Episode 23: Rhonda Walker and Doug Camplejohn

In our 23rd episode, Gil talks category creation with two B2B leaders from the IT lifecycle management and remote employee management categories.

Panelists for this episode include:

  • Rhonda Walker, CMO of ITRenew and leader behind the IT lifecycle management category
  • Doug Camplejohn, CEO of Airspeed and leader behind the remote employee management category

Or watch the video

You’ll walk away from this episode with an understanding of market research, innovation, and strategic thinking.

Here are some of the key takeaways from this episode.

Takeaway 1. Prioritize market research in the early stages of growth

Most early-stage companies jump right into demand generation after hiring their first marketer. They focus on getting as many leads as possible and doing whatever it takes to get the first few customers. This isn’t always a bad thing in itself. The problem is when demand generation becomes more important than market research.

Effective market research is necessary because it removes a lot of the blind spots that you may have when solely relying on data from your demand generation campaigns to make decisions. For example, you might have all your data telling you that the copy on your landing page converts well. But you won’t know why unless you take some time to talk to your customers and learn what type of messaging resonates with them.

One great question to ask your customers during market research is how they would describe your company to a friend. This simple question gives you insight into whether or not your brand’s vision aligns with the reality of the market. If your customer’s description of your company is misaligned, then it’s probably a good sign that you need to pivot and change something.

Takeaway 2. Reinvent the wheel whenever necessary

You don’t always need to follow best practices when creating a category. Oftentimes you’ll need to develop entirely new approaches to solving problems to get the results that you’re after. Think of every day as a new opportunity to improve how you do things. If something didn’t work out in the past, you don’t need to dwell on it too much. Simply learn from it and then move on with a better solution.

In the world of startups, the best opportunities are usually disguised as challenges. When things aren’t working how you want them to, that’s when you start to innovate. And that innovation is what leads to more people actually paying attention to your brand. The challenge is finding the right balance between applying what you already know and taking chances on new original ideas.

To become a category leader, all you need to do is create an original solution that solves your customers’ problems significantly better than what’s already on the market. Of course, that’s easier said than done. But you can increase your chances of success by rallying support from your customers and, most importantly, your internal teams.

Takeaway 3. Find a balance between aspirational and transactional thinking

Creating a new category is all about balancing aspirational and transactional thinking. Most startup leaders default to transactional thinking, which focuses on measurable outcomes such as traffic, sales, or demo requests. This type of thinking will help you reach your short-term goals, but it’s not sustainable in the long run.

Aspirational thinking is where you take a step back and think about the strategy and vision behind what you’re doing. What impact do you want to make beyond just getting as much traffic and sales as possible? How does your product improve the lives of your customers? These are questions that will help keep your team grounded and focused on the right things.

As a marketing leader, your goal should always be to understand how you can help solve your customer’s problems in the best way possible. Aspirational thinking helps put everything into perspective so you can see how your short-term goals are related to attracting and retaining customers.

If you’re interested in more insights about strategic thinking, market research, innovation, be sure to listen to this episode of B2B category creators.


Doug shares the litmus test he uses when making hard decisions.

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