When we embark on the epic journey of founding a startup, it’s easy to get caught up on the nuts and bolts of how it’s all going to work.
- What problem we’re solving and for whom
- How the software will be designed
- What functionality it will have
- How it should be priced
- How to hire the right team
- How to find an aligned investor, and so on.
We can get so wrapped up in what’s happening internally on the product development side of the track that we forget about the other side of the track we need to be moving along simultaneously.
The organic marketing side.
What most founders don’t understand – until they realise they should have started a lot earlier – is how important it is to become a thought leader in the space they’re wanting to disrupt.
Too many founders think “the product will speak for itself” until, when the moment of truth arrives, they see that it does not.
At least, not in the beginning.
Like successfully moving a train along its track, your startup’s path to Product-Market Fit requires you to complete milestones along two parallel rails simultaneously.
1. The product development rail
2. The organic marketing railDisregarding either side of the track results in a lopsided startup.
Falling behind on the product-development side leaves you without a properly scalable solution, meaning you’re drastically limiting the potential value of your business.
Neglecting the organic marketing side leaves you with a potentially brilliant product that no one understands – and therefore no one buys.
It means you have a product ready but you’re starting from scratch when it comes to educating the market about the problems in the space and why your solution matters.
This can unnecessarily delay your company growth by years.
The big message for founders?
Becoming a thought leader in your space is the first step on your organic marketing journey.
The earlier you start, the better for your business.
You can begin showing up as a thought leader with just an idea about the space you want to disrupt – well before you’ve uncovered the pants-on-fire problem and beachhead market segment you’ll get to Product-Market Fit with.
But for many of us, being a thought leader does not come naturally – which then begs the question: How do I actually become a thought leader in my space?
Here’s a step-by-step process for you.
1. Open up a spreadsheet in Excel or Google Docs, label rows A→Z down the left-hand side, and create the following columns:
Name | Posts Page | Website | What They Do
2. Pick 10 to 20 (or more) people who you believe really know what they’re talking about in your industry and record their details in alphabetical order by name on this spreadsheet (or, however you wish to sort them).
The “posts page” column is for you to record the URL of their LinkedIn posts page (or the content page of whatever social media platform they’re most active on).
3. Go to their LinkedIn profile and hit their bell icon (just underneath their banner on the right-hand side) so you get notified of all their posts.
4. Scroll down to the middle of their profile where it says “show all activity” or “show all posts.” Click that, and it will take you to their posts page.
5. Copy that URL and paste it into the “posts page” column of your spreadsheet next to their name, website, and summary of what they do.
6. Then, every few days, click on the posts page links of all the people you’ve recorded in your spreadsheet, which will take you straight to the recent content they’ve created.
Leave meaningful comments on their posts that add value to anyone else reading the content and take the conversations forward in some way.
7. Once you’ve spent a couple of weeks doing this, you can work up to creating posts of your own and invite others to weigh in on your points of view in the comments of your posts.
“But what constitutes a meaningful comment?”
“How do I know if I’m really adding value on someone’s post?”
“How do I know I’m taking the conversation forward?”
These are common questions that accompany the initial imposter syndrome of airing your own thoughts publicly for the first time – and there’s an approach you can borrow to be sure you’re engaging in a valuable way.
This tactic is called the “Yes And / Yes But” approach, which I first came across from a leadership coach named Matt Church.
The concept is simple.
1. Take two note pads and write “Yes and….” at the top of one, and “Yes but…” at the top of the other.
2. Open them up when you start reading and watching the content from the people you recorded on your spreadsheet.
3. As you consume their content, on the “Yes and…” pad, mention something you agree with and add your own experience or perspective.
4. On the “Yes but…” pad, add something that is contradictory to what they said and why you don’t totally agree.
5. Then, turn these points of view into meaningful comments on their posts.
Those are your original thoughts and perspectives, and that’s what makes you a thought leader.
Once you’ve given yourself enough opportunity to practice getting your original and value-added thoughts out publicly, the next logical step is to start a regular email newsletter (also published to your website) expanding on your unique knowledge and experience in the space.
This might begin before or during your solution concept development, or it might happen after your product creation is underway.
The goal is to create a corner of the internet that you own that houses your unique knowledge, experience, perspectives, ideas, and solutions in the space you’re aiming to disrupt.
That way, as your product reaches higher levels of maturity, the market has simultaneously gained higher levels of understanding about you and your solution and why it’s set to play an important role in their lives.
If you’re a founder and you haven’t already started carving out your position as a thought leader in your industry, let 2024 be the year you do it.
Whenever you’re ready, here’s how we can help you.
If you’ve got a startup idea, or you’ve already embarked on your journey – you might be facing one or both of these situations.
1. You’re struggling while going it alone, unsure of who to turn to for advice.
2. You’re wading in the muddy waters of some not-so-great advice, wondering how to move out of that situation and into better guidance.
If you’re ready to get the help you need growing your startup, our Startup Builder™ solution was created especially for you.
The Startup Builder™ process is specifically designed to take you from idea to global success – in a way that’s simple, sustainable, and scalable.
If you’re ready to grow your revenue, profit, and social impact faster without wasting time and money on the wrong things at the wrong time, share your situation with us by filling out this short questionnaire and we’ll get in touch with your next steps.
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