This post is all about how to build brand, distribute genuine content, and land highly targeted leads for free. Not only that but this strategy will scale, and it only takes your time.

This is the same strategy that we put to work in 2013 at Glider, and the results have been great. 

Before we dive deep here's the TL;DR.

TL;DR: Google will help you uncover several "Top XYZ of 2013" lists where you can identify vertical-specific industry experts. Personal flattery via LinkedIn messages will get them to listen to you, and finally, an opportunity for them to be quoted on your blog will tie their name and syndication to your brand. 

There are four facts that this strategy relies on:

  1. People always want to improve themselves (look/sound/do good).
  2. One of the best sources of endorsement (just behind customers/friends) is from a recognized and impartial thought leader in your given space.
  3. At the end of the day, people love to hear the sound of their own voice. 
  4. Flattery still opens doors.

Ok, now on to the step by step guide. Feel free to leave any questions down in the comments and I can elaborate...

1. Get on the Same Page
To kick things off: Content that doesn't quote an industry leader, brand, or some other voice in your industry is throwing away opportunity, time, and money. If your content pipeline doesn't have room for expert opinion in the form of a quote, contribution, or guest post - reconsider your content pipeline. Do we post articles without third party contributions? Sure, but they don't do as well as the content that does. 

2. Build your Influencer Lists
Now that we're on the same page, go fire up your browser and run a search that looks like this: "Top ______ leaders of 2013." The blank should be filled with the title of your target buyer. In our case we ran three seperate searches, "Top Sales Operations leaders of 2013, Top CFOs of 2013, and Top VPs of Sales of 2013." Now do this for the past three years and create an excel spreadsheet documenting names, companies and sources. 

3. Templates
It's time to put together a master template so you don't waste too much time on outreach. Here is what our template looked like:

"Hi John,

I'm reaching out because we're looking to include a quick quote from a Sales Operations thought leader. It looks like you've been doing some great work over at Acme Corporation - congrats on the award last year. 

I know you're busy, but if you'd like to contribute a quote, we'd be happy to include it in our piece next month.

Thanks,
Eli"

The messages can be cookie cutter - just make sure the names, roles, and companies are correct :) 

4. Outreach
This part takes some time. You're going to go to LinkedIn and friend request each of them. In your "Friend Request" you'll paste in the template you created in Step 3. *Pro-Tip- TextExpander is free and will make these templates less of a task. 

Send as many as you can up front. You'll be waiting out many of these responses for weeks, so better to start the waiting now. If you're good (like our talented content writer, Elaina Ransford) you'll hook a few in the first 5 days. Some of these have taken months to groom for participation. 

5. Build
Rome wasn't built in a day, right? Neither are these relationships. Start slow, ask small. Build a rapport with these folks, it's going to be a long ride. A quick 2 line quote is an easy first ask. Whatever you do, don't ask them about your product. Make it very general. What do they like to write about? Ask them for a quote on a topic you know they like discussing (YouTube may help here). Tell them when you expect the article to go-live, and that it will be published on the company blog, in whitepapers etc.

6. Their Turn
This step is the most important. Up until now you've done a few things well: 
1) You've built your credibility by attaching their better-known brand to yours, and 2) You've started to get them invested in the success of their quote. 

The day you're ready to post (or the day before) send them a preview of the article. Give them an opportunity to suggest any changes etc (now you're getting them invested in the entire article). Tell them you'll send them a link to the article once you publish it "sometime around 2p today" in case they want to share it with their colleagues. 

7. The Golden Share
You've got them engaged, and now without any pushing and zero budget, you landed a quote, and a shout out (tweet etc) from an industry leader. Also, since you're friends on Linkedin, and because your blog auto publishes to all of your employees LinkedIns (you've set that up, right?) the contributor will likely “like” or share the article which will then put it in front of their entire professional network. Boom.

8. BFF's
You're friends now–  they've contributed, you've thanked. Everyone feels good. In your followup email make sure to let them know how well the article did and that you'd love to include them in future pieces if they're interested. In fact, now might be a perfect time to mention that upcoming white paper a few months from now that they might be interested in contributing to. Nothing soon, but worth mentioning. This should all be done by phone if possible. They like hearing their own voice, but they also like knowing you have one too. 

9. Success Compounds
You can see how this just continues to get better with time. As you develop your program, it may make sense to start spending small - an intern to run outreach under your name, a content writer to work on the posts, or at best someone who can do all of the above in their own name. 

Good luck, and ask questions.