B2B Startup Marketing and How to Crush Thought Leadership

I was simultaneously thumb wrestling one-on-one with a bearded business executive and a group of fellow attendees during a keynote at Canada 3.0.

Needless to say, Canada 3.0 was one of the more unusual conferences I’d attended. In terms of substance, Canada 3.0 featured the new industrial revolution, insights into content marketing, and how gaming could be the medium that saves businesses tons of wages.


I had a chance to sit down with OpenText’s VP of Strategic Marketing, Lubor Ptacek. Because of Ptacek’s role in, and familiarity with, a thriving enterprise environment, I wanted to get his input on the future of marketing for B2B companies. At the end of the day, there are a ton of startups and small businesses in the B2B space that need similar guidance that publications give so frequently to B2C startups.

If Ptacek were to share marketing advice with a B2B startup today, he would start by focusing on product messaging. “Articulating what is the particular value of your product to the target customers is critical.” Too many startups today add that element too late.

Once the product messaging is clear, it’s important to focus on distribution—in which case, Ptacek suggests using PR for its wide reach.

“PR is the function that helps you with the biggest bang for your buck; if you can actually reach the press, you can get the greatest amplification effect…it’s the most modest investment that you can get the greatest results in,” he recommends. It makes sense: while B2C companies may find that PR doesn’t convert as well, B2B operates on completely different sales cycles and indications of credibility. 

The appeal of thought leadership and content marketing make thought leadership a topic on every B2B company’s agenda today. “There can only be so many leaders,” Ptacek laughs. “It’s a competition.”

While there’s no simple formula, shortcuts to thought leadership are about people: if a B2B startup recruits someone already with a strong presence prior to joining, that startup can build on that individual’s thought leadership. Similarly, if a B2B startup gains an ally in an individual with a huge network already, that also helps with thought leadership.

While secondary research and participating in dialogue online are great first steps to building thought leadership, “faking it” till you make it can only go so far with thought leadership. Many times, a lot of B2B clients are individuals with decades of experience who will see through the facade; instead, if you have the resources, find people with the technical expertise that aren’t faking it.

This is the premise behind OpenText’s industry marketing teams and focus on different verticals. These teams consist of industry experts who understand problems and processes extremely thoroughly, and will be able to speak with clients fluently.

With Ptacek’s words ringing in my head, I can’t help but think about the scarce resources startups run on. And yet, if a startup doesn’t have the resources to hire an industry expert full time, there are always creative alternatives; a strategic alliance could be one, a revenue-share model could be another, and there’s always the personal favour—regardless, there are tons of ways to find veterans that can lend to your credibility.

Canada 3.0 offered many insights into the way business, and life, will be in the next decade. From what it looks like, it’s going to be an extremely exciting ride.