Mashery is heavily featured at the Business of APIs conference. Their participation has been a huge win for them--leading the company to customers, media visability and an opportunity to help shape the conversation in their industry.
So how did they get involved?
They started the conference.
Lots of companies struggle with getting the attention of a market, because they don't take a lead in educating that market. Think about this conference model. What would be the ultimate conference for your startup to be prominately featured in?
Is it out there?
Then why don't you go out and start it. You could charge for it and break even. It doesn't have to be at the Javits center. I'm sure you could call in some favors and find a friendly space on the cheap. The best thing is that all of the other related folks in your space would be dying to speak at it as well...and you need other players in the market to validate the movement that you're trying to take advantage of.
Same goes for content marketing. Is there a key blog describing the trend that you're taking advantage of? Mailing list perhaps? No? Then why don't you start it? Recruit customers to read it. Hire an editor who wants to get recognized as a thought leader in the space. Hell, they'd probably do it for free. As long as you disclosed your sponsorship of it and clearly outlined editorial policy, all it would require of you is to create something useful--and people would follow it.
This is especially true in the B2B space where thought leadership generates leads--it finds the edge cases where only 2 of the Fortune 500 are even thinking about what you're doing. It saves you the time of manually pitching the other 498 because those two will find you. They're out looking for this kind of content and experience.
This is what Mike Lazerow did at Buddy Media. He killed it. He created a whole conversation about brands being on Facebook to the point where if you wanted to do anything related to putting your brand on that platform, Buddy Media seemed to be right at the center of that conversation.
Why let others guide the conversation? Why are you paying to sponsor a conference or pitching other media outlets.
Create your own!!