Last month we looked at the first step in how to naturally profit from your expertise: packaging your knowledge into articles and talks. Done right, you’ll exponentially multiply the number of motivated, pre-qualified prospects you reach in a fraction of the time that networking and referrals require.
This month, we’ll look at how to get in front of the right audiences to put your attention-getting articles and talks to work in promoting you and your firm.
Before we go there, make sure you’ve:
• Given your talk or article a compelling title that answers your target audience’s “WIIFM” (What’s In It For Me?). It doesn’t matter how brilliant your content is, if people don’t read past your title or sign up for your talk. Your title is ALL that matters, at first glance.
So if sharing your expertise through articles and talks is the fastest way to promote your professional service firm, how do you get in front of audiences that are full of good prospects?
STEP 1: Find the right audiences
In the beginning, this is about promotion and getting the word out through knowledge sharing…not getting paid to speak or write articles. So if you’re doing this for free, get a return on your investment by being in front of your target audience.
Finding the right target audience for your talk or article takes some old-fashioned footwork. Here’s what you do:
1. Think about who you want sitting in your audience or reading your article – your ideal target client – and find out where they go for professional education, what associations they belong to, what they read, where they network, etc. Where are you most likely to bump into them?
In some cases, it could even be events held by your larger clients for their own employees (i.e., national and regional meetings for sales, HR, finance, IT staff, etc.)
2. Know you “customer.” Check out the websites of the organizations and publications you’re targeting. Find out what the hot issues are. Also research any procedures for speakers and writers – you’ll often find guidelines right on their website. Sometimes you have to complete an online application, other times is less formal.
3. Contact the right person – the one making the decision about speakers or articles. Even if decisions are made by committee (i.e., the Education Committee), they still have a main contact and a process you need to follow. Get the person’s name and talk with them directly.
4. Make it congenial and low-key – this is not a sales call. You’re simply asking if they think their members or readers would benefit from learning more about (and then use one of the catchy, compelling titles that you developed using the guidelines in last month’s e-newsletter!).
5. In most cases, you’ll get a polite “maybe,” “can you send me some information?” or “you need to jump through these hoops…” Great – you’ve got the green light to take the next step!
If you get a “no,” move on. Learn what you can, adjust your approach if you’re making no progress, and keep going.
STEP 2: Send the right materials
Getting a green light means you need to send something.
For talks, it usually means sending your “press kit” or “media kit.” This isn’t as fancy as it sounds. Often a well-written, cover letter, 1-page description of your talks, and your bio (again, client-centered and must pass the WIIFM test) will due. In most cases, though, you need more.
To really knock their socks off, you should include some of your articles, a list of places you’ve given talks, a couple of client case studies, any brochures or printed web pages that are high-value and about the target audience, and a 1-page collection of testimonials from people who’ve attended your past presentations. If you sell products or have “packaged” your expertise into tapes or CDs, definitely throw one in!
The point is to clearly demonstrate how valuable you’ll be for the decision-maker’s audience. Remember, the person booking you for the talk has one concern: that you make their event a success. So they need to know that you’ll be well received, offer loads of value, and not ruin the event.
You’ll build their confidence in you as a good choice, by giving them lots of evidence that you’ll do a great job. That’s what your press kit, your website, and your easy approach with them on the phone will do.
A couple of points about articles for major publications:
• You probably won’t retain the copyright if you’re writing an original article, but ask for it anyway. At a minimum, make sure you can get “reprint rights” for your own website.
• What you submit will be edited, most likely heavily. Editors have to stick to a word count, which means a lot can get cut. It’s still worth it, considering the exposure you’ll get.
I’ve found that one of the easiest way to get articles distributed is to write and publish them on your own web site, then invite others to use them or link to them on their sites. Word gets around and people are always looking for good content.
STEP 3: Follow up and keep your pipeline full
Like any sales pipeline, you have to keep your speaking/publishing pipeline full of prospects at various stages of closure. Here’s how to manage it realistically:
• After you send your materials, politely and consistently follow up with the decision maker you talked with in Step 1. Be persistent, but not a pest. Keep it focused on his/her needs and the WIIFM of your target audience.
• Set a reasonable goal, say, submitting one article or talk per month to five prospects (editors, education directors, meeting planners, etc.).
• Start with easy audiences and move up. It’s okay to start with lower-stakes audiences, but you’ll need to shift to opportunities that will pay off for you. Hone your skills, then move to the next level.
• Multitask! Offer to write an article that ties into the talk you’re pitching. The article could appear on the organization’s website and/or in their newsletter, just prior to your talk. You get more exposure and they get loads of value.
More tips to get you in front of the right audiences…
• Know what your policy is before contacting prospects (i.e., will you speak locally for free? who pays for materials?, are your expenses covered for out-of-town travel? do you treat non-profit and for-profit organizations differently? etc.)
• Take a personal approach. Call the right person and have a conversation. Forget about doing a mass mailing or email blitz. It won’t work.
• Remember, this is not about selling yourself. It’s about helping people by sharing what you know. Approached in this spirit, your enthusiasm will shine through and you’ll attract people to what you have to share.
• Never forget that it’s all about the WIIFM. Really focus on the needs of 1) the decision maker who could book your talk or publish your article and, 2) what value you bring to the target audience.
• If you don’t have time to do all of the footwork involved, use this as a career development opportunity for someone in your firm or for a part-time assistant. Just make sure you train them very well – remember, they represent you and your firm in the marketplace. Role model for them how you want this done by making the first few inquiries yourself.