+ Point of view

Building a category part one – defining a tech brand is hard

Written by Paul Maher

Enterprise Tech marketing’s deciding factor. When to build and when to buy. 

Building a Category-defining tech brand is hard, slow work. Greatness doesn’t come easy or fast. Category-defining B2B tech brands, those worth working for and with, demand world-class content across every stage of the customer journey. 

Their stories need to start strong. Initial awareness to prompt conversions. Then, if they are to change the world and build their category, their follow-on messages need to stay consistent as their solutions achieve widespread adoption. Only then, with luck and skill, can this early customer success be mirrored in the quality customer success content they need to elicit longer-term satisfaction. 

This loyalty is what powers the Category they’ve created as it slowly builds, one re-up, expanded renewal and upsold deal at a time. Sounds straightforward? It is, if marketing teams are given unlimited budgets and time. The reality is, except for a handful of global players with large in-house teams, the range of skills needed for Category domination is likely to outstrip what most tech firms can justify hiring directly. Talent with the external perspective to power brands through the phases of Category Creation is rare.

Help is at hand.
Fortunately for Positive, from the outset we designed our business to fill these skill gaps. We understand B2B tech marketing leaders need to constantly balance the right external skills to their with their internal-available skillsets. 

This process never ends throughout the Category growth, which means marketing and sales leaders live every day with this tension between the skills available from their internal tech marketing teams and what they need at any point in time. Assessing where each of your products or services is in its journey to market domination is critical. 

Our advice? Break it down by stage in your Category’s maturity.

Here’s how to start.

Startup – You’ve got to Breakthrough

SKILLS GAP: At the offset, almost everything seems urgent and important. From those first customer acquisitions to sales support materials. From analysts meetings to lead generation and attending the right events, all seem critical if you are to ‘punch above your weight’. Bold decisions need to be made but previous playbooks may be too timid. 

At the same time, pressure is on from many sides. Customers, even those just sampling freemium products, are taking a risk on you need their buying decisions validated. Showing progress to investors means doing the right things. Accelerating decisions and avoiding expensive mistakes is a tough balance to make. The core skill needed is decisiveness.

KEY ADVICE: Hard as it is, take a breath. Trying every tactic at once is the opposite of a strategy. Ask where your first customers will learn about you (likely third parties like media or analysts). Determine which messages early adopters are receptive to and take time to build a sold Point of View. Do not dump all your budget in one tactic, Equally do not underfund tactics, like PR. SEO and content marketing, which can build Categories faster than others which build over time, like analyst relations, inbound marketing and event sponsorship.

SUGGESTED SOLUTION: With luck, the first few marketing hires will bring experience of startup culture working pace, a broad range of technical skills and a decisive bias towards action. Quality external writing, which balances in-house ‘Kool Aid’ with the ability to crank the content early market influencers devour, is the ideal first external addition. Startups need to think hard about external suppliers’ scalability. A one-person operation cannot scale if his kids are ill the day you have your breakthrough press interview lined up.

NEXT TIME: How Scaleups and Enterprises looking to pivot need to weigh up buying or building their tech marketing capabilities.