Marketing Solutions

Finding the Right Way to be Disruptive

For concepts like content marketing and lead generation, the measurements of success are constantly evolving, but the basic definitions really haven't changed

Every month, the marketing blogosphere redefines a slew of concepts and strategies on everything from analytics to customer experience. For concepts like content marketing and lead generation, the measurements of success are constantly evolving, but the basic definitions really haven't changed. Lead generation is about generating leads. Content marketing is about using content within your marketing campaign. They may be new concepts to some of us, but at a high level they mean what they are.

Conversely, one concept that isn't so well defined is disruptive marketing. At its worst, a disruptive advertisement or marketing message is intrusive with little to no accompanying value. This was a big problem 10 years ago, when the Web was littered with intermittent pop-up ads and aggressive email marketing was rampant.

The good type of disruptive marketing shares the same characteristics as disruptive technology or creative disruption - driven by innovative thought and action that ignore conventional wisdom and so-called standard practices to challenge the status quo. Companies like Amazon and Netflix are often cited as examples of this, because they charted new territory in their respective industries, disrupting competitor behemoths in the process.

In July, the watchmaker Rolex raised eyebrows by running a 15-page print ad spread in Vanity Fair magazine. While the black and white photos of celebrities wearing its product were impactful, what made the advertisement disruptive is that it ran for 15 consecutive pages. In the print ad world, that's unprecedented and runs counter to the conventional wisdom that your print ad is more likely to be viewed when it's next to editorial content.

Consumer products are obviously a different ball game than financial services, but even a business-to-business campaign is aimed at human beings, and as we humans spend more time online - via our mobile phones, tablets and computers - our response mechanism to various messages is evolving, even if we don't realize it. So when you think about your marketing approach in this changing world, I would encourage you to consider relevant disruption as a way to grab people's attention. Here are a few ways to do this that shouldn't give you heart palpitations.

* Progressive messaging that complements an event: Middle market M&A pros love attending and sponsoring live events, in part because networking is at the core of how transactions have historically hatched. But very few of them do effective marketing before, during and after the conference. If the content is relevant, launching an e-book or hosting a series of Web seminars that strengthen your firm's capabilities is a great way to be disruptive with a purpose.

* Topic-driven videos of your firm's key players: I'm not talking about the standard talking-head video where your founder uses every cliché in the book about the firm's greatness. Instead, why not answer a series of market-related questions, or share an interesting story about a deal that was rescued? Video is such an engaging format, and if you have smart people on the team there's no reason not to showcase them.

* Unprecedented events: I'll never forget the buzz around the first Association for Corporate Growth New York wine tasting event. It feels almost passé in 2013, but at the time, having private equity firms present bottles of Opus One at their tables was a disruptive concept. Your annual golf outing may draw plenty of attendees, but when you examine the number of new attendees and the actual return on investment, you might consider a more disruptive approach.

If you want to talk more about disruptive marketing, please call or write me.

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