“Copywriter? What’s that?”
When I’m at cocktail parties and I tell people what I do, their first question is usually “what’s a copywriter?” or “what does a copywriter do?”
Or they assume that I’m involved in with copyright law.
Copywriting and copyrighting do sound exactly the same but are two completely different fields.
But when I say I’m a “technical copywriter” (a colloquial term for “B2B technology copywriter”), nobody seems to hear the “copy” part of the word.
They all assume I’m a “technical writer”, which is different. Here’s an article explaining the differences between a B2B technology copywriter and a technical writer.
In this article, I go through all the important steps a B2B technology copywriter goes through to deliver lead- and sales-generating copy.
1. Open Dialogue With Client
Good writing begins with an exchange of ideas.
To foster an uninhibited exchange of ideas, we need an open and unfiltered communication.
The conversation between a B2B technology copywriter and a business looking to boost sales revenue involves an honest look at the current state of business and their objectives.
Questions like these are good ways to jumpstart a productive conversation that could change your business for the better:
- Are you getting web traffic but not converting it to sales?
- Does your sales and marketing material target the right audience?
- Does your sales copy speak to the reader, or does it just list all the product’s features?
- Is your website missing an FAQ, a handful of articles, a few case studies, a whitepaper, or a couple of press releases? Content that is useful to your visitors establishes you as a credible authority on the topic.
- How does your website look? Is it cluttered with too much text or too many widgets?
- Does your website make it clear what exactly your business is about?
- Is there an email opt-in to capture potential leads?
- Is there an active email marketing campaign to keep customers engaged and bring them closer to buying your product?
Obviously, there are always other questions to consider, but these are more than enough to get a dialog going.
Once a client forms an idea how to move forward with marketing copy, it’s time to talk requirements.
What will the client’s sales approach be?
What exactly does the client need from the technical copywriter?
It’s important to clearly outline those needs and requirements before starting any work on creating sales and marketing material.
2. Get Client’s Requirements
Ideally, the B2B technology copywriter would have all the project requirements before agreeing to work on the project.
The dialogue is a discovery phase of the project and usually overlaps with the requirements phase.
Over the course of the dialogue, the conversation usually starts out quite general.
Then it becomes more focused, at which point is a great time to get most, if not all, of the requirements on paper.
Some requirements usually include:
- Type of sales and marketing material needed
- Understanding the business sales process
- The audience or market that the client needs to target
- Get keywords that the client wants to rank higher on if SEO is involved
- Desired tone
Type of Sales and Marketing Material Needed
Choosing the right marketing material to develop involves understanding 1) the sales process within your own business and 2) your target market.
Understanding the Sales Process
There are several steps to the sales process, a few of which are especially relevant to the technical copywriter developing your marketing material:
- Product Knowledge
- Prospecting for Customers
- The Sales and Marketing Approach
- Needs Assessment of Target Market
- The Presentation of Sales and Marketing Material
- Closing the Sale
The product knowledge phase involves learning all the technical aspects of the product and its features. The B2B technology copywriter would obtain all of this information from the client through discussions of requirements and source material.
Prospecting for Customers
It is the B2B technology copywriter’s job to translate the features into benefits. But to do that, we need to understand who the target customers are and what they want. The copywriter can help the client focus on market segments to produce more powerful sales messages.
The Sales and Marketing Approach
The client would choose how to approach their prospective customers, and this choice determines what kind of sales and marketing material the technical copywriter creates. If a client wants to send direct mailers, the copywriter would create copy for a direct mailer. If the client decides on an email marketing campaign with an opt-in, the copywriter would write the emails that make up the campaign. The choices are many.
Needs Assessment of Target Market
To write laser-focused and effective copy that truly sells, the copywriter must understand how to solve the prospect’s problems with the client’s product or service. To do that, I take the time to research the prospects, what their needs are, and how to address their pain points.
The Presentation of Sales and Marketing Material
All the above steps lead to this final step for technical copywriters. If the prior steps had been done correctly, the final result will be a substantial jump in sales with focused and effective copy. Otherwise, the copy will fail to increase sales. Here’s a report on the three major mistakes copywriters make when creating sales and marketing material to sell technology and software.
Closing the Sale
Every piece of marketing material I write will always have a strong Call-to-Action to persuade the prospect to buy your product. If the client wants, I will create follow-up materials to hook prospects back into buying. In my experience, following up doubles your conversion rate.
Targeting Your Audience With the Right Keywords and Tone
Part of the requirements discussion involves identifying market segments to target, what their business needs are, and what keywords they use to look for solutions to their problems.
If necessary, I will also consider the best tone to use in my writing that targets these market segments.
For B2C copywriting, I would probably use a conversational and friendly tone if the situation calls for it. Apple has mastered the art of B2C copywriting using the right tone and word choice simplicity. I’ve written a case study about how Apple’s copywriting techniques propelled their sales into the billions.
With B2B copywriting, the tone should be more compact and to the point, but still sound like a human being, and not so formal like a robot. The best tone to use depends on the situation and on the target demographic.
Unless the client requires a particular tone to be used, I will choose the most appropriate tone. For further reading, here’s a concise article that explains the difference between B2C and B2B copywriting and another article with 10 essential B2B copywriting tips that I use in my work.
3. Research The Product, Target Customer, Market Competition and Relevant Keywords
A copywriter spends 70% of the total time on a project doing research and spends the remaining 30% on writing the actual sales and marketing material.
However, a B2B technology copywriter with subject matter expertise on the product or service may be able to cut down on the research time, giving you more bang for your buck.
How a B2B Technology Copywriter Researches Your Product and The Market
This is a list of what copywriters look for:
- Obtain source material
- Research the target audience
- Find the customer’s pain points
- List the product’s features
- Translate features into benefits
- Interview subject matter experts
- Analyze the competition
- List keywords that generate traffic
Obtain Source Material
Even though copywriters know general information about the industry, they need more in-depth background information about your own company, your clients, the technical information about your product, and how your product intends to help them.
Research the Target Audience
To get the best results, the copywriter needs to tailor the marketing copy to the right audience. Is your audience is highly technical and want the nitty gritty product details? Or are they C-level execs who just want the “bottom line” about business benefits?
What percentage of your target audience have the funds and decision making power to buy your product? What portion of your target audience expressed a need for your product or a pain point that your product can alleviate? This data-driven demographic research is an essential step to tailor marketing material to your target audience.
Find the Customer’s Pain Points
While researching the target market and their demographics, I look for any problems they are having. I summarize each problem or pain point and write them down on a short list for the next two steps.
List the Product’s Features
Standard copywriting rules say to sell the benefits, not the features. But with technical copywriting, it is important to understand the features to translate them into benefits.
It takes a deep technical background to understand what the features are, why they are “features”, and more importantly, how they benefit your customers. I make a list of features and then compare it side-by-side with my list of customer’s needs.
Translate Features Into Benefits
This is the hardest part of the entire project. It sounds simple, but in practice, it’s not, especially when dealing with technical products. A copywriter’s technical background is the most useful for this step.
This article explains how a technical copywriter’s job differs from that of a standard copywriter. With the two lists, I match each feature with its most closely corresponding benefit and write a solution that powerfully appeals to the customer’s problem or need.
Interview Subject Matter Experts
With a B2B technology copywriter being an expert in the industry, this may not be necessary and can often be skipped to save time. However, if I deem it necessary, I will interview at least one or two subject matter experts to glean valuable information used to maximize the impact of the finished marketing material.
Analyze the Competition
I check if there are other companies selling similar products, how they are selling them, and look for any gaps in the features-benefits relationship on their sales copy. Inferring what the competitors are not doing is just as important as observing what they are doing. This is exactly how I come up with ideas how to emphasize your unique selling points.
List Keywords That Generate Traffic
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an integral part of the technical copywriter’s job. I do research using keyword tools to come up with a list of relevant keyword variants around your product. I look for long-tail keywords that have less competition than head terms. Yet these long-tail keywords contain the most coveted head terms tucked within longer phrases. I make a list of those to use within the sales copy, which I’ll write in the next step.
4. Write the Sales and Marketing Material
If I were thorough enough in my research, writing the copy is almost an afterthought. Still, some creativity is necessary for creating catchy headlines and compelling call to actions.
Within the meat of the copy, I translate the technical concepts or features into engaging and easy-to-understand benefits.
The most important part of this step is to decide on a format for the sales and marketing material. While the appearance and tone depend on whether it is a sales page, press release, social media ad, white paper, case study, or a landing page, etc, determining the copywriting formula is a very important step.
Decide on a Copywriting Formula
To structure their copy, most standard copywriters rely on the AIDA structure: Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action.
I do not use the AIDA structure because it is too vague and not enough to truly target the intended audience with enough compelling specifics.
Instead, depending on the product and the context, I use one of the two formulas: Problem-Agitate-Solution (PAS) or Features-Advantages-Benefits (FAB).
Problem – Agitate – Solution
In this formula, I explicitly identify the problem or customer pain point to get attention and interest.
Then I agitate by going in depth about why the problem is a major problem and why the customer is in dire need of an immediate solution.
Finally, I offer a solution to save the day, explaining what the solution is and how it solves their problem.
Right after I offer the solution, I ask for the sale using a powerful call-to-action.
This PAS structure is ideal for long-form copy in many cases, particularly for service-based sales of business solutions. For some examples of copy written using the PAS structure, click here.
Features – Advantages – Benefits
Another way to structure my copy is using the FAB structure, starting with features. I start by telling what the features are in a non-technical language that is easy for anyone to understand.
This is an especially difficult step for standard copywriters and requires the expertise of a professional tech copywriter.
Next, I espouse the advantages of what each feature represents. This is a middle ground between features and benefits. This makes it easier for the prospect to mentally connect the dots between the features and benefits.
Finally, I clearly show the benefits of using the product based on the advantages the prospect gains from its features. The FAB format is a great way to translate features into benefits for technical product-based sales.
Click here to see how it all ties together into effective copy.
Use Outline To Keep Text Broken Up
I start writing an outline because it helps keep the text short and to the point. It helps break up the text into easily scannable parts.
Except for longer articles or white papers, I keep all paragraphs to no longer than 3 sentences each.
For longer works, I might bend this rule, but there will be no “walls of text” — nobody reads those.
In fact, hardly anybody reads web pages anymore. Most people scan web pages.
One of the most important formatting rules in copywriting is to use lots of headings and subheadings that make it easier for readers to scan the content.
If the situation calls for it, I would also include supporting graphics, videos, or infographics done by a graphic designer paid for by a client. Graphics help the copy sell better.
Submit Two Copies of Each Document
This may be a personal rule more than anything, but I always submit two copies of each document containing all of the sales and marketing material the client requires.
One of them would have all the copy with the highlighted keywords I found in my research, as well as my commentary explaining why I wrote what I wrote. The other would be a clean copy of the text, with no commentary or highlights.