The Company You Keep: Choosing Your Category

You are here If you're bringing an innovation to market and wondering, "what category are we in?", you're hardly alone.  We see entrepreneurs within start-ups and mature organizations grappling with this question all the time.

What's the best three-words-or-less description of what we do?

Who are we in league with?

When Gartner ranks us on a Magic Quadrant, which one should it be?

The choice is an important one.  Your category is core to your business strategy, and instrumental to how you articulate your role and relevance to the market.

Identifying the ideal category is an art worthy of deliberate, methodical effort.  But a few simple questions can help you get closer to the right answer:

Grab your list of top five candidates, and run them past these tests:

  •  Who are the current players in the category you're considering, including those who will soon move into it? (Hint: You can't have a category of one! Even if you're charting new terrain, there will be fast followers).
  • When you consider the list of competitors in the category with you, does it feel like the right list against which you want to be considered? Does it contain companies who don't do what you do, or is it missing some who absolutely do? If it's missing some, consider those competitors: What category(ies) do they call home?
  • Is your claim to presence in this category credible? If not, what needs to be true for you to achieve that credibility?  Are those changes feasible? Likely? Appropriate?

Align your leadership team around the answers to these questions, and you'll likely find yourself closer to understanding your category -- and the company you keep there.