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 GoneIn 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 YearThe 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:
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 MissionWe 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.
Who is Front Lines?
In 2013 we founded a startup working in something that few had heard of at the time — Bitcoin. We hired a PR firm to help us break through the noise and get our story out there.
They didn’t deliver (despite taking our $20,000). So we took matters into our own hands. Instead of trying to get the media talking about “how amazing” we were — like our PR firm did, we took a different approach.
Here’s what we did to help ourselves break through the noise...
We positioned ourselves as industry educators — clearing up misconceptions and making sure people were informed.
Like when we registered to become one of the first federally registered lobbyists
These efforts put us on the radar and helped us break through the noise. We had investors, journalists, customers, and opportunities coming to us every day and we were able to get doors opened.
But there was one problem: our product sucked. Despite all the buzz and momentum, it wasn’t enough to get our solution adopted and we failed. Very painful and depressing moment as a startup founder.
The day that Bloomberg announced our demise, founders began to reach out. They said, “Your company sucked, but you were really good at generating awareness for yourselves. Can we hire you to do that for us?”
We said yes, and have been helping visionary founders break through the noise ever since. Our programs, tactics, and approach is based on what we first learned for ourselves then mastered doing it for other founders.
What founders we work
with achieved in 2022