So you want to be a B2B copywriter? Great. There are a number of things you need to understand to make that dream come through: You must:
1. Like writing.
You must enjoy and revel in putting together a piece to sell something, to explain something, to get something, to tell a story. If you don’t like writing, being a copywriter is like being a surgeon who hates blood.
2. Be a reasonably good writer.
You don’t have to be world class but you do need to be able to write well. That means you must have a good grasp of grammar, punctuation. sentence structure and length, paragraph structure and length and a well rounded vocabulary.
3. Understand that many things your English teacher taught you about English composition do not necessarily apply to copywriting.
For instance contractions, sentence fragments, ending sentences with a preposition, staring a sentence with And or But. All of these no-nos combine to make your writing more conversational and reader friendly.
4. Understand that a big word is not better.
You need to understand that a big word is not good just because it’s big and demonstrates you vocabulary. You do not want your readers to have to stop and think about what a word means. See next item.
5. Recognize that the reading level of the average American is about 7th or 8th grade and write accordingly.
MS Word has a feature in its review function that will tell you what grade level your piece is, how readable it is and how many passive voice sentences you have used. Begining B2B writers with technical backgrounds tend to use the passive voice a lot because that’s what they are used to reading and writing in their area. Active beats passive every time when you are trying to get people to take action.
6. Understand that people are only interested in their problems
They will only listen to you if you seem to offer a solution to their problem. Many companies that should know better spend most of there marketing talking about how great they are, how long they’ve been in business, how many offices they have,etc. Nobody cares. They care about What’s In It For Me. So keep the WIIFM factor front and center when you writer your marketing material.
7. Do a lot of research
The key to effective and hard hitting B2B writing is research. You must know all about your client’s product or service and the competing products or services. You must talk to the product/service designer. Ideally you should visit the production facilities and talk to the people there. You will be amazed what you will uncover about your client’s product/service and the competition’s. You may discover some item or nuance that is common to many of the products/services like your client’s but that are not been featured in the competitor’s marketing materials. This can be a key idea in your copy. Do more research than you can ever use. This is a case in which you can’t get too much of a good thing.
8. Have a high tolerance for rejection.
Believe it or not people are not sitting by their phones, checking their e-mail or snail mail for your message. No matter how beneficial you think your writing would be for a prospective client, if the client does not need it at that instant they will say no. They are not necessarily saying to you as a person or writer or that your work is bad. They just do not have a need right then. But keep in mind they may file you away for the future use. That’s why follow-up is so important.
9. Follow-Up, follow-up, follow-up
As they say in real estate, its location, location, location. As a freelance writer, its follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. Just because a prospective client does not need your expertise the first time you contact them does not mean that they may not need it in the future. But you need to follow-up with them regularly – snail mail, e-mail, post cards, phone calls, etc. so that when the need for your services does arise they think of you first. You are trying to establish a relationship with the prospect. Remember that most sales of any kind are made after the 7th or 8th contact.
10. Charge what you’re worth
Many copywriters, particularly beginners, charge way too little for their services. This is fine if you want to work on Elance, etc. but not if you want to work for clients with whom you want to establish a longterm and lucrative relationship. If your rates are too low these types of high value clients will not take you seriously. There are a number of sources that provide rates for copywriters. They will usually cover a range of rates. Select a rate towards the high end not towards the low end.
Also charge on a project basis when possible instead of an hourly rate. Clients like that because it gives then a number they can plug into their budget and know that it will not change unless they change the scope of the project.
11. Get testimonials
No matter how glowing your description of your work is, it pales into insignificance compared to a testimonial from a happy client. Third party endorsements are always more powerful than blowing your own trumpet. So get testimonials. Many clients would be glad to give you a testimonial but, unless you ask, them they will not. The old – ask and you shall receive – thing. You can help the client by writing a rough draft of the testimonial or asking a number of questions.
12. Market constantly
Even though you think you’re in the B2B copywriting business you’re really in the marketing business. If the market does not know about you they won’t give you any work. So you need to market, market, market using snail mail, e-mil, post cards, and phone calls. Try to send prospective clients something at least once a month.