Writing articles can be a very effective lead generator. Not only do they provide visibility, but they also enhance your credibility. Having written or co-written over 100 technical articles, I’ve found this method to be fast, effective, and even fun. Besides, nothing quite like seeing your name in print to give you a little buzz while impressing potential clients with your expertise.
Incidentally, these ideas apply to both written and electronic magazines. The actual media is secondary. In fact, many magazines now publish in both modes.
Here are three good reasons for considering magazine articles:
(1) Enhances credibility and visibility. In the eyes of potential clients, being published makes you a subject expert. The perception is that you know what you are talking about, and that you have been vetted by the publication. And in the consulting business, perception is reality.
(2) You can start doing this right away. You don’t need to wait until you hang out your shingle — you can even start today when employed. Furthermore, your employer may well be impressed with your initiative and your capabilities.
(3) Builds your collateral. Having even a small library of printed articles is useful when submitting proposals or responding to inquiries. You can simply include a reprint of a relevant article.
As an alternate, make the articles available for download on your web site. You should retain the copyright by giving the magazine publisher first publication rights only, and retaining the rest for yourself.
Here are ten quick hints for writing magazine articles:
(1) Pick a focus topic. You are not writing the great American novel. Since most magazine articles are between 2000 and 4000 words, you need to pick one topic and focus on it.
Lead off with a short introductory paragraph, and end with a short summary paragraph. Use a conversational tone. If discussing problems, be sure to include some simple solutions.
(2) Start with the trade journals. You have identified a market niche or two, right? So, what do your niche members read? There are thousands of small niche magazines, and all are hungry for well written articles.
Put together a short list of ideas, and call the editor. No, you don’t need fancy query letters for these publications. With luck, you can be in print in 90 days.
(3) Avoid the professional journals. Most of these are platforms for academics seeking tenure — the old “publish or perish” game.
That is not to say they don’t contain useful information, but unless they are being read by your potential clients, don’t waste your time. Besides, it can take a year or more (often along with rewrites) to get published.
(4) Shoot for a series or even a column. Rather than one long article, thinks about three to six articles spread out over a year’s time. A regular column is even better. Both keep your name in front of your potential clients on a regular basis. You can even start to develop a following.
(5) If you make a commitment — KEEP IT! I can not overemphasize this point. Magazine editors are under the constant pressure of both deadline and space. Being a day late with your material is a disaster, and will earn you the eternal disdain of the editor.
Once you commit, get it done and deliver it early!
(6) Keep it simple and tutorial. Remember, you are not writing to impress your peers, you are writing to attract clients. Keep your ego in check. Assume your reader knows little about your subject but would like to learn a bit more.
Doesn’t that sound like an ideal client?
(7) Report on research results. Done any research or conducted a survey? As long as the material is not proprietary, this can be great fodder for a magazine article. If appropriate, you can spice this up by analyzing trends or making predictions.
(8) Be controversial or contrarian. As the journalists say, “Dog bite man, so what? Man bites dog, put it on page 1.” Don’t be afraid to break with convention and offer an alternate view. This can be particularly good for business consultants, where clients are often seeking original thinking and new ideas.
(9) Avoid advertising and self-aggrandizement. If your article sounds like an ad or ego trip, rewrite it. I’ve always applied this acid test — Even if you never do business, will the typical reader think the article was helpful and worthwhile?
(10) Finally, have some fun with it. Think of your readers not as clients, but as friends with whom you would like to share your ideas. I hope you’ve enjoyed my sharing – and it was truly fun to write this little piece.
Questions or comments? Please send me an email.
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