s a quick refresher on why you need to do this.

An Internal Category Launch Prepares Your Team For What’s to Come

Category design is a business strategy that points your entire company in a new direction. Like any type of organizational change, this shift isn’t going to happen if the people enacting the change aren’t on board.

You may already know that category designers use lightning strikes to tell the outside world about this new course. But customers, investors, competitors, and partners won’t pay attention unless do something bold. A slow drip of communication won’t jolt people into thinking differently about you.

The same is true for your employees.

That’s why you need to think about an internal category design launch as a lightning strike – one that’s designed to get your team excited, supportive, and engaged in your category design efforts. (For more on this, read 5 Ways to Get Your Whole Company Involved in Category Design).

3 Things You Need To Accomplish with An Internal Category Launch

Just like a good marketing campaign, a successful internal category launch will get your team thinking differently about your company. Here are three things your internal category launch needs to do for your team.

  • Show them the problem. Category designers understand the problem their category addresses better than anyone else. But your company’s employees may not have experienced this pain firsthand. Your job is to re-create this pain so your team can empathize with customers.
  • Help them see the vision. Your team won’t be able to support your efforts if your category design plans are an abstract concept. They need a clear picture of what you are trying to accomplish as a business, and how category design thinking will accomplish that.
  • Give them clarity on the next steps. If your team is excited but doesn’t know what will happen next, then you might lose momentum. Your internal category launch should give your team specific things they can do right away to support the effort.

At BombBomb, we pulled this off in two phases: an internal Slack campaign designed to help our team experience our category problem, and an all-hands meeting to officially launch the category and share the vision.

Understanding the Problem Comes from Experiencing It

For context, BombBomb was founded in 2006 as a “video email” tool for real estate agents. Their software allowed a user to recored a personal video and add it to an email, all without the hassle of uploading content or trying to attach files. The real estate space quickly latched on to the idea, but after several years, BombBomb had outgrown this niche.

To grow, it needed a way to address a more fundamental problem for a broader audience. At the same time, the company was facing competition from VC-backed startups eager to steal the company’s business. To get there, the team decided to use category design thinking to reframe the problem we were trying to solve and to open up new product and marketing opportunities

Prior to the internal launch I’m outlining here, I worked closely with key member of the team to identify the real problem BombBomb needed to solve – something we called digital pollution.

Digital pollution means spam, automated emails, poorly executed messages, fake personalization, and other unhelpful content that lands in our inboxes. It’s an annoyance for most people, but for those working in sales, customer support, and other customer-facing roles, digital pollution can be detrimental to success. Because when you’re competing for attention against hundreds of messages that add no value to the sender, how can you be seen, heard, and understood?

Earlier I said that your team needs to understand the pain your customers experience. But at BombBomb, most of the team is not in a customer-facing role. While the team might understand this problem in theory, it’s not something they would experience to the degree say, a salesperson would.

To change that, I worked with BombBomb’s Creative Director and IT Director to create an internal “lighting strike” that would show BombBomb’s team the impact of digital pollution up close. Our plan was to convince our the company that our Slack account was taken over by malicious bots. Behind the scenes, these “bots” would be operated by a few employees who would wreak havoc on our Slack account by inundating our system with digital pollution – all fake, of course.

One of our four fake Slack bots, Tsesi Inc, was overly enthusiastic about connecting with BombBomb’s employees on LinkedIn.

For effect, we kept this a secret as long as we could. Our IT Director even pretended that he was “working on the problem” when the support tickets started rolling in.

After a day or so of this, a few people caught on to what we were doing, but others remained genuinely convinced that our Slack account was hacked. What everyone had in common, though, is that this “digital pollution” made it more difficult for them to connect with others – exactly the pain that our customers were dealing with.

The experience made a marked shift in the way the thought about the category problem. It was no longer an abstract idea; it was a real thing that that needed to be solved.

How to Reveal The Category

At this point, the team had a good handle on the problem, but they needed to understand how a new category would solve it. To accomplish that, we conducted an all-hands meeting, led by our CEO, to share the vision.

We broke the meeting into six parts.

  1. First, we explained why we wanted our team to experience a bit of confusion and discomfort through that Slack experience.
  2. We reminded our team why category design is an all-company effort. We explained that by experiencing this problem and talking through it together, we were planting the seeds for cultural transformation.
  3. Our CEO laid out the category POV and unveiled the category name itself. Like any good POV, his message wasn’t about product features, it was about a future state we’d build towards.
  4. From there, we walked our team through something we call our category pillars – core ideas that we wanted to address with our product roadmap and marketing efforts.
  5. Next, each department head shared what category design would mean for their team. This helped cement the idea that category design thinking could empower everyone – not just a certain department.
  6. Finally, outlined the plan for how we would ideate and execute on lightning strikes and gave the team specific ways they’d be able to participate.

Before this internal launch, our team had a general idea that we were working on category design – roughly ⅔ of the company had even read Play Bigger, the first book on category design. But what the team lacked was a clear picture on what category design looked like in practice.

The all-hands category launch changed that, because it laid out specific details on what we were going to accomplish and how each department would be involved. Writers, designers, engineers, accountants, and everyone in between gained clarity on how they would contribute to the category design process.

What Will Your Internal Category Design Launch Look Like?

I shared our process at BombBomb not to give you a template to follow, but to spark your thinking. The path we took was a unique reflection of our culture – and that’s what made it effective.

Put the same effort into thinking about what will work for your own team, and you’ll end up in a good place.

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About the Author

John Rougeux

John Rougeux has helped multiple companies through the category design process. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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John Rougeux is VP Marketing Strategy at BombBomb. Connect with John on LinkedIn.

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