Episode 36: Wayne McCulloch and Howard Ting

In our 36th episode, Gil talks category creation with two B2B leaders from the digital adoption and data detection categories.

Panelists for this episode include:

  • Wayne McCulloch, Chief Customer Officer of WalkMe and leader behind the digital adoption category
  • Howard Ting, CEO of Cyberhaven and leader behind the data detection and response category

You’ll walk away from this episode with an understanding of brand positioning, leadership, and strategy.

Takeaway 1. Anchor your category to something your customers already know

You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel when choosing your category name. Sometimes, it’s good to base your name on what already exists. This is known as anchoring. It involves taking an existing category name and slightly modifying it to communicate your product’s value. Anchoring makes it easier for customers to associate your new solution with something they already know.

Another benefit of using anchoring to category naming is that it can reduce the time it takes to educate your audience about your solutions. For example, “hyperconverged infrastructure” is one of the categories talked about in this episode. The category name anchors on the already established “converged infrastructure” category name, making it easier for potential prospects to understand the product’s value quickly.

Keep in mind that naming a category often requires input from multiple sources. In most cases, you’ll start by brainstorming a name internally, only to find out later that customers and analysts describe your solution differently. When this happens, it means something needs to be changed. You’ll need to keep adjusting until there’s alignment between how you describe your category and everyone else describes it.

Takeaway 2. Previous success doesn’t always predict future results

Most leaders will draw from their previous successes when deciding on the growth frameworks to apply to a new startup. It’s a case of “it worked in the past, so it must work again in the future.” In some cases, this logic is true, but it doesn’t fully consider all the nuances of creating a new category.

There are just too many complexities that go into creating a new category. It’s not always possible to transplant a previous tactic into your new company and expect the replicate the same results. At most, your previous successes should be used as a benchmark rather than an instruction. Think of yourself as a student so that you don’t become blinded by your past accomplishments.

If you have a learner’s mentality, you’ll have time to develop your skills. It will help you look at problems as opportunities for growth rather than obstacles. And as a leader, a learner’s mentality will make you comfortable with building a team of people who are smarter than you and are good at doing things that you may not know how to do.

Takeaway 3. Develop your category creation strategy as soon as possible

The reality about category creation is that it takes many years of hard work before you see any results. It takes time to build relationships with analysts, build your brand, and grow your team. The sooner you start developing a strategy around being a category leader, the higher your chances of success will be.

Factor in all the moving parts involved in creating a new category. It’s not just a marketing department thing. Everyone in your organization – from the C-suite to managers plays a part in building your company’s brand and category position. Consistency is what ultimately determines if you end up winning.

You don’t need to have it figured out from day one. You just need to have a basic plan that tells you where you are, where you need to be, and how you plan on getting there. Without a plan, category creation might become another nice-to-have in your list of tasks rather than a critical strategic initiative.

For more insights on strategy, leadership, and positioning, listen to this episode of category creators.


Howard shares a framework you can use to differentiate your startup.

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