I recently attended a fascinating event held at a marketing company, specializing in PR and marketing for startup companies in the cleantech space.
Now I recognize the necessity of marketing (as separate from sales), and I understand how much of it (nearly all of it?) is done online these days. But my goodness, I could spend my entire working time on the computer doing marketing, if I followed all the “best practices” as outlined! Hmm, I guess that’s why even small companies find value in a dedicated marketing person… 🙂
One of the audience asked a very thoughtful question: “Many times startup companies are operating in ‘stealth’ mode, to avoid showing their hand before their product is ready. But how then to build a marketing buzz or excitement, or establish yourself in the market, while dealing with that kind of restriction?”
The answer I found quite relevant – it has to do with a concept of establishing yourself specifically (as the CEO) or your company in general as a “thought leader” in the industry. The idea is that you should have an online presence as YOURSELF, and build your reputation as an expert in your field, and then when you DO announce the launching of your startup, people pay attention because they already pay attention to YOU.
Now I follow quite a few blogs on entrepreneurship – mostly written by VCs. It never occurred to me that this is what they might be doing. And here I thought they were just sharing their knowledge for, you know, the good of mankind… 🙂 But really the purpose is to engage with the community you want to be a part of – your customers, your financiers, your potential partners. And to keep abreast of what your competitors are doing.
Ways that were reccomended to establish yourself as a “thought leader” included:
– post regular blog entries on your own blog, pertinent to your field
– participate in other conversations by publishing response pieces to other postings or timely news articles
– post comments on other blogs and articles
– talk to analyst once a quarter (they will try to sell your their services, but there is a lot you can gain by talking to them, and it is their JOB to talk to you about the field if you are making a difference)
– when attending conferences, participate in twitter with updates and hashtags
This mindset is very different than academia – where to establish yourself there as a thought leader, your goal is to get journal papers in prestigious places and to be invited to speak (bonus for keynote speeches).
Now of course I am biased because I am a hardcore techie at heart – but it does strike me as suspicious that one can do all the things in the “thought leader” list without actually being, you know, an expert in your field. Whereas one hopes, at least, that in order to get prestigious journal papers and grants and whatnot, you do actually have to display some technical depth.
However my cynical self notes that there is more than enough politics in academia to go around, and that in business people are smart enough to distinguish the real leaders as well.
Do you find it personally useful to develop a reputation online, and if so how do you go about it?