Category blueprint

What is a Category Blueprint? And how does it differ from other business plans?

Written by Jonathan Simnett

The Category Blueprint is one of the important tools you can generate during a Category Design process, so I’m going to explain what it is and offer some tips on how to create and manage one.

What, why and how?

In Category Design, your Point of View is your (PoV) statement of intent – the what?  Your Fro-Tos are your reasons for change – the why? Your Blueprint is your strategy to achieve it – the how?  These you should create in that order as each informs the creation of the other.

I’ve often found the idea of Category Blueprint is often confused particularly with Product Roadmap or Marketing Plan.  It is much more than either of these. It is the key to your Category future.

Implementing the Category Blueprint is where the rubber really hits the road. From your `burn the boats` moment – when you commit to the Category journey and there is no going back – through successive strikes as you introduce, lead, and, eventually, dominate your Category.

Your not-business-as-usual plan

In other words, the Blueprint is your strategic not-business-as-usual plan and it should be overseen by the CEO with CXO responsibility for each part of the plan. 

I say not-business-as-usual because that is the essence of Category creation because it describes a strategy to meet client needs – of which they might not be fully aware and competitors are yet to identify. It is an overall corporate business plan on steroids because it focuses not just on serving an existing market but creating a brand new one and enabling an ecosystem to actively support it. 

It should list steps to be taken in line with achieving the the PoV and Fro-Tos and allocate responsibility for making each Category initiative happen in areas including:

Organic growth

Funding needs

Acquisition targets

Partnership structure

Product innovation

Marketing initiatives 

Sales plans and comps

HR imperatives

Customer success

It should reflect the reality that the time scale for achieving Category success may be 3-6 years and that all actions should seek to grow and serve your proposed ecosystem. But being a not-business-as-usual plan you’ll have to approach it in a not-business-as-usual way. That means pursuing not-business-as-usual strategies

Not-business-as-usual strategy

For instance, when considering partners the initial group you should be targeting will not be those who are highly invested in the status quo. Partners for a new Category need to have a reason to change.  It could simply be because they are motivated because they cannot currently get into a leadership position or you may be able to identify a leader in the potential partner who wants to make a career mark carving out a new success. 

In your sales plans and comps you will need to recognise that your sales team will always fear missing their numbers and so, naturally, will focus on selling what they and their customers know. They have to have strong incentives to break habits and be front-line evangelists for the new Category. 

Your HR team will need not only to focus on bringing in new skills in line with the Category Blueprint’s requirements and progress but to actively manage out any employee that is not suitable for, or does not have the commitment to, the Category journey.  

As you can see from the list any Product Roadmap or Marketing Plan is but one component part of the Blueprint going forward. What is vital is that they are aligned with all the other Category initiatives as none can afford to lag behind all the other tactics to drive the succession of Strikes that lead to Category leadership.

But it is not set in stone.  It should be reviewed regularly to measure its success against its aims and the relative impacts of the component parts on achieving Category leadership. 

Category Blueprint in a nutshell

The Category Blueprint is your strategic not-business-as-usual plan describing how you will  design and dominate a Category over successive years going forward.  

It is your strategic master plan, the North Star encapsulating your direction and the role of every bit of the business in achieving Category success, with each CXO and their team clear about their roles and responsibilities. 

In contrast, your Product Roadmap or Marketing Plan is but one of the components of a Category Blueprint along with other plans from organic growth to HR imperatives. 

If you want to know more about any of the tools mentioned in this blog and how to use them drop us a line at or or listen to The Difference Engine podcast at 

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