Moving Minds; Building Product Categories

Kim Kapustka - July 16, 2015

I’m often asked why build an agency when I could go to a startup and be the CMO/VP of marketing. I think my answer can help explain some of what it takes from a marketing perspective to build a new product category.

Before founding 280blue, Inc., I was VP of corporate marketing at Riverbed. I was at the company for eight years. A couple of years ago I attended an event in the UK hosted by a global distributor who was a Riverbed partner. On the stage presenting was an analyst from a leading firm discussing the state of networking. I smiled as he spoke, thinking back over the last eighteen months and our work to define the market category about which he was presenting.

The worldview that he described was closely aligned with the strategy and messaging/positioning that the team at Riverbed and I had been working on for the last year and a half. We had gone from fumbling, debating and refining internally to a time when our vision of the market and its future was accepted by many as the de facto state-of-the-state.

It wasn’t an easy journey. At the beginning, many either couldn’t understand or refused to accept the construct that we were introducing. More than one analyst said that what we were proposing was technically impossible, including the gentleman who was presenting. I can still see the look of pity on his face as he outlined for us in great technical detail how it was impossible. Customers reacted the same.

We had a challenge ahead of us. We had to move people’s thinking. Get them out of the box that currently defined the market and to a new way of thinking about the problem and how it could be solved. We had to show them new possibilities.

Those eighteen months involved a lot of market analysis, deep thinking, and sharing of ideas. There were many tough meetings with customers, analysts and partners who collaborated with us to validate our direction. Their feedback was honest, but brutal. It prompted many post-meeting discussions, some of them heated, as we debated how to define the market, the product’s positioning within that market and our own product portfolio, and our overall messaging. Next came writing and refining and then writing again. Last, when we had the validation we needed from our trusted circle of analysts, partners and customers, we took the message out to the wider market.

We built presentations, whitepapers, videos and articles. We trained the sales teams and our partners and gave them the tools they needed to succeed. We blogged and we tweeted. We talked to press and then more press. We talked on panels and we exhibited at events. We created broad awareness and demand gen campaigns. Last, we measured.

Through all of that activity, we were working to change the way people thought about the problem and then translating that shift in thinking into sales of our products, revenue for the company.

It worked. Revenue showed very strong growth quarter over quarter. And, here I was just a year and a half later in the UK listening to a formerly skeptical analyst spread our message. He wasn’t a spokesperson for Riverbed. He was an independent analyst who had shifted from skeptic to evangelist not because we were paying him, but because he believed. And, what he said wasn’t considered controversial. The audience nodded its head in agreement with what he was saying. We were part of a new norm that we had helped to create and shape.

Success required a powerful, consistent and pervasive message that was validated by our customers and endorsed by partners and analysts. Then it was all about execution, telling the story again and again and again. With passion. With excitement. With truth.

That’s what I love doing. Taking an idea from inception to revenue. Moving people’s minds and creating market categories. Which is why I co-founded 280blue. I want to do that work for many companies. Not just one. I love the early, formative stages of a company or a business unit. It is my passion.

At 280blue, we help companies bring new products and ideas to market. We build go-to-market strategies for both existing companies and startups. We can help you if you’re a seed funded company or if you’re a major corporation. We know what it takes to move hearts and minds. We know how to turn ideas into revenue. We can help blow up existing categories and work to create new ones. Our services range from product validation through our technology council and messaging and positioning to building your content and demand generation strategy. Since launching a year ago, we’ve worked with companies like DataStax, CloudGenix, InstartLogic and Arcadia Data (just to name a few).

We are passionate about what we do and are looking forward to continuing to do great things with the great companies who are our clients (and friends).