If you can’t beat ’em, play your own game (2/22)

First law of marketing is “if you ain’t first, you’re last.”

So what if you’re not first?

Second law says to carve out your own category, and be the first there.

Before the iPhone, there were plenty of phones. But Apple came along and conquered the Smartphone category.

Before Atari, there were all kinds of games. But they came along and pioneered the Video Game.

Before Red Bull, there were plenty of drinks. But they came along and pioneered the Energy Drink.

You get the idea.

This kind of move has been all the rage in B2B tech lately. And it’s no wonder why. Markets there are crowded, and the category play works.

But it only works when done right. When done wrong it doesn’t even fail big. It just dies with a whimper.

A few keys to pulling it off.

One, identify a fresh space you can own. No sense building something no one wants, or losing it to a competitor better suited to win what you’ve built.

Two, go all in. Building a category takes time. It’s not gonna happen overnight, and it’s not gonna work if it’s a contingency plan. Once you’ve decided, don’t back out to soon, or hedge your bets with competing messages.

Three, ignore the analysts. It’s way too easy to enslave yourself to hype cycles and magic quadrants. These are boring things very few actually care about. Instead build and name the category based on what customers want. And when you start gaining traction, the analysts will come around to you.

To sum it up: if you can’t beat ’em, the last thing you wanna do is join ’em.