B2B marketers: ‘start and own a movement’ (and how to do it)

‘Starting a movement’ isn’t just for B2C marketers, it’s something B2B practitioners should be setting their sights on too. After all, that’s what drives change, progress and success.

Marketing never stands still. Take a look at the programs sitting on your computer or your phone right now. Some of your most used applications for work right now probably didn’t even exist a few years ago and yet now form a major part of how you operate day-to-day.

What about the tactics and strategies you employ? They will no doubt be (or certainly should be!) radically different from what you employed as little as three or four years ago. Times change and you need to change too.

Be a leader as well as a follower

But movements aren’t just for following. They are for starting too. That applies just as much to B2B as it does in the more ‘hip’ world of B2C.

One of the best ways to ensure your company keeps moving forward, remains relevant, expands its client base and boosts its reputation is to be at the forefront of your own movement.

Inspiring others and building a community of followers that feed off each other in a positive fashion and progresses the industry can only be a positive. And there’s no reason you can’t do it.

Start the revolution

The best example of this in B2B is HubSpot. Back in 2006 its founders recognised the traditional way people bought services and products was changing. Old marketing tactics were rapidly becoming less effective as customers harnessed the internet to carry out their own research, rather than rely more passively on advertisers and marketers to reach them.

HubSpot wasn’t solely responsible for the concept of what we now call inbound marketing, but they quickly named and ‘owned’ the fledging movement. Rather than bombarding the world with messages about their platform, they focused on educating the marketplace on how things had changed and how could they adapt.

You didn’t even have to use their products to attend their events or feel part of the community. By focusing on the movement, not the product, they evolved into the giants they are today. From unorthodox outsiders, HubSpot have reached a point where some of its community is so passionate they purchase Hubspot merchandise to clothe their children!

Three steps to forming a movement

While it’s unlikely you’ll want to go quite as far as launching a baby clothes range, this is how you can build and own a movement in B2B marketing:

Step one: Identify a strategic challenge facing your customers and offer a fresh solution

What is the challenge your community is struggling to navigate? What areas pose the greatest risks to the survival of your customers? Where are they finding it difficult to be effective? This step requires courage. It’s about standing out, alone, and offering answers – putting your stake in the ground in a way that not everyone might find agreeable.

For Flume Training it was recognising that industry training for sales staff wasn’t adequately preparing sales teams for the challenges of today’s marketplace.

Like HubSpot, Flume went back to the drawing board and rebuilt their training approach from the ground up. They questioned even the most basic of practices, threw out what no longer worked and implemented new ideas – many quite radical – which they believed best prepared staff for the reality of today’s sales environment.

Its collaborative and open approach has helped Flume to huge success in the UK and set them apart from their rivals who played safe with the status quo.

Step two: Harness followers, not clients

The next step may seem counter intuitive, but it’s essential not to chase customers. When others start responding to your approach or find a shared purpose in what you are doing, it isn’t the time to start selling.

Instead, embrace them, exchange ideas and treat them as equals. Not only will your first followers inspire you in return, your first followers are key to getting others to come on board with your movement. They are your true advocates – believing in your movement, your purpose – taking your idea and truly getting it rolling.

Step three: Build on the momentum to create the tipping point

Once you have your first advocates – grasp the window of opportunity to create momentum.

Hold open events; run community gatherings where ideas are key, not sales; start online discussions; write articles and blogs; speak at other people’s events; share your thoughts across key communication channels.

As seen in the excellent work The Drum carry out with its philosophy of ‘how marketing can change the world’, this stage is about setting the agenda for the future and getting others to buy in and contribute. It’s about setting up the tipping point.

A movement to propel your brand onwards and upwards

Movements and trends aren’t just the preserve of our bolder, louder cousins in B2C. There’s no reason for B2B marketers not to look to lead their own mini-revolutions.

Inspiring peers, asking the tough questions, offering solutions and working with others to refine them is what generates a genuine movement.

Once you have a handle on that, your company will have the right culture to keep reinventing itself, keep moving forward and, over time, increase its customers.

The best B2B marketers are the ones that keep looking to move forward. What better way to do that then by leading a movement that makes a real and important difference?

As Steve Job said – we’re here to make a dent in the universe. Otherwise why be here at all?