Disruptive marketing involves using experimental tactics that challenge the status quo. Rather than following conventional marketing wisdom, disruptive marketers test 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.

ohannes Gutenberg showing a printed newsletter to artisans and business owners

Disruptive marketing is not new

Between the ninth and twelfth centuries, merchant traders began holding the first-ever trade fairs.(1) 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.(2) Those ads were also early forms of disruptive marketing.

Marketing disruption evolved slowly until the 1990s when we entered the digital era. Then, it began to explode.

Why disruptive marketing is so important today

The increased need for disruptive marketing tactics is largely driven by technological innovation, the consumers who use that technology, and intense competition in most industries.

Rapid technological advance

In 1987, 0.005% of the US population used cell phones.(3)

Ten years later, in 1998, that number was 20%.(4)

By the end of 2017, 95% of Americans owned cell phones.(5)

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

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 2019 indicates that 90.4% of US Millennials use social media, compared to 77.5% of Gen-Xers and 48.2% of Baby Boomers.(6)

Given that Millennials are now the largest consumer demographic in the United States, this significantly impacts marketing tactics.(7) It forces marketers to invent new, disruptive ways to engage their target audience on social media.

Customer experience

Experts predict the customer experience will be the key brand differentiator by the end of 2020. Brands like Amazon and Netflix that deliver a deeply personalized customer experience have reset expectations in a significant way.

Moving forward, marketers should explore disruptive tactics to enhance the customer experience if they want to succeed.

Customer success

This goes hand in hand with customer experience. If your customers are not successful using your product or service, you’re likely to lose them to the competition.

You may be wondering how marketing and customer success are related. For one, customer success teams can identify satisfied customers willing to provide customer testimonials for marketing.

Second, marketing isn’t all about lead generation, it’s also about customer retention. If marketers find new ways to deliver materials that drive customer success, they’ll not only increase retention rates but encourage cross-sell and upsell opportunities.

One stick person running ahead while many other stick people follow more. slowly

Increased competition across the board

Competition 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.

Tangled lines enter one side of a lightbulb and leave the other side as straight, parallel arrows.

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.

The Unified CRM

Unified customer relationships management (CRM) systems provide a great example. 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, unified CRMs are great tools for experimenting with new tactics because they provide A/B testing capabilities and data analytics to track the results. With a unified CRM you can experiment with a sample group before pushing a disruptive tactic out to all your prospects.

Be prepared to fall

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.

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.

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.

Person with glasses closely examining computer screen.

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 a unified CRM comes in handy. Every new campaign or tactic you try can be tracked in your CRM system. 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.

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 unified CRM are so central to effective disruptive marketing. Best of all, that same unified CRM 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.

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.

Skydiver leaping out of an airplane.

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 unified CRM 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.


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1-2. “Infographic: A History of Disruptions in B2B Marketing,” Oracle, 2012

3-4. “Cell Phone Subscribers in the U.S., 1985-2010,” Infoplease, 2017

5. “Mobile Fact Sheet,” Pew Research Center, 2019

6. “US Social Media Users by Generation,” eMarketer, 2019

7. “Millennials overtake Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation,” Pew Research Center, 2020