Writing Articles Engineers Will Actually Read
How to market to engineers by contributing technical articles to B2B industry magazines
If you are in B2B marketing, and especially if you are marketing to engineers or technical buyers, then you are involved with the trade magazines in your industry. You want the magazines to cover your company, giving you access to their desirable audiences. In addition, you want customers and prospects to see you as thought leaders, as a driving force in your industry.
Perhaps the best way to achieve this is by contributing articles authored by your expert. The editor gets free content; you get the byline and free publicity as an industry leader. There are good reasons to use this PR approach. (Feel free to cut and paste them into an email to your boss!)
Top reasons to make PR articles a key part of your marketing strategy
- Lend credibility to your content. Engineers and technical buyers are a skeptical lot. It helps to partner with industry publications whose editors, the reader presumes, have vetted the content.
- Build thought leadership. No engineer wants to select a solution or vendor that hurts their reputation. They like to play it safe by working with companies that look like industry leaders. We’ve helped many small clients punch above their weight by getting them tons of coverage.
- Get found. There are 8.5 billion searches on Google every day, and some of them are searches about problems that your company can solve. These contributed magazine articles appear in the search results. Publishers are savvy about SEO, and they get Google’s attention because they have lots of content.
- Control the message. Pick article topics that suit your competitive position and gently steer readers to points where your product or service has an advantage. (Tread lightly, as many editors hate the appearance of bias. The “journalistic” tone is important, so you have to make your points in a way that doesn’t appear too promotional of your own company or product.)
12 tips for successful B2B article writing and placement
Given the value of this strategy, I am sharing some insights formed over decades of our experience writing and placing articles for technical readers. We are a PR agency in Cleveland serving global companies that sell to engineers and other technical buyers. On behalf of our clients, we write and place about 100 articles a year, most on technical topics. Here are some top tips to keep in mind for successful trade-publication article creation and submission.
1. Why should I care? An effective article pitch absolutely must answer this question. You must convince the editor that your article will be of interest. Answer this question at the top of your pitch and at the top of your article, because you must convince subscribers to read it. Let’s look at three actual winning examples:
Inflation is giving food processors heartburn. As ingredient costs rise, it’s critical to catch quality problems before they create waste. That’s why more processors are looking at visual inspection systems.
When designing a brewery, waste management is often an afterthought. But a properly designed wastewater system can help avoid costly delays, fines, and product contamination. The submersible pump is an overlooked yet critical element.
For quality managers, an important concept is the difference between a flat-panel detector cone-beam CT system and a line-detector fan-beam CT system. Both are powerful tools for inspections, but there are performance and time tradeoffs that have changed as technology has evolved. My expert has seen the confusion first-hand.
2. Use a transcript. When we talk to a subject-matter expert, we record the conversation and obtain a transcript. This text supplies the foundation for the article and helps with accuracy. It also speeds the process—with a transcript, the article is half written.
3. Tell a story. People learn best through stories. Make sure your article has a beginning, middle, and end. Ask your experts, “what happened next?” The details lend interest and supply depth. One of the easiest ways to tell a story is with a problem-solution format: a customer had this problem, they installed our product, and they saw this benefit.
4. Make it real. Case studies supply the best source of problem/solution storytelling. Weave in case studies, when possible, for real-world examples that demonstrate problems solved or headaches resolved.
5. Tone down self-promotion. Remember that readers are not customers. They don’t care about your solution. Tell them how to do their jobs better, and when they need a solution, they will remember which companies are thought leaders. Some publications have strict rules about product mentions, etc. Read back issues to determine if a magazine is the right fit.
6. Offer an expert source. Some publications won’t accept any contributed articles from vendors. In such cases, you can pitch story ideas or concepts to their in-house reporters. Check the editorial calendar and look for opportunities to contribute an interview or background that will help their reporter complete their assignment. The good news is that the reporter does most of the work.
7. Leverage your opportunities. When a guest article is accepted, usual practice means the company and author get a byline. Photos or illustrations often can include mentions of a product or the company name in the captions. If we are clever, sometimes we get more than that.
8. Ask for the link. Nicely ask the editor to link to your website, if not to a product page or home page, then to additional information that is posted on your website. Some of the publishers we work with will link even to gated content, supplying our clients with leads. (Yes, really.) Ask the editor if readers may want a link to additional technical information. Remember to make the link trackable in your marketing automation system and ask the editor to use the link you provide. (By the way, the backlinks are valuable for SEO.)
9. Ask for metrics. The publisher can tell you how many people saw your article. This is a hard one, but we have found success with some publishers where we also have advertising relationships. You can use your link to see how many readers came to your landing page and how many converted. Executives love to see that PR is delivering impressions, clicks, and leads for the budget spent.
10. Establish a trustworthy track record. Editors can’t know everything. They depend on manufacturers to outline the challenges that readers are facing and to explain how the industry is responding. If you provide useful information without selling, if you educate editors, you can establish a reputation as a trustworthy source. In fact, editors call us looking for articles.
11. Make it easy. Editors are amazingly overworked. They like working with PR people who make their jobs easy. The article is not overly self-promotional. The photos are there. The text reads smoothly. It has been proofed. It’s delivered when promised. It has the number of words expected.
12. Reuse, repurpose, recycle. After publication, adapt the article content for blogs, white papers, chapters of handbooks, and social posts, and even leverage it as the starting point for other articles. Make the best use of precious expert resources.
You can even pitch the article to other publications. This can be tricky, as you can’t ask two dates to the same dance. If the publications compete, we let some time pass and rewrite parts or all of the article. In some cases, we run the same article with little or no changes by being upfront with the editors and picking our targets carefully.
I’ve given you a dozen tips, and yet there is so much more I could write. Navigating the nuances successfully is an art practiced by PR professionals. Like so much in business, success hinges on experience and relationships. We can guide you through the process, save you time, and generate more coverage than you could achieve on your own.
Contact us about amping up your PR program.