Hamish Grant

Vice President Marketing at Safety Culture

Great businesses don’t follow the rules

15 Minutes

Great businesses don't follow the rules they make up their own rules and everyone loves them for it.

In his talk, Hamish shares the three main pillars to build a new category. Using Salesforce (CRM) as an example, he shares the importance of designing the category, designing and prioritizing the product, and finally, designing the company. 

More about
Hamish Grant

Hamish Grant is an experienced marketer, strategist and business leader with a passion for new technologies and hyper-growth companies. He specialises in category defining growth strategies from startup to enterprise, and has held a number of senior tech marketing roles in Australia and around the world.

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Video Transcript

Hi everyone. My name is Hamish Grant, and I'm currently the VP of marketing at safety culture. But before safety culture, I've been working with a number of early-stage companies in Australia, as they embark on their expansion around the world. And through this experience, I've learned a lot about what makes companies different, that what makes them tick and about ultimately what I believe, the winners and the latest of these companies are really doing.

And what I've learned through this journey is that these companies don't follow the rules. They make up their own rules. And as a result, they go on to take on and not only compete in their markets but dominate them. Now take Salesforce, for example, does anyone remain, but their incumbent competitor.

Siebel was the original CRM system, although it was an on-premise software solution, not be any often. Salesforce went on to create and really not only revolutionize the software as a service industry but takes Salesforce from a really small. Really passionate team based in San Francisco, right through to be a global dominating force than it is today.
And other examples like to Tomando for many of you, when you ever heard of Tomando of attempt, tomato is close to my heart here in Australia and Tomando. We're really unique. They were not only one of the first to market in Australia with shipping software, but while they are competitors both in Australia and internationally, we're talking about printing labels, printing, shipping labels for retailers Tomando was talking about shipping experiences and conversion in the shopping cart.

And this was completely unique, which went on to redefine the shipping software category as we know it today. And really these examples are really just scratching the iceberg. And when you really lookout at all these companies that really exist all the ones that we admire every day, Apple, Facebook, these big, big technology companies, there really is a commonality between them.
And I believe at the very core of them, what they are doing is really fundamentally creating their own category of software and in doing so, they're consuming the economics of the market. But before I get into, into how that works, I'm really keen to point out that not everyone has deep jobs or has Steve Jobs into intuition, too many good companies with great products fail to make a dent in the world because they failed to find their place in the universe.
And this is really what category creation is all about. It really is about defining what that Universe is. So that it can pull in customers and that can crown you as the category king.
Customers want something that is different. They don't want to follow the leader and great companies who, who execute on a really refined category creation strategy, create that space for those customers. And there really is an art to it.
And there are three principles that come to category creation. And the key is that a lot of these companies, as they go through this journey, this accidentally happens to them. They accidentally create these categories, but what I'm here to tell you today is that it can be deliberate and there is a methodology to going and doing it.

And if you can recognize this, whether you're a founder or a leader in lodging to prize business, The power of this strategy is really phenomenal to rally your team, rally the market around your solution, and really benefit from the cognitive biases that come in from your customers when they identify you as a market leader.

Now category design as a cool component of category creation, you must understand your competitive space. You must understand the leavers that you have within those spaces that your competitors do not. But category design is about designing not only the right product and features to compete that in that category, but also completely defining the benefits and the value that will be extracted from their category and its creation.

And you really feel the absence of category design. If it's not a deliberate strategy when gotten up post, say a magic quadrant and you're at the bottom of it, or if you're a B2B business and you're filling in an RFP and it's clear that the RFP was written by a competitor. Oh, with the, with the objective of obtaining a solution from your competitor, you feel it when you've got a lot of smart people in the room, and you're doing big hours and you just can't seem to get any traction. I've really seen this in my career a lot and companies who really pursue a category design go through the process, work with their teams to understand how are we going to differentiate that business in the market? How are we going to build this product?

How are we going to build this? If that is taken in a really deliberate manner, then it can be extremely powerful to differentiate you in the market.

So while there is the category design, the second pillar is really the product design. So, and here, what we talking about is really those, those, those features and the, and those benefits, really making sure and really simple terms that if you're going to create a brand new category and so in the Salesforce example, really go along to dominate CRM. Then you must define the parameters of their category through the product and the features that you bring to market. And so it's simple terms, you are building a category that has seven features. And X value as opposed to five features and Y value, and you're going after that and you go out and how you take that to market. We'll speak about in, in, in in the next, in the next section.

But after product design, you really get onto company design. And this is really, you really need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and understand are these the people that you need to be succeeded.

What people do you need in your organization? What talent do you need? What kind of culture do you need in your organization to create something that's brand new that the world's never seen before to create a new category of software that people are going to love. And this is often a hard challenge for, organizations in particularly early-stage companies as they grow and as they're, and as their people grow with them, or in many cases are not quite the people that they need to take to the next level.

But you can really go about this in a really conscious way and really understand the people you need to basically, be successful. And so really those are the three pillars of category creation. You've got to design the category, you've got to design the product and you've got to design the company. And all this is deliberate with the view that you're building and brand new category of software.

Now, these companies who go on to do this deliberately are often early-stage companies, but they can be bigger companies. And so apple, for example, Apple invented the iPhone. We didn't invent the smartphone, I should say, but they went on to revolutionize the smartphone category with the iPhone. And now obviously dominate the market.

Now competitors have obviously caught up a little while and in recent history, but initially, the business exploded. And all because they redefined that smartphone category and PR and brought that to market and convince the market that not only do they need Apple, but they needed this category, of phones.

And that's really the how you take this to market is that category creation is not about the brand or the position. And while when you talk to your executives, they might simplify this strategy down as being a brand and positioning play while it has elements of that, it really informs that strategy.

And so as we look forward to taking it to market. The businesses that are successful in doing this, don't talk about themselves. They talk about the category and the pain that this category solves for their consumers. And that's the real difference, and so what you see is these market-leading companies will come out and if we go back to the Salesforce example in one of the more interesting infamous examples of the no software campaign that Salesforce ran back in the day, they actually went out and picketed the Siebel conference. And why do that? Why, what, why, and based on that kind of tactic, and while it's, it's a pretty funny and, and in hindsight, it really, wasn't a part of a deliberate strategy, which was to define the incumbent as the incumbent.

And to redefine this new, this new way of doing things, these new and exciting ways to take these businesses to the next level. And that was CRM and software as a service and how this was far superior to the previous solution. And as a result, They really consume the economics of the market and even to the extent definitely with the ticker on the stock exchange, being CRM, they really took CRM to the next level and still today still pursuing it, but they are the number one leader in the category.

And as a result, their customers flock to them their economics off the charts. And it's a really credible example of that happening, but they exist. These examples exist every week. And once you start looking around the market and looking at these solutions and really thinking like a category creator, then you start to, you start to recognize who the players are, why they're different and where they are positioned within the category and what they're really trying to do, who, who the leaders are. And it's really a fascinating example because we are really talking about humans here and humans have cognitive bias. We are really wired to categorize the world. When we walk through a supermarket, we go to the bread section, and within that, we find the bread that we like. We go to the fresh fruit section and we find that there's a reason why the Isles are not in alphabetical order through the supermarket they're categorized so that your brain can make sense of them.

And this really is one of the cool, I guess, psychological principles that category creation is building on is as human nature, to have cognitive bias and to care and to categorize things, to make sense of the world.

And so once you understand this you can really go about creating a strategy, which is going to be extremely powerful for your business not only in the short term, but it's really the long term that this is really going to pay for them. And once you have your executives in the room and you've got them up to speed with category creation as a deliberate strategy, and have, this is really going to move the needle for your business, then you must act quickly.

And there are many challenges in taking a new category to market. But once you identify what the category is, you really work with your CEO or your founder to really understand your point of view as a company. What is uniqueness? What is the real meaning behind what you're doing? And simply write that on a piece of paper.
If it's great, then you can use that around the company, pin it up on the wall. Print little sheets for people's desks, really get people excited about this new thing that you're creating this new category of software that no one else has done, really get the whole organization around it and get excited by it.

And then you have a limited time to take it to market. And in my experience, sort of any longer than six, six months really will enable a few other people to get involved in. It really will slow things down and it will really take a long time to get to where you're going and, and ultimately you need to launch which is, and the category creation plays is really referred to as the lightning strike.

It is you have identified. The category you've designed the products it's designed the category, you've designed the products and you've designed the org. And then you're marching forward to the lightning strike that the lightning strike can take form in Various ways whether if you're in B2B suffer in ravines PR brand campaigns, you name it as the full marketing mix to really launch that really hard in the market and start to convince your customers that not only do they need you as a brand, but they need this category.
Because it solves their real problems and really identifying with them what those problems are. And once you have all these bits and pieces to give you have launched your away, then it's a really about constant reinforcement and really making sure that you're taking up those opportunities to really condition the market, that this is the category that they need.

But in the process, you've really unified your whole company around a single point. To go and have to launch this brand new set degree category of software through the vehicle of a lightning strike. And you really are in a unique position to go on and dominate your market.

I'm going to finish things up there hopefully that's been helpful for you. If you've got any questions, please reach out. And I look forward to speaking with you all one day soon. Thank you.

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