The winner takes it all: establishing category ownership with comms

There is a simple reason why startups are synonymous with innovation. There is little reward or appetite to invest in chasing a slice of a mature market.

That’s not to say that successful startups aren’t solving pain points with existing solutions. Before Uber there were taxis. Video rental preceded Netflix. But they do have to rethink how to overcome the challenges with innovative products and services.

This is what fuels the pursuit of category creation: not merely offering an improvement on current solutions, but disrupting the market as a whole with a new – and better – way of doing things. With those that seize this first-mover-first-winner advantage typically seeing faster growth and a higher valuation over those that bring incremental improvements to market.

But it takes more than a revolutionary product to create and own a new category. You need a go-to-market comms strategy that differentiates your solution from the current ways in which your customers are overcoming this pain point, and enables them to understand your new approach.

There are four key objectives that must underpin a go-to-market comms strategy for category ownership:

  • Explain how the market is currently failing the customer and the gap between what is available and what they need
  • Educate about your point of difference and how your new solution overcomes those customer pain points better than existing products and services on the market
  • Increase awareness of your brand to become synonymous with the new category and create demand
  • Impress prospective customers with success stories and metrics (if you have them) so you are not just seen as a viable, but a preferred alternative to the status quo 

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. The brand, the solution, and the existing market will influence which tactics should be employed to achieve these objectives. 

But there are common steps that all go-to-market comms strategies for category ownership should be built around.

The first step is to Nail the Narrative. It needs to cut-through and demand attention. When creating a category, every piece of communication – external and internal, official channels or employee-led – needs to articulate the same vision for what problem you are solving, how you are doing it, and how it differs from what is already out there. No one must be in doubt about who you are and what you have set out to achieve.

Build a Strong Thought Leadership Pipeline of big, bold content that helps translate this vision and sets you apart from the other solutions in the market. Meet your customers where they are – in the publications they read, on social media, or by speaking at events – so they can learn about how you are disrupting the status quo with a better solution to their challenge.

Work with Influential Figures outside your organisation to build a discourse around the challenge that you are solving and reach new audiences. This could be through paid engagements with an Influencer or Creator. Or you could find vendor-agnostic opportunities to openly discuss the pain point with other industry champions.

Finally, validate your claims and Put Customer Successes Front and Centre. Make sure no one in the market is in any doubt that your vision works and that your customers are reaping the success of it. And even if you don’t have that dream case study yet, your customers’ voices are still important to elevate as part of your comms programme. Customer win releases, adding customer advocacy statements to your product and corporate communications, and promoting the partnership on social are all important tactics to highlight the great brands that are taking a bet on you and your solution.

Does the market understand your point of difference?

Creating a category and establishing ownership won’t happen overnight. Persistent communication around your vision is required externally and internally to ensure that your point of difference is not only understood, but recognised in market. 

If you are exploring category ownership and want to discuss how to take it to market, we would love to hear more about your point of difference and help you find the best way to communicate it. Get in touch at [email protected]

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