The Secret Upside of B2B Copywriting

The sage does not hoard. The more he helps others, the more he benefits himself.

– Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

When you start out as a copywriter, you naturally think about how it’s going to benefit you. You’ll make more money, you’ll have more freedom, you’ll meet interesting people, etc. All those benefits are important – but not necessarily to everyone.

Yesterday, I had a long lunch with a prospective client, a B2B marketing manager for a technology company. And after about 10 minutes of small talk, I realized a shocking thing.

My prospective client didn’t care very much about my satisfaction.

He wasn’t very interested in whether my role is liberating (though it IS). He didn’t care whether I’m waking every morning with a smile (though I AM). Instead, he asked me the most basic question we all ask:

“What’s in it for me?”

Not in so many words, of course. And I didn’t take offense because that’s an essential question. When I was in corporate marketing for a Fortune 50 technology company, every time I started marketing a new product, I began by describing its Features, Functions, and Benefits.

Now I am the product, and my prospective customer wanted to know my benefits. He just wanted to know – how could I help?

He wasn’t interested in how my skills benefit me. He wanted to know how my skills benefit him.

And that’s where I left his jaw hanging open.

I told him that B2B copywriting has to benefit three kinds of people – and he’s only one of the people. And then, and only then, did I launch into my benefits.

It’s true. Any good B2B copywriter naturally helps three audiences when they write. That’s very important to keep in mind. If you’re able to know all your audiences, you’ll have an edge over other copywriters with a more narrow focus.

Having hired copywriters in the past, I’ve seen two sorts of copywriters:

  1. Ones that focused on the project at hand.
  2. Ones who understood the big picture.

The ones who understood the big picture got repeat business. Honoring all three audiences is part of seeing the big picture.

And it makes good copywriters great by enabling added benefits.

So a good copywriter starts with a big-picture view that answers – what’s in it for them?

The first audience I have to benefit is the B2B marketing managers who are trying to hire me.

I love B2B marketing managers, and I used to be one. They are busy, distracted, endlessly active people who need help and rarely get it. As I’ve talked about in a few recent emails, B2B marketing managers have three major problems:

  1. They often aren’t great writers because they’re paid to be generalists.
  2. They don’t have time to write well because they’re always pulled in too many directions.
  3. They are often too close to the problem to come up with creative ideas about their product.

So by being a great writer with time to write and fresh ideas, I can come up with new directions for their copy. I can add quality, take some of the load from the marketing manager, and help them look good to their management.

Staying focused on their needs is key to your success. After all, they’re hiring you – so you have to benefit them.

However, I won’t be truly successful unless I also benefit another group – the B2B salespeople.

I’ve also been a B2B salesperson. Salespeople are the main interface point between the company you’re working with and their customer. Having been in their shoes, I know what their three basic problems are (that copywriters can solve):

  1. Salespeople need to understand the product.
  2. They also have to establish credibility.
  3. Finally, salespeople have to keep the sales cycle moving along.

Good copywriters help enable sales teams by letting them be credible and effective with the customer. Enabled sales teams sell more with less friction and difficulty. Knowing that, and delivering work that helps the sales teams, is critical to your continued success. Believe me, sales teams complain about content that doesn’t help them.

But there’s a third audience you have to benefit. That’s the potential customer or prospect.

I’ve been a B2B customer as well, and they have three problems to overcome:

  1. Prospects want to understand the product.
  2. They want to believe in the product.
  3. Finally, prospects have to convince peers and managers that the product is the best choice.

Your copy has to be aimed at the needs of the customer – it has to make sense, be convincing, and support the decision-making process.

I know it seems daunting to please three audiences simultaneously!

But don’t be afraid because doing it well is easy. Good copywriting automatically serves all those audiences. Strong, effective copywriting is the WD-40™ of the sales cycle. Without it, marketers can’t market, salespeople can’t sell, and customers can’t buy.

For me, benefiting all these people is the most satisfying part of being a freelance copywriter. That’s the root of why the writer’s life matters to me. I’m able to help hundreds or thousands of people I’ve never met. In some form, I’m making lots of lives easier, better, simpler.

I’ve been a B2B marketing manager, a B2B salesperson, and a B2B customer. I know what difficult sales cycles look like from the inside, and they aren’t ever fun. The marketer feels like a failure. The salesperson misses a mortgage payment. And the customer has a fundamental business problem they struggle to solve.

That’s the secret upside of being a B2B copywriter and the reason why good copywriting does fundamentally benefit the writer. You’re made better by making others better. Simple but rewarding.

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Published: June 6, 2012

1 Response to “The Secret Upside of B2B Copywriting”

  1. It helps if you can communicate your ideas in a simple and functional way.

    It helps if you can take detail complexity and cut to the chase with it.

    Your customers want to read brochures and sales letters and annual reports in a jiffy: they don't have time for long-winded copy.

    If you are on the ball, your readers will know it: your copy will ring true for them.

    The copywriter needs to sell a product or service by staying close to the customer.

    Find out what the customer needs, what are their wants and desires and needs.

    Archan Mehta

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