Do I Keep My Category A Secret Pre-Lightning Strike?
What to consider before launching your category, product, or service.
Dear Friends, Subscribers, And Category Pirates,
Keeping your category or product a secret is rarely the best strategy.
There are a few reasons why.
In this week’s video, we answer one of your questions about when to "let the cat out of the bag” when launching a new category and planning a Lightning Strike. You’ll learn:
The important role your Superconsumers play in a Lightning Strike
What to do 3-6 months ahead of your launch to build momentum, especially for authors and creators
How to think about secrecy when creating your marketing strategy
If you haven’t heard of the ideas we mention in the video, or you want to deepen your understanding, we recommend reading these mini-books:
(Can’t access all the mini-books? Join the Pirate Ship to unlock 55+ mini-books on Category Creation and Category Design, and receive new ones straight to your inbox.)
Have any questions or need further clarification?
Ask in the comments section below. It can be related to this video or anything about category design. We plan to make these video Q&As a regular thing to help you all apply category design and get exponential outcomes.
PS: Don’t forget to grab a copy (or gift!) of one of our best-selling books:
❄️ Snow Leopard: How Legendary Writers Create A Category Of One
⚒️ The Category Design Toolkit: Beyond Marketing: 15 Frameworks For Creating & Dominating Your Niche
📣 A Marketer's Guide To Category Design: How To Escape The "Better" Trap, Dam The Demand, And Launch A Lightning Strike Strategy
PPS: Help others “think different.”
If reading this opened your mind to new and different thinking, click the ❤️ button on this post so more potential pirates can discover it on Substack.
Katrina Kirsch: So we've had a couple of questions from our subscribers, and one of them is a Lightning Strike question.
The subscriber, TheThinker asks, I'm just finishing my book on the new category I'm creating along with all the SEO content. And my question is, “When should I let the cat out of the bag about my new category? My plan is to publish my book and content and do many things for a lightning strike all in a short window of time. Should it keep everything a secret until I'm ready for the Lightning Strike?”
Christopher Lochhead: Well, there are certain situations where being very secretive and doing a truly one big reveal is the answer. And it tends to be more in the consumer space, Apple being probably the greatest example of this. So there's a case to be made for that. And you don't want a competitor to be able to do anything thing ahead of you. That said, though, cat, I think today, we're in a world where that becomes less and less move.
We've learned in our own work, be it with companies that we help it or be it with how we market Category Pirates, that a little bit of a teaser goes a long way.
And the other thing, what's that solopreneur guy who has a giant following? Justin Welch? He says something really smart about this, which is repurpose your content. Most people in your audience in the social world don't see what you post. So you could take something that you posted a month ago and repost it. And most people won't remember that it's a repost.
And what he's indicating there is not everybody's paying attention to everything we do—far from it.
And so if you want to do a bit of a teaser, building into a strike, you can get some pre-momentum. This is why in the book space, we try to drive pre-orders so that when the book goes live, ta-da, it hits number one. And so I think beginning to have a conversation, beginning to share content, beginning to build community beginning to create interest with a radically different point of view about a new way to think about an existing problem or about a whole new problem.
And this is where I'm going to pass the puck to Senator Yoon, particularly if your early teaser momentum-building activity heading into the strike is focused on Supers.
Eddie Yoon: 100%. I think if I were to put this in a math equation, standing out at being different is more important than being secret in this age.
And as important as standing out are Supers. So you don't actually want to be a secret for your Supers because, you know, they may “let the cat out of the bag” by shouting it early if you have something magical. But if you have something magical with a Super, you probably want it to be shouted out to the world with it.
That's something that everybody is dreaming of.
And Christopher, the primary motivation to keep things secret is that a competitor will steal it from you. If that is the case, if somebody can so easily steal your idea, then I might ask the question: Is it different enough?
Because usually, if you're different enough, it cannot be easily stolen.
In many cases, the ideal scenario is for a “competitor” to think they are stealing it and to have them shout it and be unable to deliver it so that the Supers will hear about it and say, “Well, this is a great idea, but you didn't deliver. Who can?” And then that's where you end up being the opportunity here. So I think secrecy, in stealth, there are some unique use cases and scenarios where you should be mindful of that.
But in general, if you stand out sufficiently secrets don't matter.
It's the reason why, you know, the Tesla master plan has been public forever. And forever from the very outset of 2006. Because he knew nobody else would be able to do it. It stood out it was different. And it got Supers fully engaged.
Christopher Lochhead: Just to put a fine point on it. Be thoughtful about when you start the build, pre strike when you start the teaser.
So if you start the teaser two years ahead, well, you're opening the door to competition. If you start the teaser two weeks ahead, they're not going to be able to catch you. To Eddie's point, the degree to which they try to with some bullshit messaging or whatever. They're actually just going to make you look better when you go out.
And the other thing I'd say is here's the other reason this is different today than it was when we wrote Play Bigger, by way of example.
Today, building your digital library of thought leadership in your category is paramount.
In the domain of category, nobody touches us. We have produced so much content. And we have such a big digital footprint that when a new technology like GPT comes out, it knows all about category design, it knows all about who we are, it knows what our voice is, etc, etc. Why is that?
Because we've been building a massive digital footprint around thought leadership content on the internet around category design, category creation, growth, strategy, marketing, strategy, startup marketing, etc, etc.
And so my point is, the sooner you start building a digital footprint of thought leadership in the category area that you care about, the more you'll set that flywheel up over time.
So get on it.
And look at this from an author's perspective, right? What do you need to have a number one bestseller? A big audience. So if you wait until your book comes out to build your audience, you've shot yourself in the bank account.
This is true for startups. And it's true for S&P 500 companies. Build thought leadership content. Build a community around the ideas that you're centering your new category on. Be seen as an educator. Be seen as a collaborator. Be seen as somebody who is radically generous around thinking and maybe other things in this category. Be a legendary listener, listening to what Supers think and see where their vision and your vision connect or not today.
If you spend six months before the launch of your new carb-a-regulator category, building an enthusiastic community that views you as a thought leader, as somebody who's coalescing a lot of the top people, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, a real community builder, by the time your new carb-a-regulator comes out, people will look at you as a true missionary. Because you've been out there for six months, sharing ideas, sharing content, promoting education, promoting leading voices in the category, promoting Superconsumers who are doing highly innovative things.
Eddie Yoon: Last thought on that for me, just to build on what Chris was saying is that secrecy it's a really interesting idea to think about and it has been important in the past.
Certainly, you see, Steve Jobs and Apple were very reluctant to let the cat out of the bag until they were ready with it. But I love the point Chris just made: the more missionary you are, the harder it is to steal missionary zeal. It's very contagious with Supers.
But from a competitor standpoint, most of them are mercenary. You know, there's a bit of a checklist of if you truly have something different (e.g. you can stand out quite a bit) and the more missionary you are in your approach, that takes a lot of self-reflection versus mercenary, than the less secretive you have to be.
Secrecy may actually work in the wrong way for you because what you want is to get your Supers excited, so that they can build zeal and probably help you along the way in building this out.
It's one of these things, like many things in life, it's not up and to the right—more secrecy is not always evergreen good. There's a parabola of a moderate amount of secrecy. Too much secrecy is too bad, too little is probably too bad.
But in this case, if you are radically different, and you deliver a radical transformation with an outcome, don’t worry about secrecy at this point.
Excellent video - thank you for this.
Great stuff you three, as always!