How to Find Marketing Inspiration Outside of Your Industry

Twin Cities branding agency Yamamoto creates award-winning integrated marketing programs for B2B and B2C companies representing a broad range of industries. Yamamoto’s CEO Kathy McCusky says “We work with companies in retail, healthcare, financial services, technology and heavy equipment (think Caterpillar). It’s a lot of fun to work with different companies.”

Marketing Strategies. Magnifying Glass on Old Paper with Red Vertical Line..jpeg

With that fun, also comes opportunities for the agency to apply business and creative learning from one industry to another. Kathy explains: “The use of mobile devices as part of our shopping behavior can be applied to how we use devices to find a physician or clinic in the healthcare space. We have to deliver service the way customers need and want it.”

Companies like Yamamoto are unique in that they commonly reach across industries for innovative marketing and business ideas. But many times, senior leaders at industry-specific firms—financial services or manufacturing, for instance—don’t look to firms in different businesses for inspiration. This is a mistake.

More often than not, companies find that the most innovative marketing and business ideas are plucked from tangential industries or people in similar fields. Why is this and where can CEOs and executives go to "mine" ideas from leaders outside their industries? First off, it helps to admit that your industry doesn’t have a monopoly on the world’s greatest marketing ideas.

When Brilliant Ideas Come from Other Industries

To be sure, researchers (“Sometimes the Best Ideas Come from Outside Your Industry,” HBR) have found that “Bringing in ideas from analogous fields turns out to be a potential source of radical innovation.” People with different backgrounds who work in different industries can “draw on different pools of knowledge, and they’re not mentally constrained by existing, “known” solutions to the problem in the target field. The greater the distance between the problem and the analogous field, the greater the novelty of the solutions,” says the researchers.

In other words, just because your company is in the manufacturing industry doesn't mean you can't co-opt marketing ideas from a consumer products company. Part of what makes this idea more palatable today is the increasingly similar media-consumption behaviors of B2B and B2C buyers. Social media tactics, for instance, once only deployed in consumer campaigns, is now considered de rigueur for companies marketing products and services that cost six and seven figures. The same goes for video, a medium once relegated to consumer marketing. Empirical evidence shows that video effectively engages and influences business buyers.

B2B companies today have a host of tactics and strategies to build from when designing modern marketing campaigns:

Inbound Marketing

  • Social media
  • Website
  • Dedicated landing pages for buyer personas
  • Downloadable offers (white papers, case studies)
  • Video content
  • Email workflows

Outbound Marketing

  • Direct Mail
  • Email
  • Advertising
  • Trade shows and events
  • Case studies
  • White papers

Often, tactics and strategies that work well in one industry can be adopted by another. Sure, in theory, it makes sense to leverage marketing and business ideas from sectors outside of your own. But how can you get exposed to these ideas?

Finding Inspiration in a Peer Advisory Group

Great Clips CEO Rhoda Olsen finds constant inspiration from her peer group, Vistage-Minnesota. A member since 1999, her fellow CEOs helped her transition to new point-of-sale technology by developing strategies that helped her solve vexing implementation issues.

Mark Braun, an owner of sales consulting company Pivotal Advisors, credits his Vistage group for helping him realize his company wasn't targeting the right audience segment or persona when he launched his business. He initially focused on company sales managers, but they were too close to the problem to recognize they had one. Plus, Pivotal Advisors was expensive.

The company’s breakthrough came when his Vistage group encouraged him to target the business owner or CEO instead of sales managers. His group also urged him to move away from time and material billing to flat-fee pricing.

“The move to flat-fee pricing was a huge change. That's what started helping us move in the right direction and bring in more consultants.”

And as the study from HBR noted above found, it makes sense to look beyond your own company for inspiration. "Look for creative people who aren't constrained by the assumed limitations and mental schemas of your professional world. These are people who, although they know little of your field, may be more likely to come up with breakthrough thinking."

President of White Oaks Wealth Advisors, Sharon Bloodworth, agrees. She’s also part of a peer advisory group. “One of the things I love to do is study other people’s business models because you can learn much from other industries. You get more creativity for your own business by spending time with people outside of your own industry, which I find quite fascinating.”

Thinking about joining an executive peer group to help with your marketing and sales strategies? Give Vistage Minnesota a try! 

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About the author

Gary Teagarden
Vistage Minnesota

Gary is an accomplished copywriter and B2B content marketing strategist. He’s written numerous articles and member stories for Vistage Minnesota since 2012.


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