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. 

Ideas for Thought Leadership Development: 4 Questions to Ask Your CEO

Thought leadership has grown in prevalence as B2B marketers recognize its value through the purchase funnel. Even to the extent that a 2020 study by SurveyMonkey found thought leadership is “top priority” for two-thirds of marketers. However, only 26% of marketers consider their current thought leadership program to be “very successful.”

Most marketers prioritize thought leadership. But why do such a small amount consider their strategy to be successful? 

Fortunately, developing ideas for thought leadership doesn’t require an entirely new strategy. Most B2B SaaS leaders have a wealth of untapped knowledge to make a great story. It all comes down to asking the right questions. 

The significance of story mining

BLASTmedia uses story mining to uncover insights from key executives — including CEOs — when developing robust thought leadership campaigns. While there’s value in exploring insights from all team members, CEOs act as a natural north star to guide growth and evolution — so they should likely be on the media front lines, gilding the messaging. 

CEOs are uniquely positioned to represent their business’s core values directly from the source. This is, in part, due to their integral role with an organization.

Story mining questions to ask your CEO

Below, we’ve laid out a few questions to get started for those who have not yet conducted a story mining session and why they’re important to ask.

Question #1: Tell us about your career path so far. What inspired you to enter the industry, and what led you to your current position?

It’s essential to keep your opening question as general as possible when looking to uncover new stories. Ask about a CEO’s background and what led them to their company. This lets them steer the conversation to a topic that resonates most. Once this topic is identified, it allows for more probing, in-depth questions throughout the session. 

Question #2: What are the biggest pain points/concerns your industry is facing right now? 

Challenges exist within every industry. And CEOs are always looking for the latest problem-solving tactic. Knowing what your CEO sees as top pain points in their industry can lead you to valuable insights on how to overcome them, thus the opportunity to position them as the subject matter expert.

Question #3: What are your short- and long-term growth plans for your business? 

Understanding a CEO’s goals and projections will help you explore potential story angles for company growth and business leadership. It also gives you a sense of where to set priorities in verticals and messaging

Question #4: Where do you see the industry heading in the next 5-10 years?

CEOs always think ahead about the direction of their company and the industry at large. This forward-thinking gives them a unique and sometimes surprising perspective on how their industry is evolving and why. And a hot take on any industry’s future is always relevant, regardless of the timeframe.

Developing ideas for thought leadership should be a strategic process. Questions for CEOs should remain as broad as possible, as the job requires them to focus on the bigger picture and an organization’s overall direction. 

Those conducting story mining sessions need to have a solid understanding of the B2B SaaS CEO role and the conversations happening within a specific industry. Then, the most relevant and timely information can be gained from an interview. After this, you’ll be armed with all the insights you need to develop a powerful CEO thought leadership strategy. 

Interested in learning more about how to leverage story mining? Contact Lindsey Gropper to learn how BLASTmedia can help.