Finding the Best B2B Prospects at a Fortune 500 Company

“There just can’t be 4,100 marketers at your company!” she said, aghast.

Sounds like a line from a bad novel, doesn’t it? But over and over again, when I talk to copywriters about marketing at Dell, I hear some variation on that theme.

Since I’m a marketing senior manager, it’s normal for me. I live in that environment every day.

So I can only imagine just how exciting – and daunting – that number sounds to a new copywriter.

On the one hand, we have thousands of people who need your help. With hundreds of products, from phones and tablets to printers, notebooks, data center switches, and storage, if you’re interested in technology marketing, there’s probably a niche for you. You could stay busy forever just working with a large corporation like Dell.

But on the other hand, it’s harder to sell yourself when there are so many people who might hire you.

After all, Dell doesn’t publish a marketing team directory or org chart. Finding a good prospect at Dell has to feel like trying to hit a target with your eyes closed.

How you could possibly succeed?

AWAI and I want you to easily find the prospects that value your skills. AWAI asked me to write a series of articles to help you uncover prospects from large corporations. As you read these articles, remember, I’m not speaking for Dell, I’m speaking as an AWAI member. I’m on your side here.

If you want to break into a Fortune 500 corporation, you can do it. Regardless of your niche, regardless of your experience, you can deliver value for a large corporation – as long as you connect to the right person.

I want to see you connect, and there’s a first step to connecting. Limit your choices.

That sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? After all, more impressions, more clicks, more eyes are supposed to lead to more sales. That’s what Marketing 101 teaches you.

Let me make the point another way. If you’re at a large party that lasts five hours, you can easily make contacts with dozens of people by only spending a minute with each person.

But how valuable are those contacts? How deep are the relationships? Honestly, not very deep. Easily forgettable.

And that’s because those people have a very limited understanding of you and your capabilities. What you can do doesn’t resonate. That’s exactly the problem with broad, scatter-shot marketing.

But what would happen if you could solve the problems of ten people at the party?

You’d talk to fewer people. But you’d be able to go deeper with each person. You’d find common ground, shared experiences, and make stronger connections.

And you did that by limiting your choices by only talking with people you could help. There’s the second step to connecting – you must understand their needs and solve their problems.

With a big corporation, you can identify a small group and learn to help them. Big companies structure marketing activity into groups of people, and different groups have different needs. You can limit your efforts, aim at a particular marketing group, and have better results.

Doesn’t AWAI teach you to find a niche? They suggest that you focus on a B2B deliverable niche, like social media or autoresponders. Or they suggest you find an industry niche, like tires for big rigs or wellness programs for schools. I propose that you find a particular kind of marketer – and only target them.

No major corporation has thousands of marketers working on a single product. Most big companies have dozens or hundreds of products, so they have many marketing teams, each with a particular specialization.

So your goal is to become an expert in a particular marketing specialty. That way, when you begin conversations with your prospects, you’ll know EXACTLY what to talk about.

For B2B freelancers, there’s one easily overlooked marketing group that gets little attention, holds huge opportunity, and behaves largely the same regardless of what industry they’re in.

They’re called product marketers.

What’s a product marketer? They specialize in making sure a product launches into the marketplace with a huge splash so that it quickly generates sales. They often disengage from marketing the product shortly after it launches.

Product marketing managers have a consistent suite of tools they use for every launch. Most of these are bread-and-butter B2B marketing pieces. Web content, spec sheets, brochures, presentations, videos, blog posts, press releases – you name it, product marketing managers do it.

Product marketers have a universal problem – they live in a publish-or-perish mentality. Many of them are graded on the number or complexity of the tools, collateral, and deliverables they create for a product launch. Creating content is their key metric – and often taking time for strategy just doesn’t happen thanks to the constant pressure of collateral.

If you specialize in helping product marketers, you won’t have any trouble finding prospects because you will be the most valuable person at the party.

It’s very easy to become knowledgeable about product marketing because of all the specialties, it’s the most public.

Pragmatic Marketing is a great place to start, with endless free information. Pragmatic Marketing certification is becoming a de facto standard for product marketers because it’s effective, clear-cut, and based on worldwide best practices. Go and explore their site.

You can join associations like, The Association of International Product Marketing and Management. This organization not only will help you understand product marketers, but it will also help you network with product marketers.

If you start becoming familiar with what those two sites offer you, you’ll be in a much better position to understand what product marketers need and limit your prospecting to those who will value what you do.

As you work to become a specialist in copywriting for product launches, here are a few tips:

  • Product marketers need help with the tedious collateral. Spec sheets are a great place to start, as they’re somewhat boring, not very important to product marketers, but must be done for every launch. Demonstrating a spec sheet specialty would get you attention.
  • If you have a sales background, talk to your prospects about how you could help with sales enablement. Training sales to sell a new product is a hidden copywriting market with dozens of opportunities, and product marketers often don’t understand what sales teams need.
  • Try rewriting a competitor’s existing web copy to show how your skills make things better.

And then you can start searching for product marketers using Google, LinkedIn, or YouTube.

In the next few articles, we’ll talk about finding product marketing prospects through social media so that you can move your copywriting career along toward living the writer’s life. Hope this is a good start for you – send me feedback as I’m happy to help you succeed.

Modern B2B Copywriting

Modern B2B Copywriting

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Published: December 15, 2011

22 Responses to “Finding the Best B2B Prospects at a Fortune 500 Company”

  1. Hi Brian,

    First of all, thanks for your efforts to help everyone!

    My question (N.B. your answer might merit a stand-alone article): if you were a freelance copywriter and had no samples and no testimonials, what would you say to marketing managers at Fortune 500 companies to convince them to give you a chance? Is there something that you could offer to do in order to significantly reduce their perception of the risk of giving you an initial project, without making you, the copywriter, look desperate, while laying the foundation for a relationship that will be highly satisfactory to both parties?



  2. I for one would be VERY interested in seeing the email you received from "Amanda" a few months ago (mentioned in your April 2011 article).

    Of course, Amanda would have to agree to the idea and you'd probably have to modify and/or delete any text that the two of you didn't want to make public.

    You could do a brief analysis of the specific points that most impressed you in that email.

    I think that that’d be useful to ANY copywriter, not just those targeting very large firms.

    [Although Dell is well outside my niche, this would still be very useful to me].


    Guest (Rombas)

  3. Hi Brian, Thos is a very interesting article.
    I have two questions for you
    1) Do product marketer participate in the creation - not only marketing - of new products?
    2) What are those others marketing specialties you talk about in your article?
    Thanks Brian

    Guest (Rochan)

  4. Another question (2 actually, if I may):

    If you were a freelance copywriter...

    Q1: What words would you use to personalize an extremely brief request (to large company marketers) to connect with you on LinkedIn?

    Q2: What LinkedIn "InMail" subject line would you use to contact a marketer who does not know you?

    Many thanks, Brian.

    Guest (Rombas)

  5. Thank you for your very helpful answers, Brian.

    I'm a bit hesitant about your answer to the 2nd question ("identifying a weakness in my writing"), since I'm not sure that every marketer has skin as thick as yours:-).

    For example, a well-known B2B copywriter who has written a few (terrific) B2B courses for AWAI specifically suggests NOT pointing out weaknesses in existing copy to marketers, since, in his opinion, many will not take it well/will find that pretentious.

    Guest (Rombas)

  6. With respect to your answer to the 1st question ("Spec sheets are small and relatively inexpensive, so outsourcing them to a copywriter isn't a huge risk"), can we assume that the best way to proceed is to impress the marketer by doing several 'check-box' assignments very well for that marketer and then turning around and asking for a 'high-impact' assignment?


    Guest (Rombas)

  7. re. your answer to Q# 5 (LinkedIn connect request):

    I would say "I'm a neophyte/newbie/beginner, noticed your work at X URL, and had a question: why did you do it this way, and not that way?"

    Q: Is the point here (as in Q# 2) to necessarily identify a weakness and offer an improvement?

    Thanks, Brian.

    Guest (Rombas)

  8. Thanks a lot Brian for your answers!
    Your article was a eye-opener :)
    Your why-did-you-do-this-way-and not-that-way approach is smart :)
    I did that with a consulting offer and it worked very well!

    Guest (Rochan)

  9. Would you be willing to share with us the questions you ask freelancers who contact you for the first time?

    [Besides the obvious ones, such as: number of years of experience, experience writing specific types of pieces, experience writing for a specific industry, (tangible and intangible) results of past work, samples, testimonials, process(es) used to write different types of marketing pieces, fees, etc.].

    Thanks, Brian

    Guest (Rombas)

  10. Brian, thank you for your very helpful answers to calling out weaknesses and question about questions.

    If you hadn't said "feel free to ask questions" I would already have stopped doing so, but since you did...:-)

    Q: Could you tell us what questions you ask newbies?

    Thanks again.

    Guest (Rombas)

  11. Very helpful/thanks, Brian.

    Thanks to my AWAI training, I've noticed that many White Papers and Case Studies in my B2B niche could be improved by making 1-3 fairly simple changes. LinkedIn contact requests are limited to 300 characters, incl. spaces.

    Q: Would the following be diplomatic/unpretentious enough for a LI contact request?
    "Hi [name], I've read some of your very impressive (Case Studies OR White Papers OR whatever) and would like to share [number of] tips that, based on my work with my existing clients, I believe could get you even higher ROI from these pieces. Interested?"

    Guest (Rombas)

  12. Brian

    Would the tips in your article also work if you're trying to market to B2B professional services firms.


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