The fundamental reason all business people should write and publish original articles is because it's the great differentiator.
Over the years, every business motivational speaker I've heard has hit upon the value of standing out from the competition. You have to be able to tell a client or prospect why you and your widget or service are better than Johnny ABC's.
Initially, my company was a mail house. In short, we manufactured mail. We took all kinds of printed materials, either produced in house or supplied, coupled them with mailing lists and delivered them to the Post Office. Of course, we followed all the postal rules - that book is very thick, indeed - but so did every other company providing mailing services. We touted quality of service, quick turnaround and reliability. Again - the same mantra as all of our competitors.
At that point, the Internet was just beginning to blossom, and marketing was very much old world paper and ink. As the postal world changed dramatically in the early-to-mid 90s, we focused on providing our customers with information that would make their mailing efforts more effective and economical. It was natural to write helpful hints and tips and incorporate them into a monthly newsletter. At first, the newsletters were printed and mailed as simple foldovers. Then we faxed them, and ultimately we converted the hardcopy publication into an e-newsletter, which continues today. Our goal has always been to provide valuable information in an easy-to-read format.
The newsletter writing made for an easy transition to more robust attempts at educating our client base. We began to create a media list and (again, remember we are talking print and ink) we pitched local business publications, newspapers and trade journals. After some fits and starts, our articles began to be accepted for publication. This modest success emboldened the effort, and our outreach to media continued.
The approach proved worthwhile and, in fact, several articles appeared in DM News, which is the national direct marketing industry newspaper. Our local business media outlets then began to show an interest in having copy from our company, and even more articles were published. As we progressed with the media on industry topics, an interesting phenomenon began to take place when we established relationships with reporters who sourced us for marketing or postal stories. Then they began calling for interviews and comments on issues outside of our industry.
Clearly, publishing articles, essays and how to's had been a very powerful tool in the drive to expose our company. Since we already had many articles written and published we created a compilation into a "how to" booklet, Direct Mail from the Practical Side. With that booklet, we stuck a pin in the map and said we're here, we're the experts and we can help. It was today's equivalent of a issuing a white paper.
Enter blogging. Since our primary workspace was a mail house, I began writing about direct mail marketing and the United States Postal Service with its trials and tribulations. As a first attempt, the blog posts were okay. Not grand, just workmanlike and somewhat articulate. But, like anything else, the more you do it, the better you get.
Serendipitously, I was offered an opportunity to write for the Huffington Post, and was extremely elated when my first article was published in all its glory for the entire world to see in such a prominent venue. I have been asked to continue submitting articles, and am more then happy to oblige.
So why is all this so important? Try this simple exercise: Google a fairly close competitor by name and review the results. What type of mentions are you finding, where are the links coming from, has he/she published articles of any value? If they have and you haven't, you're giving away ground to them. If you've been able to be published and they haven't, you're more prominent than they are. This can be the foundation for marketing efforts. You must announce, as loudly as possible, that you're producing important, value-expert information. You need to inform your customers and prospects that you're the expert and that you have important knowledge to impart.
Make sure your articles are included in your e-newsletters and highlighted on your website. You want folks to have access to all that you've published in as many ways as possible. I can't stress this enough. Once you've broken the barrier and become an author, you must let the world know.
And that's called differentiation.
If you would like to read more of Greg's published articles please visit the Lorraine Gregory Communications Group website
This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.