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XM: A Pitch Perfect Example of Category Design

In last week’s email update, I mentioned that Qualtrics would be going public soon. Well, it happened today, and in a big way!

Qualtrics created a category called experience management or XM and went public on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “XM”. Yep, that’s right, a ticker symbol which is their Category not their company. Another great category designer, Marc Benioff, pulled that same move with CRM back in 2004.

During one of their many interviews with the media today, Ryan and Zig did an amazing job explaining why category design, their focus on a problem called the “experience gap” and the Qualtrics XM solution is solving a critical problem experienced by most enterprises around the world. 




This category-led strategy has fueled growth and created immense value for their customers, employees, partners and investors. They are now valued at more than $25 billion. We salute the executive team at Qualtrics for an insanely great outcome and we couldn’t be more excited for them.

Play Bigger began working with the Qualtrics executive team back in 2016 to design a new category. The objective of the design was to expand beyond the survey category (which they had led) and move into a more strategic / c-level category.




As always, the Play Bigger process started with a clear understanding of the problem they solved. Our category design sessions revealed that modern enterprises were competing on the experience they deliver – to their customers, employees and via their product and brand (even more true in today’s Covid era). The magic (or Plutonium as we call it) was that Qualtrics could measure the experience being delivered via a new class of data, which we called X-data. Measuring the difference between the experience the company thinks it’s delivering and comparing it to the actual experience delivered exposed the problem -- the Experience Gap.




From that point, the team at Qualtrics doubled and tripled down on XM and a category-led strategy. They executed a series of world class lightning strikes, repackaged their whole tech stack and products, changed their GTM strategy and hosted their annual X4 conferences (which have had both Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey as guest speakers) to audiences of more than 10,000 attendees per event. Today’s IPO lightning strike was literally pitch perfect and is an example of how you can use an IPO as a category accelerating event. And if you believe in our Play Bigger Strike Ops strategy, it’s not the last lightning strike you will see from Qualtrics.

One final point: Qualtrics created their new category, not Play Bigger. We often say to our clients that the answer is already in the room, it’s just a matter of finding it. Somehow this crazy process we call Category Design does that. Our goal is not to be right, but to be close enough with our first draft deliverables that it inspires the right conversations and decisions.




Ryan, Kylan and the entire executive team at Qualtrics embraced this process, were willing to make the difficult decisions, mobilized the whole company and executed at an extremely high level. Along the way, Ryan became the spokesperson for this new business discipline called Experience Management, just like Marc Benioff did at Salesforce to similar effect nearly two decades ago.

We are blown away by what Ryan, Zig and the Qualtrics team have achieved and I believe we can learn a lot about category design from the moves they have made.

We can’t wait to see what happens next…

-Al Ramadan

Click here to see the full Yahoo Finance interview.

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