As a category design evangelist and startup advisor with Play Bigger, Jennifer Johnson (LinkedIn | Twitter) frequently thinks about and teaches category design. But she doesn't just talk the talk. As the CMO of Tenable, she walks the walk, and puts into practice the principles she teaches.
In this interview, Jennifer discusses the work she does at Tenable, the most common mistakes she sees CMOs make when designing a category, and her best advice for a new CMO.
Jennifer Johnson's Background - (03:25) - Jennifer's first job was in healthcare financial consulting. - But this was during the dot com boom, so she decided to work in tech, and her avenue was marketing. - Her roots are in product marketing.
Foundations of Category Design - (6:30) - "The foundation of a category is understanding the problem you are solving and having a clear point of view." - Jennifer Johnson - Great marketers are not only great storytellers, but great positioners. - Product marketers are well suited to become CMOs, according to Jennifer.
Story of Joining Tenable - (9:00) - Historically, Tenable was known for vulnerability management. The CEO, along with Jenifer, realized they needed a larger market to play in, so they developed the category of cyber exposure. - "If your CEO does not buy into the vision and mission of category design, it will fail." - Jennifer Johnson - The CMO needs to be a linchpin in category design as well. - The CEO bought every executive a copy of Play Bigger. That's when Jennifer knew that a category design transformation would be possible.
Category Design & The CMO Position - (17:35) - With category design, the CMO position is elevated and takes on a new level of importance within a company. - "With category design, the CMO now gets to be the steward of this thing that is at the forefront of the company's strategy." - Ian Faison - "You could either be the person people come to when they want to understand lead flow, or you could be the person people come to when they want to make sure the product strategy is in line with the vision for the industry, and you're the one commentating on the market, not the marketing." - Jennifer Johnson - As a CMO, you need to have a strong operational team behind you that allows you to focus on strategy. - Category design, like any methodology, is part science and part art. There is no exact formula that will lead you to success every time. - Category design is the framework that allows you to evaluate and develop strategy and change.
Defining the Edges of Category Design - (26:30) - Sometimes your point of view comes before a product that aligns with it. - Is there a fear that if you go about it this way, someone will slide into the category and point of view that you are creating? You actually want other people to use your category. It validates your category. - "It all comes back to execution. Defining a category is important work and hard work. But at the end of the day, after you launch it, it's all execution." - Jennifer Johnson - You don't want to put up intellectual property barriers to your category because this stops others from validating your point of view and your category. - The biggest mistake people make is to think they can roll out category design and let it coast. Gravity sets in. It takes continual effort to build and maintain a category and your position within it. - Jennifer's best advice for a CMO? "Make sure you have a good, transparent relationship with your CEO that is built on trust."
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