I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “we have no direct competitors” from a client. Sometimes, they’re right, but many times they aren’t. The reality is, it’s not that cut and dry.
How do you know if you are creating a new category or if you need to differentiate yourself from others? There are a variety of exercises you can try to help determine your category fit.
A great indicator of content category creation can be found through keyword research. When conducting SEO research, are you having trouble finding keywords that point to your product? You might find keywords that are more top-of-the-funnel, meaning they are more generally pointing to your space. But are there bottom-of-the-funnel keywords?
These are keywords that have a decent search volume that are specifically looking for your type of software. If there aren’t, it’s likely that you are creating a new category. Another possibility might be that your audience is simply not using Google (note: this usually happens if you are selling to non-tech savvy personas).
Still unsure? Try running some paid search campaigns on Google ads. See what type of leads come through, if any. I recommend using a form that has a mandatory “what are you interested in” textbox. It usually gives you the most insight as to what these leads are looking for and/or think your product is for.
This way you can tell if your messaging is working, but also if people are quickly understanding what your product does and is. If you find this audience, then likely it’s because there are other products like yours. If there seems to be some confusion or mismatch between what you do versus what they think you do then it might be because you are creating a new category that people are unfamiliar with.
Another exercise to help you understand if you are creating a new category is conducting a competitor analysis. List out your features and compare them against all your potential competitors. Do you share any features? If not, chances are you are creating a new category.
I recommend going through all these exercises to understand if you are creating a new category, just to be sure. Alone some of these results can be misleading, but if all three point to content category creation then you’ll likely be in the clear.
Why is this so important? Understanding if you are creating a new category or differentiating yourself is extremely important for your marketing strategy. It will shift all your campaign strategies.
When you create a new category, your focus needs to be on education and awareness. Your audience is not familiar with what you are doing and although you might be targeting a familiar pain, they won’t bite if they don’t get how you will help them. Here are a few tips on marketing materials & campaigns that will help you educate your audience:
Videos are your best friend. Use videos for your website, your paid search and social efforts, sales calls, and promote them organically on social media. LinkedIn is a great social media platform to promote your products and services and I recommend using your personal instead of your company LinkedIn. People like to interact with other people, not companies. Here are some video examples you can use:
Prioritize blog content. Don’t worry about making everything sound perfect and professional. If your content is valuable, people don’t care if you started a sentence with “and” or used a comma instead of a semicolon.
Write content that targets questions that your audience might have. Usually, the sales team is a great resource for blog topics, just have them give you a list of FAQs and each of those should be a blog topic for you.
Write thought leadership pieces that talk about how your product came to be, why you’re a thought leader in the space, and why other products aren’t solving the issue. The same strategy as video content applies here; promote this content everywhere, especially on social media.
Build an educational landing page for your paid search and social campaigns. Now that you have blogs and videos to work with, create a landing page that serves to educate your audience, not sell your product.
Structure your landing page to highlight your videos and articles instead of your lead conversion form. Sounds a bit scary to put your form at the bottom of the page, but trust that if your content is strong then prospects will digest it and want to convert no matter where your form is.
Take a networking approach to outbound marketing instead of trying to sell your product right off the bat. Learn more about how to create a successful networking outbound strategy here.
Participate as a speaker at events or conduct informational webinars. Do some event research and find events whose audience is aligned with your target audience and sign up as a speaker. It’s a great way to get your name out there and people interested in what you are doing.
I know webinars seem to be a little overdone at this point, but they are still a great tool if done correctly. Doing very targeted and intimate webinars are a great way to hold an interactive discussion that allows the audience to ask several, specific questions and really get them to understand your product. You can use outbound and PPC efforts to advertise your webinars.
The key to really educating your audience (& really any marketing strategy) is to make sure you are being consistent and staying focused. There are a million ways to educate your audience, you need to choose the areas you want to focus in on and realistically have the bandwidth to consistently support.
Understanding whether you are creating a new category versus category differentiation is going to be pivotal for not only your marketing strategy but your business strategy as a whole. It affects how you set up your goals, KPI’s, timeline, sales approach, and so much more. Make sure you know where your product falls so you can appropriately adjust your Go-to-market strategy.
And once you know which category you fall into, use these 7 inbound marketing best practices to get started.