John Rougeux: An Insider's Look at the Category Design Process

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

You hear a lot of talk about category creation and category design. The terms are often intermingled.

In this episode of Marketing Spark, John Rougeux goes into depth about what category design involves and the features it delivers to companies looking to differentiate what they do to drive marketing and sales.

Rougeux, VP, Marketing Strategy at BombBomb, provides first-hand insight into how to implement a category design process and, as important, how to get key stakeholders on board.

BombBomb is video email platform for medium and large enterprise companies.

High. It's Mark Evans and I'd like to welcome you to marketing spark, the podcast that delivers insight from marketers and entrepreneurs in twenty minutes or less. Today's show I'm talking with John Rougie, VP marketing strategy at bomb bomb. Welcome to marketing spark, John. Thanks mark, appreciate you having me on. Let's start by talking about bombomb. What is bombomb? Who are the target audiences and why do people need that? Some basic questions about what you do during your day. bombomb was born at of kind of a condition that's that's grown and grown as as our world and the way we communicate is changed. So you know the past, mark. You know if you got an email from someone or social media message, chances are you probably knew that it was from a person you you already trusted, or or at least a real human being at a minimum. But what's happened over time is there there's just been kind of a proliferation of things like spam and fishing attempts and overuse of marketing automation and you know this quote unquote, personalization that makes it look like it's from someone who took the time to write something just for you, but we all know it's just a forum fill and so communication has become dehumanized and it's beakn confusing about which messages we really need to take the time to to trust and pay attention to and which we should ignore and and forget about. Bomb bomb addresses that problem because we allow people to use video messaging to send you one to one, you know, personal messages to the customers and to the prospects and the people are trying to build relationships with. We've been doing that for actually over a decade. We were very early in addressing that problem, but we have, you know, our customers collectively, I think they've send over half a million videos right now. Our team, no, sorry, our team alone is said, over half a million videos. I don't know what our customer count is. So, yeah, that's what we're doing. We're helping the world communicate better and build relationships through personal, one to one video. Given that people aren't going to conferences and likely won't go into conferences for a long time, what are what's going on with video in terms of how can people connect, because it used to be that you go to a meet up or you fly into visit a prospect or, you to tend a conference, but none of that physical interactions are happening. So how do you see this sort of the videos landscape evolving and how does bombomb trying to capitalize on this, on this trend? So there's really two things that we look at. One of them actually happened before covid and this restriction around getting facetoface, and that's just people understanding the power of video in general, and you could start to see that, at least I note for me personally. You know, I've been doing zoom meetings and conference calls for four years and there was a point where if you turn on video or you're doing a video you call, that was kind of little awkward or new or strange, and then it become became not so strange and it started to become normal. And...

...then you'd get on a zoom call and if you were that that guy or a girl who didn't have video on, it was kind of weird because people started to understand you can communicate so much more effectively through video than through text or audio, only because the human face and our emotions and our facial expressions that those conveys so much more meaning and expression and tone than we can through other mediums. So that was that was a movement. Again. That happened before Covid, but with covid people have really started to recognize just how limiting it is when you can't get facetoface. You know, you can't fly across the country to close a deal with someone, you can't meet at a conference, you can't just build relationships through, you know, coffee and lunch and thing things like that. We've gotten more comfortable with zoom and other video conferencing tools, which is great, but the challenge is zoom and other video you know, just live video, they are always the right path to go down. If you don't know somebody, you can't get on a zoom call with them. You have to develop that relationship first and then schedules are busy sometimes field don't always have internet connectivity. There's a number of reasons why zoom called maybe isn't always the right way to go, and so asynchronous video, this idea of sending videos to people instead of a meeting or when you're trying to develop a relationship and you want to then move to a live video call. All we've really started to see people recognize the need for that on their own. We still have to do some education, of course, but they get to that point where they understand why this helps so much faster than they did just, you know, one or two years ago. Any thoughts about the whole concept of zoom fatigue? When covid first emerged, people were super excited to get on zoom. Any opportunity for interaction with another human being was was seen as as was almost like a something that they really wanted, and I've noticed recently that the number of zoom calls has declined and even when you get on a zoom call, a lot of people are turning on the cameras anymore. What do you think's going on with zoom these days? Yeah, it's a good question. I can only really speak for my personal experience. I think that one piece you mentioned about people turning off their their video I think what that's starting to show is just that people understand that it's not necessarily rude anymore. Like if you're working from home, you might have to address something with your kids, you might have to go get some water, you know, whatever the case may be, and it's not seeing as such a you know, it's not an offensive thing to do. It's just understandable that that needs to happen. What the other thing that I've seen, which might be a little bit more relevant, is that you can quickly use up a lot of your day through zoom meeting after zoom meeting after zoom meeting. So what we are team? Does you know? We eat on dog food. I mentioned you know. We've sent, I think collectively, like half a million videos. We tried it. We do a lot of instead of having zoom meetings, we will just send it a video to one, you know, to one of your co workers, I might I just have a question that I need to go over. So I'll send a video out to one or two people. They can get back to me and I can look at that video and respond in my own time. I don't have to stop in the...

...middle of what I'm doing to go do something else. I I can. I can just, you know, schedule time to watch this videos and respond to those videos and kind of do those in batches and so end up a lot more productive and and I send up spending a lot less time going through that communication and having those meetings. Do you see bomb bomb being used as a replacement for email and and many, many situations it can. We don't like to say that. Well, it's not a replacement to email because a lot of what happens is we send videos through email. So instead of it's more of a replacement or compliment to to text. Video. Sometimes it is a better communication medium. Sometimes Tis is better, like if you want to communicate a specific list of things and have someone recall and refer back to those things, you don't want to rely video on video exclusively to do that. But when you're trying to explain something, like think about an idea you have for maybe it's as a project, or maybe you're a BEDR and you're trying to get the attention of a prospect and you've noticed something about their company you really want them to think about. If you try to do that with text, you can do that, the chances of that happening are are lower just because people tend to skim text and unless you're an amazing writer, it's really hard to break through and create an emotional response with with that text and your message is more likely to be ignoreder forgotten because it's harder to remember, you know, words you see written on a page but when you put a face to it and you put a voice to it and you put emotion to it, you're able to be much more convincing and much more memorable after the fact because people will remember your face. So it's not a replacement for email, but it's a it's a enhanced way of communicating over email when you have to do some convincing or explain complex ideas or just add some more emotion and and want to avoid your message from being misinterpreted. So you mentioned the bombombs and around for over ten years and you've been with the company for how long now? I actually just joined in in January. So what is it about? Nine months or so you spend a lot of time talking about mark category creation and category design. It's and obviously it's something that's at the core of what bombomb is trying to do strategically these days. Maybe as a starting point, you can explain what is the difference between the two and what are they involved just generally speaking, with you're talking about category design or category creation. There's the idea behind this discipline is it's a way of breaking out of a way of operating where you're competing for market share. So most companies are in a situation where they're in a specific category. Typically it's a category that customers and buyers know about and they're trying to convince those customers why they are a better solution than others players net category. There's nothing wrong with that approach. That's a legitimate marketing approach and for most businesses that's, you know, because of what they're building in the product they've delivered. That's the most appropriate way for...

...them to go. There's another path, though, and it involves taking both your product and you and the story you tell about your company, and you're looking at solving not not a problem in a better way than your competitors, but you're looking at solving a new problem or solving a problem in a much different way. That kind of sets you outside of that headhead competition and puts you in a place where you're owning and creating a market that you can kind of create and define for yourselves and determine the terms of competition. You asked about the difference between the two terms. That's a little bit yeah, it's a little bit pedantic to go too far into it, but here's the way I like to think about others might disagree. I think when I think of category creation, I think people tend to think of like a category created in like Gtwo or gardener or that kind of official Capital C category mindset. Right, and that can happen. That's not really what this process is about, though, and that's why I like the term category design, category design is more about creating a lens for your product roadmap and you're messaging that sets you apart from competitors and puts you in a in a different category, and I'm going to put that in air quotes, even though we're just on audio, a different category where, because you're solving something in a different way, any comparisons between competitors are more like apples and oranges rather than apples to apples. And if and if that whole narrative and that whole product ends up being an official category summer, that's great, but if that doesn't happen, that's not really what we're talking about. So that's why I prefer that term design, because it speaks to you kind of a continual process of setting yourself apart and creating a new space that you can earn for yourself. So let's dig into the challenges of category design and what you're trying to do at bomb bomb? Where do you start and what are the different approaches and tools that you're deploying to establish bombomb and and, in the process, do category design? I know this is a twenty minute podcast, so I'm going to try to call you a very brief answer. I'm going to give a if it's okay with you, on a plug something that I'm working on. I'm actually working on this with GTO. We're going to publish it this fall. Is called the newcomers guide to category design and it's designed to answer to this question exactly like if you're at points your you don't know what it is, you don't know how to get started, it's a guy that kind of walks you through that whole process and gives you more of a tactical plan for we're going through this. The other resource you need to read is play bigger. It was. It's a book that's influenced a lot of my thinking. It kind of developed category design is a discipline and so if you want to get started, start there now. That be that thing said, I'll give you a very quick them overview because I know there's some other topics you want to talk talk about as well. There's kind of two phases to category design if you look at it at a Fiftyzero foot view. Phase one is internal, phase two is external, and in phase one you're spending time looking at yourself, looking at your customers. You how you have to start by understanding the problem that you're solved, that's you that you're solving or that you want to solve. The...

Whole Foundation for category design is built on and a deep understanding of that problem. If you're simply solving the same problem as your competitors, that's not category design. That's just says you need to find a way to differenti at yourself against those competitors. But what you're really looking at, like I mentioned earlier, is is a way of solving an entirely new problem or solving a problem in a different way. Now that can mean there's kind of two situations that companies fall into. Sometimes they've built something and intuitively and they know that it's different, but the market doesn't know that and they're trying to lump it in with some existing category that they already know about. And for those kind of companies, category design helps clarify what what they've already built and it gives them the right story to tell so it's viewed in the correct light and is seen as different from products that it might be confused with. Other companies are more in the formative stage and either they are planning to to build something or in there the kind of the process of that and and they want to make sure that they're going after this in a new in a new way, in a different way. And so they'll look at that problem and day and ask themselves, what can we do? You know, what are some problems that have not been solved that we can address, or what are some existing problems that you know? The way that people are addressing those problems today, it just isn't adequate. We need to go off in a different, different way, and it and approach us in an entirely new path. From that foundation of the problem, you need to you'll work on kind of a story that helps the world understand why this problem needs to be solved. You know, why they need to care about it. And that story and if you replay bigger, they called your point of view. It talks about how you're taking the world from a state where they were, you know, struggling to deal with some problem and how the introduction of this new category is designed to solve that problem and deliver them to a new and better state of doing business. From there, there's a lot of work you have to do around the narrative and the category name and and the assets and the visuals and the and the stories you're going to tell to really articulate that category and bring it to life. And then there's a lot of work you need to do to think through the the product roadmap and what you're actually going to build and and not going to build, to really focus on solving that problem and actually delivering something, because you category design. It's not a marketing strategy, it's not a way of putting spin on something, it's a business strategy that is designed to provide a lens in a focus on everything your company does, almost, you know, down to a person. So that's a very, very, very high level view of the internal process. I'll speak briefly to the external process. We're kind of at the transition point of this within in bombomb but externally, you know, your category efforts can't just live on a Google doc that you guys wrote. You have to deliver it to the world. So some companies go through lightning strikes, which is another term that play bigger coined. It's at the idea of kind of high level, high effort campaigns. It really break through the noise and get people to pay attention and sit up. So they're...

...often kind of very unconventional or our unusual tactics there. But on a more kind of day to day level, the way you know your category has to manifest itself in your website, in your marketing material and when you do sales presentations, when you talk on stage, and I don't mean when I say your category, I don't mean you have to just insert the category name into that work. I mean that story that you've that you've developed. That has to be the essence of what you talked about and you have to talk about that over and over and over again to really kind of weave that into your into your DNA. That's my that's probably the quickest I've explained category design, I hope and helpful. Yeah, that was a four minutes and twenty seconds. That they did a great job. Thanks. Thanks. I have to walk to like just if you want to go in more depth, I do I have a category design blog. It's called flag in frontiercom. You can go there and I do a new post every couple weeks to kind of dive into more detail about in some of these topics. When you look at what you're doing at bomb bomb over the last nine months, what are some of been some of the things, the key success and one of the things that you've learned along the way about category design? With category design, that's it's been a big success for us so far, even though we haven't published that externally to the world, because, you know, I get comments from our CEO and our president saying things like this. CLARIFIES so many things for us. It gives us so much of a more focus lens on what we need to do, what where we need to head and the kinds of things that we can say no to. And you know, whether the world adopts our category or not, just having that focus and that that north star is so valuable for a company and so that was huge for me. Our CFO, he said one of my favorite things one time. He said, you know, you too typically think of maybe a CFO is someone who's gonna like tap things down or not worry. You know, try to keep the company from spending too much, but he said, hey, we really need to make sure we have enough money set aside for lightning strikes. And when he said that I was just I just felt so good because we we were at a point where our company, our whole company, feels the, you know, the need for what we're doing and understands why it's valuable. I think one of the lessons I've learned is that anytime you're working on an initiative that affects the company at such a large and such a large way and across so many different departments, you really want to make sure that you give your team time to process ideas and think through ideas and go down pass that you may end up being dead ends, but understanding. You know, give them time to understand what pass don't make sense so they can get to the past that that do make sense. If you rush through this and try to do it in like a one day workshop or even over you know a few weeks, you're going to not give yourself the the thoughtfulness and and the clarity you need to really have confidence to pursue this in a very directive fashion, and so that would be a lesson. It's just, you know, give people time. It's going to take longer than you think, especially if your company is is...

...larger and has more moving pieces. Yeah, just give yourself the time to work through that and don't rush it because it's going to have ramifications for years down the road. Now, when I look at the ways that you are going to start to articulate this new category design exercise, one of the things you've talked about on Linkedin is the whole process of going through a website redesign or website rebuild, and I know from personal experience that this can be a treacherous and time consuming an expensive process. Maybe you can set a little bit of time talking about why bombomb decided to overhaul its website, how the project unfolded and some of the things, some of the pitfalls and some of the good things that that you that you learned along the way. We decided to revamp our website for one very specific reason. In the past we were very focused on what we refer to as very small businesses, so these are like individual buyers or someone who might buy just a few seats. That was appropriate for the foundations of our business and as we were growing. But as we matured and as we looked at our future growth, we knew that we needed to shift towards SMB, mid market enterprise. When we looked at our website, we realize that it was very transactional focused. So it was, you know, it's steered people towards the free trial. It's steered towards like a very, you know, tactical things that you would benefit from, which is very appropriate for that for that audience, and the website actually converted very well from a free trial perspective. But when we looked at say, like a mid market buyers, someone with, you know, maybe a thousand employees, they're not starting with a free trial. I mean they might, but what we really want to talk to is like a sales director or vp of sales or someone who runs a team of people, and we wanted to speak to some of the the problems they were facing and speak to some of the needs that they have that smaller businesses don't. To be very specific with what we're doing with video, email, video messaging. This is a new way of communicating for most people and the main driver of success is how much guidance and coaching you receive. As a team on how to use this medium. It's not just about the software and that's something we've really invested in, but we weren't highlighting that on our website. But we win deals against competitors because of that guidance and so we really needed a highlight that attribute of our company and just speak to that, you know, in their language, in a much more direct fashion. So that was the big driver for the for the project. What are some of the pitfalls that you've you've had to overcome. Probably those, like any business like we have, you know, so many resources, and we have we had a certain amount of time that we wanted to get this done in and so we had to make choices. One of the sacrifices we had to make was how much testing we did ahead of time. In an ideal world, you know, you'd maybe you split test versions of your home page or versions of the side or you do extensive user testing to really understand what you know, what people were reacting to. That was an...

...area where we had to cut back a little bit. We did some user testing before we launched, but we didn't go through the depth that we wanted to. But I'm saying that we felt good about it because we were very, very thorough in terms of getting clarity on what each page needed to accomplish, what it needed to speak to and what the key points and outcomes of that page were. We spent a lot of time talking with sales teams and customer success teams about the language that they were using and we gave our teams a lot of permission to be creative and and we also gave them some permission to take risks like, if you could, or home page today, the way that that hero section is is structured and unfolds. That was we've never seen other pages like that. It barred a little bit of inspiration from from apple on the way they kind of their page kind of flows, but that was a big risk for us, but we were okay with that. We, you know, our team in our CMO and our executives gave us permission to take that risk. This it's decides actually performing very, very well. It's outperforming or old site on on pretty much every metric. So we're really happy with with outcome. But yeah, sometimes when you've got limited bandwidth and limited time, you just have to make those decisions on what you're going to sacrifice and that was the thing that we chose to cut back on and foot, and fortunately the outcome was really strong. Despite that, I'm interested in checking out your website. Let me get off this podcast. Thanks John for for your insight into into category design and for anybody who's attempting or in the process of redesign their websites at some great advice, and I want to thank everybody for listening to another episode of marketing spark. If you enjoyed the conversation, leave a review and subscribe by Itunes or your favorite podcast APP. If you like put your heard. Please rate it. For show notes on today's conversation and information about John, his blog and bomb bomb. visit marketing spark dotcom slash blog. If you have questions, feedback, would like to suggest a guest or want to learn more about how I help be tobe companies as a fractional CMO consultant and adviser, send an email to mark at marketing sparkcom. Talk to you next time.

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