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Raise Awareness by Embracing Controversy


“Don’t rock the boat” seems to be an unshakeable rule in many B2B companies. Strangely enough, companies who adhere to the status quo are often the ones to be left behind when the boat is rocking at industry level. Ask Nokia or Sony Ericsson, for example, why Apple was able to not just rock but almost overturn their boats…

Rock the boat

Dissenting opinion drives our world forward, and both boat-rockers and those who prefer to sit quietly are attracted in some way or other by ideas that are in conflict with the status quo. It gets their attention and gets them personally involved at various levels. But B2B companies are typically reluctant to publish any opinions that might be in conflict with what any of their stakeholders think.

Get noticed

Here’s our recommendation: become a company with an opinion. But first, identify the kinds of topics you should have an opinion about, who should express that opinion and in what tone and style. Then get busy writing, for example, an article with your CEO as author about the company’s opinion on proposed new legislation—or take a contrarian view on a recently released industry report or prominent blog post. Use the debates that may be raging in your industry to express a strong opinion, but ensure it emerges from high enough up in the organization to be properly aligned with the values of your company.

Still feeling uncomfortable about making waves in your industry? Add some credibility by basing your opinions on industry-level research your company has sponsored. Such research reports firmly establish your company as a thought leader—thinking beyond its own horizons in an attempt to uncover what the market really thinks, how it behaves, and exactly what it wants. With today’s low-cost, cloud-based solutions for running systematic surveys (we’ve used with success, but there are many more out there), you can easily set up and distribute an online questionnaire that forms the basis of a survey report. At the top end of the scale, companies like IBM or McKinsey use this approach with great success. But smaller companies, too, including one of our industrial clients with fewer than 30 employees, have regularly attracted far more than their fair share of attention this way, too.

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Jonathan Winch

I’m Jonathan Winch, partner at cylindr and BBN International and a B2B marketing enthusiast. I've participated as a strategic and creative resource in the marketing and communication sphere for over 25 years, making contributions to the strategies and communications of companies of all sizes, the best known of which include Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Danisco, GN ReSound, Hempel, Nokia Siemens Networks, LEGO, Coloplast, and Johnson & Johnson. My mission? To help B2B companies make the most of the value they create for the world. My hobby: Nutritional science, particularly sports nutrition.

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