How to be a Thought Leader

This is article #43 out of 50 in The Startup Marketing Playbook.

When you are building a product in startup mode, nobody knows who you are. If you’re following an inbound marketing playbook, you’re creating a story, establishing your messaging and creating content to attract targets to your website to convert them to leads. As you create more content, you’ll start to earn more brand authority and trust in your market. If you are creating quality content that provides unique and valuable insight to your target persona‘s problems, you will start to become a thought leader. Here is how it works:

1. Identify your thought leader

To establish a thought leader persona, you need to identify a person that will be the face of your brand and the go-to “thought leader” for whatever problem your product is solving. This may be your CEO, VP of Marketing or Founder. Once this person is selected, they should be the face of content. That means:

  • Make them the “from name” for all email campaigns
  • Include their photo at the bottom of each email signature
  • Credit them as the author of ebooks
  • Have them host webinars
  • Have them write blog posts (and always be credited as the author)
  • Ensure they frequently interact with customers and partners

2. Create content

As you’re cranking up your inbound marketing engine, you’re going to be creating lots of content. This content should echo your story and hammer home the value proposition of your product. The thought leader should have a hand in outlining or drafting the content, and always be credited as the author.

3. Host webinars and podcasts

Your thought leader needs to establish their name. One of the most effective and inexpensive ways to do so is through running webinars. Typically the thought leader acts as the “host” and invites other industry evangelists or customers as guests.

4. Maintain weekly emails, always sent from your leader

Each week of inbound marketing campaigns include email blasts. These should always be sent from the thought leader with their headshot photo included in the email signature. This makes them infamous among your lead list because they see his/her name and photo in their email every single week.

5. Accept email replies and converse

When prospects reply to email blasts, those replies should be routed to the thought leader. He/she should take the time to provide thoughtful responses.

6. Join panels at events

We’ve covered quite a bit about the value of in-person events in this series. Having your thought leader attend events as a speaker or panelist can make a big impact. Of course, your marketing team should summarize whatever the leader talks about and turn it into ebooks and webinars.

7. Identify other industry thought leaders and support their initiatives

Go where the other thought leaders are. Spend time with them and understand their initiatives — perhaps they are running their own webinar or publishing a book. Help them promote it and get invited to join their panels.

8. Be active on social media

Finally, maintain an active social media presence on whatever channels are most relevant for targets in your market. Share interesting external content and provide commentary on content that relates to your product.

Ultimately, building a thought leader persona is just like developing a personal brand. When accomplished effectively, it is intertwined with the rest of your marketing growth goals, and pays off strongly in the long run as the company gains more trust and authority in the industry.


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