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Disruptive marketing at a time of pure disruption

This is an article that’s fundamentally positive. It talks about opportunities, and the practical things that marketers can be doing now and in the immediate future to weather a particularly nasty financial microclimate. It also talks about disruptive marketing as a concept, and what businesses can be doing to grab the attention of even the most ‘hunkered down’ prospect or customer.

Disruptive marketing  - Demand generation
Go beyond the conventional, solution-selling approach

However – and it’s a big however – this is a story that needs to start (as briefly as possible) with a negative: the current difficulties of selling to business customers. Generating sales opportunities and closing leads are never simple tasks at the best of times, and these are far from the best of times:

  • The discretionary spend of most buyers is fast disappearing as budgets are cut across the board

  • Mindsets have become (at least for now) defensive in the main, with companies looking to survive the uncertainty with a commitment to lean and tidy

  • Combined, the above two factors lead to even greater levels of scrutiny for proposals – by a raft of new decision-makers you may not have had the time to build relationships with to date

To batten down or engage

That’s quite enough of the negatives. As promised, let’s focus more on the positives. To start with there’s the indisputable fact that businesses have survived downturns before, and made decisions at the time that led to future success with no idea how long or severe the ‘drought’ would be.

What were these decisions? Well, at the highest level there are but two:

  • Batten down the hatches and protect marketing budget as very little business is happening, even if that means a standing start once things improve

  • Look for new ways to engage and motivate the key movers and shakers, knowing that such a task has increased in complexity by a factor of ten!

Go for option two and you’ll also be swimming in very crowded waters. With face-to-face currently out of the question, marketers of all shapes and sizes are dialling up their online activity – making it harder than ever to get noticed. Many great products and offers are thereby lost in the noise. But how to stand out? How to grab the reader’s attention? How to generate both an emotional and intellectual reaction?

The answer: it’s time to get disruptive!

Disrupting the norm

So what is disruptive marketing? To answer that, let’s first touch on what it isn’t – and how the approach goes way beyond the conventional, solution-selling approach:

  • It’s not about traditional sales engagement that’s centred on a Q&A of current pain points with prospects/customers

  • And it’s most certainly not about product-based selling, and pushing features and benefits in a highly generic fashion

Instead, disruptive marketing is just that: disrupting existing mindsets and investment strategies at a time when discretionary spending is on the wane.

So instead of trying to understand what’s keeping buyers ‘up at night’, disruptive marketing aims to show a vision of where companies need to be heading – a destination that once reached offers a dynamic new operating landscape free from traditional limitations. It’s a marketing approach that positions the brand involved as a true thought leader in their sector, achieved through two basic activities:

  1. Building out the vision, and showing how the world looks different once a business has achieved it – across different strategic, tactical, and emotional levels

  2. Articulating the key steps that need to be taken to get there, and the incremental benefits achieved along the way

Putting disruption to work

Disruptive marketing can also be applied to a range of demand generation scenarios, including:

Owning disruption: for vendors with an offering based around generic capabilities, disruptive marketing enables them to promote and ‘own’ the very word disruption. We all hear the ‘d-word’ used in industry, and how companies need to pay constant attention to it to avoid becoming the next ‘Kodak’. With disruptive marketing brands can paint a bold vision for embracing change – by having a clear view of how to lead the market. This last point is essential as few brands are comfortable playing catch-up. The market knows the value of being a leader rather than a follower, and that a true competitive advantage is only available to the early adopters – with the rest just playing catch-up.

Providing a disruptive ‘take’ on the immediate: disruptive marketing can also be applied to existing challenges. Again a vision for what the solution looks like is imperative, and one that offers a compelling point of view (POV) that challenges ‘same old’ thinking. Ideally this will be done to address a problem that the customer is experiencing but has yet to put a name to. The result should be a disruptive ‘solution’ aligned to issues the prospect or customer has hinted at from previous engagements or the intelligence gathered from marketing interactions to date.

Taking a different route

The basis of disruptive marketing is having an original POV to promote a vision of a brave new world. Doing this requires method:

  • The first step is speaking with existing customers and partners to scope out challenges and aspirations

  • Second is the factoring in of views from experts, analysts etc. to begin the process of shaping a destination you want to take businesses

  • Third sees internal resources engaged to flesh this vision out, and to build the story of why it matters and what it can deliver

  • Fourth, the final preparation stage, is where the vision is cut into various disruptive messages that help readers recognise the issue – and to buy into its urgency and overall value

Creating an original POV also requires an original TOV (tone of voice). The emphasis here should be on maintaining a bold, confident voice. Equally, it’s about sounding different too. Whereas talk in the past was often based on measures such as ROI and TCO, disruptive marketing take a different route with a fresh new message (it helps here that many buyers are increasingly suspicious of any suggested ROI figures anyhow).

Yes you can still talk about the audience’s ‘pain’ and the damage thus caused. The problem here however is that they know all this, and typically better than you. What they don’t necessarily know however is where they need to be heading, a concern that can be summed up by the request: “don’t just try selling me another point solution or capability – instead help me catch up with a problem, jump ahead of it, and let me disrupt the problem/reaction/solution narrative.

That’s disruptive marketing in a nutshell.

Embracing change

Disruptive marketing will obviously require a change of tact when it comes to marketing and sales assets. Alongside more provocative messaging, you’ll also require material that can back up any claims: no decision-maker wants to join a cult, so you’ll need the hard data to support any vision.

We also advise different types of assets that help build out the ‘target state’, including articles and commentary on what it feels like to exist there – as well as more functional-level analysis. Throughout the process, the task is to remain original, credible, and challenging. Disruption by its very nature requires customers to embrace ‘new’, and doing that demands complete confidence in the validity of your message.

Experience the difference

In summary, we can point to the fact that disruptive marketing is an approach increasingly valued by executives wanting to move beyond the ‘feature rich’, bombastic, claims-driven marketing that still proliferates. As a result it has greater audience cut-through. These are people who know they need to address problems and challenges, but they’re also individuals frustrated from previous projects – and hardened to vendor promises that rarely deliver in their totality.

That’s why talk of ROI and solution benefits can often fall on deaf ears. Instead the task now is to build a credible vision of what the future holds, and ask customers to journey with you to experience it – while also being among the first to get there. It’s an approach that helps businesses see their challenges in a new light, and one that makes finding a long-term solution unmistakably urgent.

What’s more, it’s a strategy that works. Disruptive marketing has been 20+ years in the making, as it spans the time Quantum Marketing has been working with leading B2B tech vendors. During this period we’ve run many a demand generation campaign, and spoken to countless executives and IT decision-makers. That’s why we can confidently claim to have monitored changes to buying behaviours for over two decades and maintained a clear, market-tested view of what works and why.

Disruptive marketing might not be right for every situation you’ll face during this downturn, nor does it apply only under challenging trading conditions. But for many companies that are seeing their current marketing strategies losing their power, its time is now.

To start the disruption, Get in touch.


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