Regardless of the market you are in, you’re probably aware that there’s more competition than ever. For example, below is what the marketing technology landscape looked like in 2011. There were a whopping 150 vendors.

Here’s what the same market landscape looks like today with more than 9,000 vendors:

You may attribute this increase to just the natural growth of business. However, there are two distinct reasons for all this competition you should be aware of.

The Barrier to Entry is Gone

In 2000, a founder needed $5 million to start a tech startup. But today a founder needs just $500. There’s practically no barrier to entry today for any founder who wants to launch a company, create noise in the market, and battle for the attention and revenue of customers.

Thousands of Startups Raise Billions Each Year

The second reason is increased funding. In 2021 alone, more than 30,000 startups raised $600 billion in funding. Over the past 15 years, venture funding has boomed and there are now thousands of companies battling for the limited attention from buyers.

The Battle For Your Customers' Attention

All this competition means it’s never been harder for an ambitious early-stage B2B founder to break through the noise, build an initial customer base, and gain enough early momentum to have a shot at building a category-defining company. Many venture-backed startups will fail in the next 12 to 24 months because they’re unable to make their voice heard.

How Most Founders Try to Break Through the Noise

When faced with trying to make their company stand out from the competition, many founders tend to take a more traditional approach:

  • They differentiate with product features and capabilities.
  • Their story is about how they are better, faster, and cheaper than the status quo.
  • They rely on gatekeepers — PR firms, journalists, Gartner analysts, etc. — to try and get in front of their ideal target customers.
  • They try to buy the trust of their customers through awards, pay-for-play media opportunities, speaking engagements, and other placements.
  • They position their product as the hero.

But this approach has become commoditized. It’s no longer unique or effective, because everyone’s doing it. And founders who continue running this worn-out playbook will inevitably lose the game. Their innovative idea will fail to get enough traction with customers and their vision for the future will never become a reality.

How the World’s Greatest Founders Rise Above the Noise

What's the alternative, and what’s the winning approach? Here’s what stand-out founders do to shed the old methods of attracting customers and attention:

  • Instead of marketing their product, they market a movement. Then they evangelize, advocate, and educate others to believe in the movement.
  • Instead of telling the commoditized story of being better, faster, cheaper, they tell a story about the transformation they can help their customers achieve, articulate an exciting vision for the future and proactively align themselves with others who share similar beliefs.
  • Instead of relying on gatekeepers, they build their own audiences and communities — eliminating the need for and dependency on gatekeepers.
  • Instead of trying to buy trust, they earn the trust of their audience and community by educating, adding massive value, and helping them succeed without expecting anything in return.
  • Instead of positioning their product as the hero, they position their customers as the hero and the product as a guide that can help the hero succeed.

Hubspot used this approach to build a $15+ billion company. They built a movement and passionate community around the practice of Inbound marketing, the phrase they coined in 2011. Ever since, they’ve consistently created amazing educational resources to help their community succeed with inbound marketing and nurtured an ecosystem of those who believed in inbound marketing.

Drift did the same thing with Conversational Marketing, Gainsight did the same thing with Customer Success, and Snyk did the same thing with Developer Security.

Winners of This New Approach

Hubspot used this approach to build a $12 billion company. They built a movement and passionate community around the practice of Inbound Marketing, the phrase they coined in 2011. Ever since, they’ve consistently created amazing educational resources to help their community succeed with Inbound Marketing and nurtured an ecosystem of those who believed in Inbound Marketing.

Drift did the same thing with Conversational Marketing. Gainsight did the same thing with Customer Success. And Snyk did the same thing with Developer Security.

The approach these companies use is something any company can do — but most don’t. Why? Because it’s hard. It requires them to play the long game, make short-term sacrifices, and make investments without an immediately measurable impact.

However, the end results are worth the effort.

What We Believe After 10 Years on the Front Lines

We believe embracing this approach is the most important decision a founder can make. We developed this belief from being in the trenches with founders across nearly every industry as they bring their ideas to market. We’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. We’ve had many wins and many failures. And we’ve had the opportunity to experiment, optimize, and improve each and every time. All these lessons and hands-on experience combine together to make up the principles of our playbook — the foundation of everything we do.

The Principles That Shape Our Playbook:

Principle 1:
You must embrace the power of storytelling and differentiate yourself with a more compelling narrative than your competitors’ alternatives. You will never stand out if your story is all about having better, faster, and cheaper features and capabilities. Instead, create a narrative that engages with the hopes and aspirations of your customers.

Principle 2:
You must position yourself as a guide who can help your customers survive and thrive in the future. You cannot make your product the hero of the story. Instead, your customers are the hero, and you’re their guide to lead them into the future that they want to see.

Principle 3:
You must have a villain and you must declare war against that villian — not necessarily a competitor, but a way of doing and thinking. No story is compelling without a villian.

Principle 4:
You must build your own audience and community of like-minded people who view the world in a similar way. You cannot be dependent on gatekeepers to rent or sell you access to their audience/community. To be a leader, you must lead.

Principle 5:
You must create a movement, then establish yourself as the leading advocate, evangelist, and leader of the movement. You will never get others to rally behind you without a deeper underlying purpose and mission to change the status quo.

Principle 6:
You must market a problem and be the loudest voice in the room about the urgency around solving that problem and the stakes of failing to do so. You cannot just market a solution, features, and capabilities.

Principle 7:
You must consistently create high-quality content that positions your company at the epicenter of your niche and be the leading source of education, information, and news. You cannot just produce selling points that focus on your product.

Principle 8:
You must embrace the mindset of becoming a media company and build a team and strategy that operationalizes that mindset. You can no longer think that because you’re small, you should sit at the back of the pack.

Principle 9:
You must have a clear category strategy — whether that’s redesigning a new one or redefining an existing category. Don’t get lost among the existing categories, but break out of those structures and create your own.

We deeply believe in this playbook and use these principles to guide everything we do for the founders we work with. Will you do the same so that you can rise above the noise and create a space for your ideas and convictions?

We call this approach Thought Leadership Development and you can download a guide that explains the step-by-step process here that will teach you how to operationalize this playbook so you can rise through the noise and build a category-defining company.

Our Mission

We believe the world is ripe for change and truly game products shouldn’t fail because the founders relied on an outdated and ineffective approach to bringing their idea to market.
Over the next three years, our goal is to help 100 visionary founders become category-defining founders by using this playbook and philosophy.