Effective Story Mining with SMEs

It’s no secret that thought leadership is vital for SaaS companies. B2B marketers need to build credibility for their companies, establish trust with customers and potential leads, and create brand value. The inevitable question for many SaaS marketers though is how to get started. 

When it comes to thought leadership, marketers naturally turn to their founders and their chief executive officers. They are, after all, the traditional thought leaders at most companies and the background, context and vision they provide is particularly useful for developing SaaS thought leadership.

Marketers who rely on the top brass alone to ideate thought leadership are missing out. That’s because the subject matter experts (SMEs) who work in the nitty-gritty often have a better pulse on the day-to-day business. And SMEs with industry-specific expertise (e.g., chief marketing officers, chief compliance officers, chief security officers) are particular gold mines of information. Marketers can learn how to leverage the experience and insights of these SMEs through effective story mining.     

Uncovering Pitchable Topics

Story mining sessions are informal interviews designed to uncover pitchable topics that marketers can use to develop SaaS thought leadership. A story mining session should be a casual, free-flowing conversation but marketers should still prepare questions to ensure they uncover solid ideas. 

Story mining sessions at BLASTmedia typically run 30-45 minutes and cover 4-6 questions. Because their time is valuable, marketers should think through a handful of strategic, open-ended questions that help an industry-specific SME to open up. Consider the following questions to get you started: 

Question #1: What drew you to the company?

One of the best ways to get to know SMEs is to learn about their career journeys. For those who recently joined the team, questions might center around their current roles. If the SME is a longtime company employee, there’s likely a story there as well.

Question #2: How did you get into your job function? What intrigues you about it?

Marketers should also learn how an SME became an expert. An SME might be the vice president of product now but might have started their career as a trained engineer. With this knowledge, a marketer can more effectively mine for thought leadership ideas.

Question #3: What is the competition getting wrong?

Once a marketer has a feel for an SME’s background, it’s time to flesh out differentiators and unique or timely positions. Consider asking SMEs for their opinions or hot takes on their job functions, other industry players or the direction of the industry overall.

Question #4: What trends are you following?

Finally, don’t forget that work is just one aspect of any SME’s life. What does the SME like to do outside of work for fun? Any cool hobbies? What topics interest the SME personally and what trends are they following? A lot of evergreen topics are applicable to SaaS (e.g., innovation, future of work, entrepreneurship, leadership) but not the SME’s day-to-day work. If marketers can identify an SME’s areas of interest, they can pursue thought leadership on those topics. Marketers won’t know what they don’t ask.

Again, story minings should be conversations. Pick and choose questions from the buckets above but be prepared to pivot and follow up as the conversation evolves.

Need more help developing SMEs as thought leaders? Reach out to Lindsey Groepper to see how BLASTmedia can implement effective story mining and position your company for SaaS thought leadership. 

SaaS Marketing Perspectives: Bradley Davis, CEO of Podchaser

Whether it’s true crime, catching up on the latest news, or taking advice from your favorite self-help advocate, there is a podcast for everything. In fact, as of February 2021, there are more than 1.7 million podcasts. As our clients dive deeper into podcasts, either hosting or playing a guest role, I wanted to connect with someone who knows the ins and outs of podcasts. That’s why for our next SaaS Marketing Perspectives I connected with Bradley Davis, co-founder, and CEO of Podchaser. Bradley talks about the value of podcasts, recommendations on what to look out for when creating a podcast or being featured on a podcast, and shares his ultimate dream to be Jeff Probst, host of Survivor. 

KATIE: In a few sentences, what is Podchaser?

BRADLEY: Podchaser is a podcast database that aggregates all the fragmented data in the industry in one spot. 

KATIE: What value do podcasts bring to companies? Which would you recommend first for a business: starting its own podcast or working to be a guest on other podcasts? 

BRADLEY: Podcasts are a unique opportunity to let ideas breathe for 30+ minutes. This allows for a company to show off its brand and image with unprecedented depth. I definitely recommend being a guest on other podcasts first, it is a much lower barrier to entry and is a good way to test the medium. 

KATIE: If a company is thinking about creating its own podcast, what are some things they should keep in mind?

BRADLEY: There is generally a direct correlation between time/effort invested and success of a podcast. There are nearly 2 million podcasts out there, so creating one people want to listen to requires excellent content. I think it’s also important to have a solid idea of why you are creating a podcast. If it’s to sell x widgets, it likely won’t work. If it’s to sell a brand or vision to then sell x widgets, it may work really well. 

KATIE: Do you have any recommendations on what businesses should look for when evaluating whether or not to participate in a podcast (as a guest)?

BRADLEY: To get the plug out of the way, our Pro tools allow you to examine reach, listener demographics, and chart position for all podcasts, so this is the most efficient way to evaluate an opportunity. However, pure reach isn’t the only thing to evaluate. Depending on the initiative, a podcast with 200 listeners that is targeted to your exact goals could be a better opportunity than a podcast with 2,000 listeners that is less targeted. It’s also handy to use Podchaser’s credits system to look at past guests to see if you are aligning with the right cluster. 

KATIE: What metrics are currently available for podcasters? Are these metrics public or easily accessible?

BRADLEY: There are many metrics available to podcasters. Generally, a podcaster’s hosting platform is a great place to start. Additionally, there are analytics tools like Chartable that can be useful. These metrics are not publicly available but are easy to access for the podcaster.

KATIE: Outside of listenership, are there other metrics companies should consider before going on a podcast?

BRADLEY: It can be useful to look at a podcast’s social media following (though this can be tricky, since some podcasts buy followers, so look out for engagement). 

KATIE: How can podcast owners use these metrics to create better content? 

BRADLEY: It’s good to focus on drop-off rate so you can experiment with changing up the format of the show to potentially retain listeners. 

KATIE: We’ve seen a couple of thought leaders in the B2B space start leveraging Patreon to share unique content with listeners. Is this something you foresee continuing in the future? 

BRADLEY: Yes, I think tools like Supercast and Glow that are more specific to the podcast format will continue to grow. However, I think these are more intended for a mature podcast with a hungry audience. In general, I think subscriptions will increase as ads decrease in podcasting.

KATIE: Do you expect marketing teams will invest more into podcasting into 2021 and beyond? Why/why not? 

BRADLEY: For sure. It’s such an efficient means to accomplish branding and advertising goals. The only thing limiting spend is tools available from the industry, but there are plenty of smart people building those tools. 

KATIE: What’s your dream job outside of software (dolphin trainer, lead guitarist in a rock band, etc.)? 

BRADLEY: I honestly just want to be Jeff Probst. 

Interested in hearing from other marketing leaders in SaaS? Check out the SaaS Half Full Podcast where BLASTmedia President Lindsey Groepper takes a deep dive into the strategies behind companies like Zendesk, Sprout Social and Moz.