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How to Get B2B Clients: A Primer for Copywriters

Sep 13, 2007
In more than 20 years of copywriting for both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) clients, I have found mid-size and large B2B clients to be generally easier to work with, and more professional than B2C. (I do not recommend working for small business in either B2B or B2C.)

In my experience, B2B companies tend be more "corporate" and less entrepreneurial in their thinking and procedures than B2C companies. For instance, B2B clients are more likely to use creative briefs, meet deadlines, and pay on time.

The marketing departments of B2B clients also tend to be more sophisticated in their approach to marketing; this is nice for the copywriter who wants to have more say in testing, offers, and other elements of a response campaign.

The more process-driven a marketing department is, the easier it is to get winning promotions, as well as information on the results of promotions, work samples, and other data that helps a copywriter build his business.

Winning a B2B Client

Because B2B clients are by nature more oriented to "professional" processes and thinking, the copywriter who wants to win their business must also appear professional. Here's what you'll need in order to successfully approach a mid-size, large, or enterprise-level B2B client:

* Professional-quality letterhead, envelopes, and business cards are a must. You don't have to be exotic or fancy; graphic designers need flash and dazzle but copywriters don't. Don't fret about design...but do make sure your most basic business tools look professional. If you can't afford a designer's help, opt for simple and straightforward.

* Know what you stand for. It pays to create your own unique selling proposition (USP). These days both B2C and B2B clients want to know why you are the best copywriter for them. Once you determine what sets you apart, you should create a tag line that appears on your business cards and letterhead.

For instance, the tagline I helped one of my coaching students create is "Helping your build and maintain profitable long-term customers."

* Go to a niche market. Related to the advice above, you will do well to go to a niche market for which you have a connection...a point of differentiation that sets you apart. Many experts will tell you that you can find your point of differentiation in your work history. But this is only partly true.

With my coaching students I regularly help them discover what makes them unique and special not only in their work history, but in their passions, and their talents.

For instance, one of my students wanted to use her literary talent to sell her copywriting; so we carved out a unique copywriting market that would appreciate - and benefit from - the power of her written talent for story telling.

* You must have a Web site. And it had better be professional. A professional Web site for the corporate market must exhibit obvious elements of good lead-generation.

The elements of a good lead-generating Web site are many; however, for the purposes of this primer, I will touch on the most important four elements:

1. Your Web site must have "you" orientation. It's not about you, it's about them. Your Home Page headline must acknowledge a pain of your audience, and offer a solution. One example from one of my coaching students: "Are you a software marketer looking for a steadier stream of qualified software leads?"

Contrast this with this "me oriented" Home Page headline of another copywriter: "Bill S., Freelance Advertising Copywriter." Even the lead-in sentence was me oriented: "I'm an advertising copywriter, which is why my website utterly lacks graphics."

2. Your Web site must have an offer. Direct marketing without an offer is not direct marketing. If you are a copywriter who wants to make a great income, then you must let your potential clients know that you will bring in more than you cost.

You offer should in some way convey that. In lead-generation, which is what your freelance business depends on, one of the best offers you can advance is free information in the form of a report, or other valuable information product.

3. Your Web site must have either a very clean, orderly, and simple but sophisticated design...or it must be designed by a graphic designer.

If designed by a direct response designer, your Web site will exhibit signs of high level branding and direct response design "magic"...all of which will impress a B2B audience.

An aside: In my experience, Webmasters are excellent at what they do, but they do not have direct marketing graphic design skills - even though they usually think they do!

If you're going to build your Web site yourself, take the time to learn about direct response design; otherwise, invest a small sum in having a direct response designer create a design template that you can follow...or have her design the full site herself.

4. Post samples. Samples are the equivalent of showing a portfolio. For new copywriters, this is a tough one. But there are lots of ways to work this to your advantage.

First, understand that no potential client wants to see more than three samples; then understand that you can post a "spec" sample that never mailed; and third, know that you can even post a sample that was never entirely finished...

If, for instance, you did a critique of a potential client's campaign, you can post that critique on your Web site - as long as you gained permission to do so.

A note on testimonials:

Yes, they're important. But I was lazy in this department. Instead, I concentrated on getting response rates and writing case studies of my winners. Not having testimonials on my Web site never hurt me. However, one day I wanted to diversify into coaching and other copywriting related pursuits...and then I became concerned.

So my advice to you is to be vigilant about collecting testimonials. The moment your client says something positive about your work is the moment to say "can I quote that?"

* You must have business processes. Once again, because of their professional nature, B2B companies work best with copywriters who use fee agreements, creative briefs, meet deadlines, and nail down exactly what it is they're expected to do (right down to the size and fold of the brochure), put it in writing, and then do it.

Many copywriters work without fee agreements, "set in stone" timelines, and like the "handshake" approach to doing business.

But not only is this a sure path to disappointment, it's also a red flag to corporate clients that the copywriter is insecure, a poor business person, or both. Having a clear process for how you do business will not only make your business more profitable, but it will make the B2B client more confident in your abilities.

* Be a salesman. Whether their marketing is lead-generating or order-generating, B2B clients are very efficient at salesmanship and closing. Don't shy away from mailing sales letters to them and then following up. They do it, and understand that it's "just business" to be on the receiving end.

In fact, I've found it much easier to market to B2B companies than B2C. If you've done a good job of targeting - you've created a niche or USP that matches you with your target - then you should enjoy at least a 1% conversion rate to your marketing efforts. B2B companies are generally accepting and interested in your call, as long as you've done your homework to determine why you're the best copywriter for them.
About the Author
Master copywriter and coach Chris Marlow publishes a free ezine for copywriters who want to quickly build a profitable business. Visit:
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