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Becoming a Category King

Posted by Heather Armel on March 5, 2020 at 9:06 AM

A New Approach For Better Results

In B2B (business to business) marketing, there are numerous stakeholders that need to approve any purchasing decision. This fragmented process can be exhausting as the marketer, and makes it extremely difficult to get a sale closed. Marketing and professionals everywhere are drained from this tiresome approach... but what if it isn't the only way?

Recently, our CEO sat down with someone who challenges this approach, and made his own coined the persona of his method as the "Category King." In this blog, Hollywood Branded learns how to become the king of your category from the VP of Marketing at Beamr, Mark Donnigan!


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A Little More About Mark

Mark Donnigan is a creative and systems thinker. As a musician, he loves music almost more than anything. As a systems thinker and problem solver, there isn't a business or marketing challenge that Mark won't embrace.

Mark has worked in early and growth-stage startups in the segments of high technology, software/SaaS, CE hardware, and consumer entertainment services. Mark leads marketing, and sales teams focused on all facets of the go-to-market motion, and revenue achievement.

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Interview Transcript Highlights


Question: Why don't we start off and have you share with our listeners a little bit more about what got you to where you are here because you have an interesting background to getting into marketing.

Answer: I have a very interesting background. I won't bore with all of the details, but the trajectory of my career, when people say, "What do you do?" or "Who are you?" Of course, it's easy to say, "Oh, I run marketing," or whatever, but that's really a very incomplete answer. I call myself a business builder. What that means specifically, and how it follows the trajectory of my career and just what I've done professionally, is that I've always been drawn to companies and products and markets where there's the opportunity to build something that's new or to really enact significant change, so maybe a legacy market that's undergoing some radical shift.

In that context, I kind of came up through the sales side, not kind of, I did. I started out in sales. As I progressed and begin to lead sales teams, et cetera, marketing was always a component. A lot of times, it was because maybe we're a smaller company, we're a smaller organization or I just felt like that I maybe had some insights, and was able to go off and build some assets or to do something that my sellers needed.

Even when I had a full-time head of sales hat on, I was always working very closely with marketing, whether I formally had a sales marketing title or not. So, that's my connection to marketing. A lot of that just comes because I found that messaging is so critical. I was working with my sellers early on, and we would spend so much time just on positioning and understanding, which is basically sales. It's just understanding what are the needs of the clients, what's the needs of the customer, and how can we speak to that in such a way that they're going to buy our product over the other product or solution.

As I was able to get involved in other interesting companies and do things, they were more around corporate strategy and business development. Maybe a little bit less directly responsible for a number, but very much responsible for success of the organization. That just lined me up perfect to take on then a full-time official vice president of marketing role, but I definitely am in some ways an atypical vice president of marketing, which I hope that we can get into some of the ideas that I've given you to talk about because I think some of the viewers will agree, and some will probably not agree, which will be fun.



Question: Why don't you share and pull back the curtains a little bit? I mean, your team has had some phenomenal success in making some magic happen, where you're getting a lot of customer acquisition at a lower price point by using some of your magic sauce.

Answer: Yeah, so first of all, just so that everybody understands the context because I'm sure your viewers come from a wide range of markets and business model types, et cetera, so there's B2C, B2B. I've spent really my entire career in B2B even though I have worked in you might say B2B2C, where for a period of time we were selling physical products to retail stores in the music business, who were then, of course, selling guitar amplifiers, and PA equipment, and recording studio equipment to, obviously, a consumer. Really, everything that I've learned comes from that B2B, doing business with another business.

The first comment that I'll make is that there really is no such thing as B2B or B2C. There's H2H. There's really just human-to-human. This is one of the things that even not too long ago, I had to really come around to really understand what that meant because I found even in my own thinking, I would fall into this, "Oh, that's a B2C strategy. I'm B2B, so that's not going to work for me," or I'm going to completely ignore that or it's almost like I just had these blinders up.

As complicated as the sales processes that I am in now where we have a multiyear sales process, it's not uncommon for there to be 25 decision makers. The way that the B2B process works today used to be you always were looking for the buyer, and there generally was one person who ultimately would make the decision. The B2B sales process has always been somewhat fragmented. There was a team of folks, but there was always one.

It's my belief that in at least the markets that we're in and I think in a lot of industries, that's not even the case anymore that literally any member of, in our case now, and not everybody has this fragmented process, but up to 25 people. Even somebody who's not connected in any way to the budget has power that they can kill the deal.

How do you get a sale closed in an environment like that? This is where the H2H, the human-to-human where at the end of the day you have people who are doing business with people. This is where a lot of my strategies that I think we'll talk about have come from is just how do you get in front of people so that even that "least significant person" but who has a say, who very well could kill the deal or certainly can slow a deal down says, "You know what? I like these people. You know what? I actually think their product is pretty good. Hey, I think we should take a look at it, but it's your decision." Okay?

To get that is in some case is what we're looking for because the opposite response, "Well, I don't know about it. I'm not sure. I think we can do," and all of a sudden, you have a whole deal, a million dollar deal that gets turned sideways because of that. So, the first thing is this H2H. I think that is just absolutely essential. If you approach marketing that way, it actually simplifies things a lot.


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Question: How do you become the king or the queen of your category?

Answer: The first step is you define a tangible problem. The second, and this is really, really critical for category design is that you name the problem. You have to name it, but you have to be sure to put your solution at the center. This requires a lot of work. It's easy to just talk through, but this is what's making marketing so fun today, in my opinion.

Then the third step, and again, there's all these micro steps that are part of this, but the third is whenever you are communicating with the industry, you're communicating with your customers, you are talking on your website, you are sending out email communication, any external communication, press releases, trade show booths, whatever, you're always referring to your company and your product wherever feasible in light of the category.

By doing this, what ends up happening is is that you are carving out a space where now in time and if you do your job well, in time, the industry will begin to refer to you as the basis of comparison anytime they look at a competitor.


Check Out The Podcast!

Mark and Stacy have a very informative conversation that is worth listening to! In the full podcast, Mark goes into greater detail about how to become a category king. Check it out!

Every week we have a marketing professional on our show to share their tips, tricks and lessons learned from their professional experience. Check out some of our other podcast blogs from earlier this year: 

Every week we release a new podcast featuring guest's with so much knowledge about marketing, you don't want to miss one!  How can you make sure you don't miss an episode? Click below to subscribe!

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Topics: Business Advice, Podcast Interviews, HB Podcast