How to Build Thought Leadership to Make Your Tech Startup Standout

By October 23, 2018 Industry Perspective
tech startup thought leadershipi

Most tech startups think that building thought leadership is an activity that comes later in the life of their company when they are “grown up” and have built a following. However, we’d argue that most startups should be building thought leadership from day one.

Why? It’s simple, building thought leadership from the start is laying the foundation for future marketing, sales and investor relationships. Building thought leadership helps position you and your company as an expert from day one.

Here are three reasons why it’s important to start building your thought leadership as a tech startup:

  1. Investors are looking for founders with expertise: Most investors of early-stage companies don’t just invest in the product but the team behind the product. They want to know that the founders have the industry experience to pull of the next big thing. Developing thought leadership allows potential investors to learn about your market knowledge and industry expertise as they do their due diligence on your company.
  2. It provides low-cost marketing materials: Let’s face it, most early founders are so busy building a product and building their team that they often leave marketing as a thing they focus on later down the line. By building thought leadership — especially thought leadership content, like bylined articles — in your early days, you are beginning your marketing efforts. Having a robust thought leadership and content strategy allows you to have some marketing material without heavy-hitting expenditures like SEM, advertising buys and tradeshows. 
  3. Sales needs tools to build trust: No single prospect is going to close early on because you have a great thought leadership strategy, but they will use the content that you generate as a result to research your company and you. When you first start out, you have few referenceable customers, so thought leadership serves as a tool that builds trust and can help early customers feel comfortable with you and thus your product.

Identifying Thought Leaders at Your Tech Startup

Now that you know why thought leadership is important, how do you identify your thought leaders? Early team members probably have deep experiences in either the technology you are building or the industry — tap them!

  • CEO/Founder: Your founder is most likely the visionary, the one or ones with the big ideas. They are the ones that see something in the market, something in the product they are building that no one else sees. Tapping this market knowledge and insight should be easy. Put this person out front and build a heavy dose of content around this person’s knowledge.
  • Technologists: Are you building a new technology? Something that expands capabilities on an existing tech stack? It’s common to just look to a founder/CEO as the one who has the vision, but often times your early tech leads possess an amazing wealth of knowledge. Souring these individuals for expert insights allows you to give your content more of a product focus than a market focus.
  • Sales Leaders: While sales leaders might not be considered your main company spokespeople, they are a great place to start for topics that can be used to build your thought leadership strategy. These are the people on the frontline, hearing the “no’s” and “yes’s” from potential customers. They should be able to share what is happening in the marketplace and what problems buyers are seeking to solve.

How to Uncover Topics for Thought Leadership Content

One of the biggest obstacles we hear from clients is that they don’t have anything to write about. Oftentimes, they just don’t know where to look. Here are some hidden areas to unearth that content:

  • Support Requests: Support requests are a goldmine for information. Comb through your last 20 requests and I guarantee that you can create at least 1-5 “listicles” from the questions that your current customers are asking.
  • Blog Posts: Just because you’ve written about a topic on your blog doesn’t mean you can’t take that same content and repurpose it for a different audience. Oftentimes adjusting content to directly address a vertical publication’s target audience will allow you to take previously written content and use it to secure a piece of contributed content that acts at thought leadership.
  • Sales Calls: Back to sales being on the frontline — sales calls are another area that you can exploit (in a good way) for your content. What are the three common reasons someone doesn’t buy your software? What are a few concerns a prospect has when trying to do their job? These are the things that are often overlooked for by marketing, but looking at this customer feedback — and developing content addresses it — is an easy way to build your content library.

Building your thought leadership can seem like a daunting task, but using the process above can help you find specific thought leaders in your tech startup as well as identify some easy opportunities from which to build that content.

Still need help? Check out our Startup PR Program to learn how we can help you get started!


About Chris Lucas

As a VP at BLASTmedia, Chris Lucas is tasked with helping build agency strategy, growing partnerships, and developing additional reporting and marketing functions. With more than 15 years of experience in SaaS and marketing, he has a passion for helping scale companies and the start-up ecosystem. Prior to joining BLASTmedia, Chris served as the chief business development officer at SignUpGenius and VP of marketing at Formstack where, as the second employee hired, he helped scale the company to nearly 70 employees and almost $10 million of ARR.

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