Over the last five years, the SaaS industry has grown fast.
Because the software that leading SaaS companies provide tends to be very useful for most businesses.
In an overcrowded and constantly changing market, those who work within the sector are constantly seeking expertise and leadership. By SaaS industry standards, innovative ideas, opinions and insight gained from experience and study are both respected and sought after.
The concept of “thought leadership” was summed up by American businessman Joel Kurtzman, the then editor-in-chief of the strategy+business magazine in 1994.
“A thought leader is recognized by peers, customers and industry experts as someone who deeply understands the business they are in, the needs of their customers and the broader marketplace in which they operate,” he said.
And so, the term ‘thought leader’ has since become a buzzword for SaaS businesses.
For the reasons cited above, we’ve taken a look at the intersection between SaaS and thought leadership, and how SaaS businesses can leverage it effectively to build industry credibility.
Why is thought leadership important?
Thought leadership for tech companies is a valuable means of generating a trustworthy relationship with customers and potential leads.
And once this trust has been gained, customers will do the SaaS PR work for you: whether this means sharing content, building up a social media following or advocating for the business through word of mouth.
Once a SaaS business’ customers become loyal, it becomes easier for them to sell, form partnerships and conduct other forms of marketing.
Individuals such as Brian Halligan, the founder and CEO of Hubspot, and Neil Patel, co-founder of multi-million dollar software companies Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, Kissmetrics and Quicksprout, are both considered to be thought leaders in the SaaS industry. And, throughout this process, they have both helped to raise the profiles of their businesses.
But how did they get there?
1. Bylined articles
One way SaaS business leaders have become thought leaders is by getting their bylines out into the public sphere.
This can be done simply by pitching guest articles to editors of tech-focused or SaaS-related publications, most of which welcome contributions.
Publishing articles that carry an aspiring thought leader’s byline can be a great way to include a company backlink in an article, or simply build up a reputation for SaaS leaders, who — by having articles published in their names — will begin to rank higher in Google searches.
However, for individuals with thought leader aspirations, it’s no use just writing any old content. Those at the forefront of leading SaaS companies must publish articles that will be of particular use to their customers, answering their questions and providing value.
They must be focused, informative and well-organized, so that readers will not just simply digest the content, but also find some valuable takeaways that they can put to use in their own companies.
SaaS thought leaders such as Slack founder and Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield have demonstrated the value of building up a byline through articles in news outlets such as Inc Magazine.
2. White Papers
For leading SaaS companies looking to foster thought leadership, another way to brand themselves as a voice of authority is to start publishing white papers.
White papers come in the form of reports, or guides, which are used to inform readers about a complex business-related issue and present the publishing body’s position on the matter.
While researching for white papers can take some time, the results pay off. In fact, 50 percent of businesses rank white papers among the top three most effective content marketing tactics, according to a survey conducted by the Content Marketing Institute.
“Guest articles are quite often the first choice for thought leadership activity, but in reality there’s only so much you can get across in 1500 words — especially if it’s a dense subject,” Publicize’s very own editorial director, Katie Koyn, told us.
On the other hand, “white papers allow you to cover a topic in extreme detail and in turn showcase just how deep your expertise really goes,” she added, explaining the importance of white papers for Publicize’s SaaS PR clients.
Newsletters are like mini magazines for SaaS companies, helping them to package their thought leadership around industry debates and conversations in the best way possible.
The format of a SaaS newsletter allows companies to curate the content in an easy way for customers to digest, and send it directly to their inboxes.
Not only do newsletters create loyal communities, they are also a good way to show off any infographics and audiovisual material that the company has produced, which also help with engagement.
Successful SaaS industry newsletters include The Daily Egg newsletter, the content-producing sector of the website optimization company, Crazy Egg.
4. Best-practice blogs
For SaaS companies, blogging is also an easy and fast way to build up thought leadership.
A well-fleshed out owned media strategy, like thought-pieces around the latest SaaS trends on your in-house blog, can be the driving force behind demonstrating your SaaS expertize.
Whether blog posts are challenging industry assumptions, like some posts by Intercom, inspiring independent thinking, or publishing self-conducted studies and surveys, like Hubspot, the platform is a perfect space to think aloud, and simultaneously share it with customers.
Finally, when it comes to building up SaaS companies’ status within the industry, with webinars, the proof is in the pudding.
Given that webinar hosts must have some level of industry authority, webinars are a great chance to showcase that talent and thought leadership.
As a marketing tactic, webinars can also be useful for building up email lists — which can be used for newsletters — they can be recorded and used to encourage customers to revisit, and there’s also the opportunity for them to become paid products eventually.
SaaS thought leadership can lead to a number of exciting opportunities for SaaS business’, particularly SaaS startups and industry newcomers.
Whether you’re looking to acquire funding through an accelerator, form a partnership with an established tech company, or simply generate more visibility for your brand, thought leadership is often the sharpest tool in the SaaS PR shed.
If SaaS thought leadership is the top of your business’ agenda — whether your writing guest articles in SaaS niche publications, producing a series of white papers, or creating in-house thought-pieces — these PR tactics can become the building blocks for developing your SaaS credibility in the industry.