How to make thought leadership work for your tech company

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Jess Shanahan is a content strategist and founder of Jet social where she works with technology and e-mobility brands.

You’ve no doubt heard the phrase “content is king,” but what does that actually mean and how can you use it in the tech world? Good, according to marketing charts, 52% of B2B buyers say they are “definitely” more likely to buy from a brand once they read its content. This presents an opportunity for tech startups and software companies to win over buyers.

In the context of technology content marketing, there are two types of thought leadership. The first is brand-driven content designed to position the company as a leader as a whole – this can take the form of white papers or reports. Perhaps even simpler is personal thought leadership. This is where individuals within the company create content around their own expertise.

Contents

Identify thought leaders

It’s not just a company’s CEO who should post thought leadership content. Throughout my years in this industry, I’ve worked with people from all areas of technology companies, from scrum masters to chief technology officers to engineers. While the leadership team may have interesting insights into running a tech company, startup culture, or managing teams, don’t overlook the contribution of others within the company.

Creating a Thought Leadership Strategy

Thought leadership should fit into your broader marketing strategy, but you should consider the specific goals and audience of each piece you create. What’s interesting is that B2B content typically only converts when someone is close to signing up. Despite this, many companies are focusing their attention on moving people through that funnel.

According to DataBox, 67% of B2B content marketers say top-of-funnel content is their main focus. This type of content is designed to draw more attention to your brand and thus build expertise. It’s also a lot less competitive than content at the bottom of the funnel, where the keywords tend to be more contentious.

Consider these things as you build your thought leadership strategy.

• Who is your audience?

• What are their pain points?

• What is the purpose of each article?

• At which moments in the buyer journey do you want to create content?

• What should potential customers know at each stage of that journey?

• What key messages do you want to hold on to for consistency?

• How will you address your audience and what tone of voice will they respond to?

As you begin to answer these questions, you can envision the kind of content you need to create, but there’s one key element to remember: write to help.

While it’s fine to talk about your experiences and lean on your expertise, thought leadership is not a sales exercise. Yes, some articles can be converted, but the main goal is to establish your credibility. This often means letting go of your business agenda and simply writing articles designed to help or inform.

With this in mind, think about the challenges your target audience is currently facing. For example, if your company offers software company optimization tools, you could create articles about eliminating bottlenecks and increasing efficiency when working with large data sets. This is something relevant to your business, but the piece as a whole will help those facing those specific challenges.

Segment your content

Once you know a little more about your target audience and the content they might find useful, it’s important to segment your content. This will make it as impactful as possible. If your audience includes C-suite executives, software developers, and UX designers, you’ll want to engage those people in slightly different ways. For example, you can be more technical when writing content aimed at developers. It’s also worth segmenting based on one’s place in the sales funnel.

In the work I do, I divide this into three areas.

Conscience

This is where the majority of leadership falls, as it’s about getting your expertise and company noticed by new people.

Example headlines:

• How AI will revolutionize software development

• The technology trends that will shape the future of the automotive industry

• Improve labor force participation with remote operations

While these headlines are still quite specific, they are intended to inform and educate while remaining on-topic for the target audience.

Consideration

This content is for people who already know they need the type of thing you offer, but have not yet made a final decision to purchase.

Example headlines:

• How developers can use AI to work more efficiently

• Why open standards will change the automotive industry

• How to bring autonomous technology to the warehouse

These examples are a bit more specific. While each still focuses on a particular industry, it’s clear that they contain even more actionable information that addresses the audience’s pain points.

Decision

This content is for those who have made a decision to buy but are looking at the different options available to them.

Example headlines:

• Three things you should know before implementing AI optimization tools

• Case study: how [Company] Doubled its sales in one year

• Autonomous technology that keeps people informed

Most of the decision segment is likely to be case studies or content more specific to your product.

Remember your goals

When I first started writing content, I often let the client dictate what we wrote and when, but I quickly found that it didn’t have as much impact as we both wanted. Now I don’t work with a company unless they already have a strategy or are willing to work with me to create one. Thought leadership can be incredibly powerful, but only when done right.

Even if a strategy is in place, before you write (or send the assignment to your ghostwriter), think about the purpose of that piece of content. Think about the expertise you share and how that will help your audience. With this in mind, you can create a successful piece of thought leadership content whether you publish it on your company blog, LinkedIn, or elsewhere.


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