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Chances are, there are a handful of key publications in your target market that just about everyone reads – or at least scans – on a regular basis.

In one of the niche markets I focus on, for example, there is a print magazine, two well-read online magazines, and three popular blogs. Together, they reach at least 90% of my target audience.

Wouldn’t it be great if an article I wrote was featured on one of those publications, along with a nice blurb about my services and a link to my website?

Of course it would!

That’s why I’ve had five articles placed in all but one of those publications… so far. And the exposure and leads I’ve generated as a result have been substantial.

Now, I realize there are many, many ways to use articles to market your services. You can post articles on your blog. You can spread the word through social media. You can even sign up for an article syndication service, like ezinearticles.com, to get your articles peppered throughout the internet.

But nothing beats having an article placed in a major publication that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people in your target market read and respect.

So how do you do that?

Say you have a fantastic idea for an article and a major publication you want to pitch it to. You’ve also got the contact information for the editor, publisher or blog owner. You’re ready to call or email that person and pitch your idea.

What do you say?

Here’s a 4-step process that works really well:

1. Position yourself as a topic expert.

An editor is more likely to publish an article from you if you’re an expert at what you do. So make sure she is aware of that right from the start.

When introducing yourself, say something like this: “I’m a B2B sales expert, working with clients like IBM. One of the trends I’ve noticed is that more and more salespeople are using email to make cold calls…”

2. Establish that you have an article, not just an idea.

Your article doesn’t have to be already written. But you should at least have the idea fleshed out with the key points you’re going to cover.

For example, you could say, “In the article, I’m going to feature a 3-step formula for writing winning cold call emails quickly. I’m also going to include two examples of real salespeople using the technique.”

3. Explain why readers will be really, really interested in the article.

Editors, publishers and blog owners want one thing: More readers. So the more likely your article is to engage current readers and attract new ones, the more likely it will be published.

Here’s what you could say: “I believe this article will be of high interest to your readers because there’s little, if any, information available on how to do email cold calling effectively.”

4. Offer to submit the article on spec.

“On spec” means you’re willing to write the article with no guarantee that the editor will publish it. This reduces her risk, making it easier for her to say yes.

You simply say, “Jane, I’d be happy to send this article to you on spec. Okay with you?”

This four step process for pitching editors, publishers, and blog owners has worked very well for me. Try it. Getting an article in a top publication – like Forbes! – isn’t easy. But the exposure and leads you’re likely to generate as a result makes it all worthwhile.

And, hey, it’s always cool to see your name in print!