It would be an understatement to say that the word ‘disrupt’ is suffering from overuse. 

If every claim of industry disruption was to be believed we would be surrounded by the rubble of old ideas and the rocketships of new ones. As always, the reality is more complex.

Overuse of terms like ‘disruptive’ – and while we’re here let’s chuck in ‘hacking’, ‘revolution’ and ‘exponential’ (pass me a hockey stick) – happens for two reasons: first because established industries are in fact being disrupted more than ever before by a handful of new innovations. So we hear the term being used more. Second, because of the desire to benefit by association, which is really misuse adding to the overuse. If I describe my app as disruptive, even though its sole feature is to randomly pick between left and right, perhaps people will start calling me Travis.

Granted that’s an extreme example, so to be slightly more serious I suspect what’s really going on is this: people feel they have a product or service that’s substantively different from what’s gone before so they reach for a shorthand way of evoking in the reader’s mind a sense of profound change brought about by this incredible innovation. They hit upon ‘disruptive’ because of the benefit-by-association with Uber, Airbnb etc. Do this enough times and it becomes axiomatic that to innovate is to disrupt.

We’ve just published a new ebook called The Biggest Problem in Outbound Marketing and How to Fix It. The problem in question is that accurate targeting in outbound is made almost impossible by the SIC code system. As a result a staggering amount of time and money is wasted on contacting prospects who, it turns out, were never really prospects at all.

Our attempts to calculate the level of waste suggest that it comes in around 2,784 person-years of work every year. As it says in the book, that’s the equivalent of one person toiling away since 769 BC and not doing anything remotely productive until 1946.

A little overwrought perhaps, but it serves to illustrate the point that your sales and marketing teams are, to differing extents, wasting their time, and this is costing you in every sense of the word.

It’s tempting to claim that our solution is disruptive (mmm delicious associative benefits) and maybe it is, but that feels a bit underwhelming. I think it would be better to steer clear of such claims and instead just say that we can show you exactly who to target and who to ignore. Because now that this technology exists, you have to ask yourself: why would you want to call a prospect who isn’t ready to buy when you could be calling one who is?

To the ebook.