Generate More Leads and Sales
  1. Start with a list
  2. Build a relationship
  3. Send in great work
  4. Monitor and follow up.
  5. See what happens.
  6. Check your results.
  7. Rinse and repeat.

In this post, you’ll learn an article marketing strategy that could generate an ongoing stream of passive lead flow — with virtually zero ongoing ad spend.

Now, if you’re at all like me, you could easily think of a dozen or more things you’d rather do than write a business article.

But, like digging a well, once published, one good article can provide a nourishing flow of great leads for your business.

That’s what happened to a friend of mine, who employed a very effective article marketing strategy. She wrote an article for a well-known and well-regarded publication in her profession.

Once published, that article generated enough business to keep her as busy as she wants to be — and, in fact growing. And it continues to provide her with more opportunities.

So how can just one article start an ongoing stream of new leads for your business? And what article marketing strategies will save you the most time and get you the best results?

Read on to learn how.

First, a disclosure: I haven’t followed this exact process for my business. Lazy entrepreneur that I am, and fortunate enough to have been asked to write articles (for instance this one, on email marketing for Keap aka Infusionsoft), I haven’t yet strictly followed the blueprint I’ve laid out for you below. That said, I believe if you follow it, you’ll have good, if not great results.

Okay, so let’s start with what not to do. Here are five things that will get in your way, so don’t do these things.

#1) Don’t think you can decide today and get published tomorrow.

It may take a little while for you to complete this process the first few times around, so give yourself enough time to actually make it happen. Once you’ve got your first article published, each succeeding one tends to be easier.

You can always dial up the intensity according to how much time you have and how soon you want results. Just remember, the decision to publish your content is up to someone else — you’re playing in their sandbox, so play nice and don’t rush them if they don’t want to be rushed.

#2) Don’t just pander to Google.

This whole process is about getting known by the people in your industry who can channel business your way. You will see article marketing strategies that are more about driving traffic, but that’s not what this is. You’re looking to get known by people in your industry who will send you leads.

#3) Don’t start at the top.

First, pick the easy to reach apples. What do I mean by that? Well, start by creating a list. Then prioritize that list and start your article marketing strategy with the easier publications that will be more excited to hear from you. Once you’ve don’t that, you can work your way up the list using the experience and credentials you earned getting published by the easier publications.

#4) Don’t pitch until you’ve built a relationship.

In other words, you need to build a relationship with a publisher or editor or reporter first and foremost. These folks are constantly flooded with junky offers sent out by spammers. Publishers need to know there’s a real person behind your offer. So first, build a relationship with that person. Build value for them. Let them know you’re in the game to help them win. Then you can make your offer. But first, focus on the relationship.

#5) Don’t delay.

Take action, get results, tweak, and repeat. You can try for perfection, but in this game, progress trumps perfection. So get published, look at the results, and then move on from there.

All right. So that concludes the five things not to do. Let’s look at what to do.

Start with a list of target publications you’d like to get published in. Make the list at least 10 to 20 publications long. Just think of all trade journals, newsletters or blogs in your industry that would be really good for you to be seen in.

Once you’ve made that list, the next step is to rank your list in terms of the size, reputation, authority and credibility they have with your ideal clients or customers.

Not sure what to submit? Try this…

Most publications are hungry for good, relevant content. If you have something to say to their audience, chances are good they’ll be happy to hear from you. In fact, most publications have a standard procedure for submitting content ideas. Just Google “how to get published in _________”, then fill in the blank with the name of your target publication.

Time to Get Started

So now you’ve got your list of target publications. You’ve ranked them in terms of authority and size, etc. Now your next step is to start with the smaller ones and start building relationships. Let’s take a look at how to get your foot in the door there.

The first thing is, how do we actually initiate a relationship with the person who we need to speak with? First, you’ll want to find out who it is that’s making the decisions. Usually, there’ll be some type of a generic email address that you may have discovered in the how to get published in exercise I gave you a moment earlier. Or there could also be certain authors that you would want to connect with who you’ve seen get published there, who may have some influence.

Look for people who are either decision makers or influencers within that publication. Look at articles they’ve published, and then comment on those articles. Be known for somebody who adds value. You can complement them. You can find out, once you’ve read one of their articles, how to contact them, let’s say, by email, and let them know that you really enjoyed the article. Be sure to mention something specific about it. Share an additional bit of information or context that would add value to their article.

You want them to realize you’re really somebody who’s authority in the field who can bring value to the community they’re publishing for. You demonstrate your expertise by adding value — and helping them serve their tribe.

Your “Relationship Roadmap”

Next, plan how to build the relationship. You could do this in just two emails, or it might take three to five, plus a phone call or two. The idea is, we’re going to build a relationship — at their speed, not ours.

Step one is to offer value… say something nice to the author and/or publisher. Be aware of what they’re looking for. You can start in the ‘how to get published page’ on their website, if there is one.  Try to think along the same lines and are offer value within that context. The main thing in this step is, just let them know that you’re there, that you value their work, and that you want to help. That’s the first phase. It might take just one email to do that.

And that may be all it takes to get published. Or, it might take even two to three emails and other follow up, depending on how the relationship goes. You might not hear from them at first. It’s a process that you just need to build out as you go.

Now You Can Pitch

Once you’ve got the conversation rolling, you’re ready for step two. It might simply require a second email with an offer. You might say something like, “Hey, I’d like to write an article on topic XYZ, and here’s a sample of where I’ve been published before.” If you haven’t been published yet, you could send a writing sample that you have. Make your offer email a quick read, easy to grasp and respond to. It’s just two parts:

  • The idea that you’d like to offer
  • Proof that you can deliver the caliber and type of writing they’re looking for

Then once you’ve sent your second email, you may need to follow up. You might not hear back from them right away. Don’t bug them. Just say, “Hey, did you get my email?” After that, if you still haven’t received a response, wait a week.

You don’t want to seem needy. Just go back to building the relationship by asking questions, offering value. Usually, people will respond, if not right away, then before too long, if you are continuing to build value and relationship. And if they don’t, just move on — your list gives you plenty of alternatives!

Tap Your Network

By the way, here’s a tip that will help with making contacts: Leverage your network. Use LinkedIn. If you have first connections linked to the person you want to build the relationship with, ask for an introduction. That could be a really good way to get started on the right foot with your prospective publisher.

And make sure you’ve got the right person. Qualify them by asking if they are the decision maker. You don’t want to waste time with somebody who’s not going to give your article the go-ahead. Especially in larger organizations, you need someone who’ll champion your article through the process. So make sure, first of all, that you’ve got the right person.

At this point in the process, we’re looking to get a yes. At first, you might get a no or a maybe.  You may just need to modify your idea. Be flexible. At this stage, the win is getting to yes.

So, you get that “yes” you’re looking for — congrats, that’s a major step forward!

Okay, so what’s next?

Time to Put on Your Detective Hat

At this point, you can start your research. Go into their ezine, blog, whatever, and read past articles. Look for the length of the articles, the tone, style, voice, and so on. Use what you find there to start planning how to make your article a good fit — or even stand out (in a good way!)

Do your keyword research. Look for ways you can add value by bringing in things that people are searching for in your (and your publisher’s) target market. For example, let’s say you’re writing for a snowboard manufacturer on a hot new snowboarding technique. Find keywords that snowboarders might be searching for. Check Reddit, Quora, BuzzSumo etc. for what snowboarders are saying. Jot down ideas that might be interesting to them. The key is, you want to help the publication benefit from the ongoing search. They don’t want content that nobody’s really interested in. So, in your research see if you can figure out who is going to value your article. It’s what your publisher wants, and it’s a win-win-win relationship.

Next step? Get it written

Now, some people love writing, some people don’t. Not your thing, it’s okay. There are people out there, and for anywhere from $250 to $2500 or so who will do it for you, sparing you the agony. Cost typically depends on length, depth, and the nature of the material. So, if article writing isn’t your thing, or you just don’t have the time, then outsource it.

The key is to get it DONE.

Whew! You Mean That’s Not All??

Okay, so now you’ve got your first draft done, and you’re chomping at the bit to turn it in. Whoa, not so fast…

You need to make sure it’s readable. Ask someone in your family, or a friend… or heck, a complete stranger, to read it.

Ask for and notice points where they’re confused or they don’t understand something, or where it’s boring. With that feedback, you can make your piece more interesting, or less confusing and so on. Run it through a spellcheck. You can use also tools like Grammarly and/or Readability that will help you make sure your article is readable. For bonus points, have a professional editor go through it for you.

Okay, now with everything in good shape, you’re ready to send it to your publisher.

You may need to make changes. Welcome your publisher’s feedback. Polish the piece until it’s at the point where your publisher is excited enough to publish it.

Boom — Major Milestone Achieved!

Once again, congrats — major milestone achieved! You may in fact start getting leads right away. In any event, you’ll want to send people you know there, send traffic from you blog, eLetter, social media, etc. Show off a bit — you’ve earned it!

Now that you’re published by one of the smaller fishes on your list, you can go after the bigger ones. You started at the bottom with a smaller publication, now you’ve got the credibility you need to move up the food chain (your list) to the top.

Just follow the guide below, then “rinse and repeat”.

Step-by-Step Article Marketing Strategy

  1. Select a niche you want to be known in
  2. Create a list of 10-20 target publications in that niche
  3. Prioritize your list from most to least prominent
  4. Find out who in that organization is responsible for content
  5. Introduce yourself to that person
  6. Research one or more article ideas they might like
  7. Once they respond, suggest an idea
  8. If at first they don’t accept your idea, ask for suggestions
  9. Modify your idea until you get the go-ahead to submit a first draft
  10. Do your research to come up with original content
  11. Write up your first draft
  12. Get feedback from your peers, editor or people in your target market
  13. Edit until you have what you feel is your best version
  14. Submit it to your publisher and ask if they’d like to see any changes
  15. Make suggested changes and resubmit
  16. Once published, send all the traffic you can

What’s Next?

If your results aren’t exactly what you’d hoped for, find out why. See what you can do to change things, modify them and move on to the next. That’s the beauty of this process — it’s circular. Once you do one, you’ll be able to see and get feedback, and you’ll understand how to get better results on the next one.

As you’re moving up the scale in terms of the more authoritative publications, you’ll enjoy a snowball effect where you start getting more and more leads, leading to more business, greater credibility and so on.

And that means less time on the laptop, more time at the beach for you and your family!

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Did you find this article marketing strategy helpful?

What article marketing strategies have worked for you in the past? Or if you’ve never tried one, what kind of results are you most looking for?

We’d love to hear from you, so please share with a friend and comment below.

Mike Connolly
Mike Connolly

Dan Kennedy Certified Copywriter for Info-Marketers and Infusionsoft Certified Partner, Mike Connolly lives in Boulder, Colorado, builds marketing funnels that rock, and loves cycling (almost) all year round.