What is thought leadership? Another buzzword bulking up your content marketing mission? An elusive term we’d all like to think we’re masters of? Becoming a thought leader in your industry simply means that people respect you (and come to you) as an authority on your subject matter.
If you’re looking for true thought leadership inspiration, look no further than SaaS (Software as a Service). The SaaS industry has produced some of the most influential best-practice business blogs you’ll ever read. We dissect two of our favourite SaaS content marketing strategies below and examine the unique elements that make them true thought leadership material.
Rather than emulating what other people are writing and teaching, learn how to position your brand as the go-to expert in your industry.
1. Intercom: Inside Intercom Blog
What is Intercom & Why Visit The Blog?
Intercom is contextual communication at its best. It’s an all-in-one software solution that helps every team in a business communicate with customers personally at scale. Businesses can filter for specific actions their customers take on their website and on their app to help them segment lists and create personalised messages that reach customers at the right point of the life-cycle.
Visit the Inside Intercom Blog for fresh thinking about customer service, personalised and contextual messaging, growing a company (specifically a SaaS company), hiring differently, designing and conceptualising better products, increasing conversion rates, thinking independently and lots more.
What Makes Intercom a Thought Leader? Best Practice Tips from Intercom Experts:
The Inside Intercom Blog does exactly what it says: it provides an inside look at the inner workings, learnings and thoughts at Intercom. Everyone in the company is encouraged to become a thought leader in their area and to blog about their experience, their learnings and their opinions. That means that some of the best product experts in the world teach people how to make better products and master marketers show people how to create messages that convert, etc. The blog also includes case studies of how businesses have achieved success with the Intercom product, providing inspiration for businesses and best-practice tips.
Controversial Posts That Test Industry Assumptions:
You can look forward to the kind of insight that comes with experience – the Intercom staff don’t merely look at other blogs for their inspiration, they look inside their own heads and back at their own mistakes and successes. They’re not scared to be controversial either and if they think a product can be improved upon they say it, providing well-thought-out explanations and alternatives.
Inspiration for Innovation & Independent Thinking:
Inside Intercom helps product designers, marketers, customer support staff and engineers challenge industry assumptions and look at their best loved products in a whole new light. However, the most inspirational thing about the Intercom blog is that it helps practitioners think for themselves. It reminds professionals and aspiring professionals that the most innovative work happens when you challenge assumptions and think, ‘how can that be different, better, more helpful?’
Industry Events & Educational Videos:
Thought leadership at Intercom extends far beyond the blog. Staff are encouraged to become thought leaders in their areas of expertise and many speak at industry events, including Intercom’s own events. Intercom provides a range of short instructional and educational videos to help people use its product and create better and more personalised messages. As part of its lead generation efforts, Intercom has also written a book, ‘Intercom on Product Management’ to help product managers make better business decisions.
Examples of Thought Leadership Posts:
- One of their most popular posts (great for its controversial nature, yet honesty): Growth Hacking is Bull****
- An inside (and alternative) look at how Intercom hire for culture fit: How We Hire Engineers, Part 2: Culture Contribution
- How a staff member would change Google Analytics for the better: Four Things I Wish Every Chart Did
- An inside look at Intercom’s content strategy: Doubling Down on Content
How to Think Like Intercom:
- Don’t be scared to be controversial (if you can back up your argument with solid reason).
- Ask yourself how you can think fresh – before you research other people’s content, play with the ideas in your own head.
- If you have talented people working for you let them blog about their areas of expertise and what they’ve learned.
- Extend your thought leadership beyond your blog – consider webinars, industry events and lead generating ebooks, etc.
- Encourage and inspire professionals to think for themselves.
- Give away your best ideas – you’ll get rewarded with traffic and loyal customers who become emotionally invested in your brand.
- Blog as you learn.
2. HubSpot: Marketing Blog
HubSpot is an inbound marketing software platform that helps businesses attract visitors, convert leads and close customers. Businesses can create optimised blog posts with strong CTAs, run lead generation campaigns and analyse their results all from the one platform. HubSpot coined the term inbond marketing as a way to revolutionise marketing through attraction rather than interruption.
Visit the HubSpot Marketing Blog to read actionable how-to posts about all elements of inbound marketing. You can look forward to infographics containing recent studies, digital marketing psychology posts, self-conducted marketing studies, survey information and a fun and light-hearted tone. Topics include: content marketing, SEO, Google Analytics, company culture and lots more.
What Makes HubSpot a Thought Leader? Self-Conducted Studies & Industry Surveys:
The HubSpot Marketing Blog teaches businesses how to do inbound marketing like HubSpot does. The staff test various inbound industry assumptions (for example, shorter headlines perform better in terms of clicks and shares) and publish their findings to help people become better inbound marketers. HubSpot also creates regular industry surveys on the state of inbound marketing, collating an array of inbound stats that digital marketers can quickly consult to inform their own inbound marketing decisions or include in their own articles.
Useful Tools & Influential Guest Contributions:
The expert staff (many of them inbound marketers themselves) publish consistent conversational and fun content that’s light in tone, yet heavy on actionable advice. However, HubSpot doesn’t just utilise its internal knowledge – the blog is open to a community of inbound marketing experts, allowing external submissions, yet upholding very strict quality guest blogging guidelines. HubSpot creates helpful (and free) industry tools to help businesses become better inbound marketers, viewing helpful tools as content too.
Educational & Demonstration Webinars:
To support its lead generation goals, HubSpot keeps an eye on industry trends and creates in-depth ebooks for specific target audiences demanding inbound marketing knowledge. Businesses and inbound marketing learners can enjoy two types of webinars – educational webinars teaching them best-practice digital marketing tips and demonstration webinars showing them how to use the HubSpot platform effectively. Individuals working in inbound marketing or seeking a new inbound marketing career can also visit the HubSpot learning academy, watch the how-to videos and get certified.
Examples of Thought Leadership Posts/Tools:
- Self-conducted study with published findings: The Anatomy of a Shareable, Linkable & Popular Post: A Study of Our Marketing Blog
- Guest post from industry influencer, Neil Patel: How to Write an Author Bio That Doesn’t Suck
- Free tools for inbound marketers: Marketing Grader, Make My Persona Tool, Inbound Rank
- Inbound Ebook for finance marketers: The Little Book of Inbound for Finance Marketers
How to Think Like HubSpot:
- Conduct your own tests and publish your findings that other businesses can learn from.
- Don’t be scared to challenge your own assumptions)
- Consider educational webinars that teach best practice tips for your industry and demonstration webinars that teach people how to use your product (or maybe consider both).
- Identify industry trends and create content that satisfies your target audience’s search intent.
- Define an authentic and original tone to help readers recognise and warm to your brand.
- A conversational and fun, yet authoritative tone helps build an emotional connection with your audience.
- Remember that free tools are content too – is there a useful tool you can create to help your customers become better at business, for example?
- Open up your blog for expert guest blogging (but ensure you keep you maintain a high guest blogging standard).
Becoming a thought leader is about thinking differently. It means challenging assumptions, fighting for what you believe in and not being scared to be first. It’s about keeping ahead of your competition, identifying trends, continuously testing and learning. After all, the best content you can provide your audience with are the lessons you’ve learned yourself.