By Ken Lizotte CMC
Publishing business articles is a potentially rewarding business development technique. But this means not waiting for “something to happen” as if legions of excited readers are going to rise up quickly and beat a path to your door (apologies to Ralph Waldo Emerson who invented this notion!).
Even those who attain the honor of publishing an article or two in the most vaunted media vehicles such as Forbes, Fortune, Fast Company and even Harvard Business Review often report that, other than a few colleagues noticing their article and remarking on it (favorably, they hope!), beyond this meager response … nothing much happens!
If it is naïve then to assume that lots and lots of readers of your published articles will quickly and directly become new clients, one might therefore question whether writing and publishing articles offers you any business benefit at all. Yet benefits do indeed accrue. For example, over time, published authors like you become respected as “thought leaders.” Such a distinction greatly increases notoriety, esteem, fan base and, not insignificantly, one’s all-important Google and other search engine rankings! This takes time, however, typically requiring the publication of many, many articles on many, many topics.
The key is to be proactive, to understand the criticality of viewing each and every published article as a sales and marking tool. If marketing collateral, product samples, cold calls and your website can be justified as selling tools, then published articles can be too. Once this is understood, they must be integrated into the selling pipeline process via six “crucial actions.”
The more of these you employ, the greater the likelihood that your articles will bring you business:
Crucial Action #1) Post your published articles on your website
When visitors and especially prospects click over to your website, make sure your published articles are prominent and easy to find. Most websites will not have any published articles at all. Others may boast of a white paper or two though most will, at best, only post copies of out-of-date standard (and boring) press releases. So don’t hide your prestigious and informative published articles. Highlight the latest on your home page, and make sure a tab is readily available on the top of every web page.
Crucial Action #2) Notify your current clients via email!
Each time an article is published, send an eblast (this means a real email, not just social media) to your current and past clients. For that matter, include your prospects and vendors and colleagues on such an e-list too. Everyone in your company “community” should know about your published articles, everybody! By doing so, you remind everyone who does any kind of business with you what services you offer, all because your article’s displayed topic reinforces this. Don’t arrogantly assume that everyone already knows this or keeps your firm’s unique value and service/product details at their top-of-mind. People go about their days busy with lots of other things, so remind them continually, not just thru standard advertising or shameless self-promotion tactics, but by giving them the opportunity to be re-educated via the indirect exposure to your expertise promulgated by your published articles.
Crucial Action #3) Notify your current clients via social media!
Many companies think tweeting about a recently published article is enough, and certainly tweeting and Facebooking and publishing on LinkedIn is a smart thing to do. But don’t be lazy! Don’t substitute #2 above so that you can pretend that tweeting is enough. Social media should be an adjunct to regular email blasts, not a substitute. Only a small percentage of us log onto Twitter and other social media every morning, then check in again and again throughout our working days. All of us, however – all of us — check our email at least a few times every day and the majority (like me) check it all day long.
Crucial Action #4) Train your sales reps to use published articles as tools
Your prospects will often be only somewhat familiar with your company’s business, services or objectives. As your well-trained sales reps fan out to greet and meet them, make sure your published articles are at their disposal and embedded in their sales pitches, ready to be used. They should have reprints in their briefcases or a quick and easy link to article archives on your website. Articles then serve as an additional “touch” in the selling process and an additional style of persuasion, i.e., a tipping point that ultimately clarifies your sales reps’ arguments to where a prospect might blurt, “Ah, now I get it! This article helps me see better what you’ve been explaining to me.” Yes, your published articles can be exactly that impactful.
Crucial Action #5) Use article reprints as handouts
Whether you’re meeting with a prospect or even a client, or speaking to a group, or attending a networking function or industry conference, bring along paper reprints of a relevant published article as a gift. If your business cards are important enough to hand out, why not article reprints as well? This is especially true if you happen to be speaking to an audience on a topic that you also recently wrote about.
Your article will assist your attendees in more fully understanding your core message as well as (if you lay out and format your reprint nicely) elevate your credibility and status as an expert speaker. Make sure you place a banner up top indicating where your article was published … then hand them out!
Crucial Action #6) Let your articles form the basis of a BOOK!
After a while your many published articles, taken together, can form the basis of the text of a full-blown book. Does sitting down to tackle a book project seem overly daunting to you? If so, the “piecemeal” approach, i.e., developing articles over a period of time and then arranging them into a book-length compilation, will amount to a perfectly acceptable way to attain the same objective.
And once you have a published book, you’ll need to start back at the top of this article and replace the word “article” with “book” because all the same dynamics and crucial actions will apply. But this time you’ll own a business development tool that catapults you and your firm skyward into the purest thought leadership stratosphere.
So please see your published articles as the beginning of something, not as standalone beginnings-and-endings unto themselves. Publishing articles must not become a purely ego-driven activity hinged on the thin thread of hope that readers will immediately stampede your way to sign up for your services, no-questions-asked. Instead, think proactively about how to utilize this extraordinary option for your marketing and sales … then get busy!
Smart authors of published business articles view it exactly this way. Join them.
Ken Lizotte CMC is CIO (Chief Imaginative Officer) at emerson consulting group, inc.