Guest Column | May 28, 2019

Why It's High Time For Confrontational Marketing

By Jay Valentine,

Four T’s Of Marketing

When everyone has tepid messaging, go bold!

Go to a technology trade show. I dare you!

Walk the ocean of booths — some costing over $250,000 — and experience the messaging edifices of the current technology marketing mindset. Marketing types spent a year or more designing these temporary outposts of their message for you to experience why they are so different.

Stop and chat with any of the booth people. Grab some cheap pens and T-shirts. Give out your business card so you might win a drone or iPad. Scan that badge so someone will call you when you least expect it on a day you cannot even recall this trade show.

Walk to the coffee area where sanity reigns. Try to remember anything that distinguished one vendor from another.

Just one thing: Can you remember just one clever message?

Like most sentient beings you will not remember one catch phrase written on a booth, in letters red and white or blue and gold, symbols three feet tall, crafted by college-educated marketing teams and often highly paid consultants. These booths are the leading edge of their core message and you probably missed it.

Why? Because every B2B marketing person went to the same marketing school, learned the same marketing language, did the MarCom gig … “We are the leading global provider.” Whatever.

They worked for brain-dead software or SaaS firms where imagination died decades ago. Since they were VC-funded, their goal was to be splashy and craft a message their investors would consider cool — We innovate at the speed of Awesome! — people actually say stuff like this.

Such is the state of B2B tech marketing today.

Buyers hate engaging with salespeople. Prospects loathe downloading white papers (a brochure in other industries) because a chirpy kid calls two minutes later asking if they can answer any questions from the document you forgot in a download folder.

This is as good as it gets, and it costs 50 to 70 percent of revenue to create this worthless messaging you cannot even recall 30 minutes after departing the trade show.

And it is universally failing. The quota achievement numbers prove it. The number of firms on F, G, H, X financing rounds show there is no profitable exit.

What is the alternative? Welcome, friends, to confrontational marketing.

Confrontational marketing is not quite as mean as it sounds, but we needed a name and since we are not clever, over-paid marketing types, we selected the first name that popped up.

Confrontational marketing is “the emperor has no clothes” writ large! Or, maybe not large, but said in many ways and across many media, and goring many oxen.

Confrontational marketing says to the buyer, “Look, you are human, and I am too. Most marketing is BS, we get it. We have a point of view that is different, and we would like you to consider it.” Sounds pretty mild there doesn’t it.

It sounded a little more bare-knuckled when our portfolio company started making the claim that 97 percent of all digital transformation is a hoax. Transformation is not a hoax; it is a hoax that vendors who are not digitally transformed themselves can make you, Ms. Buyer, transformed.

Well, that lit up some vendor messaging. Prospects overwhelmingly agreed. Someone pointed out the obvious! Several prospects sent this to the C-Suite to save both time and seven-figure engagements they knew would lead nowhere. The confrontational message touched the dual human desire to say what is true and to point out BS.

Competitors were, of course, aghast They spent millions repositioning their legacy products as transformative because it is now the Gartner/Forrester currency.

Our portfolio company stood up and said, this is a hoax, think about it, and some did.

Confrontational marketing. Works every time it is tried.

About The AuthorJay Valentine,

Jay Valentine is the CEO of, bringing disruptive tech products to market without venture capital and the VP of Sales for portfolio company Cloud-Sliver.