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021: Creating vs Capturing Demand and Category Creation with Chris Schreiber

Creating vs Capturing Demand and Category Creation with Chris Schreiber

Chris Schreiber is the Head of Marketing at Qwilr. He has over 15 years experience marketing and selling software products, starting his career at Google where he led promotional campaigns to generate buzz around the launch of key Google products/initiatives, including Google Apps, Docs, Photos, Open Social and Blogger. 

He went on to lead the marketing teams at high-growth software companies like Sharethrough and Brandcast.

In this episode, Chris shares how to get started, effective tactics for creating demand, and how to empower your users to spread the word. When marketing a product, you’re usually trying to capture an audience that’s already searching for similar solutions. They’re aware of what they need and just want you to prove that your product has those things. But when you’re creating in a new category without an established market, you’ve got a different path ahead of you. 

Connect with Chris on Twitter: @cousinchris 

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Key Takeaways

14:19 – Create and capture demand

Qwilr is a software company that creates attractive, interactive proposals. Chris’ job in marketing is to both create and capture demand for the product.

“There’s a much bigger market out there to go create demand among [those] who don’t necessarily know that there’s these opportunities – software platforms to create smarter documents and more sort of interactive web-based documents than what they’re creating now. So there’s a lot of content and campaigns and promotional work just to raise awareness and create that demand. And then it’s about capturing demand so that it’s not an unknown universe either. A lot of people searching for tools to create better proposals, to have better sales operations. And so it’s about surfacing Qwilr within those searches and those in-market buyers. And I think we toggle back and forth and are working in parallel on those two sides, creating and capturing demand.”

17:34 – Raise awareness of the problem

Chris had to create demand for a product before with Google Docs. He had to first raise awareness of the shortcomings of other products before raising awareness of their solution.

“When you’re creating a category, you have to raise awareness of the problem before you can raise awareness for your solution. I think people accepted Microsoft docs. It was what it was. There was downsides to it, but I don’t think there was a sense at that point, we’re talking like mid-2000s, 2006 or so that I was probably really working on this. There wasn’t an expectation that the document process could be online. You’re going to websites and you were doing your email. A lot of this stuff has just always been downloadable documents. So we had to do a lot of work to understand how do you really preach the value of this, introduce the problem to, then help the market understand you’re the solution for. And a big piece of that is finding customer stories. Finding examples of where people are successful with that.”

19:07 – Find stories of customer success

The first real adopters of Google Docs were people planning their weddings. That use case was what showed the power of collaboration and it took off from there.

“We were like, so you’re collaborating with a lot of people on totally different time zones in different geos. Okay. Let’s think about what the alternative would be. You’ve got either a Microsoft doc with comments added that you have to download every time, and people aren’t gonna do that. You have a million threads on the email. It just is brutal. I mean, planning a wedding is intense no matter what. So I think people were like, holy shit. Our whole family is on this doc. This has just been great for us. And we’d never really done anything like this. I think it becomes kind of viral. Someone does it, they’re successful at it, and they tell their next friend when they’re doing their wedding to do it. And so I think that was one that really started to speak to the multiple sort of levels of value that you got from this web-based collaboration.”

20:51 – Figure out if you’re creating a niche or a new category

The first step of creating demand is to figure out how much awareness your audience already has.

“April Dunford does a good breakdown of this where she really talks about are you creating a new niche in an existing market? And thus people are aware of the problems they have, but they’re not aware of your solution. Or are you actually creating a new category? And in that sense, you actually have to raise awareness of the problem first. People don’t know they have this problem. And then you’re going to lead them to your solution. So sort of depends, where are you at? Are you solving a known problem, or are you educating people about this problem? And then either way you’ve got to show proof that it works. That’s a big piece of it, is problem awareness. Figuring out if it’s there or not, and then communicating about solving that problem. And finding the relevant audiences that are highest likelihood to have this problem, highest likelihood to be open to trying something new.”

23:25 – Tactics for raising awareness

Create a story from your successful customers and then communicate it in different ways across different channels.

“You want to be a good storyteller and you want to be a good communicator so that you can get people to the answers fast, and let them start to then go deeper if they want. So I think the way you present stories and information is really important to get that flicker of interest. I do think there’s no one size fits all that’s always going to work for every company, obviously. You experiment with ads, you experiment with speaking, whether it’s events or digital, you experiment with creating content. And you see what medium works for the company that you’re at. All of it should be tracing back to those successful customers and the insights that you derived from them. And then it’s putting them out on a lot of channels and making it quick to digest what the win was that this person or this segment had, so that people can see themselves within it.”

24:55 – Pros and cons of a new niche vs. new category

A new niche has the upside of an established market audience, but more competition. A new category is harder to establish, but once you’ve created demand you can take the whole audience.

“The plus side of trying to create a new niche and solving a problem that people know they have is there’s a market that exists, and it’s a little easier to find people. And so on some level, it’s how persuasive and effective are you at convincing them that the problem that they know they have, that your solution seems compelling as a new way to try it. The downside is that you’re dealing with more competition, because it’s a known market and problem. And depending on how mature it is, maybe really difficult to break in and surface yourself within the people that are searching wherever they’re looking for things on the other side. It’s like if you’re trying to create a category and sort of raise awareness, most likely people aren’t really searching on it today and you have to create that conversation. But the upside of that is that if you’re successful, you’re there to take it all. You will be the number one search result and you will be the originator of the conversation.”

28:25 – There must be truth in the product

If the product doesn’t truly solve the problem, then your marketing can only do so much.

“No matter what it is, if there’s no truth at the end of the day of the products really solving problems and really driving good results, then it doesn’t matter. The marketing will at best create a bunch of opportunities for conversations and maybe even get customers. But you’re not really building something. And I think that’s way more true even than it used to be. Tech was pretty new maybe 10 years ago, to a lot of businesses, in terms of opportunities for new types of categories. And people were, I think, much more open to taking the story in and hearing these bigger visions without necessarily needing to validate it. Versus now, so often the workplace is quite tech savvy and tech-oriented in their workflow that I think there’s a higher bar to break in. And people are just going to figure out for themselves if this product is worth their while.”

31:19 – Create new language for your category

When you’re creating a new category, it’s important to give it a label that helps people understand what it is.

“As you’re trying to create a category, giving people simple concepts and phrases that they can take with them. Inbound marketing was a good turn of phrase that made sense on its own. It was different. It didn’t really sound like other stuff out there and pretty quickly, especially with how quickly things move on the web, becomes a standardized term. And I think you can still do that. I think it’s harder to do that now, but bringing clarity and bringing language to a thing that you generally were feeling, but didn’t have like a clear sense of what it was, that’s still important. I think there’s still lots of opportunities for that, because the world is changing. The world is always changing. And so as you bring clarity to the moment that you’re in and you’re like, this pattern is called this. If you get it 80% right, it can be meaningful.”

33:51 – Empower the people you’re marketing to

The goal is to solve a problem and create a language that people can then use to better themselves and communicate to their peers.

“People are influenced by each other. And so your hope as a marketer is that you create a logical enough concept that it doesn’t matter that much what it’s called as long as it’s not painful to say. If the concept is just right and clearer than what you had before, then someone will take it. And they will be the messenger internally. They’re like, I think this is what we need. Because people are incentivized to develop themselves. And so if this concept that they learned through your marketing can go help them succeed at their work and get promoted and grow, then that’s what they’re trying to do. They don’t actually live for that concept. But I think that’s so much of the way this all works, is clarity and repeatable language that you put out there to help market the problems you’re solving, which people then communicate among their circle.”

42:24 – Have fun with the challenge

Category creation takes a long time and it’s also a long shot. But when you succeed, it’s exciting. It’s like writing original music instead of playing covers.

“It does take a long time. And you’re not that likely to succeed. But I think your nature is what it is. And I do think those are good environments to work in when you feel like you got a shot. When you feel like we really are trying to bring something new to the table here. We feel like this insight is right about the market. And the challenge now is to run as fast as possible and drive awareness as high as possible and execute as high as possible. If you feel good about the likelihood to succeed, category creation or even re-segmentation opportunities are really fun and they can move pretty fast.”

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David Khim

David is co-founder and CEO of Omniscient Digital. He previously served as head of growth at and Fishtown Analytics, and before that was growth product manager at HubSpot where he worked on new user acquisition initiatives to scale the product-led go-to-market.