Q: I recently left my corporate job to launch a homebased business-consulting firm. My challenge is that I'm not very well-known yet, and I have a very small marketing budget to make this happen. Any suggestions?
A: One of the most cost-efficient means to get your message out is to write articles for magazines, trade journals, Web sites and newspapers that reach your target clients. Even if you have average writing skills, if you can propose compelling article topics that solve problems for readers, then you'll find editors who will publish your ideas. And the best part about it is that you gain exposure to tens of thousands of people-for FREE! Your cost is the amount of time it takes you to actually write the articles.
Here are nine factors that make published articles a powerful vehicle to boost your business to the next level. Published articles will:
- Position you as a leading expert in your field. Academics understand this well, as they're often pressured by the mantra "publish or perish." If you're an attorney, an accountant, a consultant or an entrepreneur who sells expertise, the same applies to you. The value of your knowledge hinges on how well you're recognized by the public as a qualified expert. A published article communicates that you are indeed an expert because your knowledge and ideas merit publication.
- Convey a sense of third-party endorsement. If a trade magazine is willing to devote valuable space to print your article, then what you say must be important, right? At least that's the assumption readers subconsciously make.
- Boost the perceived value of your offering. For example, if you're a public speaker who's well-recognized, you can command a much higher fee than someone who has equal, or even more, expertise but is lesser known. That's why a Steven Covey, a Ken Blanchard or a Tom Peters may land more than $50,000 per speech, while lesser-known speakers can talk on similar topics but make only a fraction of that.
- Strengthen your competitive advantage. In whatever business you're in, your clients want to look smart for choosing you. And it makes them look pretty good when they can show their colleagues, partners or supervisors your published articles as a reason why they thought you were the best choice.
- Become marketing tools that sell long after the shelf life of the magazine. There are myriad ways to squeeze promotional value out of each article--beyond its impact on the newsstands. You can leverage article reprints to enhance your direct-mail campaigns, networking efforts, sales presentations, e-mail marketing, press kits and Web site content.
- Educate prospects on your business--quickly! Get prospects up to speed on your services before you meet with them--by sending them reprints of your articles. This will help you cut down the time it takes to educate potential clients--and thus shorten the time it takes to sign them on as clients.
- Facilitate qualified referrals. Published articles equip your clients to be your best salespeople. Clients will say something like, "I know the perfect accountant for you. Here's an article he wrote on small-business tax issues."
- Serve as a powerful employee recruiting and retention tool. Your articles not only increase your visibility to prospects, but also to potential employees. When you're pursuing top talent to grow your business, published articles can help tip the scales in your favor.
- Lead to additional PR opportunities. Reporters and editors want to interview industry experts to support their research. When you write and publish articles on a consistent basis, you'll be able to attract more inquiries from the media and get your company written about more often.
Sean Lyden is the CEO of Prestige Positioning (a service of The Professional Writing Firm Inc.), an Atlanta-based firm that "positions" clients as leading experts in their field-through ghost-written articles and books for publication. Clients include Morgan Stanley, IFG Securities, SunTrust Service Corp. and several professional advisory and management consulting firms nationwide.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.