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Standing out in crowded markets

Navigating the crowded market of B2B software marketing, I've discovered a secret to punching above your weight in crowded markets. It's not about promoting our companies but about focusing on the people in the communities making up our markets, their work, and their ambitions. Today, I'll share insights from a recent presentation I delivered on this very topic, aiming to resonate with marketing leaders and community builders alike.

Imagine standing in a vast sea of competitors, each proclaiming their product's uniqueness and superiority. It's a familiar scenario for many of us, trying to punch above our weight in these crowded spaces. But here's the thing: the noise is overwhelming, and the typical "look at us" approach doesn't cut as sharp as it used to.

I've ventured through this landscape, employing five strategies throughout my career to not just navigate but excel in the B2B software realm. These strategies are not about self-promotion but about providing value, being genuinely helpful, and fostering community engagement.

Leading with Value: It starts here, offering tangible help without expecting immediate returns. For instance, sharing valuable resources like the 21 MarTech reference architectures (I've blogged about previously). For marketing pros like yourself, these reference architectures are helpful; they provide insight into choices that others have made and they enable you to compare and contrast your own choices and investments. Their aim is to help you excel in your craft with no strings attached. Imagine if you were a MarTech vendor and your product happened to appear in many of these images, along with the choices others have made in their tech stack selections. You are aligning the audience's interest with your own but in a more value-centric way. Using this "start with value" approach not only establishes trust but also solidifies your position as a thought leader in the space.

Helpfulness as the New Viral: This principle transformed our approach at a DevOps company where I used to work. Instead of only promoting our products, we built a global learning forum. The initiative was a resounding success, drawing over 100,000 participants and generating significant revenue, all through the power of being genuinely helpful. The forum was not built to pitch our products. The forum was built to help people connect and to become better at their craft. As a result, they build knowledge and relationships. At the same time, we built their trust. The more trust we built, the faster our sales cycles became and the easier new doors were to open.

Building with Others: Collaboration amplifies credibility. By partnering with others to produce independent, valuable content, we've seen engagement and trust in our market skyrocket. For example, let's imagine your company is building an event that only features your company's speakers. Now, let's imagine a competitor of yours stacked their event's agenda with thought leaders from around your industry to share insights and expertise. Who would attract more attention, build more trust, and develop longer-lasting relationships as a result? You're right, the competitor. 

No Velvet Ropes: Accessibility is key. Providing unfettered access to resources and thought leaders encourages deeper engagement with your brand. Buyers want you to be more accessible. The more accessible you are, the more human the connection. Take a moment to think about your marketing campaigns, content, executives, and sales teams. How accessible are they? What velvet ropes are creating friction? By removing the ropes, you gain more access to the market, and at the same time, they gain more access to you.

Being 'In It' for Them: Ultimately, it's about serving the community's needs, not selling your product. This mindset shift is crucial for gaining attention and loyalty in the market. This picture below says it all. Are you talking about yourself, or are you helping your buyers? Helpful, buyer-centric approaches win more deals.



Bonus Strategy - Think Bigger: The tale of All Day DevOps (ADDO) exemplifies not just a strategy but a philosophy that challenges us to "think bigger." This is one of my favorite strategies, so I'll spend more time on it.

When we embarked on this journey, the ambition was simple but bold: to craft an event that resonated deeply within the DevOps community, free from the constraints of traditional marketing and sales pitches. The genesis of ADDO was rooted in a desire to fill a gap—a hunger for real, actionable knowledge in the DevOps space, delivered in a manner that was accessible to everyone, regardless of their geographical location or financial situation.

With a modest beginning, co-founded in 2016 by a colleague and me, with just a tiny budget and a grand vision, ADDO was a leap of faith. Our goal was to educate the global DevOps community through a unique online forum that was not only free but also devoid of any vendor pitches. This was our pact with the community: to offer pure, unadulterated learning and connection opportunities, fostering an environment where knowledge was shared freely and relationships were built on trust.

The success of ADDO underscored a critical lesson: the importance of reevaluating our goals and daring to dream bigger. Midway through our initial planning, a pivotal question was posed: "What if we aimed for 15,000 participants instead of 1,000?" This question wasn't about ambition for ambition's sake; it was a challenge to our approach, a call to innovate our strategies and leverage our networks more effectively. By reaching out to industry friends, engaging local communities, and gamifying participation, we transformed the event into something far greater than we had initially imagined.

When the questions were asked, we did not allocate any additional time for ourselves. The question was more about, "What are we going to do with our time?" In the same amount of time we could have spent chasing 1,000 people, we decided instead to focus on chasing 15,000 people. That approach led us down new and creative paths to capture a massive amount of attention in a short amount of time.

In essence, the story of All Day DevOps is more than just a case study in event planning or community engagement. It's a narrative that encourages us to look beyond traditional metrics of success and toward the broader impact we can achieve through generosity, collaboration, and a relentless pursuit of providing value. It serves as a powerful reminder that when we shift our focus from narrow self-interest to the wider community's benefit, the results can exceed our wildest expectations.

This "think bigger" mindset, while applied here to the context of a community event, is universally applicable across all marketing and business initiatives. It challenges us to constantly question our assumptions, to reevaluate our goals, and to always consider how we can push the boundaries of what's possible when we unite behind a shared purpose.

Want to learn more? If you are intrigued and seeking to delve deeper into these strategies, I invite you to watch my full presentation recording at ELEVATE AKO session and download the slides at This journey is about much more than marketing; it's about building a community that thrives on shared success and mutual growth.

In closing, the path to standing out in the B2B software marketing arena is complex, but by shifting our focus from self-promotion to genuinely serving and engaging with our community, we not only rise above the noise but also build lasting, meaningful connections. Let's continue to explore and implement these strategies together, transforming our approach to marketing and community building in the B2B software sector.