I recently wrote about the benefits of direct mail for garnering new copywriting clients.
Now that I’ve been branded a “lover of all things old-school”, I want to teach you a pre-Internet content marketing strategy that still effectively lands new clients: Writing articles for trade magazines.
Trade magazines are print publications (remember paper and ink?) that focus on the business aspects of a particular industry.
You probably specialize in certain niches or topics, and focus your prospecting efforts on certain industries. Maybe you write for restaurants, or banks, or universities, or medical equipment manufacturers.
Believe it or not, there’s almost always at least one trade magazine for every industry you can possibly think of — including the ones you specialize in writing for.
Don’t believe me? I’ve written for trades ranging from In-Plant Graphics (for in-plant print shop operators) to The Federal Credit Union to Pizza Today, and my husband has written for Indian Gaming Business, a magazine for reservation casino operators.
Here are a few other interesting trade magazines:
- Pig International
- Candy Industry
- Federal Computer Week
- American Spa
- Archery Business
- Student Group Tour Magazine
- Roofing Contractor
- Biodiesel Magazine
- OR Nurse
Get the idea? Each of these magazines has a very targeted market — just like your copywriting.
Many trade magazines run articles by professionals in the field and offer a bio at the end of the article, and that bio is seen by thousands of prospective clients. Even better, trades are often starved for quality content (like the kind you can provide).
For example, years ago I wrote for a magazine for KFC franchisees.
A franchise owner in California saw an article I’d written there and hired me to write a newsletter for his local business organization. Later, a software company hired me to write a brochure after seeing one of my articles in a marketing magazine.
So, if you’re convinced, bring on the trades! Here’s how to get started.
Find a Trade
I’ve found that the best places to find trade magazines are TradePub.com and Writers Market.
Writers Market costs around $30 for a yearlong online subscription, and is not a comprehensive directory of every magazine out there, but the benefit is that it gives tips on breaking into each market.
My post “11 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Writers Market” on The Renegade Writer Blog gives advice on how to use Writers Market to find trades that aren’t even listed.
Choose a topic
Check your target magazine’s online archives to get a feel for what they run, and to make sure that you don’t brainstorm an idea they’ve already done to death.
In other words, a lot of the same things you want to do when you’re approaching a blog for a guest post.
As a copywriter, you probably want to focus on ideas that help readers learn to communicate with their customers, market their products and services, and write well. Assuming you’re also pretty social media-savvy, that’s another topic that many trade magazine readers will want to know more about, particularly with your business-friendly angle.
This will show prospective clients that you’re an expert in marketing and communication for your niche … exactly the kind of expert they want to do business with.
Write a query letter
A query letter is the pitch letter that sells the editor on your idea and you as a writer. It typically consists of three parts:
- A lede (beginning) that hooks the editor and makes her want to keep reading. For example, you can start with a surprising statistic, a compelling quote, or an anecdote from yourself or someone else.
- A body that tells the editor what you want to write about and how it will help the magazine’s readers. I often include a bullet-pointed list of a few of the tips I’ll be including in the article, and a couple of quotes from people inside the industry. For example, when I pitched an article on unusual marketing techniques for storage facility owners (yes, they have a magazine!), I included a quote from one owner who had a sign on his facility made from the world record largest pair of underwear. (It was something like 15 feet across!) You can find industry sources by calling industry organizations and using free source-finding services for writers like Help a Reporter and ProfNet.
- A conclusion that tells the editor why you’re the perfect person to write the article. This is where you tell the editor about your writing and industry creds.
- A closing that asks for the sale. I like to write something like, “May I write this article for you?” or “Does this sound interesting to you? I look forward to your reaction.”
This is a general overview of how to write a query letter; each situation is a little different, and you may find that another way works better for you.
For more details on the query writing process, check out the resources in my bio below.
Send it off
Find the name and e-mail address of the correct editor on the magazine’s website — trades, unlike national magazines, often list their editors online — and send your query with an eye-grabbing subject line.
I like to write something like “Query from Freelancer: Top 10 Marketing Mistakes Pizzeria Owners Make.”
This shows that I’m pitching an article — so editors don’t mistake it for a PR pitch — and the title of the article I’m pitching will hopefully reel the editor in.
And don’t forget …
Follow Up: If you don’t hear back in two to three weeks, follow up via e-mail. Editors are busy people, and sometimes queries fall off the radar.
Put Your Name in Lights: When you get an assignment, clarify with the editor that you will have a bio at the end of the article — and don’t forget to include it when you turn in your finished piece. In the bio, be sure to let readers know how to contact you.
Profit: Okay, I couldn’t resist. But seriously, writing for trades is a great way to get your name out in front of your target market. At the same time, it will give you more chances to hone your writing. And not only is it a free way to market — sometimes you actually get paid.
Happy trade writing!