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The Importance of Thought Leadership

Keith Shields July 19, 2016

When it comes to your startup or small to mid-size business, are you a thought leader in your space?

We get it. Odds are, your brain is 110% occupied with delivering on promises to clients, marketing your services, or advertising your product. How could you possibly have the time to prove to random internet folk that you actually know what you’re doing?

Is it even that important to do so?

With any luck, this post will serve as your handy guide for navigating this question.

The Reality

The truth of the matter is that the modern landscape of business – regardless of what particular industry or niche you’re in – is hyper-competitive. Especially when it comes to digital companies and products, there have never been so many brands competing for attention.

And that is precisely why you need a leg up whenever you can get it. This is precisely where becoming a thought leader can help.

To prove it, we spent the last few months ramping up Designli’s “thought leadership” efforts in an attempt to gain valuable insights to be shared here on our blog.

A Case Study: Experimenting with Designli’s Voice

When thinking about Designli’s positioning in the mobile app development industry a few months ago, we noticed that we were making a significant splash among those whose projects we worked on (i.e. our past clients) and their immediate social circles. Word of mouth referrals were booming, and continue to do so as our number of satisfied clients continue to increase. In our hometown of Greenville, South Carolina, startups and small to mid-size companies continue to turn to Designli to make their custom software development experience more streamlined.

Indeed, the value-add we offer is substantial. We offer certainty in an otherwise uncertain process, where app development almost always extends over timeline and balloons over original budget. But, frankly, other companies and competitors had a more distinct voice in the marketplace.

Designli needed to branch out into niches that had not yet been addressed, to snuggle up with reporters whom could spotlight Designli’s services in their publications, and to hammer out a schedule for more frequent unique content creation and curation.

How did we begin to chunk away at this long and arduous task, you ask?

Priority 1: Unique, Regularly Scheduled Content Creation

When things get busy, [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]the first thing to drop off a company’s priority list is updating their blog[/inlinetweet]. This makes sense, and is something we were (are?) guilty of as well (just check the time stamps of the past posts here on our own blog!). Other than saying “make it a priority!”, there are a few things you can – and should – do to make blog posting more regular:

  • Create a compensation structure for your employees to help out with the blog. Not only is it good to have your company as a whole become a thought-leader in your space, but you can also help facilitate in making each member of your team a thought leader themselves, too. The more expertise your employees grow – and show – relating to their particular job, the better that reflects on your company as a whole. If you offer a small sum of money for every successfully posted blog article, you can offer an effective salary booster for your team members but also allow your employees to exercise the creative sides of their brains. You’d be paying a freelance writer for original content anyway, so why not reward your direct employees for being involved in this process instead?
  • Think of yourself as a marketing / media company. Every business runs off of sales, and sales are generated by mustering up interest in your product or service. Generating unique, original content is a fantastic way to generate traffic. Understanding that your business longevity depends on your marketing efforts will raise the priority level of content creation in your brain.
  • Does all of the above fail? If so, take yourself out of the content creation loop and implement a process instead. Establish a content creation system that can run on auto-pilot by finding a freelance writer who has expertise in your niche, and shell out $150 to $200 per highly relevant, SEO keyword-stuffed article.

In Designli’s particular case, you may have noticed a more regular posting regimen: all our posts are posted at the same time Tuesday morning, every single week, and we haven’t missed a week since we began this policy. You’ll be shocked how rewarding a regular posting schedule is.

Priority 2: Relevant Content Curation

Creating content is one thing. Curating is another. In addition to blasting your own blog posts to your social media profiles the moment they are posted to the public, you should also get into the habit of posting relevant content from other sources too.

You’re a media company, remember?

By ensuring not every single post on your socials is another self-promotion, you’ll gain followers who value your page for the interesting and relevant posts you share. Of course, sneaking in a shameless brag, company milestone, or blog update is something you should absolutely do. But, [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]keep things interesting to your target customer and you’ll be surprised how quickly your follower base grows.[/inlinetweet]


To enact this as a priority within Designli, we signed up for a Hootsuite subscription, allowing us to manage all of our social media profiles (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram – oh my!) in one place. Otherwise, you’ll waste your valuable time by having to log into each profile, one at a time, multiple times per day.

Priority 3: Guest Posts and Press Mentions

In your quest to establish world domination, [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]it’s important to show your thought leadership by being mentioned in the press[/inlinetweet].  If a well-renowned writer or website is writing an article on your industry or a relevant topic, you should strive to have your company name be mentioned there.

The simplest place to start is to participate in guest posting. There are a handful of popular websites like that exist due to allowing freelance writers (that’s you!) to contribute original articles to their site. In exchange, these sites will allow you to have an author byline, where you can shamelessly proclaim your expertise and pitch your service or product. Needless to say, this builds back links which is an important metric in your website’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization), or, appearing high in Google search results.

We believe in the power of guest posting and is an example of where articles by our team can be viewed.

Next up – and something that takes a bit more due diligence and consistent time input – is being mentioned in relevant articles in the press.

Believe it or not, there are services that connect reporters who need expert input with such experts to be quoted in their articles. We gave a service called “Help A Reporter Out” a try, signing up as a Source, and the results have been very promising so far.

HARO logo - Help a Reporter Out

Sure, when a reporter posts an ‘ask’ looking for a source to quote, they get barraged with replies. But if you reply with thoughtful-enough tips and quotes, this is a great way to build mentions and back links to your website.

As an example, we’ve replied to relevant HARO inquiries for one month now, and we’ve been mentioned in a few pertinent places:

  1. Experts Weigh In: What types of insurance do you protect your small business with?
  2. 33 Books Every Entrepreneur Needs on Their Reading List Right Now
  3. 115 DIY Email Marketing Tips

Just to name a few…

As you can see, although many of these are ’roundup’ style posts with dozens of contributors, this still builds valuable links to your site and gives you some ammo to throw up on your social media profiles, thus proving that you know what you’re talking about when it comes to your space.

Priority 4: Speaking Engagements, Events, and The Next Big Leap

To round out our efforts in making Designli a thought leader in the mobile app development industry, a priority was put on participating in some real-world marketing tactics – for example, taking a speaking gig at Clemson University’s MBA program. By speaking, holding events, and boosting awareness around your community (whether big or small), you can bring your unique ideas to the table while getting some valuable marketing – and potential press – in the process.

The list, of course, goes on from here. In thought leadership, it’s also important to guard your time. After all, you have a business to run! Perhaps your ‘next big leap’ goal is to become a columnist for a newspaper in the Tech section. Or, perhaps you’re interested in putting these efforts on autopilot with your employees so that you can get back to focusing on core company operations.

Regardless of your next step, don’t lose sight of how [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]positioning your company as a thought leader in your niche is a valuable step in the sustainability – and future growth – of your business[/inlinetweet].

What are you doing to solidify your position as a thought leader? Tweet to us at @DesignliCo. We’d love to chat!

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