Thought leadership marketing goes far beyond solidifying your industry expertise and authority. What’s more important (and more difficult) is establishing trust and influence. This is what creates an entry point for your customers. It’s often not a quick process, but when done right, it builds a steadily filling funnel of warm leads.
On today’s episode of the Igniting Startups podcast, we’ll look at how to establish yourself—or another influencer at your company—as a thought leader in your industry. We have two experts on the subject to help you out. First is Chris Lucas, vice president of national PR agency BLASTmedia. Chris has a built his career on helping SaaS companies find their voice. In fact, he and BLASTmedia even launched a new PR program tailored to SaaS startups.
Also joining us is Nick Tippmann, vice president of marketing at Midwest startup Greenlight Guru. Through smart use of thought leadership marketing, Nick positioned one of his company’s founders as a leading influencer in the medical device industry—and subsequently spurred impressive growth.
Together, these two experts provide great complementary perspectives on thought leadership marketing. We’ll cover how your company can find it’s marketing foundation, and then build thought leadership by identifying niches, filling them with the right messaging, and delivering those messages over the right channels.
In this episode on thought leadership marketing with Chris Lucas and Nick Tippmann, you’ll learn:
- The role of a thought leader in your marketing strategy.
- How to find a need in the market you can build a foundation around.
- How to figure out your message, and the best communication channels to use.
- What it takes to achieve thought leadership that drives conversions.
- How to set your business apart from the competition in an audience-friendly way.
- Where to find information that tells you how best to communicate with your audience.
Please enjoy this conversation on thought leadership marketing with Chris Lucas and Nick Tippmann!
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If you like this episode, please subscribe and leave us a review on iTunes. You can also follow us on Soundcloud or Stitcher. We have an incredible lineup of interviews we’ll be releasing every Tuesday here on the Powderkeg Podcast.
Chris Lucas and Nick Tippmann quotes on thought leadership marketing from this episode of Igniting Startups:
“If you are a company and you are trying to build thought leadership, your main objective is to really understand what the problem in the market is that we are really solving.” — @chris_c_lucas of @BLASTmedia on @PowderkegHQ
“Some of the reasons that people don’t buy your particular service or product is really insightful information that you can put into thought leadership content.” — @chris_c_lucas of @BLASTmedia on @PowderkegHQ #PowderkegCast
“Once you look at, ‘Where’s my audience getting their information?’ then you need to identify, ‘How are they consuming that content?’ and, ‘How can we get it in front of them?’ You want to go to where they are and meet them where they are. ” — @ntippmann on @PowderkegHQ
“It really comes down to experimentation. You gotta know what’s working and what isn’t working. Your gut can only get you so far until you get to the data.“ — @ntippmann of @greenlightguru on @PowderkegHQ #PowderkegCast
“You have to build this progressive thought leadership foundation. You have to have byline content out there that promotes the overall the macro trends … and people will start to see you as a thought leader. It doesn’t happen overnight.” — @chris_c_lucas on @PowderkegHQ
Links and resources mentioned in this episode:
Companies and organizations:
- Greenlight Guru
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and you’ve got an 800 pound gorilla and you have to build yourself up as credible against those existing companies, or you come out and you’re building you’re defining or redefining a market.
welcome Patrick King fans, thank you for joining us on episode 75 of powder keg igniting startups, the show for entrepreneurs, leaders and innovators building remarkable tech companies and communities outside of Silicon Valley. I’m your host, Matt Hunckler. And today, we’re talking to b2b SaaS, that software as a service, marketing experts. I’ve known them for a really long time. They’ve been a part of this community for a really long time. So I can’t wait to dig into this particular topic. I want to talk about thought leadership today, because it’s something that both of these people have helped a number of companies do one currently in that sort of operator role as the head of marketing. And then another who is with a national firm, focused on helping many, many different brands really grow their thought leadership and become the thought leaders of their industry. So first off, I want to welcome the VP of blast media, which is a national PR firm based in Fishers, Indiana, serving b2b SaaS companies. He’s an advisor and co founder of a number of companies. I’ll let him talk a little bit more about his experience there. Lots of marketing and biz dev experience at other tech COEs SignUpGenius Formstack. He’s a Purdue alum, and one of the sharpest dressers. I know for sure, please help me welcome to the show, Mr. Chris Lucas. Chris, thanks for being here today. Thank you, Matt. I appreciate it. Yeah, of course, man. And next up, we’ve got another founder who founded multiple ventures including niblets media, which sold to serious startups, an alum of Cincinnati’s the brand dairy accelerator program, one of the nation’s best accelerator programs, a graduate of Indiana University, but hopefully we’ll be able to keep both Chris and Nick from going out each other on this podcast. He’s now the VP of Marketing at Greenlight grew in Indianapolis, a quality management software, or QMS that helps medical device companies improve patient’s quality of life. Please help me welcome to the show. Nick Titman. Nick, thanks so much for being here, man.
Thanks, man. Thanks for having me.
Yeah, you bet. Absolutely. Well, I, I’m really excited because it’s kind of this perfect combination of two people who have a time and again, kind of created the the category leader with either their own startups or startups that they’ve been working with. And I would almost say that Greenlight guru, at this point is kind of past the startup stage, really the leader in the QMS space. Can you talk to me a little bit about Nick, when you came on board there, what your goal was and what your mission was with the Greenlight guru brand?
Yeah, absolutely. So I came on board here as the first employee. And really, we had an idea for a product. And we we knew we had a big market. And so our mission here is to improve the quality of life. And we knew to do that we were really going to have to put together a brand that was trustworthy and credible. And I think thought leadership has been a big part of that and was kind of something that we baked in from the beginning.
I love that. In terms of baking it in from the beginning, what were some of the conversations that you and the founders were having early on about how to position Greenlight as, as the thought leader in this industry? What was the industry like? And how did you see that opportunity?
Yes, so medical device quality management and compliance may not be the most exciting industry. When you’re looking at it from the outside.
Can you break it? Can you actually break it down for me a little bit? As a, let’s say, I know nothing about QMS. Take me through just kind of like in layman’s terms, what that means.
Yeah, absolutely. So all medical device companies here in the US are regulated by the FDA. To bring a new medical device to market, you basically have to follow certain regulations. And one of those regulations is for a quality management system that helps ensure that your products are safe and effective for patients. And so basically, what Greenlight guru does in the very simplest terms is help streamline that whole process. So we can kind of handle the the compliance side of things to allow these companies to focus on building higher quality, safer devices.
As a patient, I’m happy to hear that that exists. Absolutely. So you saw this space of quality management and saw sort of a white space for for there to be kind of a thought leader or was there already a market leader at the time?
Yeah, that’s a great question. What we saw when we kind of looked at the market Unlike maybe b2b marketing or sales there, there weren’t really any influencers, or there weren’t a ton of influencers or thought leaders. And so we saw that there really was a white space and an opportunity to come in and be that influencer and be that educator, and take what is really complex and hard to understand what these regulations and kind of what we like to call put it in plain English. Make it easy for as you say, the the layman to understand, because at the end of the day, even these quality and regulatory professionals are people just like you and I, and they want information to help them do their job better. And no one likes pulling up a ISO 1345 quality management standard, and reading through 250 pages of these regulations, like it’s complex stuff. So if we’re able to simplify that and put it in a format that’s usable for people, that’s kind of where we saw an opportunity. I love
that. And I think that’s good, good place to get Chris’s input here. Because we work with Chris at powder, keg, and blast media has been immensely helpful at us, really kind of simplifying our message, a powder keg, which it can always get more simple for sure. But I know he works with many, many brands on sort of helping simplify the message and simplify what they do. Chris, what’s some of the first things that you ask a startup or even a high growth tech company? When you’re talking to them about thought leadership marketing?
The question that we always ask is, you know, what is? What’s the problem that we’re solving? Right? If you can, if you’re if you’re a company, and you’re trying to build thought leadership, your your main objective is to really understand what’s the problem in the marketplace that that we’re really solving? The next question we really ask is, and I almost come from a product standpoint, right? It’s, it’s why do people get hired or fired for using your product or service? Right? And if you can, if you can get to the nuts and bolts of those two questions, you really, you really start to understand, Okay, what’s my position in the market? What are the things that people what’s the messaging that’s going to resonate? And as I build my thought leadership content, what’s what’s the what’s the crux, right? What is what is the thing that we really need to nail in on? Because if you can really hone in on those two questions, you start to really understand the the needs of your customer base and your your thought leadership really builds from that. So I’ve always found that if you start from a very basic premise of what’s the problem we’re solving, and then why do people get hired or fired for using my service or product, you can really start to say, Okay, how do I build thought leadership around that?
At Formstack? Kind of taking it back a little bit, Chris, that was a huge success. Formstack was in terms of a high growth tech company, also started right out of the Heartland. You were there in the very earliest days, really kind of forming that brand? In a lot of ways. What were some of the processes that you had with Formstack? And maybe you could even tell us what Formstack is, because I know that was not a completely big, white, wide open white space in the marketplace. There are lots of different forms software’s out there.
Yeah, for us at Formstack. And kind of like, Nick, I was employee number two there, spent almost 10 years there and really kind of helped develop both marketing, and then obviously had a hand as your employee. Number two, you have your hands in lots of different things. So products, sales, all those types of fun things. So Formstack was an online form builder. And really, at the at the genesis of Formstack, we were basically helping people solve the problem of how do I collect data online, right. And like you said, at that time, there were a number of different competitors that were really born at the same time, there was Wufu, that was form assembly, there was a couple other companies that were kind of forming at that same time, because a lot of people were still using word PDF documents to capture data. And there was this large dream space for opportunity. You know, think, think back 10 years ago, SAS was not as prevalent, companies like MailChimp, and those were just forming. So the way that we were kind of digitizing and moving to the digital space was was really just beginning. So for us trying to figure out in a semi crowded market, how do you how do you kind of come out Wufu was really this brand that was built around designers they had the founders had a huge design influence. They had a I think it was particle tree or something like that. That was this design community. So we had to come in and come from an angle of you know, we were Developer Focus day was a developer. And so we really came in with the power, right? What are some what are some powerful features and things that we can build, that maybe aren’t as sexy as, you know, these beautiful design forms that we’re kind of out there from a Wufu perspective, but our, our fundamental kind of understanding of the market was we want to create a powerful tool that allows people to do lots of things, workflows, and those types of things. So really, we built our, our kind of foundation on being this really powerful, simple tool that was helping people get business done, and we weren’t as sexy, but we’re proud to kind of hang our hat on that mantle of saying we help businesses, you know, collect information get business done. And that really resonated with folks, as they were kind of looking at alternatives on in the online forum space.
That reminds me of the old marketing adage of, if you appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one. And I love hearing about how you kind of identified where your strengths like this sort of alignment between the strength of the company and sort of open space and opportunity in the marketplace. And so the hey, let’s let’s kind of focus everything around that, Nick, as you have got kind of zoomed in and found your sweet spot and QMS. What are some of the things that you have done? Sort of strategically, you know, once you identified, sort of like, this is where we’re going, and this is our angle? How do you then start to kind of plant yourself as the thought leader? What’s sort of step one in that process?
Step one is really identifying kind of what Chris was saying is figuring out what the problem is that your your prospects are your prospective clients have? You need to know what are they struggling with? What are what are their big challenges, what’s keeping them up at night. And then you can put together really good content around those subjects to help educate them. At the end of the day, like I say, you’re trying to build trust and credibility. And so if you’re able to identify and really hone in on their problems, and what they’re trying to do and what they’re trying to solve, that’s, that’s a great place to start, you’ll be able to create content that’s going to be relevant and resonate with them, and then also be helpful.
What kind of strategies did you use or even tactics to get some of those insights on, like, what their problem really is? Or even maybe some of the phrases that people were using and describing their problem?
Yeah, it’s a great question. I think at the earliest days, you really don’t have an audience. And so you’re likely reaching out, maybe one by one and doing interviews, customer discovery interviews, figuring out who’s your prospect, what are their titles, what do they care about, and putting that together in a spreadsheet and understanding Alright, here, here’s the commonalities that I’m seeing, I’ve talked to 10 people. Now, these three things keep coming up again, and again, maybe these are big enough topics, or big enough categories for us to hone in on and put a breadth of knowledge out there around this certain topic or certain subject.
Chris, what are some of the things that you’ve seen work really well, you know, Nick here mentioned sort of like getting those one on one interviews in the earliest days of a startup, when maybe you just have a handful of prospects or clients? What are some of the things that you’ve done? Sort of further down the line with some of your clients? You’ve worked with that blast media?
Yeah, I think, you know, from, from working with our clients, data, data is awesome, right? Anytime you can kind of dig in. And it’s, it’s kind of interesting, that companies are sitting on a host of information that they don’t realize. So one of the questions we always ask our clients is, what do you have in your database, and your database doesn’t necessarily mean, you know, the stats of how people are using your software, but the database can be your customer service, your customer support, your helpdesk software, right? What are the questions that people are asking? Your sales team is another great source of finding thought leadership content, talking to when we onboard new clients, we typically have a call with their VP of sales, or a sales leader. And the questions that we’re asking, again, is why people buy why do they not buy? Right? What are what are the reasons that people give you that they don’t buy? And some of the some of the reasons that people don’t buy your particular service or product is really great ideas that you can put into thought leadership content. Because you know, if somebody says, Well, I’m using XYZ or I, you know, for for Formstack, for instance, I don’t see the value in changing from a paper form. Well, there’s thought leadership content that you can write that says, you know, here’s some ways that online forms are more secure than paper, right? There’s some there’s some basic nuggets that you can pull out from your sales team. But using that data that you have internally, customer support or help desk software is filled with questions that people ask you. And there’s a there’s 100 ways that you can build thought leadership content from taking a look at some of that help desk Some of those answers in your help desk, and building a top 10 reasons why people need online forms are 10, top 10 reasons why people need a QMS. Right? There’s lots of information that companies have. And oftentimes we get the answer of, well, we don’t really have any, we don’t really have any content. And it’s just a matter about digging in on some of the internal systems that you have, and figuring out, you know, how do you pull some nuggets from those things,
in sort of identifying the best channels, we’re already kind of like throwing out some ideas around content and blog posts. But there are literally probably now hundreds of different formats that any given company could use, from podcast, to video to webinars to public speaking, the list kind of goes on and on and on and on. And if if you kind of tried to do everything, that can be a recipe for disaster for a lot of companies, because if you try to do again, if you try to do everything, well, you’re gonna do nothing. Well. So how do you define? Or how do you find what some of those key tools might be in defining thought leadership? And Nick, it might be helpful just you being kind of still in that, that driver’s seat of marketing at Greenlight guru, how did you define how you’re going to start? You’ve identified this whitespace, you’ve identified your angle on it? How do you then know what the first step to take it?
Like you mentioned honing in your message, knowing what you want to say? And then the next step is really identifying. Where’s your audience? Where do they hang out? Where do they currently get their information? Like you mentioned, there’s hundreds of channels out there marketing, video content, blogs, podcasts, you name it. So you got to really prioritize? And so once you look at where’s my audience getting their information? Then you need to identify, basically, how are they consuming that content? And how can you get it in front of them, you want to go to where they are, and meet them where they are. So you can look at all these channels and prioritize you want to understand what’s the potential impact versus the potential effort that it’s going to take to reach them? And that’s really how we judge and prioritize the different channels of where we’re going. What were
some of the ways that you did that at Greenlight? Were you asking these questions in the interviews? Or were you more sort of doing some tracking and testing online? Some combination of the two?
I think at the very beginning, we were just looking at where are all the medical device resources? Where are people hanging out? Is it is it Twitter? Is it Facebook? Is it Instagram is a LinkedIn is it niche news sites, and you’re basically looking at all these different channels, and then doing some research and seeing what the engagement is seeing what the audience reach is, seeing what your potential outcome is going to be. And there’s different tools, different methods that you can do to kind of judge the size of these these different potential channels.
Chris, is there anything that you’ve used consistently to identify what outlets might be most effective from what media outlets to what particular marketing channels, I imagine that’s something that you run into a lot with blast media, working with clients, you know, getting, you can get them stories in the Wall Street Journal, you can get them stories in the New York Times. But if the customer isn’t reading those publications, then you know, that might not be the kind of media they want. And maybe that’s not the best example. But you know, if if their customers aren’t using TechCrunch, then TechCrunch media placement isn’t necessarily going to move the needle for that client. So how do you kind of figure out what channels or outlets are most important to any given brand,
Nick hit the nail on the head. But it’s really trying to figure out where your audience is, how do they receive their information? Where do they hang out? For us, what we do with all of our clients is we sit down and we do a share of voice report. And we use a tool for that. But what that share voice does is it shows you and your competitors, and the amount of media coverage that they’re getting and where they’re getting their media coverage. So what we’re able to do is we’re able to take a look at and say, you know, from a Greenlight guru perspective, you know, maybe one of their competitors is really high up in a medical trade publication. And we know that most people, like you mentioned a TechCrunch article 10 years ago was really great, you’d get a mention on TechCrunch. And people would drive to your site, and they’d have that TechCrunch effect. But really, when you’re talking about kind of verticalization of SAS, people go to kind of these vertical specific publications and outlets and communities to really understand what is my counterpart at XYZ doing right? They want to know what the best and latest is in technology and marketing and whatever it is. And so these these highly verticalized publications, we tend to focus on because that’s where people are getting their news. And that’s really where they’re getting their how to news, right? They may go to TechCrunch, or The Wall Street Journal for these big trends, and to really identify what’s happening at a, at a macro level. But from a micro level, what we found is people really go to these niche communities, these niche sites, and really want to kind of hone in on what is what is my counterpart doing. And so when we work with that share voice report, we can look at some of those outlets that drive a lot of traffic, and drive a lot of interest. And then we go back and we look at things like Google Analytics, and we look at, you know, marketing automation software that our clients are using and saying, when an article gets written about you, in a TechCrunch, what happens if it gets written about in a medical trade publication, what happens and we often find that those medical trade publications or those verticalized publications, drive a lot more traffic and drive a lot more interest for our clients. And then those general tech or trend pieces,
this is really helpful. I know, I’m might sound like I’m asking redundant questions here. But I really like the kind of like added context, when we’re talking specifically around media, and even some of the specific marketing channels that Nick you were just talking about, I think it can be really helpful, especially in a world where you can go so many different directions, to kind of say like, this is the process to pick the few directions to go in. And in the early days with Greenlight, Nick, when you were picking those couple of directions, was it sort of like you’re testing them one at a time? Or were you kind of trying to make a big splash when you enter the marketplace? And saying, like, here we are, and you’re hitting it from multiple marketing channels all at once? Or was it more of something like, Hey, let’s let’s do a small test, see how that that hits? Now, try a small tests over here and see how that hits? Do you have a personal preference of sort of strategy of marketing approach?
Yeah, I think it’s a it’s a combination of both when when you’re getting started. So you’re going to use your research, you’re going to use your intuition, you’re going to talk to other marketing mentors you might have and you might have a hunch that, hey, if I do X, Y, and Z, that’s really going to move the needle or that’s going to launch us properly. But outside of kind of doing, what you think’s going to be a best practice and seeing what that result is, as you mature. And as the company kind of grows, and you begin to scale. It really is all about experimentation. And it’s it’s clearly defining what are those experiments that you want to run? If we do ABC, what is the result? What was the traffic? What was the conversion? And ultimately, how is that converting to revenue or sales. And so it’s a balancing act, you kind of got to use your intuition, your gut your experience on what you know, and and what you seem to work. But then once you’re kind of going down the road and looking to scale and build a larger team, and oh, no, it really just grow, I think it really comes down to experimentation, you got to know what’s working, and what isn’t working, your gut only get you so far until you get to the data,
I was just gonna add on top of that, one of the things that we did at Formstack was we would put out content, and we’d test it and we’d see kind of what the lift was in some of those things that Nick mentioned. And then we would put other channels behind it. So we put a piece of content out. One of our most successful was anatomy of a landing page. And we were able to put that out. And it was it was actually it was because we went through a rebrand, we had to put something out there that was kind of we’re hoping would be viral. And it ended up being one of the most viral things that we’d ever done. But what we ended up doing was putting multiple channels. So once you test it and see that it happens, and people are accepting it in, you know, organic channels, what we do is we’d run tests, a paid test behind it. So we test on the paid search, or we test on LinkedIn ads, and we would start to gauge those channels. And really, what you’re trying to do is build a flywheel effect. And so then we would put paid behind it, and then we’d put PR behind it. And we’d really build this flywheel. And you try to see, you know, from our perspective, how long can you keep that flywheel alive? Because a lot of people put content out there, they test it, and they think, Oh, well, it didn’t perform well on this channel. But if you try multiple channels along the way, you can really get that flywheel effect, and you can make something live for a long time. And so it’s really about finding that test that works. And then testing out behind it. You know, I was always a big proponent of you test it once to see if it’s successful, then you test two or three times again, to see if you can create that flywheel and if you could create that flywheel then you can double down and you know that that’s going to drive sales or it’s going to drive traffic.
Yeah, I really love that. You know, I see a lot of startups in particular, because they are in this mode of like constantly testing different things. which is, is good, you need that. Sometimes they can kind of miss an early signal and kind of move on to the next thing before, you know, they’ll say, Oh, that was moderately successful. But it wasn’t a 10x type of a test, meaning like, the results weren’t 10x, as opposed to just writing a blog post, for instance. So then they just move on to the next thing, when instead, they could have kind of come back to that thing like, hey, we had a little bit of a success here. Why do we have success there, maybe it would be even more successful if we did a campaign on LinkedIn around this. So I really liked that concept of a flywheel. When you’re talking about that, and the example that you use, I actually remember that anatomy of a landing page piece that you guys created, I used it personally, I was in a lead marketing role at the time, I think that that was probably back in what 2010 or 11, and I was, you know, helping I think, at the time, slingshot relevance.com. With their marketing. So it’s amazing what an impact, you know, kind of hitting that right, right time, right piece of thought leadership. And it kind of goes back to an old adage that I’ve heard before, which is provide don’t promote, meaning, you weren’t necessarily like promoting Formstack as the main purpose of that piece of content, you were providing information, you’re saying, like, Hey, here’s how a landing page should be set up, here are the main elements you need to have? And like, here’s how to do each of these elements really well. When you’re talking to your clients and getting their messaging down? What are some of the ways that you’ve suggested that they sort of provide information? And is there sort of a line where maybe you’re providing too much?
I don’t think that there’s ever a line where you provide too much, I think, you know, you always want your message to tie back to your company and your brand. And like Nick said, you want it to drive results, right. But I think the more you share, the better, quite honestly, I think you’ve if you look across, you know, some industry leaders, Neil Patel, some of those guys, they they built their living on helping others, right. From our clients standpoint, what we really try to try to help them do is really build thought leadership in specific categories, and really become experts in one thing, because like you said, you can’t become an expert in all of those things. But really trying to identify what’s what’s the thing that we’re really good at? And what can we speak to with the most authority? You know, if you’re, if you’re an AI ops company, you can’t come and talk about something that’s not related to you. Right? So narrowing in on what are you really good at talking about? What’s the information that’s unique to what you have? And again, I go back to data, what’s the data that you can share with folks, people love to figure out what other companies are doing? What’s the data behind it, and when you can share those types of things, those those are the areas that that really resonate and build that thought leadership, because it’s concrete proof. It’s concrete evidence to what you’re doing in your business and what other people are doing in their business. So wherever you can provide data is always helpful. And we try to get our clients to think about what’s the what’s the unique data that we own, that we have, that can shed some light and can really build us as as thought leaders.
That’s really helpful context. And I’m curious, Nick, what are some of the ways that you’ve seen be really successful at at Greenlight? What are some of your favorite campaigns or pieces of content that you’ve put out?
I think, taking this back to the thought leadership, it really is the long play, too. And so a really good piece of thought leadership can be evergreen, right. And that’s the goal that we look at. And so one of the more successful campaigns that we’ve done is probably one of the first ones we ever did. So Greenlight guru founder, John spear, is a design control expert, probably the leading design control expert in the world. And design controls are a part of the quality system that medical device companies need to go through to bring a new product to market. And so one of the very first things that we did was leverage his expertise and his knowledge and his experience to put together the ultimate guide to design controls. And that piece has really gotten a lot of longevity for us. It ranks on Google number one, if you Google design controls ahead of the FDA. And over the years, we’ve continued to refresh it. And so like Chris is saying, and you’re saying with their campaign that you’re still talking about from 2010 If you do things right, and get it right, it really can can work in the long term and is that long play?
Yeah, I love that. The that sort of thought leadership piece that you put together with John, what are some of the pieces of advice you have with working with a founder or a subject matter expert within a company because sometimes it can be really hard to explain attract the right information, and not necessarily the right information, but figure out what the right information is to extract and how to present that in a way that’s, you know, really digestible from someone that maybe isn’t the leading expert in a, in a particular category.
I think one of the best ways that that we’ve solved it, solved it or tried to solve it is understanding that the subject matter expert is the subject matter expert, and you as the marketing leader are the marketing expert. And so it’s a combination of those two skills are both needed to have success. And so really, your job as a marketer is to pull out what is relevant, and to kind of sort through what is going to resonate and what isn’t going to resonate. The subject matter experts job is really to provide you that information that they think is going to be valuable, and leveraging their experience their knowledge. And so it’s the combination of the two, you both have a role to fill. And so then once you extract that, that good information, it’s up to you, as a marketer, to go through that and find what’s going to be good and put that in a format that’s going to be digestible, and easy to use, and that the prospects are going to resonate with, again, taking it full circle, ultimately building that trust and credibility.
Yeah, that’s, that’s a really great point, figuring out what the roles are in any given dialogue, and feeling sort of secure as a marketing leader that like, my job is marketing, their job is to be the expert. And my job as a marketer is to market that expert in the best way possible, that’s really going to drive results. Chris, do you have any examples from when you worked with Formstack? Or SignUpGenius? Or, or even your clients? Is there a particular process that you use to really sort of extract, extract the information, but then also to define sort of where those hidden gems might be and refine the message down?
Yeah, a lot of times, it’s just sitting down with somebody and doing an interview, whether it’s with a CEO, whether it’s with a product lead, or, you know, whomever, it just really sitting down and say, Okay, tell me your story. Right? Like, tell me, tell me why why you entered this market? Tell me what was the thought behind this? Tell me? Why are you passionate about this, right. And if you let people talk, we do what we call story mining sessions, we literally literally sit down with, you know, whether it’s a CEO, or whether it’s with a, a product leader, whomever, and we sit down with them, and we just kind of let them talk about their experience, their role, their vision, the path to where they are, or where they where they got to. And, and again, for as a marketer, as a PR practitioner, what you’re really trying to find is trying to suss out, what is the valuable information. And so, I think it’s really understanding, just letting people talk about their experiences. And then like Nick said, your job is to be able to extract that information. So really just sitting down in almost an interview style format, is letting people talk about their experiences and why they’re passionate about what they’re doing. And, and then you’re able to pull out the meat of of that content. And oh, go ahead.
Oh, no, I was gonna jump in there, just so we work with you guys. Blast, obviously, Chris. And we’ve done some some story mining sessions with you guys. And really going into those storming sessions. I think what’s been really important for us is understanding our goal. And so when when we sit down with you guys, and we bring in David Duran Marcio, we might have a different goal for the thought leadership content that we’re trying to put together. So David is a Smee in his own right, and it might not be around medical device quality management, most sure he’s an expert, John, is who we focus on there. With David, he’s a subject matter expert in his own right around leadership and management. And so I think going into the story mining sessions is really valuable. But it’s also very important to understand what is the goal of your thought leadership as well?
Yep, exactly. And, and that’s where it really if you if you have the goal in mind, you can ask those right questions, right? And what we do is, you know, and Nick knows, we pull out so the CEO, maybe, you know, over time as a scale up the CEO may become that that thought leader in company culture, leadership, development of talent, and your you get more product leads, VP of sales, and those folks who are, you know, specific in their areas, whereas a founding CEO may come from a very high, you know, a product background, and they’re really the product expert, and they’re the industry expert at the time. And so those roles shift, but really understanding what is the goal of that content is helpful in those in those story mining sessions.
I love the phrase story mining session. Is there a particular structure that works really well in those storming sessions or even a framework that you could share for other listeners to potentially try? With their internal team?
Yeah, so so really like, as Nick mentioned, having the goal in mind. So what is it that we really want to talk about? You know, if it’s QSR, if it’s if it’s culture, if it’s leadership, having the goal in mind, what is what’s the goal that we want to have? And then asking some leading questions. So if it’s around, you know, developing company culture developing leadership, you may ask us, you know, how did you become a leader? How did you get into a leadership role? How did you, you know, what would people say about your leadership style, having some leading questions, but again, letting people kind of talk through that. And then I think also just having the the ability to kind of shift, you know, having an agenda is good, but having the ability to kind of, and having the wherewithal to ask some follow up questions in that is, is always valuable, because somebody may drill in on a topic and you’re like, oh, there’s, there’s the meat, right, there’s, there’s the point that I really want to get to, and having the ability to kind of drill down into those specific areas. So having an agenda, having a goal in mind, and then having those follow up questions at the ready. And knowing that you can dive in on any one topic. When you hear kind of those those key points. And again, it’s about really understanding what’s the thought leadership content that we want to build, also having the the outlet in mind, right? That What’s the mechanism that we’re going to use, if it’s a, if it’s a blog post, you know, it’s pretty easy to do thought leadership around a blog post, because you can just write some basic questions down, if it’s, you know, it’s if it’s a video, if it’s a landing page, whatever it is, having that idea of what it is, where do we want to place this is really impactful, because then you know, hey, I have to be really succinct. Or if it’s a video, I can be really long with this or, you know, I can extract more information. So having that end goal in mind of where do we want this to live? And how do we want it to live is also helps build the framework for that discussion?
Yeah, I love that thinking, thinking of the outlet, starting with an outlet in mind, or the channel in mind, is really good advice. And, you know, that kind of brings me back to as, as you’re utilizing these different outlets, of course, you’re supposed to use that sort of like, provide, but less promotion sort of approach in order to kind of anchor yourself as that thought leader in your industry. But what is the right time to make the ask? Because if, if you never promote? are how are you actually capturing these leads? Or how are you actually capturing new customers and new audience? And, Nick, I’m curious to ask you like, where did you kind of draw that line? And how did you? How do you strike that balance between, you know, giving lots of free things away? But then, is there an ask there? Or is it sort of more like, hey, we give, and so intrinsically, that just sort of comes back, and people are gonna find our contact us page.
You got to design the system is the way that I look at it. And so one step in the in the system, kind of starting back at the beginning, coming up with your message, maybe step two in the system is finding your channel. And then step three in the system is going to be figuring out how are you going to capture those leads. And so one of the most simple and basic ways is really just having a call to action towards the end of your blog post or the end of your piece of content, or whatever it is, but always leading people to what is that next action? What is the final thoughts come to a conclusion, it doesn’t have to be a hard ask that do this now, or some sort of scarcity model with it. But if you’re genuinely helpful, and genuinely providing good content, then it’s a just an very natural and logical next step to provide them more information or to that next step. If you’re if your thought leadership is around QMs, and you’re talking about the top 10 issues that people have with your QMs, and how you can overcome them? Well, at the end of the solution, it’s kinda you’d be doing a disservice to your audience to not say, Oh, by the way, we have the best electronic quality management software platform out there. Here’s a link to our website, go check it out. And it’s as simple as that don’t need to be high pressure, or put anything around it, but just try to be helpful.
Yeah, and I had to I think, you know, Nick mentioned, it’s a long play. You know, what we what we try to do is we try to establish thought leadership. And for a startup, really, what you’re talking about is you’re building foundational thought leadership, right? And so it’s a matter of getting out there. For us. We use media, right? We use byline content, we use bylined articles. And you have to build this foundational layer of goodwill. And we obviously use through PR. And Nick knows it’s a long, it’s a long play. So the first time you go out with a thought leadership piece, you can’t expect people to say, Oh, he’s a thought leadership. He’s a thought leader, right? You have to build this, this progressive thought leadership Foundation, and you have to have articles out there that are written about you, you have to have byline content out there that kind of promotes the the overall the macro trends of the industry, the macro level views, and people will start to see you as a thought leader. It doesn’t happen overnight. And so as you build that foundational layer of thought, leadership, through your own content, through media, through paid content, people start to see you in the marketplace as a leader. So when you do make that ask, it’s much more natural. And Nick said, you have to you it’s a soft, ask. But as long as you’ve built that over time, then you can make that ask, if you just come out there, and you’re like, hey, here’s my landing page. Here’s my infographic on this topic. And I’m a thought leadership, I’m a thought leader, and now go to download my case study or download my white paper, so I can start to email blast you, that’s not going to work. And that’s really the thing that we work with our clients on is really building that foundational thought leadership and building your position in the market. So when you’re ready to make that ask, it comes naturally. And it happens in media all the time where, you know, somebody will be a contributor to different media outlets, vertical outlets, and then all of a sudden, they get a story written about them. A product review, which is much more, you know, that’s the ask, right? When somebody says, Here’s green light guru, here’s what they do. Here’s why QMS matters. And this is why it’s a leader in the space. So it takes time, but you have to build that foundational layer before you can go out there and really make that hard ask.
That’s really helpful advice, Chris, I was wondering, Do either of you guys have sort of inspiration, in terms of it doesn’t even necessarily need to be in your industry or industries that you’ve worked in. But just as you’ve kind of researched your own things that you’re interested in? Or found things in your own Twitter feeds or news feeds on LinkedIn? Are there any brands or people who you feel like have really positioned them well as thought leaders in their industry?
One of the things that I think is foundational to to success and getting to where you want to be is looking at who’s done it best. And studying other examples, I think it’s the best way to learn kind of the case study method. And so I’m a Constant Learner, I’m always out there looking at who’s doing the best marketing, who’s putting together the best content, how can we emulate strategies that have been effective for others. And so one of the one of the best that I’ve seen, because there’s so much overlap, or so much that’s relevant and similar to us is HubSpot. Everything from the way that they attract customers, to the type of customers that they attract. And so that’s really been someone that I’ve looked for as an example, and has provided a lot of value for me.
What do you like about their particular strategy for thought leadership? NEC?
They do it right. So it’s, it’s almost like, what are all the aspects of thought leadership, so they leverage their subject matter experts, they’re constantly putting out valuable content. They’re, they’re putting out content for different personas. And so they understand that the marketing specialist and the marketing leader might be wanting to read about different things. And you might be talking more strategy to one audience and more how tos to the other audience. They’re, they’re getting their messaging, right. And they’re getting their channels, right, as well. And so I think, to everything that we talked about what makes really good thought leadership in this in this episode, I think they’re pretty good at it.
I couldn’t agree more. I’m very impressed with how they’ve really grown that brand and almost created a community of content marketers or inbound marketers around that particular brand. Chris, do you have any favorites that are sort of thought leadership superheroes to you?
Yeah, to come to mind for me. The first is Ann Handley. You know, I know you’re familiar with her. I think she’s done a good job of building really, that that content, thought leadership, which is, I don’t know, meta insert in some ways, right? But she’s done a really good job of building a community around you know, how do you how you provide content and what is content and what is how you develop content, and she’s done a really good job of just sharing practical like Nick said, practical Well how tos. But she also brings a layer of this credibility because she’s created a community she’s creating. She has data that she shares through marketing props and things like that. She’s written a book, and she’s able to leverage her expertise in the realm of content creation. And she’s just, she’s out there as a thought leadership as a thought leader. But she’s also built that as a, you know, over the course of the last 10 years, she’s really been out there, just building that, like I talked about that foundational layer. And then all of a sudden, people took her as an expert. And then she wrote a book, and now she’s got this community. But she’s done it in layers, with all of the channels that she has. The other is a guy that I’ve seen at at sastra. And he actually just spoke at high off was LOA events. Aaron levy from box. Now, obviously, when you’re a billion dollar company, and you have a platform, it’s a lot easier to build that to be a thought leader. But I think he’s done a good job of, you know, he’s he’s at 100 pound gorilla in Dropbox that he competes with. But what he’s done a good job is kind of carving out this cloud storage space for the enterprise. And he’s talked about, you know, whether it was by by force of hand because of Dropbox, or by, you know, a strategic decision, he built, that thought leadership of why the enterprise needs to move to the cloud and cloud storage. And even if you look at him now, through his Twitter feed through his speaking, he’s just a really good face of box. And he has good industry insights, he’s built a, you know, he jokes that a million of his Twitter followers 90% are are bots. But people really react to what he says out there. But he’s done it a really good smart way in the enterprise space, which, you know, enterprise software is not sexy. Anybody who works in enterprise software will say it’s not a sexy space. But he’s been able to make it sexy because of the personality. And by building that over time, and I think he and Anne have done a really good job of kind of building themselves up over time and building that, you know, that that leadership of, of their industries?
Well, I want to acknowledge you, Chris, because you’ve worked with so many enterprise software companies over the years, and you’ve consistently made the unsexy, somehow sexy and approachable. And traditionally, have you worked with sort of like more than enterprise scale business? But I know blast media just launched something specifically for startups? Could you tell me a little bit more about that?
Yeah, so we, you know, I’ve talked about building that foundational thought leadership really for, you know, as Nick talked about, when you’re scaling, it’s, it’s all about putting your industry experts out there, and you have this kind of built in, you know, you have this built in network of knowledge because of where you are in scale. On the on the startup side, what we’re really working with is, is helping those startups really build that that that foundational thought leadership, we do that through content, we do that through just earned media, through PR. But it’s really about positioning these startups as thought leaders in their space, because most, when you come out, you come out as a startup and these two kind of scenarios, right? You come out, and you’ve got an 800 pound gorilla, and you have to build yourself up as credible against those existing companies, or you come out and you’re building, you’re defining or redefining a market, right. And when you’re doing that, it’s very, very hard. And people don’t know, it’s not just the marketing that gets you to build that thought leadership, you really have to have something behind you. And what we’re hoping to do is we’re really hoping to build that foundational layer for startups to really help them understand how can thought leadership help you? How can you leverage that to grow your business and to come out and really make an impact on your business? And so, you know, it’s, for us, it’s self serving, obviously, because we love to work with these clients. And you know, that’s our business but, but really, we see the value of startups coming out building a thought leadership platform, through earned media through content that they own, and really developing that flywheel like I talked about. And once you build that flywheel, it’s really about how do you scale the flywheel. And so that’s what we’re hoping to do with our startup in our startup program.
I love it. I’m super excited to hear about it, and hear that you have that now as an option for startups to take advantage of. And it’s cool to even see some of that kind of come to life within the powderkeg community and some of the clients that you’re working with there. Nick, I wanted to say thank you for being willing to share in the trenches, you know, sometimes it can be hard to share some of the best secrets that are really helping with with startup success and I agree Shit. You being willing to kind of pull back the veil on some of the magic you’ve got going on there at Greenlight?
Yeah, absolutely, man. I appreciate you having me. This is. It’s been really good. Really fun. Thanks, Chris as well.
Absolutely. We’ll have to have both of you back on here soon.
Awesome. Thank you, Matt. I appreciate it.
That’s it for today’s show. I want to say thank you again for joining us for today’s episode. Also huge thanks to Chris Lucas of blast media and Nick Titman. Of Greenlight guru for sharing all of their wisdom on all things about thought leadership marketing. You can follow them on Twitter at Chris underscore, C underscore Lucas, and at blast media. And then Nick, you can just follow at N. That’s N as in Nick Titman. And then, of course, at Greenlight guru, we’ll have that all linked up in the show notes. So make sure you check those out on powderkeg.com. And to be among the first to hear the stories about entrepreneurs, investors, and other tech leaders outside of Silicon Valley. Subscribe to us on email@example.com forward slash iTunes. We’ll catch you next time on powderkeg igniting startups