Inhabiting vs. Creating Genre

Philip Morgan

Earning a slice of money a business expects or plans to spend (training budget, conference budget, book budget) is different than persuading someone to spend money they hadn't expected or planned on spending.

Persuading someone to spend $5 more than the $100 they're already spending is different than persuading someone to spend $5 they hadn't expected or planned on spending. (See Searching vs. Distribution)

As I start building the Lead Generation Operating System, the notion of genre keeps coming up.

You see this in the most vivid way with cold outreach. In that context, there's a huge difference between these two messages:

1: "I sell something that fits within a genre you recognize, but my thing has a differentiator that will matter to you once you learn about it."

2: "I sell something that fits into no genre you've ever heard of."

I'm beginning to believe that if you've invented something that lies outside the existing genres your prospects are familiar with, then you're well-served by finding at least one way to locate it within a genre they are already familiar with, at least to help them roughly understand your invention.

In the startup/category-creation world, this is commonly done with the "Like X, but for Y" formulation:

  • Like Uber, but for busy parents who want a haircut at home.
  • Like AirBnB, but for un-used office space.

Those are made up and a bit silly, but I'm taking inspiration from a few of my clients when I give the following more realistic examples:

  • Like an industry association, but more participatory and more focused on using research to address the current challenges our industry faces.
  • Like Storybrand, but evolved to help you avoid self-centered stories that alienate prospects.
  • Like SEO, but focused on making your existing content perform much better for both search and human discovery.

I've recently started trying to find firms as clients, so this is relevant to me too. In a few recent conversations, the made-up term "a culture of thought leadership" -- as in "Philip helps your firm build a culture of thought leadership" -- has been resonant. One component of this still-embryonic service offering is primary research. I refer to that as small-scale research, and while I don't have much data at all on this yet, I think the term "small-scale research" is much less likely to resonate in the market because it doesn't fit a genre as well as the term "thought leadership".

For the innovators among us, we might never fully inhabit any genre, but it's helpful to use an existing genre as a bridge between our prospects ("meet them where they are") and our services.

I'll gesture again at a new product I'm starting to build: If lead generation is a challenge for you, consider joining the interest list for this product. It's in the very early stages of development, and joining the interest list gets you early access to every stage of its development, and lets me learn more about your specific needs. Again: