Summary: Many B2B companies do not understand the skill and effort it takes to create engaging content that drives leads to act. Finally, get clarification on the issue so you know what to look for in a B2B copywriter.
Time to read: About 9 mins
I once asked an Australian copywriter, Glenn Murray, why the perception of B2B copywriting varies so much.
Ask one decision maker, and they’ll tell you they happily shell out thousands of dollars for quality. Ask another, and they’ll tell you they do all the writing themselves.
Crazy, isn’t it?
The truth is, writing copy takes as long as you want. You can find writers who pop out 500-word posts in 15 minutes using voice recognition software like Dragon Naturally Speaking. Then, you can find writers who take 5-10 hours to write the same 500-word post.
What gives? How do each of those B2B copywriters differ?
My Personal Story Reveals Why This Happens
When I first started out in copywriting nearly five years ago now (where’s the time gone?), I had nothing to start with.
No industry contacts. No samples. No professional writing experience. No college degree that supported writing.
What I did have was a history of success in writing at the high school and college levels. And one heck of a love for it.
In terms of resources besides that, I literally started from scratch.
So, like many newbie copywriters at the time, I was desperate. I would take any job that paid money.
The lowest rate I ever accepted was $15 per 600-word article. I was the primary income at the time. And I had a number of other business tasks to perform.
So I became a factory. I took anything and everything that came my way. I turned out these articles as fast as possible.
I didn’t slop through because the client was somewhat demanding. They’d send it back if it wasn’t up to a certain standard.
You can imagine the depth of this content…pretty shallow. Not much research done. Just a bunch of words together that “made sense.”
But for that client it worked. That’s all they wanted. It was a SEO pro. And SEO didn’t need super-high quality back in the fall of 2011. However, the content did need to be error-free. And it needed to be somewhat sensible, offering some level of value.
However, it was pretty basic stuff. The type of content you can find at dozens of other sites on the web.
But that’s the best I could do without spending too long on each piece. If I spent any longer than 45 minutes on a single 500-600 article, I would be working at a below-living wage.
And the Vast Majority of B2B Copywriters Still Do that Today…
They give droves of freelancers access to clients.
But those freelancers, or at least 99.9% of them, don’t know their value. They don’t know how to find their own clients.
That’s what “the herd” does.
But, freelancers do another thing too. They charge more, but still really underprice themselves. For example, they charge 75¢ (Hah – can you type a cent sign?) per word when they should charge $1 or more.
At that price, you don’t get cookie-cutter content. You do get good research. But B2B copywriters are still in a rush. They feel the pressure to hurry things through to make a good, livable hourly rate.
It’s a nearly unstoppable force. A panicky urge to “get it done.”
And for you, the content ends up a little “off.”
They say certain things your audience already knows. They use the wrong words to describe common industry practices. You might get awkward wording or unclear ideas. They might even write about things that your audience could care less about.
Because, after all:
86% of B2B content is not useful, relevant, or aligned with the interests of decision makers (IDG Connect) Click to Tweet
You can find the original quote for that source here.
I’ve had that happen before. I’ve underpriced myself. And that’s exactly what happens.
It royally sucks because you don’t get time to actually research, learn, digest, and enjoy the topic. You don’t have fun writing. You, the marketing decision maker, get content you have to send back for multiple revisions. You miss deadlines. You don’t get leads. And you look bad to your coworkers and customers.
And customers…well you don’t get any. You either don’t have content to give them. Or you give them crappy content they don’t want.
Fast-Forward to My Far More Sophisticated B2B Copywriting Process
Since those tough early years, I’ve refined the hell out of my process. At the bottom in my copywriting career, I hated it with a passion. Yet another complaint.
A 3rd hour spent on a project that should take 1. A lower hourly rate.
Angry and irritated clients. And ones that didn’t pay. And, I would get angry before even turning my computer on.
Business doesn’t get any worse than that. Well, maybe it does. The only thing I can think of is not having any customers at all.
But today, I love B2B copywriting. In fact, I can’t get enough of it. Why?
Because I created a process I believe in, and one that consistently produces useful content my clients and your customers like.
So now, this is what I do:
1. Understand the Target Audience
I’ve realized over time that, as a business of one, I’m still a business. That means I have to evaluate any expenses or new decisions with a microscope.
And guess who does that too? B2B buyers.
In other words, I am the target audience. The evaluation process is quite similar. B2B buyers have to build more consensus. They have a personal reputation at stake.
But, the general process they and I follow will be quite similar. They have to look at where and who they get the most value from. They want to know who puts their interests first…and who just wants money.
The features and benefits B2B buyers analyze change based on the product or service.
But that’s something your marketing and sales teams should know.
2. Research the Main Points of the Content
This process differs wildly based on the type of content. With web pages, I need to know precisely all the fears, concerns, objections, features, and benefits of your product or service. That helps me understand how to sell it.
Blog posts take a complete one-eighty from that. They don’t sell. Well they do, but in a subtle way. With these, I must have an intimate understanding of the product or service to be sold.
I have to know it just as well as the buyer, or appreciably close. With that understanding, I can now make a logical argument as to the value of the product or service, without mentioning it specifically.
I may discuss why a certain feature is vital to success. And of course, only your company has that feature. But I won’t say that overtly in the content. That’s because it’s reduces skepticism for buyers to discover this on their own.
Now that’s subtle selling!
And you have to do it that way in your blog. Otherwise, if buyers feel persuaded, they leave.
At first, this research could include an interview.
3. And Then Research Those Even More…
As I do research, questions pop up in my mind. Ones like these:
- So what if you do this? What happens?
- What happens if you don’t do that?
- Why don’t you do it this way?
- What’s the advantage of that?
- What do competing companies do?
- How can I position our solution as superior?
- How can I spread FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) about competing products and services?
Often, I find the initial information discovered was fairly high-level stuff. B2B buyers want meaty, hardcore facts. So then I research high-level info and drill it down more into useful data and insights.
That’s where most B2B copywriters get hung up. They have a hard time understanding the nitty-gritty. And it’s a huge reason why just 30% of B2B marketers consider themselves “effective.” That’s according to Content Marketing Institute.
During this time, I may also reach out for input from multiple SMEs at your organization.
Once all this information gets combined, you have a clear, convincing argument and useful data to present in your blog post.
4. Look for Opportunities to Clarify and Reduce Words
This one’s another huge differentiator. Brevity is one of the most effective psychological triggers for B2B buyers.
So I make every word count. That’s impossible to do on the first draft. So I come back to it at least once, and maybe twice.
I read out loud every single word. That quickly reveals mistakes and awkward sentences. Yes, I’m as picky as the IRS is when they get your quarterly estimated taxes.
Winners don’t think any detail is too small. If I can trim 2-3 words off a sentence, it happens.
5. Add in Industry Language Where Possible
Jargon’s generally a no-no. But when you speak to technical minds, some jargon helps them understand and relate. They feel like you “get” and “care” about them.
But you have to remember they are human beings too. So, they don’t want to read another document that looks like IRS tax code.
They want it short, simple, and even a little fun. And they need a little of their own jargon too so they understand.
Like anything, it’s a balance.
I won’t fill endless sentences with industry jargon. But I will look for opportunities to replace vague or meaningless words like “good” with more appropriate industry language.
6. And of Course, Don’t Forget Your Feedback and Revisions
Finally, quick as I am to learn about your business, I’m ultimately not as knowledgeable about it as you. My expertise is communicating your business to your prospects in the most persuasive way.
Your business is knowing your business. So, that means you likely have thoughts and insights I could never possibly get without spending years inside of your business.
And you might catch something I could clarify a little better.
It happens. I can’t see all of my own imperfections.
So Now, Your B2B Copy’s Finally Done!
Whew! Did you get all that? B2B copy takes plain ol’ fashioned, dirty hard work. The tough part is you only have so much writing in you each day.
Doing a full 8 hours of writing is nearly impossible.
It’s not linear like accounting, where you do one mathematical operation, and then the next. As enjoyable as the writing process is, it drains your mental energy each day.
So, consistently repeating this process over the months and years takes a special talent. Just try doing it yourself.
The process and wait, however, are well worth it. You get more qualified leads. The quickly produced “fluff” may get you an odd lead or two.
But those clients will be the ones from hell. The ones you’d rather your competitor have.
So as you shop B2B copywriters, think about whether you want quality or price. Just like anything else, you get what you pay for.
3 Next Steps You Can Take Right Now:
- Read a case study to learn how ConnectAndSell got 200% more leads per month with persuasive copy…when they didn’t even know they had a lead generation problem!
- Solidify your status as the “go-to” expert in your niche and get more qualified leads when you share this post on LinkedIn.
- You might also like to read: How to Nearly Immediately Win More Leads from Your B2B Content: 5 Simple But Overlooked Tricks