How Hubspot Built The Inbound Marketing Category

Since I started co-hosting the #categorycreation series on the B2B Growth Show, I’ve had the chance to speak with some of the top thinkers around category design.

And right up there at the top of the list is Kipp Bodnar, CMO of Hubspot.

Hubspot is one of those companies that comes up in nearly every conversation about category design in the B2B space. It’s such a clean example of a company that took an idea, coined a term around it, and turned it into a full-on category.

In Hubspot’s case, it’s the practice of “inbound marketing“.

Not long ago, inbound marketing was a thing no one had heard about. Now, it’s a full-on marketing discipline – one that its practitioners typically associate with Hubspot.

Since Kipp’s been at Hubspot for nearly nine years and joined just as “inbound marketing” was coming into usage, I was curious to hear his story. To listen to our interview, just use the player below. You can also find the episode in Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher, or Spotify.

Here are the highlights from the show:

  • [2:23] Why being a first mover in marketing matters so much
  • [5:08] How long it took Hubspot to get inbound marketing into use
  • [7:13] Why new categories need more than one player to exist
  • [8:16] The importance of a catalyzing event to cement a new category
  • [11:49] The role of mission and vision in category design
  • [18:28] What Kipp would do differently if he went back in time
  • [21:35] Kipp’s recommendations for learning more about category design

John Rougeux: Hi everyone, and welcome to another episode of the category creation series on the B2B Growth show. I am John Rougeux, your host for today’s episode. And joining me today is Kipp Bodnar, the CMO of Hubspot, who is going to talk to us about how category design has impacted Hubspot’s dominance in the marketing and sales software space. So, Kipp, I am a huge fan of Hubspot. I’ve used the platform for several years myself, and I really admire what you guys have done in the marketing space. So it is a real pleasure to have you on the show today.

Kipp Bodnar: John, John, thank you so much for having me. I’m excited. You’re letting me do what I love to do best, which is talk about marketing for a few minutes, so it’s going to be a lot of fun.

John Rougeux: Awesome. Well hey, before we dive into category creation itself, I was wondering if you could give us a little bit of background on your own career as a marketer. You’ve accomplished a great deal in a short amount of time, and I’d just love to hear a little bit more about the journey you’ve been on so we have some more context for how you view the world as a marketer.

Kipp Bodnar: Sure. I love marketing, and one of the things I love about marketing is it’s one of the most level playing field vocations that exists, you know? You don’t have to go through seven years of college and pass a bunch of board exams to be a marketer, right? As fast as you can learn and apply that knowledge, the better you can be as a marketer.

Kipp Bodnar: So my career started out in the very early days of marketing doing marketing, PR on the agency side of marketing. And it was right before online marketing websites and everything really took off. And I saw that the online marketing industry was starting to take off, and I thought, wow, if I could really learn and be a first mover here, I could potentially have some opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise have if I just stayed in kind of the way that everyone else is thinking about doing marketing today.

Kipp Bodnar: So I did that. I started a blog. I started speaking at some events. Taught myself everything I could learn. I’d interview anybody who would talk to me, and learned a bunch of stuff. Eventually met the folks at Hubspot and that was about nine years ago, a little over nine years ago now that I first met the Hubspot team. And then March second will be my ninth year at Hubspot.

Kipp Bodnar: So at Hubspot, I’ve spent my almost decade now doing every kind of marketing job you can imagine, from creating content to marketing automation to international non-English marketing, all of it. Now I get the lucky opportunity to lead the best team of marketers around.

John Rougeux: Awesome. So you were fortunate in a way in that you joined the marketing field at a time in the early, mid 2000s when social media was new, digital marketing was still a nascent thing, and you were able to jump into that field just as it was growing, and you saw that opportunity and really took advantage of that. So I think that’s really great.

Kipp Bodnar: Yeah, reminder to everybody. First mover advantage matters in marketing. It doesn’t matter in everything in life, but man it matters in marketing.

John Rougeux: Absolutely. That’s a good segue to what we’re going to talk about today, which is this idea of category design, which has been a principle that’s existed for a long time, but I think marketers over the last few years have really started to talk about it more intentionally, especially in the B2B space. And one of the reasons I’m so excited to talk to you today is Hubspot is one of those classic examples of category creation that people love to talk about. And there was a time not too long ago when inbound marketing was not a thing, and then Hubspot came along and now it’s an entire discipline of marketing. So I know you joined maybe just a year or two after that term was coined, if I’m correct. So I’d love to hear, just to start that conversation around category, what was it like when you joined Hubspot? What was the discussion around inbound at the time?

Kipp Bodnar: To back up a little bit, if you’re going to create a category, there has to be need for it, right? You have to see some change that you’ve noticed in the world and you’d be able to provide something different. So for us, Brian and Dharmesh and Mike and a bunch of the early Hubspotters saw that. They saw how people were buying and how they were shopping and interacting with marketing had changed dramatically. And so they started thinking about it a different way and thought it needed a different term. And when I joined, I think Brian and Dharmesh published an inbound marketing book if I remember correctly, late 2008, early 2009, and I started 2010. Nobody was really talking about inbound marketing. We had a loyal community of customers and some very few agency partners at the time that was joining us and talking about it with us, but the reality is a ton of people weren’t talking about it. It took us probably seven years before it was something that people were really consistently talking about, and felt like was a consistent term in the industry.

John Rougeux: So you guys were talking about this internally, and it took you more than half a decade really before this was a term that was used outside of Hubspot. Is that right?

Kipp Bodnar: Yeah. We started using it externally really right before the book got published and everything. Because we felt like it was the best description for the work we were doing, how we were doing marketing, the software we were building. But man, it takes a long time to change the hearts and minds of people, it turns out.

John Rougeux: So was that the goal, early on, to turn this into an industry term? Or was it more than inbound marketing was a convenient way of describing what you do and differentiating yourselves, and it was more by accident or circumstance that it became an industry term?

Kipp Bodnar: So if you’re going to create a category, by default it has to be an industry term. It can’t be a category if only one player plays in it. So you could have made the choice to say, we could have trademarked inbound marketing and made it a thing that was specific to just our company. And that would have been a different play and it may have worked in some ways and not in others. But Brian and Dharmesh, their strategy was essentially, no, we want this to be a term that’s adopted by everyone because we believe that this is fundamentally how marketing has shifted, and how people want to be marketed to. And obviously, we wanna be a player in that category, we wanna be a pioneer in that category. But we want a lot of people to come and join us in that category.

John Rougeux: So I would have to imagine that … You mentioned Mike, Dharmesh, Brian talking about inbound marketing early on, but I would have to guess there was a certain level of indoctrination or education or evangelism among the team about inbound marketing and what that looked like. I’m curious to hear more about what that effort looked like internally.

Kipp Bodnar: If you’re going to create a category or start a movement or go about a major marketing position stance that’s going to last years and years, it starts with a few things. One, it starts with a catalyzing event. And for Hubspot, that was Brian and Dharmesh publishing the inbound marketing book. And then that was the creation of partnership with some other folks. What was first the inbound marketing summit, and then years later evolved into our inbound event, which we still host every fall here in Boston. It’s growing, it’s an awesome place for the community to get together. And you need that catalyzing event because it allows everybody in your company to understand what the story is. And it helps them understand what it is, how to tell it, both in a succinct fashion and in a more detailed fashion. And you have this source of truth that people can look to when they’re still learning or have questions or get a question that they’re not exactly sure how to answer.

Kipp Bodnar: And then, I think it’s the job of everybody leading to work with everybody in the company to say, “Hey, this is our mission.” And sometimes it’s easier as a marketer to just talk about or give people what they know. Get higher click-through rates, get more people to read your blog article or watch your video, whatever it be, and it’s a topic that people know about and are interested in. Much harder to do all those things when it’s a new topics that people are not yet familiar with and you have to create more compelling stories in that world. And so I think that’s what a lot of it was about, was how do we tell and create really compelling stories that push the education around the concept of inbound marketing.

John Rougeux: It’s almost not unlike a brand awareness campaign, because it’s not like you’re selling the features or benefit of a specific product. You’re trying to, like you said, change the hearts and minds of people in being aware of a term and then assigning some meaning to that as they see what inbound marketing looks like over time, right?

Kipp Bodnar: Yeah. Marketing at its very simplest thing is you’re either giving people more of what they know about what they want, or you’re asking them to learn and believe something new. You’re creating a category, you’re spending oftentimes as much or more time and effort and sweat and capital getting them to believe something new as you are giving them the thing that you know that they want.

John Rougeux: So did you guys tie goals to awareness and adoption of inbound marketing?

Kipp Bodnar: We were a startup just trying to make it, you know? I wish we would have been that thoughtful. We would do some things. We would look at can we move Google Trends for inbound marketing? We would think about that type of thing, but we just set proxies. Like, if we’re going to have an event about inbound marketing, the next one’s going to be 100 percent bigger than the last one, and how do we make that happen? We looked at it more on a project basis or piece of content basis, really.

John Rougeux: So you were looking at specific tactics and then trying to understand, what can we do this next time around, this next iteration, to drive that much more awareness and adoption of inbound?

Kipp Bodnar: Yes.

John Rougeux: So I’m curious, as a category owner, how does that affect your marketing strategy? Do you feel like, if you look at other competitors of yours, do you feel like your strategy is shaped differently versus someone who’s a number two, number three player in the space?

Kipp Bodnar: I don’t know the answer to that question, to be honest with you. What I do know is that the best marketing strategy is shaped from a company that has a very clear vision and mission, right? And our mission is we want to help millions of companies grow better. That’s what we want to do. And the vision for this business has always been the same thing, which is, wow, technology changes the way that people shop, buy, consume, interact with businesses. And we want to provide businesses with the tools, the education, and the help to really evolve with their customers.

Kipp Bodnar: And so when you’ve got that kind of clarity on vision, I think it allows you to always execute on marketing that’s true to that, and subsequently very differentiated, because you have this unique vision in the market that isn’t shared by others.

John Rougeux: I love what you said there about mission and vision and the importance of that, because I think that’s one of those examples in marketing where it’s done lip service. Like a mission is done quickly, it’s put on the wall somewhere, but then it’s quickly looked over and it’s right back to tactics and how can we get more leads this month. And some of that long-term vision and real purpose in the marketplace is lost, and then people don’t really have a reason to get behind you and rally behind your values.

John Rougeux: And I know Hubspot has evolved quite a bit, even since inbound. You’ve added so much in terms of a CRM, you’ve got live chat functionality, there’s several other additions you’ve built over the years. Do you feel like everything you’re doing continues to be under the umbrella of inbound? Or is there a point where inbound is what it is, and now Hubspot’s at a place where it needs to explore new categories?

Kipp Bodnar: I think inbound is the category that we operate in the marketing industry. And our business that we started deeply in the marketing technology business, and we’ve expanded from there. Now we have a really great set of products for sales people and sales leaders, and a new set of products that are very good and getting better every day for customer service people. And just like inbound marketing is for marketing, you have other categories that exist in those markets and we look at ourselves overall, we are in the business to help businesses create really remarkable customer experiences. And that’s what we are here to do. And that’s why we think about inbound marketing, it’s just about marketing. We think about Hubspot, it’s about growing better.

Kipp Bodnar: And if you’re talking about inbound marketing is how you grow better if you’re thinking about doing marketing. It’s one of those really helpful … It’s earning attention and not stealing attention. It’s better for you and better for your buyers. And we want to apply some of those same values to sales and customer service. But I don’t think that the term inbound service is the category that we’re looking to create in that market.

John Rougeux: Gotcha. So inbound marketing, while it was a catalyst for Hubspot going from day one to where you are now, it’s a core part of the company, but you’re saying that’s not the company itself, it’s actually something bigger than that. You talked about building great experiences between companies and the people they do business with.

Kipp Bodnar: Absolutely.

John Rougeux: So I do want to ask you, as you expand that vision and some of these offerings for teams outside of sales, you’re still continuing to nurture and evangelize for inbound. And you’ve been that category leader for quite some time now. And so I’m curious, what have been some of the biggest challenges in maintaining ownership of that category?

Kipp Bodnar: I don’t know if we’re owners of that category, if anybody’s an owner of any category, to be quite honest. I think what we look at is how are we true to the message and the story that we are telling about our business? So for us it’s like, man, one is continuing to walk the walk. It’s continuing to try to do great marketing ourselves and set an example for everyone. And two, it’s how do we continue to evolve with the changing buyer and marketing landscape out there? And you mentioned that’s new tools, that’s new methodologies, that’s new education that we’re doing. And that’s fundamentally what we’re trying to do. What we’re trying to do is lead by example, and as we learn something and as we’ve noticed that the industry is changing, we want to help build software and education so we can empower our customers and our community to take advantage of that change.

John Rougeux: Along with that, I’m curious. You described a really strong mission for Hubspot, and I’m not sure that I’ve heard it before or heard it talked about much, at least in my own interactions with the brand. Was that mission there early on, and is that what then guided inbound? Or did that not come until a little bit later?

Kipp Bodnar: I think vision and mission are interesting things. The vision was clear, but it’s hard to have a mission in the early days when you’re just figuring it out. You can have one, and it’ll evolve. But largely, I think for us as we started to really grow and mature and figure out how we can really help our customers and our community, it became clear that our mission wasn’t just to help people do inbound marketing better. Our mission is to, wow we think we can help millions of people around the world grow better. And for us, grow better encompasses inbound marketing. But also again, encompasses making the right choice, making the human choice, solving for the long term instead of just short term quick wins. And I think those things are really powerful.

John Rougeux: So in a way, it sounds like as important as category is, you’re saying that a mission and vision really are even stronger statements than category itself. Am I hearing you right on that one?

Kipp Bodnar: I don’t know if it’s stronger, but I think they’re critical to being able to have clarity in your marketing strategy and in your marketing messaging.

John Rougeux: Sure. So Kipp, knowing what you know now and the journey you’ve been on at Hubspot, I think you said you’re coming up on nine years now. If you could go back and tell Kipp from eight, nine years ago what you know now, what would you tell yourself and what would you do differently?

Kipp Bodnar: Oh gosh. It would be a long conversation, John, I think. So many things. But on the topic that I think we’re talking about today which is category creation, I think it would have been, go even harder, faster. Do more to evangelize inbound even than we did. Because that type of common message and common goal with your community is so powerful. I think we did a lot, but I think looking back on it there was still a lot more we could have done. And I think we would have leaned into that even more.

John Rougeux: And would you have done that, you think, through … I don’t know what your marketing budget looked like at that time, but, would you be spending more or would you allocate more of your time? Would you incorporate it more into your messaging? What are some of the specific things you would do?

Kipp Bodnar: I think I would incorporate it more in the messaging. I think I would probably try to find a little bit better of a balance between performance marketing and pushing the inbound marketing story. It probably would have come through in a lot of things. For a few years, we had an event called The Hubspot User Group before it was inbound. And it’s like, wow, if we had to do it all over again, we would have never done that user group event for example. It would have always been this inbound event that was for more than just Hubspot customers, it was really for anybody who was passionate and interested in inbound and inbound marketing. So that’s just one specific example of something we would have changed.

John Rougeux: Sure. I think to be fair to your past self though, there’s no guarantee that once you start evangelizing a term, that it gets legs. So there could have been an alternate scenario where you guys tried to push inbound, and maybe you liked the idea yourselves but the industry just didn’t grab onto that. And so I understand that tension of balancing between performance marketing and the branding and evangelization side of marketing, especially early on. Because like you said, it took you guys what, seven years, to really get inbound into an industry term. And that’s a pretty long time horizon. A lot of startups are not looking at seven years, they’re looking at seven months or seven weeks. Or less. So I do think that’s an important lesson though, is category creation, whether you’re really going to own a category or just put a new term out in the industry, it’s kind of a risk in a way, and I think you have to be willing to put the time, put the money, and be consistent in that effort. Because that payoff isn’t going to be there from day one.

Kipp Bodnar: I totally agree.

John Rougeux: Well Kipp, tons of valuable advice today for people learning about category. I wondered if I could ask you for one last piece of expertise from you. If one of our listeners is out there, and they’re thinking about pursuing category design. Maybe they think they’re in a space where that makes sense for them, what’s one resource you’d recommend for someone to dive deep into and learn a little bit more about the practice.

Kipp Bodnar: That’s a really good question. I think it’s something that there’s not a ton … I don’t have a great go-to resource. I would look at different companies who have done it. I would look at how they’ve told their stories and the insights they’ve drawn, and what parts of those stories really resonated with their community. Which I think if you can do that across a handful of different companies, you can really start to see some of the common traits that really exemplify success and can give yourself a better chance of being successful when trying to create a category.

John Rougeux: I think you’re right. It’s a new, I was going to say category of marketing but that sounded a little too meta. It’s a new discipline in marketing and there’s not a whole lot about it, at least not yet. So maybe a better question to ask would be, when you look out in the space and you look at other companies who have developed categories, what are two or three of your favorites? Who’s doing it really well?

Kipp Bodnar: Oh man. That is a good question. Who is doing it really well? There’s a lot of people these days disrupting categories more than they are forming categories. Salesforce is the classic example with the creation of the cloud computing category. And really the first people to really, really make the CRM category stick. They’re obviously somebody who’s just the gold standard of marketing and brand marketing. They’ve done a great job.

Kipp Bodnar: I’m trying to think of somebody more further adrift in an industry. A brand that I’m really a fan of that’s very, very different is a brand called Bevel, which is grooming products for the African American community, started by a gentleman named Tristan Walker, a really brilliant entrepreneur. And he’s created a category of products that just otherwise never existed. And it’s a pretty interesting thing. He just sold the business to Procter and Gamble. Very interesting story, definitely a story that people out there should go check out.

John Rougeux: And that’s Bevel, you said?

Kipp Bodnar: Yeah, B-e-v-e-l.

John Rougeux: Okay. I’ll try to add that to the show notes. That reminds me of Dollar Shave Club, they didn’t invent the category of razors of course, but they developed the category of subscription based grooming product. And I think they were later bought by Gillette, if I’m not mistaken.

Kipp Bodnar: Unilever, actually, I believe.

John Rougeux: Oh, Unilever. Okay, very good. Well Kipp, if one of our listeners wants to get in touch with you today and ask you a question about category, about Hubspot, about inbound, what’s the best way for them to do that?

Kipp Bodnar: I have a weird name so I’m easy to find really anywhere on the internet, but probably the easiest way is to just send me a note on LinkedIn. and you’ll find me very easily.

John Rougeux: All right. Good deal, Kipp. It’s been a real pleasure having you on the show. I was thrilled for the interview and I’m really excited about all the advice you’ve shared with our listeners. I’ve learned a lot myself. And really appreciate your time. Thanks again.

Kipp Bodnar: Thanks, John. And thanks to everyone who listened. I appreciate it. It was fun.

John Rougeux: All right, take care.

Kipp Bodnar: You too.

John Rougeux: Okay, well that wraps up another category creation episode of the B2B Growth show. I’m John Rougeux, and if you have any thoughts you’d like to share about category creation, I would love to hear from you. Just type in your browser. That’s j-o-h-n dot marketing, and you’ll find all of my contact info there. Thanks for listening, we’ll see you next time.

This Gap In Airtable’s Marketing Stategy Is Holding It Back

What is Airtable and why isn’t everyone using it yet?

Airtable combines the power of spreadsheets, databases, project management software, “no-code” apps, and collaboration tools into a very powerful and flexible tool. There are few Airtable alternatives, and six years after launch, it should be have reached mainstream adoption by now.

But it hasn’t.

Instead, it remains a product that’s been loved by early adopter types and enterprise clients but hasn’t reached anywhere near the ubiquity that similarly powerful products like Slack, Trello, and Salesforce have enjoyed.

In this article, we’ll explore why Airtable has failed to grow at a more rapid clip – despite being an amazing product. In particular, we’ll look at why Airtable’s somewhat schizophrenic messaging is holding it back and how a concept called “category creation” may be the solution.

But for context, let’s first take a look at what Airtbable is and what Airtable is used for.

What Is Airtable Anyway?


This is the crux of Airtable’s challenge. But here’s the best way I can describe it succinctly.

A traditional spreadsheet, like the kind you’d make in Excel, is a very powerful way of organizing and analyzing data. But there are some limitations. For example, grouping and sorting rows is cumbersome. Records must be text-based, which limits the kind of data you can work with. And there’s no way to view your spreadsheet in more practical ways, like a calendar or a Kanban view. So at a basic level, Airtable solves those shortcomings by giving you a more flexible way of working with spreadsheet data.

If that was all Airtable did, they wouldn’t have such a challenge. But that’s just the beginning.

Airtable website header
Airtable looks interesting, but its messaging is short on specifics.

Airtable also lets you link spreadsheets together, as a relational database allows. It uses this concept called “Blocks” which are like mini-apps that integrate with your spreadsheets. And to top it off, project management software and collaboration tools could also be considered Airtable alternatives because there is so much feature overlap.

What Is Airtable Used For?

To recap, Airtable pulls together functionality from these existing categories:

  • Spreadsheets (Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets)
  • Database (Microsoft Access, Mongo DB)
  • No-code Apps (FileMaker, Zudy)
  • Project Management (Wrike, Basecamp)
  • Task Management (Wunderlist, Todoist)
  • Collaboration (Trello, Slack)

What is Airtbale used for exactly? According to their site, everyone from cattle ranchers, to journalists, to stay-at-home moms.

The fact that Airtable can cover so much ground is great for people who already use the software. But for those who have yet to start using Airtable, such a chameleon-like nature poses a huge barrier to understanding what the software is, who it’s for, and how it’s used.

What is this barrier exactly? It has to do with something called a “category-first buying process”. And until Airtable address it, it will continue to face strong headwinds against growth.

We All Think In Categories, Whether We’re Conscious Of It or Not

When we buy software, most of us look for a tool to fulfill a specific need or solve a specific problem. Take video conferencing software for example. If you want to conduct video-based calls with others on your team, you’d probably head to Google and search for something like “best video conferencing software”. Or, you might head to a review site like Capterra or G2Growd to find the highest rated video conferencing options.

And from there, you’ll probably spend some time on the websites for each of the offerings you’re considering. The better job a site can do of convincing you that its video conferencing offering is the best for your needs, the more likely you are to buy.

In other words, you had a problem in mind and you proceeded to look for a solution using that framework.

Airtable product comparison
It’s difficult to know what category to place Airtable in when it’s compared to so many different types of software.

The process applies to more than just software. Think about business and consumer products you’ve purchased recently – insurance, cars, office chairs, smartphones, daycare, etc. – and chances are you will have used a similar process.

People think of known categories first, and then the look for the most appropriate choice within that category.

But unfortunately, people aren’t sure what framework to use when considering Airtable alternatives. It hasn’t positioned itself to be understood in terms of a specific category.

Why Airtable Is Unnecessarily Confusing

Let’s pick one of these categories above, project management software, and see what the buying experience is like for Airtable.

Using a “category-first” approach, you’re likely to come across Airtable when looking at reviews for project management software. On G2 Crowd, for example, things look promising, as it ranks very highly both in terms of customer satisfaction and market presence.

Airtable ranks well in G2 Crowd's project management rankings.
Airtable ranks well in G2 Crowd’s project management rankings, but there are plenty of alternatives to pick from.

Wrike and Basecamp are two examples that are presented as Airtable alternatives. But when looking closer at these offerings, it starts to become unclear why Airtable would be one’s first choice.

Airtable’s own description about itself creates the first point of confusion. It reads as such:

“Airtable is the all-in-one collaboration platform designed to combine the flexibility of a spreadsheet interface with features like file attachments, kanban card stacks, revision history, calendars, and reporting.”

It sounds interesting, but there’s no mention of “project management”. Contrast that with Basecamp, which reads,

“Trusted by millions, Basecamp is a web-based project management and collaboration tool. To-dos, files, messages, schedules, milestones and more.

Wrike’s pretty clear, too:

“Wrike is all-in-one project management software that helps remote and co-located teams get more things done together.”

Now, if you were going to narrow down your choices based on the information you have so far, you’d probably eliminate Airtable.

You’d do so simply because “an all-in-one collaboration platform” doesn’t line up with the problem you’re trying to solve (finding the best project management software).

Airtable’s reviews don’t help much either.

You’ll see phrases like “Great data management tool for field research”, “Easiest data relation and visualization on the market”, and “perfect solution for multiple spreadsheets”. Meanwhile, Wrike and Basecamp’s reviews consistently talk about project management.

High review scores don’t matter if the reviews themselves don’t describe the solution you’re looking for.

Repeat this exercise for the other alternatives (task-management, team collaboration, no-code apps) and you’ll see that Airtable runs into the same issue.

Understanding Airtable Through Organic Discovery is Equally Challenging

So far, we’ve established that when looking at Airtable on review sites, vague product messaging makes it difficult to see why it would be the ideal solution for a specific application.

But what happens when someone discovers Airtable organically, like through a friend or by stumbling across them in another context? Does Airtable’s own messaging lend itself to easier comprehension?

[elementor-template id=”3348″]

Airtable’s messaging is pretty inconsistent across different platforms and even on its own website.

Let’s take a look at what Airtable says about itself. Depending on where you encounter the company, you’ll find the following statements…

  • “Teams use Airtable to organize their work, their way.”
  • “Organize anything, with anyone, anywhere.”
  • “Create your first database in minutes.”
  • “Spreadsheet, meet database”
  • “Create, your way”
  • “The perfect view for the task at hand”
  • “A modern database created for everyone”
  • “Project management, editorial calendars, flexible CRM, and inventory management”

Unfortunately, these phrases create more questions than answers

  • What exactly is a “modern database” anyway?
  • Does “create” mean that is a software for artists and designers?
  • Does “database” mean this is a tool for researchers?
  • How do “create a database” and “organize a project” happen in the same piece of software?
  • Is Airtable good for solo users, or is it designed more for teams?
  • Is this supposed to replace something I use today?

Airtable has presented a variety of messages designed to cover all possible users and uses cases. It’s an open-ended message that hints more at possibility than practical application.

Unfortunately, this way of describing a product will only resonate with one group: early adopters who are willing to invest the time to see what’s possible with a new type of software.

But for the majority of people who encounter Airtable organically, they’ll file the idea under “interesting, but not for now.”

Since Airtable hasn’t described itself in relation to an existing category that people are already familiar with, most people will have a difficult time knowing just want to make of it.

And when people don’t understand what something is for, they are unlikely to buy it.

Airtable Has An Opportunity Few Companies Enjoy: Category Creation

Does this mean that Airtable should take a step back and focus its messaging solely on an existing category? Perhaps it could, but the Airtable alternatives we looked at above operate in very crowded markets already. If it had a narrower range of features that could serve a particular market niche really well, this would probably be its best bet.

But because Airtable offers a novel tool that’s changing the boundaries of traditional software, it has an even better option for its marketing strategy: it can define an entirely new category of software.

What Does It Mean To Create A New Category?

Creating (and owning) a new product category is one of the most challenging things to do in marketing. It requires that you come up with a new way of describing the concept you’ve developed – usually in just two or three words. And it demands thoughtful use and consistent evangelization of that term over a long period of time.

Category creation isn’t about creating a catchy tagline for your company alone. It’s a marketing strategy that involved putting a stake in the ground about how you and your future competitors will define themselves.

Howevever, research shows that companies who build categories are typically the ones who gain the lion’s share of the market and the profits within that space. In other words, if you think that the concept you’re building is going to become something larger than yourself, then investing in category creation and ownership before one of your competitors does can pay huge dividends.

Research published on Harvard Business review shows that category creators enjoy the majority of profits with a space.

Hubspot is a great example. Instead of trying to compete directly against Eloqua, InfusionSoft, Neolane, Pardot, Silverpop, Act-On, and other marketing automation platforms when they launched in 2008, they defined a new category instead. They called it “Inbound Marketing” software. And instead of just coining a term, Hubspot wove “inbound” into all of its messaging.

10 years later, Hubspot is a $5B company. And if you search for “inbound marketing”, Hubspot still continues to rank at the top. Had Hubspot stayed a “marketing automation” company, they may have only created a business the fraction of that size.

A Glimpse At Putting Category Creation Into Practice

Category creation is a major undertaking. A full outline of what that would look like is outside the scope of this post. But here’s a practical way Airtable could immediately gain the benefits of category creation.

Once Airtable had established a name for its category and a definition for it, the natural next step would be to show people specific examples of what this idea looks in practice. Dropbox did this by showing how it could help someone planning for a trip to Africa. Airtable could do something similar by allowing visitors to identify the problem they were trying to solve and then showing them the product could help.

This wouldn’t even be difficult. By presenting a new concept to a website visitor (by leading with a short description of this new category), Airtable could naturally pique a visitor to ask, “Interesting… what is Airtable used for?”

It could answer that by helping the visitor find use cases that related to the particular problem they might be trying to solve. In the explanations of these use cases, Airtable could reinforce the definition of this new category, helping the user turn an abstract concept into a concrete idea.

Airtable University
Airtable University already has most of the raw material needed to show potential users how the software works, it just needs to be presented sooner in the discovery process.

The beauty of this approach is simple.

By presenting a new concept first, and by quickly following up with tangible examples, Airtable gets to present itself on its own terms. Instead of trying to fit everything into an existing construct (e.g. project management software), Airtable could reframe the conversation and invite visitors to explore. And it would avoid the problem Airtable presently has of using alternating references to existing products – an approach that only creates confusion.

The result? Wrike, Trello, and Excel wouldn’t be seen as Airtable alternatives. Instead, they’d be viewed as different categories of software and thus inappropriate for direct comparison.

The good news for Airtable is that it already has a section on its site dedicated to showing what Airtable is used for. But it lives in a corner of the website, called the “Airtable Universe” where visitors are unlikely to find it. By pairing its new category definition with a more streamlined University section, the company could dramatically reduce barriers to comprehension.

What’s Next For Airtable?

Will Airtable gain mass adoption, or will it remain a tool only for the early-adopting “power users” who are willing to explore new software concepts?

The answer depends on how this unique B2B brand defines itself. If they undertake the task of defining and owning a new category, they can avoid direct comparisons and have conversations with potential customers on their own terms. In doing so, they will be more successful in opening people’s minds to this idea of “spreadsheet meets database meets collaboration tool”.

However, if they retain their chameleon-like messaging approach, they will likely never reach their true potential. Buyers will look at Airtable through the lens of categories they are already familiar with, and as a result will continue to see plenty of other products as Airtable alternatives. And when they find that Airtable doesn’t neatly fit within those bounds, they’re likely to look somewhere else.

How Dropbox and Jive Nailed Their B2B Messaging

If you could describe the goal of B2B messaging in the simplest way possible, you might say that it’s to get the right message in front of the right audience, at the right time.

Easy to say, tough to do.

The most clever writing in the world won’t matter if it’s delivered at the wrong time or to the wrong person.

And a particularly tricky challenge that marketers often face is deciding whether to focus their B2B messaging on the product they deliver or the problem they’re trying to solve.

Ultimately, you’d love to convey both.

But because most buyers will only invest a few seconds deciding whether they should spend more time learning about you, you have pick one to emphasize.

To decide, you first have to identify whether the product you’re selling is already considered a best practice or whether the solution itself is part of a new B2B category that the market is still learning about.

Dropbox Built a New Category With Problem-Focused B2B Messaging

When Dropbox was launched in 2008, the world didn’t know that you could have your files automatically synced across multiple devices. The entire concept of your information living on something called “the cloud” was completely foreign to most people.

That’s why when Dropbox first starting talking about its software, they focused on one thing first: letting people know that the problem of having to manually sync files across their devices was now solvable.

Take a look at this early explainer video and see for yourself:

Nearly the entire first minute is devoted to explaining the problem. In fact, Dropbox even abstracted the problem by talking about it in another context first (keeping track of your car keys).

While the video goes on to explain how Dropbox works, you’ll hear nothing about product features. The video exclusively focuses on helping the audience understand that there now is a solution to a persistent problem they face.

And at this point in Dropbox’s history, that’s all they needed to say.

That’s because when you’re building out a new category, your audience only needs to know a few things:

  1. You understand the problem they have
  2. You’ve built a solution that addresses this problem
  3. What the experience of using this solution looks like
  4. What do to next

If you’re truly solving a new problem, this information alone will be plenty for your potential customers to digest. Going further by talking too much about features or technical details will only overwhelm your audience with too much information, which might turn them away.

In short, if you’re building out a new B2B category, focus your messaging on showing your audience that their problem is now solvable.

In A Crowded B2B Space, Jive Talks About It Product

If a “problem-based” approach to B2B messaging works best when introducing a new category, does that mean that a “product-based” approach is ideal when competing in an existing category?

Take a look at VoIP software, a category that’s been around since the early 2000’s. Here’s the product video for Jive Software, a leader in this space according to G2Growd and Capterra:

Jive doesn’t devote much time to explaining the problem itself.

And that’s exactly what they should be doing.

Since most buyers already know that phone systems are a thing that exist, Jive doesn’t need to dwell on that topic.

Their competitors, like RingCentral, 8×8, and Dialpad, and Vonage, do the same.

But Wait, There’s One Caveat About Product-Focused B2B Messaging

As I discussed in this post about B2B messaging in a crowded space, simply touting product features is a short-lived benefit. You have to go a step further and position your brand in a unique way.

Jive has started to do this by talking about being “easy, efficient, and cost-effective”, which are positioning attributes rather than product features. Their competitors would benefit by trying to own other positions.

And if you look at Dropbox’s current messaging, you’ll see something similar.

While product-related messaging has become more prominent on Dropbox’s website, elsewhere the brand is trying to associate itself with the “energy” position.

Contrast this to Box, who’s more focused on security and efficiency.

Dropbox B2B messaging now focuses on energy
Dropbox’s B2B messaging now focuses on product attributes and on owning the “energy” position in the now-crowded file sharing space.

The Penalty of Emphasizing Product To Soon

In case you’re not convinced that B2B messaging in emerging categories needs “problem-first” approach, I’ll leave you with this story.

A founder I recently met started a B2B company that used natural language processing (NLP) in its software.

When I listened to the guy explain what his company did, all I heard was NLP, NLP, NLP.

The founder and his team were really smart guys.

But honestly, I didn’t care about natural-language processing at that point because he couldn’t convey what problem he was trying to solve.

Like many founders and early-stage employees, he had gotten so wrapped up in the “what” of his product that he forgot about addressing the “why”?

His company lasted less than a year.

Start With Empathy for Your Audience

Getting your messaging right is key to the growth of any B2B company.

But acknowledging whether you’re developing an existing category or competing in an established one can provide a lot of clarity in knowing what to say.

But the most important thing is to use empathy to understand the needs of your audience.

Whether your potential customers are searching for the best solution in a crowded category or still learning what your solution is all about, putting yourself in their shoes will go a long way to help you create B2B messaging that resonates.

Inflation Can Kill B2B Brands. Here’s How To Avoid It.

How is it that the country with the largest oil reserves in the world is nearing economic collapse? The same reason B2B brands in a crowded space find it nearly impossible to survive: inflation.

Inflation is an invisible force, but it can decimate both economies and B2B brands alike. In this article, I’ll explain how an “inflationary” environment can threaten B2B companies. And I’ll lay out two strategies that will help your company survive.

When Inflation Gets Out of Control, It’s Decimating

Just six years ago, the economy looked relatively stable for Venezuela, with its ever-increasing oil reserves. Its currency, the Bolivar, held steady.

But when oil prices weakened, Venezuela had a hard time using oil production to pay off its debts. So it resorted to printing more currency instead. This created just one problem: for every newly minted Bolivar, the currency was worth just a little less.

That would be OK in limited doses, but the government has printed so many Bolivars that the currency is now nearly worthless. Economists at the International Monetary Fund expect its inflation rate to reach 1,000,000% this year, and as you might expect, the Venezuelan economy is in ruins.

Inflation is a major problem for Venezuela at the moment
When a B2B category faces an “inflationary” environment, each company in the space becomes devalued. Source Reuters.

Getting out of this situation will be no easy task. And as we’ll see in a moment, B2B companies can fall into a similar trap, one that can be equally decimating.

How A B2B Brand Becomes Devalued From Inflation

Just like countries with runaway currencies, B2B brands may also find themselves in “inflationary” environments. Here’s how that happens:

  • A “hot” new B2B space emerges, typically one with low barriers to entry
  • The first company in the space has the market all to themselves.
  • Soon, a couple of competitors emerge. The healthy competition helps drive market adoption, and the category is a good place to do business.
  • After a while, though, latecomers join in. A space that was once occupied by a few businesses is now crowded with dozens of similar companies.
  • As potential buyers evaluate their options, they start to perceive these businesses commodities
  • As this trend continues, competitors have to increasingly compete on price, features, or advertising budgets
  • The result is a highly fragmented market with much lower profit margins for competitors in the space

Inflation In A B2B Environment Is Bad For Sellers and Buyers

Everyone loses in this situation.

The downsides for the sellers are pretty obvious. It’s a “red ocean” scenario in which each new entrant causes existing competitors to spend even more resources on winning that next dollar of revenue. Some businesses may even find it impossible to generate profits if their marketing costs are too high.

But buyers miss out too. Yes, they may be paying less, but because the companies they do businesses with have less revenue to pay for R&D and support, they might not find a great solution from anyone in the space. Not only that but trying to find the ideal solution when there are dozens of similar companies can require a bit time investment.

For some real-life examples, just look at how crowded the video conferencing, marketing automation, and live chat categories are right now:

Inflation in the video conferencing space
As the video conferencing space has grown, it’s not an easy place for competing brands to stand out. Source: G2 Crowd.

How B2B Brands Can Exit Situations That Cause Brand Inflation

Fortunately, there are ways of avoiding this trap. And two of the most effective methods involve your company’s brand. There are two solutions that I’ll outline here: one is called the “polish” approach, and the other “reframing”.

Solution #1: Create An Amazing First Impression By Polishing Your Visual Identity

You may have the lowest price or the best features, but unless your brand creates a strong first impression that convinces buyers to give you a closer look, you’re not going to get very far.

This is where polishing your visual identity comes into play. By turning your “decent” logo, website, and marketing collateral into something truly outstanding, you can create the perception that you’re the leader in the space. Or at least that you’re worth talking to. If your brand were a currency, this would be akin to exchanging your $5 bill for a $500 one.

This approach is not without its challenges, though. First of all, it’s hard to measure. You’ll have to be OK with knowing that any improvement in visual identity may be subjective.

Secondly, it’s not cheap. Depending on how extensive your website is and how much marketing collateral you’ll need to update, the exercise could easily cost $100,000 (or even many multiples of that).

Finally, visual identity alone may not be a lasting advantage; your competitors can just as easily hire a top design agency and erode much of what you’ve gained.

I’m not saying these drawbacks mean you shouldn’t invest in a better visual identity; it might be perfectly necessary to keep you from getting overlooked. Just know that another measure might be needed, too.

Solution #2: Carve Out Your Own Market By Reframing The Your Position

The other option for avoiding inflation in a B2B environment is positioning your company differently from your competitors. You’ll describe your company in such a way that you place your brand in an entirely separately category. If your brand were a currency, this would be like exchanging your Bolivars for US dollars.

Let’s look at video conferencing as an example. Instead of trying to compete in the general market, companies competing in this space might be better off by being more creative in the way they describe themselves.

For example, one company might tout its focus on security and recording functionality, positioning itself as “the ideal solution for documenting legal, HR, finance conversations.”

Another might focus on the target market of businesses whose employees have to make video calls without Wi-Fi, and they could position themselves as “the leader for cellular-based video chat.”

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Instead of companies trying to come up with the “best” or the “cheapest” video conferencing software in the board sense, they could stand out much more easily by reframing the way they are positioned.

The beauty about reframing your position is that this maneuver is more difficult for competitors to emulate. Why would they? If you’ve already claimed ownership of a particular niche, then they’d be better off trying to address a different part of the market instead.

Here’s the hard part about this marketing strategy, though: it takes real discipline. It’s easier said than done, especially since a clear position might mean “no” to certain opportunities. But if done right, reframing your position can build a defensible market for your business.

The Good News: You Don’t Have To Pick

Currencies and B2B brands are subject to the same reality: as the number of substitutes grows, the value of each individual entity decreases.

Fortunately, B2B companies have multiple options for avoiding a market with lots of “inflation”. Even with branding, there are two strong options: a strong visual identity that creates a meaningful first impression, and a redefined market position that helps you own a particular market niche.

The good news is that you don’t have to choose just one approach or the other. By creating (and ultimately owning) a new category, and by cementing that new position with an amazing visual identity, you’ll create a strong defense against any potential competitors.

An abbreviated version of this article also appeared in Inc.

How To Take Your B2B Pitch Deck From Good To Great

What’s the difference between a good and a great B2B pitch deck? A good pitch deck clearly explains your product and what it does. It thoroughly illustrates product features, and it demonstrates how smart and credible your team is.

It’s easy to build good B2B pitch decks. There’s just one problem with good pitch decks, though: they don’t work.

No one will get excited after hearing a “good” presentation. That’s because “good” presentations are a dime a dozen, and your audience has heard hundreds of them already.

“Good” pitch decks are the status quo; that’s why they rarely get results.

What you need is a great pitch deck.

A great pitch deck clearly explains your product and how you’ll solve a problem. It thoroughly illustrates product features and it demonstrates your focus on helping the customer.

Great pitch decks get results. They focus on the audience, while good ones merely focus on the product.

The only downside? Great pitch decks are notoriously difficult to build.

Here, we’ll walk through the process I’ve used to develop hundreds of great pitch decks that got results, and how you can do the same.

Why The Curse of Knowledge Keeps Your Pitch Decks from Being Great

You might think that the more you know about a product and the longer you’ve been around it, the easier it would be to make a great pitch deck. Up to a point that’s true, but what happens to most is that they’ve gotten so comfortable with their product, they have difficultly seeing through the eyes of their audience. Empathizing with your audience, though, is exactly what you need to do in order to build a great pitch deck.

This phenomenon is called the “curse of knowledge.”

When you succumb to the curse of knowledge, you’ll easily create pitch decks that may sound great to you but are lost on others. This is a major problem. A potential buyer isn’t going to take a Codecademy class or bone up on the difference between machine learning and artificial intelligence just so they can figure out how your product relates to them. You have to meet the buyer on his or her level.

Curse of knowledge graph

Don’t worry: curing yourself of the curse of knowledge is possible. Keep reading, and you’ll know how to create a pitch deck that’s built around the needs of your audience first.

Part I: Build Your Blueprint with These Three Fundamentals

Think of these steps as creating the blueprint that will form the basis for the rest of your presentation.

Describe the audience

Saying that you’re selling to “potential buyers” doesn’t count. You need to be much more descriptive about your target market. Depending on who is in the room, your audience may have vastly different areas of expertise and ignorance, biases and misconceptions. If you know what these are, then you’ll have a much better chance of connecting.

Define the outcome

What do you want your audience to do once you’re finishing pitching? Don’t assume that they know. Sure, the ultimate outcome might be a sale, but that’s not necessarily the next step they’ll take. Knowing the answer to ahead of time will help you frame the presentation around this goal.

Identify what you need to say

If you know whom you’re pitching to and what you want them to do, now you can figure out what to say. To get this right, brainstorm a list of everything you think you might want to convey in your pitch deck. Everything you list will fall into one of these four categories:

Four quadrants of info to include in your pitch deck

Next, unmercifully cut out everything that isn’t in the top right quadrant. The ideal B2B pitch deck will only include information that your audience needs to know now. Everything else will just make your content harder to digest.

Part II: Structure Your B2B Pitch Deck Around the Hero’s Journey

Start by mapping out your pitch around something called the hero’s journey. It’s a concept coined by author and professor, Joseph Campbell, in his book, “The Hero With A Thousand Faces.”

The premise is this: all of the world’s myths, stories, legends and religious origin stories are based upon the same “meta story.” This story is so hardwired into our culture and our humanity that we respond very strongly when stories are framed in this way. Indeed, many contemporary movies and books use this framework, as well.

The simplified hero’s journey

That might sound like a tall order to live up to, but the good news is that structuring your presentation around this “meta story” isn’t hard.

Here’s a simplified version:

  • Act 1: The hero is pursuing some goal or dream.
  • Act 2: The hero faces challenges, temptations and setbacks that prevent him from reaching this goal.
  • Act 3: An external force intervenes to give the hero a special advantage. The hero conquers all obstacles and succeeds.

Using this framework accomplishes a few things. First, the story gives the audience something tangible to latch on to. After all, people remember stories, not facts and figures. Secondly, the familiar structure of this story makes it easy for your audience to process it. And finally, because the hero ends up in a new, better-than-normal state, it clearly shows how your own product provides a real benefit.

The Hero's Journey: Pitch Deck Version

Your product may or may not lend itself to having a single hero with an isolated problem. So feel free use this structure literally, or just as a guide for establishing the sequence of your slides.

A terrible name and a great example

Here’s an example to get you started with developing your own pitch deck.

Say you’re building a pitch deck for an email plugin that automatically reminds you when you haven’t responded to messages from VIPs. Let’s give this fictional product a really bad name: ForgetMeNote.

The audience for ForgetMeNote is executives who can’t afford an assistant but don’t use a CRM to help them keep track of contacts. The story arc would go something like this:

  • Act 1: Jan is a 42-year-old VP of Business Development for a mid-sized software company. She’s been working on two big relationships with major software vendors that, if pursued successfully, will result in major wins for her company.
  • Act 2: When she started her job two years ago, she no trouble keeping up with messages. But today, she has 1,271 unread messages her inbox, thanks to an influx of spam and an increasingly large network. The threat of missing a crucial email means that Jan now checks her inbox constantly, which saps her energy and stresses her out.
  • Act 3: Enter ForgetMeNote. When Jan doesn’t respond to a message from someone on her VIP list, she automatically receives a notification. Now that Jan can quit stressing about missing important emails, her days are filled with productive work instead of sorting through spam. Not only that, but the two deals Jan had been pursuing recently closed, thanks to her ability to stay on top of the fast-paced negotiations that were involved.

Spend some time building a story for your own audience. With your hero’s story in hand, you will now ready to create the slides themselves.

Part III: Build Your Slides

Use the outline below to structure your pitch deck. There’s no formula that will work universally for every situation, so feel free to adjust these as you see fit.

  1. Cover slide. Who you are and a tagline to set the tone.
  2. Outline. Clarify what you’re going to discuss in your presentation.
  3. Present the problem. The more valuable the deal, then the more tailored this section should be.
  4. Exacerbate the problem. Make sure your audience is fully aware of the pain that they will endure if they don’t solve the problem.
  5. Introduce your solution. Do so in terms of the benefits it provides to your audience.
  6. Explain how your solution works. Your goal here is to illustrate that your solution is something your audience can actually use, not go into a technical breakdown.
  7. Illustrate the specific outcomes. The more tangible, the better. Just make sure they are realistic.
  8. Build credibility. Share your client list, revenue, caliber of your team, or whatever else will help your audience have confidence in you.
  9. Show, don’t just tell. Give your audience a live walk-through.
  10. Recap what you’ve talked about. Highlight the salient points you want your audience to remember.
  11. Finally, clarify the next steps. Provide pertinent details here, such as an outline of a pilot test, pricing, etc. This will vary significantly from business to business.

Part IV: Polish

Now that your pitch deck is complete, it’s time to go through it a few more times and really make it shine. While you look for tweaks to make, keep these best practices in mind:

Edit for succinctness

Nothing makes me cringe more than seeing a slide crammed with a ton of copy. Why? The first thing people do when a new slide comes up is read. And if they’re reading, they’re not paying attention to you.

Therefore, the content on your slides should only serve to anchor the points you’re making verbally, not give you something to read out loud. Go through your presentation and edit out anything that will detract from the main message.

Build consistency

The goal of your pitch deck is to get your audience to understand and remember some key points. But it’s hard for them to do that if you’re using different terms to describe the same idea. That’s why it’s a good idea to go through your pitch deck to make sure your word and phrase choices are consistent from slide to slide.

Use design to aid comprehension

While you can attempt this step yourself, I’ve found that it’s always worth the cost of having a graphic designer help with the final product. Not only will a good designer improve the production quality of your work, they’ll also help you improve listener comprehension by adjusting the typography, white space and color choices.

Are you done now? Yes and No

If there’s one thing I’ve learned after building hundreds of pitch decks, it’s this: no deck is ever truly finished. Each time, I inevitably find ways to improve the material. You will, too.

Don’t look at your pitch decks as a one-time project; treat them as living documents that will improve over time. Not only will your presentations continue to be more effective, but you’ll be much happier if you recognize that things won’t be perfect after the first iteration.

To build the best pitch deck, look for an outside perspective

Sometimes the best way to create truly great material is bring in an outsider. In fact, that’s usually the fastest way to get a fresh perspective. Bestselling authors employ editors to help them bring out the best in their work, top musicians need producers to help them get just the right sound, and even presidents use speechwriters to help them convey their message with impact.

Creating an amazing pitch deck isn’t much different. Whether you get feedback from a co-worker, a marketing agency or a consultant, having an outsider give you an objective review of your work can pay huge dividends.

This post was originally published in Startup Nation.

Why Internal Evangelism Is More Important Than Ever

Ask a marketer, what comes to mind when you think of branding? I bet you’ll think of phrases like “logo design,” “website building” and “advertising campaigns.” Indeed, marketers typically invest most of their time in the outward-facing elements of their brand.

However, there is another, often overlooked aspect of branding that marketers don’t think about enough. It’s called internal evangelism, and without it, your company is more likely to underperform.

Read moreWhy Internal Evangelism Is More Important Than Ever

Why Your Data Policy Can Make or Break the Customer Experience

Recent incidents where businesses have failed to respect and protect their customers’ data haven’t done much to build trust with consumers. Understandably, consumers are increasingly cautious about what they share and whom they share it with.

Does this mean that business will soon need to give up the insights they’ve gained from collecting and analyzing customer data? Hardly.

In this article, I’ll explain why this cautious attitude has less to do with data collection itself, and everything to do with how your data policy is written, enforced, and shared with your customers.

I’ll also share some specific advice for retailers and other consumer-facing businesses on how to use personal data in a way that creates a positive experience for everyone.

Read moreWhy Your Data Policy Can Make or Break the Customer Experience

Is 2018 The Year Your Business Needs To Prep For AI?

Just a few years ago, it might have been easy to brush aside artificial intelligence (AI) as a fantasy more suited to science-fiction novels than everyday life. Today, that would be foolish — anyone who owns an Amazon Echo or talks to Siri already interacts with AI on a daily basis, and this is only the beginning of a long-term trend.

If you’re a business manager, you can’t afford to ignore this.

Read moreIs 2018 The Year Your Business Needs To Prep For AI?