Disruptive Marketing: What it is and how you can benefit from it


Disruptive marketing involves using experimental tactics that challenge the status quo. Rather than following conventional marketing wisdom, disruptive marketers are constantly testing daring, new tactics that haven’t been tried before. Some work while others fall flat. And that’s ok, that’s how innovation works.

Without disruption, we’d remain in a static state of stagnation and never evolve.

So why is “disruptive marketing” such a catchphrase today and what led it to this point? Marketing disruption is more important than ever due to rapid technological advancements, rising consumer expectations, and fierce competition in most industries.

In this post we cover the forces that have propelled marketing disruption and share actionable tips that will kickstart your own disruptive marketing efforts.

But first, here’s a little background into disruptive marketing.

Disruptive marketing is not new

Between the ninth and twelfth centuries, merchant traders began holding the first-ever trade fairs. That disrupted the preceding norm in which trading was driven by interpersonal connections.

In 1440, Johannes Gutenberg unveiled the first printing press, allowing businesses to place ads in locally-distributed newsletters. Those ads were also early forms of disruptive marketing.

Marketing disruption evolved slowly until the 1990s since brands typically played it safe when it came to ads. Then, we entered the digital era and it began to explode.

Why disruptive marketing is so important today

According to AdLock, consumers experience between 6,000 and 10,000 ads per day. Yes, per DAY. How can any advertiser reasonably expect to break through that noise? That’s where disruptive marketing comes in. It forces marketers to be different in order to stand out. This has been augmented by technological innovation.

Rapid technological advance

In 1987, 0.005% of the US population used cell phones.

Ten years later, in 1998, that number was 20%.

By the end of 2020, 975% of Americans owned cell phones.

Ponder that for a moment and consider how mobile phone technology alone has dictated how marketers reach their target audience.

New consumers with higher expectations

Lightbulb graphic.

New generations of consumers display different purchasing behaviors than previous generations, including higher usage rates of rapidly-evolving digital technology.

Their technology usage has resulted in new and higher consumer expectations. Here are a few ways shifting consumer expectations and behaviors are forcing marketers to adopt disruptive marketing practices.

Social media usage

To be fair, social media is used by every generation of consumers today. However, younger generations use it more.

Data from 2021 indicates that 84% of US GenZers use social media, compared to 81% of US Millennials, 73% of Gen-Xers and 45% of Baby Boomers.

Given that younger generations are the largest consumer demographic in the United States, this significantly impacts marketing tactics. It forces marketers to invent new, disruptive ways to engage their target audience on social media.

Consumers now expect that ads will be targeted to them based on their preferences. This is not just the case with digital ads either as the phenomenon has spilled over into more traditional ads like publications and OTT ads via streaming. If an ad is served that is NOT relevant, a brand risks losing all credibility.

Customer experience

Customer experience has emerged as the key brand differentiator since 2020, fueled by the changing consumer patterns brought on by COVID-19 pandemic. Brands like Amazon and Netflix that have spent considerable time and resources to deliver a deeply personalized customer experience have reset expectations in a significant way.

Moving forward, go-to-market leaders should explore disruptive tactics in personalization to enhance the customer experience if they want to succeed.

Customer success

Back in the day, marketers used to have to find prospects who had interest. Today’ marketers are expected to find prospects who are in market and who will buy quickly, and are likely to renew. It’s a much more complex process. The renewal aspect goes hand in hand with customer experience. If your customers are not successful using your product or service, they are likely to churn and, even worse, churn and go to a competitor.

There are more ways that marketing and customer success are related. For one, customer success teams can identify satisfied customers willing to provide customer testimonials and even referrals for marketing and feed the top of the funnel.  Second, marketing can uncover and encourage cross-sell and upsell opportunities.

Increased competition across the board

Stick figures runningCompetition in many industries—particularly the technology space—is more intense than it’s ever been. Let’s take a look at how increased competition is driving disruption in marketing.

Catering to customers’ needs

Increased competition means it’s easy for a customer to leave you for a competitor because there are so many of them.

The days of ignoring your customers’ needs are over. If you don’t deliver unique value and cater to customers’ needs, they will leave for a company that does.

Marketers must find disruptive methods of differentiating themselves from the competition by standing out as customer-centric brands (more on that below).

A shifting balance of power

Consumers have more power in the customer-vendor relationship than ever before because it’s easy to leave you for a competitor.

If you deliver a poor customer experience, customers can go straight to social media and blast your company, doing serious damage to your brand reputation. How do you avoid this? Disruption.

Tips for embracing disruptive marketing tactics

Here are some tactics that you can implement today to start disrupting.

Use technology

While technological advances are forcing us to invent new disruptive marketing tactics, we can use technology to do the disrupting.

Technology can help you better cater to rising customer expectations.

Customers want a personalized or humanized marketing experience. To deliver one, marketers must maintain deep insight into customers’ needs, challenges, goals, etc. Marketers must carve out their audiences on social media and paid search with a scalpel, not an ax. They must deliver highly targeted ads to those audiences and provide a funnel experience that is seamless.

The Modern CRM

Modern customer relationships management (CRM) systems offer opportunities to be disruptive. They track every touchpoint a brand has with prospects and customers. Marketers can use that insight to experiment with new tactics for personalizing outreach and delivering what customers need at each stage of the customer journey.

Plus, modern CRM platforms will typically offer options for marketing automation, customer service and integrations. When used together on a unified platform, these tools provide a 360-degree view of the customer, giving you insights into how to better serve the customer and get more from the relationship.

Be prepared to fall

Always be testing. Disruptive marketers constantly test new ideas and many of those ideas don’t succeed. Be prepared for that because it’s an essential part of disruptive marketing.

Today’s marketing automation platforms not only provide features like A/B testing for testing two options side by side, but also multivariate testing for testing multiple factors at once.

Disruptive marketers are always running tests and looking for incremental improvements.

Instead of viewing an unsuccessful tactic as a failure, think of it as a learning experience. The best lessons come from picking yourself back up after you fall. Few great things occur without some trial and error.

Leave emotions at the door

You may firmly believe you’ve discovered the golden key to success with a new tactic you devised. And it may be the next best practice everyone adopts. But it might not be.

Be careful not to fall in love with any new tactic you experiment with. If you do and the tactic doesn’t work as you expected, you’ll feel like you failed. This can lead to lost motivation and confidence, which are two of a disruptive marketer’s worst enemies.

Be prepared to examine all parts of a much-loved campaign or effort and think critically about why each step may have failed and how it could be improved next time.

Stick to your convictions

If you devise a new plan no one has ever dared to try and upon mentioning it you receive criticism, let it roll off your shoulders. Don’t let other people’s doubts deter you from going against the grain.

Otherwise, you won’t succeed at disruptive marketing. Disruption requires courage, determination, and an unrelenting sense of confidence.

Meticulously track the results of every experiment

Keep a running list of ideas you’ve tried, regardless of whether or not they are successful. If one didn’t succeed but still managed to produce some results, you might just need to tweak it a little to make it a winner.

This is another area where with a marketing automation platform comes in handy. Every new campaign or tactic you try can be tracked in your tech stack. You can run reports on success rates, learn as you go, and maintain a view into which tactics are pulling in new leads or repeat business.

Put yourself in the consumer’s shoes

After all, you’re a consumer too, so this won’t be hard. Ask yourself, “What could Company X have done differently to win me over?” Then test that different approach out on your customers or prospects. Think of a vendor that you currently love and then analyze why you feel that way. Better yet, think of a technology that you’ve used over and over again at multiple companies – why do you continue to go back to it? That’s the type of relationship you want to create with your prospects and customers.

Validate before repeating

Don’t blindly throw a wrench in the spokes of your marketing machine. It’s important to test new, disruptive tactics on a sample group of customers or prospects before rolling it out completely.

This is why the reporting and tracking capabilities of a CRM plus marketing automation are so central to effective disruptive marketing. Best of all, that same unified system lets you A/B test disruptive tactics to validate them before you try them on a large scale.

Follow innovators & thought leaders

To be disruptive, you must stay at the forefront of emerging trends and innovation. Follow key thought leaders in your industry on social media. Pay attention to what they’re talking about.

Sometimes we have a revolutionary idea lurking just below the surface of our consciousness, but it’s missing a key element. All it takes is one fresh perspective from someone else to help you connect the dots, find that missing link, and arrive at the next winning marketing tactic.

Professional marketing groups are a great resource, including MarketingProfs, RevGen, GTM Partners, Content Marketing Institute and more. Groups on LinkedIn can also be a great way to find thought leaders who will inspire you.

Understand your customers & industry

Finally, it’s essential that you understand your market and customer base beyond data points. Otherwise, you can’t put yourself in their shoes, nor can you understand their needs and goals.

If you work in investment banking, experimenting with goofy humor in your marketing efforts is unlikely to produce results. But, dry, clever humor might work.

On the other hand, if you work in children’s toy manufacturing, the opposite is probably true. Adapt to your industry or find the one that works best for you before accepting a job.

Are you ready to disrupt?

Only you can answer that question. One thing we can say for sure is that if you don’t continually evolve your approach to marketing, you’ll end up treading water while everyone swims past you.

To be a successful disruptive marketer, you must have steadfast confidence in your own abilities. You also need the right technology to bring your ideas to life, test them, and measure and learn from the results.

Want to learn more about a CRM and marketing automation duo and how it can help you run disruptive marketing campaigns? Request a demo with an Insightly rep to see how you can align your sales and marketing to test different marketing ideas, measure results, and continuously improve your customers’ experiences with your brand. Short on time? Watch a demo on demand for both Insightly CRM and Insightly Marketing.