506: Category Design (and When Your Company Needs To Do It) w/ Jennifer Johnson

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this episode we talk to Jennifer "JJ" Johnson, Chief Marketing officer at Tenable.

There's a ton of noise out there. So how do you get decision makers to pay attention to your brand? Start a podcast and invite your ideal clients to be guests on your show. Learn more at sweet fish Mediacom. You're listening to the BAB growth show, a podcast dedicated to helping betb executives achieve explosive growth. Whether you're looking for techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. I'm James Carberry and I'm Jonathan Green. Let's get into the show. Before we get into the day's interview, I want to tell you about another podcast that I think you're really going to love. It's called the marketing book podcast and it was named by Linkedin as one of ten podcasts that will make you a better marketer. It's hosted by my friend Douglas Burdette, who we've had on the podcast in the past, and Douglas does weekly interviews with authors of best selling marketing and sales books. According to an adobe survey of marketers, seventy six percent of them said that marketing has changed more in the last two years than in the previous fifty. So when you subscribe to this podcast and Marketing Book Podcast, you're going to be able to keep up with the quickly changing landscape of modern marketing and sales. One thing that is unique about this that I think is really interesting is that Douglas reads every single book before every interview and you can tell that in the engagement that he is able to have with each of the authors that he interviews. You can just tell he knows this content because he's read the entire book, hasn't just read the cliff notes, and so he has done over a hundred interviews. I think they're at one episode, one D and thirty four right now. By the time you're hearing this they might be at a hundred and thirty five, but I want you to head over. You're already in the PODCAST APP. Head over in search for the marketing book podcast. Gets subscribed, download a few episodes. You can check out their website at marketing...

...book podcastcom. You can follow them on twitter at marketing book but I really, really really want you to subscribe to this podcast. This is one that I get a ton of value from and I think you will as well. Welcome back to the B Tob Gross show. Today we are joined by Jennifer Johnson. Jennifer is the CMO at tenable and I actually read recently that she is the first chief marketing officer in the company's history. So this is an extra exciting episode. Jennifer, welcome to the show. Thank you very much, Jonathan. Great to be here. That's a pleasure to have you here. You dust it off the old skype account to join us here, which is fantastic. So we're getting a chance to connect today and we're going to be talking about category design. Before we get in today's topic, maybe you can tell our listeners a little about what you and your team at tenable or up to these days. Yeah, sure, so, just so quick background at me, and by the way, everybody calls me Jj so please feel free to use that. I have been in Silicon Valley and Enterprise Software Marketing for the last twenty years. Work for a variety of companies from small startups to HPS, the HP's of the world, so I've seen kind of every stage of company. Even worked on the VCSIDE for a little whild and resent Horowitz and was first CMO at a cyber security company called Tanium prior to tenable. So if kind of seen. I've seen the Gammeutt one thing that to note, and the topic of Today on category design is something I'm very passionate about, is I had the pleasure of working with three CMOS between my time at Tanium and tenable, a firm called play bigger, and I highly recommend that you go out and read this book. So they basically wrote a book on category design. These are former CMOS, wellknown CMOS in the valley, and they started an advisory firm to help companies define and dominate market categories. So I got a chance to kind of sit with them in the driver's seat...

...and see firsthand how the process is done, and we're actually just did the first phase of it at tenable. So really excited about where we're going with our own category and happy to share my pearls of wisdom here. That's fantastic. So, Jj you know, I always take a perverse delight in bringing on guests of the show that are smarter than me, and that's basically all of them so far. So, you know, even if we can just talk a little about you know what category design is, because I sort of have this idea that you know you're creating and monetizing new markets, but it's not anything I have a serious familiarity with, and so if we can just kind of start there and then and then take it away. Yeah, so I mean the concept of market categories. Everyone, as a consumer in this world, everyone should be familiar with what a category is. Right. There's categories of toothpaste, of phones, of anything, right. And I think in the world of especially the world of technology and enterprise software, there was kind of this vacuum of real an understanding of really how to kind of think differently and carve out new markets. And I think there's kind of stems from a couple things. One is that a lot of companies when they start, they're technically driven, engineering founded. There's a real engineering DNA and a lot of tech companies, and well, that's great for many things. I think there's sometimes as a prevailing wisdom of well, the technology was just sell itself. Right, if you build it, they'll come and, as we all know, it's it's easier than ever to start a company. Now the market is more and more crowded and every market segment and enterprise software is more and more crowded. You look at like cyber security, the industry I'm in, and I mean there's literally five thousand vendors in the space and new ones popping up every day, and so the need to carve out a new space so you don't just kind of get, you know, sucked into the noise of everyone else and sound and look and walk and talk like everyone else. And really, when you're doing that, what you're doing is you're walking into an agenda that somebody else is set. And so it's it's come upon us, as you know, sales and marketers, to really kind above the noise and...

...think differently and really prescribe a different way, not necessarily a better way, because a better way usually is we're faster, we're cheaper speeds and feeds, right, but really changing the agenda and prescribing a newer, a different way of working and living. And that's really what category design is. And you know, I'll say that most of the enterprise technology market segments out there are extremely crowded today. I work in Cyber Security. I don't think there's much more of a crowded segment than cyber I mean there's literally thousands of companies in the space and new ones popping up every day, and so everyone sounds the same. And you know, that's one of the reasons that I was so excited to join tenable, is because not only did they they believe in this process of category design, but they were committed to hey, you know what we need to we need to change the game, we need to reshape the market and create a new agenda out in the market to really help our customers. Right. So all this really serious problem and not just sound like everybody else, because no one wins, right. I mean they, you know, helping the people who are trying to protect all of us as consumers and keep our information safe as marketers in the cyber industry. I take that very seriously, as it's upon us to help people clearly understand and clearly you know, we need a new way to think about cyber so that's kind of the notion of category design, is thinking about a new way to work or live. And is there a JJ? Is there a distinction between the idea of sort of providing a new product or service versus just marketing it in a different way, or is that not even a factor when it comes to category design? Yeah, it's a great question. So I think the danger of going into an existing market is you dive, by definition, going into a market where there's incumbents who may be market leaders and who have a lot of the market share already, who have made of already set the agenda in the market with customers, with the industry analysts, like the gardeners of the world. So you know, it's a fair strategy and in some cases as it does...

...make sense going and what I would I would call reviving a stagnant category, like if there hasn't been innovation and a category in a while, you can successfully use that as a category design strategy. is to go and reimagine an existing category. But in some cases it makes sense just to go chart out a new category, and that takes time. We can talk about that, but that might in some cases that is the better strategy, is to go and actually create and define a net new category. So all right, if you're sort of charging forward, you're charting out and designing a new category. You know, why is this something that company should do in the first place? I mean, if there's this only something that works for companies that are struggling, does this also work for for the incomments that we were talking about earlier? It absolutely does, and I think that there's always this interesting balance of, you know, smaller companies. It's a strategy smaller companies can use to, you know, enter the market in the right way. So it you know, it's harder to get mine share, it's harder to get air cover when you're smaller. So category design can be a useful strategy to chart out a new course from the beginning. On the other end of the spectrum, the incumbents, they usually have the customer base in the mind share and they're considered thought leaders in the industry. So it would be they've already got the pieces to actually go out and reshape a market. It's a lot of times, and I've worked in these big companies, sometimes you can't get out of your own way and internal politics and bureaucracy and too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak, sometimes hinder innovation and act the same for category design. But you know, I think one of the main, the most important things to understand about category design is that it's not a marketing strategy, it's a company strategy and categy. Category Design done right is going to transcend your entire company because it's a rallying it's a rallying cry that will help shape your company culture. It's a container, if you will, for your product...

...strategy. So this will give you a category, done right, will take years to define, and so this becomes your multi year company strategy. It helps. It helps actually provide a north star for what kind of products do we build? Who Do we partner with? Because no one company alone is going to be able to fulfill the entire category vision by themselves. So you're going to need partners. And if you are the only one and cold that can fulfill it, that I'd say your categories too small. Right. And then of course there's the you know, revenue impact and the potential. You know, obviously you're going to be in the enterprise software world. You want to sell as high as you can, you want to sell as much as you can, you want to get sticky and and renewals and upsell and cross cell and this provides a framework for all of those things to work in concert together. Okay, got it. And you know you had you had made the point offline and I think sort of as you're explaining some of the nuance to category design. You know you had said there's no real one size fit all. I mean it does. Does that exist or does it not? No, I think it's it's a there's no cookie cutter. I mean there's a framework and a process that every company that's embarking on this should go through, and I would encourage everyone to go and get the play bigger book. It's literally called play bigger and it's all around category design and in that book there is a process framework for how you would take a company through the category definition and design journey. But how you get it's kind of a here's the guide to get to the right answer. But what the right answer is is going to be dependent on the company, but space they're in, what the market and competitive landscape looks like. It's a variety of factors. The most important thing is do you have commitment from the entire executive team, starting with the CEO, to go embark on this? That is actually the biggest success or failure criteria, because otherwise what's going to happen is the CMO will go and quarterback this process internally and then everybody kind of if they're not bought in, they're going to lose interest when the next shiny object comes along and then...

...it dies in a couple quarters and it becomes a marketing campaign. That's what you don't want, right, or you don't want the product team kind of going off and building something, you know, that's not in parallel with the category. So you have to get internally. It's as much about internal mobilization as it is actually what you're going to go externally talk to the market about. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, and so jj on. My one immediate question that is that is springing to mind is because I've had we've had guests on the show and varying degrees of doing one thing and doing that really well, because that's what you're good at, and versus, you know, expanding your value proposition doing doing multiple things. I mean, is this a fact that you need to consider as you're maybe thinking about expanding into, you know, this new category design, I guess, as you're trying to maybe break into some sort of new market or, you know, are there times when you have to hold back and thank you know what, we should really focus in on what we're good at and focus in on where we are now. Yeah, so, like, I'll give you an analogy to answer that question. Sales Force, right, so I'd say sales force and Mark Benny off is probably one of the best category designers of all time and what he did is he if you look at you know sales force, hence the name of the company. You don't do Crm, which is in cloud. CRM really is the category that he defined to deposition the seebuls of the world right at the time. And if you look at what crm is is it's about connecting marketing and sales and customers support into this whole notion of customer success and a life cycle that spans across all those functions. And sales force has products that sit at each one of those. They have their marketing cloud, they have their service cloud, they have their sales cloud. But the heritage of the company and what every single person that in every company that embarks on Crm, they all start with sales force automation. Right. You don't...

...get to crm without sales force automation. So I think the analogy there is and the message there is you should understand what you're really good at and you should understand what core problem that you're solving and you use that as the base or the UN ramp to this broader this broader category right, like I don't know how you could do cee rm without doing sales force automation is as an example. Yeah, yeah, I love that Jj. You know, are there any then, as our audiences tuning in and sort of thinking about category design and where they may want to take that, do you have any actionable pieces of advice, like things that they could take back to their company? You know, hey, take a look at this or you know that first things first, have a conversation with your CEO. You know what's kind of a jumping off point for people. Yeah, I think that it's always a good exercise, and this is just good marketing best practice in general, for a CMO to go through a positioning and point of view exercise with the executive team and focus not on the solution, but focus on the problem that you're solving, because if you can get clear, and by the way, you're probably going to get ten variations on the problem you're solving if you ask ten people in the company, right. So getting the company clear on the problem you're solving is the first step, because if you're clear on the problem, then you frame the answer to that problem and you're the only one that can solve it right. So that's just good. Have a clear point of view as a company. That's like step one, and then from there it's like, okay, well, if we know what problem we're solving and we can frame it so that we're the only solution to it, then is what is the category that honors that problem right? And what you'll likely find is, when you can get to the answer of the problem you're solving, you'll realize that the category that you're playing in today is not big enough. And so those things kind of go hand in hand. And Look, even if you don't get past having a provocative and compelling point of view, having a provocative and compelling point of view is probably better than ninety percent of the other companies...

...you're competing with out there. Yeah, that sounds great. Well, JJ, I think this has been some tremendous content. I'm learning a lot from this conversation and so I love that. I hope certainly that our listeners are learning a lot as well and if they have any maybe follow up questions, you know, they want to find out more about today's topic or even find out what you intenable or up to moving forward. What's the best way for them to go about doing that. Yeah, I'm feel free to reach out to me on Linkedin and connect with me and Jennifer Johnson. I also have some articles I posted on there that I wrote about category design in addition to the play bigger book, so feel free to reach out on that. On twitter, I'm JJ underscore, CMO, so feel free to follow me and communicate with me that way. And you know, there's a probably the best ways to reach me and everyone go out and read that play bigger book. It really is. It's life changing perfect. Well, JJ, thanks again so much for your time today. Was a pleasure having you on the show. All right, thank you so much for having me. To ensure that you never miss an episode of the B Tob Growth Show, subscribe to the show in Itunes or your favorite podcast player. This guarantees that every episode will get delivered directly to your device. If you'd like to connect with B tob executives from all over the world, make sure to join our private facebook community. There are some incredible conversations happening inside this group. To Join, visit be tob growth showcom FB. Thank you so much for listening. Until next done,.

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