Before companies that sell technology-based products or services even get the opportunity to talk about what they are selling, they face the struggle of establishing its relevance to prospective customers.

The high level of differentiation that exists among technology suppliers means that revenues are usually determined more by the strategic direction chosen by their potential customers than their own ability to win match-ups with competitors. Trying to reach strategic decision-makers one-by-one is expensive and difficult because there are so many of them and they typically have little desire to hear about your product until they have embarked in a direction that makes it relevant.

Thought-leadership articles give you the opportunity to influence these critical strategic decisions by explaining the importance of your technology directly to the individuals that make strategic decisions.

Establishing the Topic

In most cases, thought-leadership articles are intended to influence prospects while they are focused on evaluating their various strategic options rather than specific products. So articles should address these options from the customers' point of view while providing information that will ensure that they fully consider the advantages of taking a direction that will increase their likelihood of using your products and services.

A topic that addresses strategic options rather than product details also has the advantage of providing educational information that makes it publishable in top trade journals. For example, an article commissioned by a company that provides consulting services that enable financial institutions to provide mobile e-commerce solutions might address the issues faced by those considering entering this market, focusing on the need to get an early start to establish a competitive advantage.

Harnessing Your Intellectual Firepower

Chances are that your organization has more than enough knowledge to create a powerful article. The challenge comes in extracting that knowledge, and turning it into a publication-quality article with the least pain and effort on the part of everyone involved.

In most cases, your executives and technical staff with the most knowledge don't have strong writing skills and, even if they do, they probably can't spare the time that it would take them to produce a publishable document. Another concern is that your people are often too closely connected to the market to take the objective view that is needed to avoid losing credibility.

Usually it makes more sense to bring in an outside writer with a technical background in the subject matter. He or she can interview the key players, extract the best of each of their ideas, and weave them into a cohesive document.

Another advantage of enlisting an outside writer is that the chances are they will have already established authorship arrangements with many trade journals, simplifying the process of getting your article into the hands of large numbers of prospective customers.

Getting the Draft Ready for Publication

One of the most challenging aspects of drafting the article is demonstrating an understanding not only of the specific technology provided by your firm but also the alternative and complementary technologies that will play a role in prospective customers' strategic evaluations. A writer that is experienced in writing about a wide range of technical topics can provide an integrated perspective that will appeal to prospective customers for whom your technology is only one piece of the puzzle.

Another critical concern is giving potential customers reasons to adopt your preferred strategic vision without turning the document into a blatant sales pitch. Being too promotional will destroy the article's credibility and make it difficult or impossible to place it in a credible publication. A writer who has written many thought-leadership articles can provide just the right balance between promotion and education.

Placing the Article in Prestigious Publications

When the article is completed, you can offer it on your Web site and print copies for distribution to prospects. But clearly the most efficient way to disseminate the information is to have it published in print and online publications ready by prospective customers.

Placing the article in a recognized publication is the most economical way to get your message out and offers a much higher level of readership and believability than traditional promotional vehicles. Often articles can be placed in multiple non-competing publications that provide free distribution to several hundred thousand readers. Publication placements also increase the credibility of the article's message when you link to it from your Web site or generate reprints under the publication's name.

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Jerry Fireman ( is president of Structured Information (, a company that provides marketing communications services on a project basis.