Rachel Foster is a B2B copywriter who helps marketers improve their response rates, clearly communicate complex messages and generate high-quality leads. You can follow her work at http://copywritertoronto.com/blog/.
You've been working in copywriting for over 14 years. To start, what was it about copywriting that attracted you, initially? Are you still as passionate about copywriting as you were when you first were starting out?
I majored in English in university and concentrated in creative writing. After I graduated, I spent three years as a proposal writer for an architectural firm in Buffalo.
When I moved to Toronto, I got a job as a marketing assistant and wasn't happy in the position. I saw a career coach, who recommended that I try freelance writing. At first, I wasn't open to the idea, as I didn't think I could hustle to get clients.
But she encouraged me to attend a workshop that Steve Slaunwhite was teaching on how to get started as a freelance copywriter. He made it seem doable and not so scary. After the workshop, I decided to give it a go.
I launched Fresh Perspective Copywriting in 2009. I decided to focus on writing B2B copy for technology companies, as I could build upon the experience that I gained at the architectural firm. Architecture is very technical, and I was used to taking complex subjects and making them assessable to a variety of readers.
It's been eight years, and I still love what I do. In particular, I enjoy writing case studies, white papers, and website copy. I like diving deep into a topic and learning a lot about it.
In addition to the writing, I also enjoy content strategy and making all of the parts work together.
How has copywriting changed since you first started working in the industry? What's remained the same?
When I first got started, content marketing wasn't popular. The closest term that I heard at the time was "educational marketing". Now, most B2B marketers see the importance of using content to help customers. I've worked with many clients who were transitioning from "me-focused" marketing that talked about how great their company is to putting the focus on their customers.
The one thing that has remained the same is that you still need great copy. You need to clearly convey how you can help customers and show them the benefits of partnering with you.
Many of your clients have a hard time finding a copywriter who understands the complex nature of their B2B products or services. Can you offer any advice on how to identify the most pertinent information from a B2B business, and make it understandable to a layperson?
Start by thinking about your customers. Who are they? What is an average day like for them? What are their top challenges and goals? What questions do they ask you?
Then, create copy that speaks to their needs. Answer their questions. Show them that you understand their pains.
When you write about your products, it's generally better to focus on the benefits over the features, especially if you're creating content for early-stage leads. Late-stage leads will be more interested in the features. But even then, you don't need to discuss every feature at length. Just talk about the ones that they want to know about.
Likewise, can you offer any tips on how to take technical language and jargon and make it interesting, informative, and exciting for a prospective new client? What are the dangers of boring your audience?
The danger of boring your audience is that they won't read your copy. They won't think that you understand their needs, so they will go to your competitors instead.
It's important to speak your customers' language. For example, you likely have great technical documentation about your products. But do your customers speak this technical language? If not, how do they speak? Do you need to make your copy more conversational?
One thing you can do is run your copy past someone in your company who has the same role as your customers. If you sell human resources software, ask your HR manager to look at your copy. Ask if they relate to the copy and if you missed any of their important issues.
According to Content Marketing Institute's B2B marketing report from 2016, 75% of B2B businesses reported that in-person events are the most effective form of marketing. Can you give an example or two of how copywriters might incorporate a physical event into their copywriting strategies?
I think that copywriters need to be selective about the events that they attend. When you start as a freelancer, you'll get tons of invites to networking events. Most of these events are a waste of time. You won't meet any clients through them.
If you want to network to meet potential clients, make sure that your ideal clients will attend the event. Industry conferences are a good place to make connections. You can also meet clients by volunteering for an association that they belong to.
Also, 88% of B2B businesses report using content marketing as part of their digital marketing strategy. How does traditional copywriting interact and influence inbound or content marketing? How might a company decide what's the best form for their marketing campaigns to take?
Copywriting and content writing work together. Ideally, your marketing campaigns should contain a mix of both.
Content tends to educate people about a specific topic. But every piece of content needs strong call to action copy that entices readers to take the next step.
On the other hand, you can't just rely on sales copy. Buyers won't trust you if you constantly blast them with sales messages. Providing valuable content can help you earn buyers' trust. Then, when they see your marketing copy down the road, they will be more likely to trust you and respond.
You were named one of the Top 40+ Digital Strategists in Marketing for 2014 by the Online Marketing Institute. What did you do to bring about that recognition? And how do copywriting and digital strategy come into contact with one another?
I was pleasantly surprised by the recognition, as I didn't apply for the honour.
Your copy usually comes into play after you've developed a digital marketing strategy. It's hard to know what to write unless you first understand your goals, audience and key messages.
Then, you can identify areas where you need copy, such as for a website refresh or a white paper.
One of the things that's particular for B2B marketing is that the customer is almost always looking for a solution for their problems, instead of businesses reaching out? How can great copywriting take advantage of that fact, using SEO and SEM strategies?
Most B2B buyers conduct their own research through organic search and won't contact you until they're well into the decision-making process.
With all the changes to Google algorithms, it can be challenging to get organic search results without having a good SEO strategy. That said, you still want to use keywords where possible because your target audience searches for them. If you write great content for your audience, they are more likely to get value from it and share it. You should see improved rankings over time.
SEM needs the appropriate keywords to get the right people to your landing pages. Otherwise, you are just wasting money. Either way, keyword research and great copywriting will help you convert.
You've written a post 'Top B2B Content Marketing Trends For 2017', where you offer up some optimistic statistics, like 85% of B2B marketers creating higher quality and more efficient content. What are some reasons for this upswing in efficiency? And what are some different examples of higher quality content?
Many B2B marketers have spent the past few years focusing on content. They are creating content marketing strategies, instead of just publishing random blog posts and hoping for the best.
They are also tying content to each stage of the sales cycle. For example, they may have a blog post for early stage leads and a related case study for buyers in the consideration stage. This guides buyers along the sales path, answers their questions and builds their trust.
Finally, you've reported that a 5% increase in customer retention will boost profitability. What are one or two copywriting tactics for customer retention that you could recommend? What makes them so useful and effective?
Your post-sale content can focus on helping customers get more value from your product or service. The better their results, the more they will recommend you to others.
You copy can encourage customers to watch tutorials, take a class or interact with their peers.
In addition, you can share case studies with your existing customers. While case studies are typically used to build trust pre-purchase, they can also be examples of successes and upgrade paths that your existing customers can take.
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