By Ken Lizotte CMC, Chief Imaginative Officer, emersongroup
Excerpted from The Expert’s Edge: Become the Go-To Authority People Turn To Every Time (McGraw-Hill)
Publishing books and articles can often lead to a significant and direct new-client return on investment. But new business does not always come wrapped up in a neat, predictable quid pro quo, i.e., you publish an article and then voila!… new clients start showing up at your door (or more likely in your e-box).
Sometimes it takes a quirkier route.
Many years ago, Steve Markman, President of Markman Speaker Management, specialists in arranging major speaking engagements for business experts as speakers, telephoned me out of the blue because (a) he himself had just published an article in a Boston-area business publication called Mass High Tech that week, (b) I had published an article in the same issue of this publication, (c) my article was laid out on the page opposite Steve’s article, causing him to (d) notice in my bio that ran with the article that I was a publishing expert. For some time, Steve had wanted to connect with someone with my kind of expertise but had no idea where to find such a specialist.
Coincidentally, I had been seeking a speaking specialist like Steve but had no idea how to locate his specialty. But both of us had been interested in finding the other because our respective clienteles kept asking us for the other’s service, a frustration both of us didn’t know how to overcome.
Steve and I met soon after his call and agreed to work together whenever feasible and refer appropriate prospects to each other for a finder’s fee. Within days of our agreement, I was following up with a prospect of mine, a professional services firm that had been on the fence for months about hiring me. I was merely checking in with the firm to see if it had made a decision, though but the likelihood of ever winning their business felt at this point practically nil. My contact there, Anne, though pleasant and chatty, still acted noncommittal about her firm making a decision.
Then she asked, almost idly, “So what’s been going on with you lately?”
“Well, I just hooked up with a speaker placement specialist,” I replied, “who will now be available to provide speaking services to my clients.” I doubted my response would yield any new reaction.
Yet immediately Anne’s whole demeanor shifted. “Really?” she replied. “Hmmm, very interesting.” She then explained that in fact her firm was now planning to bring in a few of our PR competitors to make a pitch about services they might offer. “One reservation about you,” she confessed, “is the perception you’re too limited. The firm does want to publish articles but it also wants to do speaking engagements, and media services too. It’s looking for a vendor that can offer all three.”
The fact that I could now offer two out of these three services reenergized the firm’s interest in me. Anne had been my inside champion all along, but only now did I realize her advocacy had been hampered by my limited service menu. Suddenly, all that had changed.
“And by the way I have a media component too,” I added, something I had never mentioned because I hadn’t known it was important to her. So to ensure that the firm would let me compete for its business, I brought my PR “czar” Henry Stimpson, a veteran media expert, into the picture.
When the dust settled after all the interviews with all the candidates were over, Steve, Henry, and I had won the business. In the process, we had beaten two major Boston-area PR firms chiefly because our combined publishing-speaking-media service was genuinely what this firm really wanted, i.e., a company that could position its practitioners as “thoughtleaders.” Our competitors had taken a more conventional approach, offering primarily press releases and the occasional quote in a news story but not much in the way of a true thoughtleading strategy.
Note that I would never, ever have been able to win this new business had I not hooked up with both Henry and Steve. Nor would Henry or Steve have won this business on their own. And here’s another kicker: I initially met Henry the same way I had met Steve, via an article Henry published in Boston Business Journal. In that case I had been the one to place the phone call and set up a get-together, which also resulted in an agreement between Henry and me to work together.
Almost 10 years later, my firm was still serving this particular client. How would one compute an ROI for all that business? Let’s try it this way:
It took me about two hours to write my 800-word article. If I “pay” myself $250 per hour for writing it, then I invested $500 of my time. But the amount of fees generated over a decade easily reached well into middle six figures. If I also throw into these calculations payments from other clients that have come about as a result of referrals or word of mouth from my partnerships with Henry and Steve, a conservative ROI estimate could climb above 36,000 %!
So does this mean that publishing articles automatically yields you a 36K percent return? Of course not, although you can see how it could. I can assure you that many other articles I have published yielded nothing at all. The point is that many factors must be considered when attempting to quantify an ROI for publishing articles, books, blogs etc. When all is said and done, this strategy does work, and we have not even touched upon the monetary results reaped by heightened credibility, expanded visibility, a credential that will win you speaking engagements and more. Those of us who are committed to this oft-ignored approach can back that up.