You may think of a copywriter as someone who can apply their wordy skills to any type of commercial writing. In reality, there are at least seven different types of copywriter in the B2B marketing world, and while some writers can turn their hand to different styles and approaches, it’s extremely rare to find one person with the whole range of capabilities.
Here are the seven types of writer I think are out there:
1. The Creative Copywriter: Creative copywriters have the magical gift of being able to communicate an idea in a short, pithy, punchy, snappy, memorable phrase. Their main habitat is consumer ad-land, where they’re paid vast sums to come up with things like “Simples” and “Should have gone to Specsavers”. As the consumerisation of enterprise IT gathers pace, expect to see more of these rare beasts on our B2B shores. Creative copywriters are brilliant at coming up with attention-grabbing concepts, but you might think twice about asking one to write your next ebook. (Also, tragically, they don’t charge by the word.)
What they’re good at: campaign concepts, headlines, straplines, ad copy.
Business value: they create the ideas and phrases that get your brand noticed and remembered.
2. The Digital Copywriter: Digital copywriters are responsible for all the largely-unsung microcopy that gets website visitors and app users to click on the right things and enter the right information. If you’ve ever wondered whether your CTA button should say “Start your free trial” or “Start my free trial”, ask a digital copywriter. (And yes, that single word change can have a huge impact – a 90% increase in conversions, according to this experiment by Michael Aagard of ContentVerve.)
What they’re good at: on-page navigation copy, microcopy, button copy, calls-to-action, social media copy.
Business value: they write the copy that gets people to try, buy or sign up for what you’re offering.
3. The Marketing Copywriter: Part writer, part psychologist, the marketing copywriter knows not just how to get the attention of the target buyer, but how to make them feel that your widget is the one true thing their lives are desperately missing. A good marketing copywriter will immerse him or herself in buyer personas until they understand the target audience better than they understand themselves. They’ll use that insight to write copy that inspires, educates, empathises, terrifies and/or just gently guides the prospect towards your product or service. Crucially, this kind of writer can set up, develop, and sustain an argument, in an appropriate tone and voice, over a long-form piece.
What they’re good at: email campaigns, ebooks, video scripts.
Business value: they develop a strong emotional bond between your brand and your target buyer.
4. The Explainer Copywriter: There’s a current school of thought in B2B that the fusty white paper is dead, and that the way forward is to use lively, engaging copy to appeal to the buyer’s emotional side. But not every brand wants to appear puppyish, and some conservative buyers are reassured by a writing style that reflects the gravitas of the investment decision and the quality and reliability of the brand. This style of writing doesn’t have to be boring or jargon-filled – in the same way that The Economist or the Financial Times aren’t boring or jargon-filled – but it does need a skilled writer to make it simultaneously serious *and* engaging. The Explainer Copywriter is someone who knows how to present the logical and rational case for investment in a product or technology, in a way that’s clear, digestible and easy to read.
(An Explainer Copywriter may also choose to buddy with a Creative Copywriter to ‘punch up’ the copy with snappy titles, headlines and pull copy.)
What they’re good at: white papers, datasheets, product/demo video scripts.
Business value: they help prospects to build an internal business case for investment.
5. The SEO Copywriter: Once the preserve of dodgy articles-by-the-yard merchants who’d pay naïve students to scrape stuff from Wikipedia, stuff it with keywords, and slap it on a client’s website for £10 per 300 words, the bad old world of SEO copywriting has been more or less destroyed by a succession of Google algorithm updates. With Google now actively punishing sites that are crammed with low-quality, keyword-stuffed copy, SEO copywriters have had to up their game considerably. Today’s SEO Copywriter is more likely to be a Marketing Copywriter, Explainer Copywriter or Brand Journalist, creating original, intelligent, engaging and helpful content that guides customers to a buying decision. (If you’re still doing it the old way, you might want to have a rethink.)
What they’re good for: blog posts, online articles, web page copy.
Business value: they make sure your site ranks highly in relevant searches.
6. The Brand Journalist: In a noisy world, the brands that stand out are the ones that tell engaging stories – about their customers, about their products, about their ethos; about anything that’s going to capture interest and attention. The brand journalist is emerging as a new style of copywriter who can uncover and tell those stories. Successful brand journalists use techniques borrowed from newspaper and magazine journalism, like interviewing experts and customers, reporting news from the brand’s ecosystem, ‘newsjacking’ current topics, curating ideas and opinions, weaving in multimedia elements and using supporting facts and graphics to craft well written copy that’s, fresh, interesting and enjoyable to read.
What they’re good at: Blogs, articles, case studies, curated pieces, multimedia extravaganzas.
Business value: they turn your website into a high-profile, must-visit, share-worthy media property.
7. The Technical Writer: Most copywriters are – let’s be honest – poncy arts graduates, and struggle when it comes to actually understanding the deep-down nuts and bolts and bits and bytes of the products they’re promoting. The technical writer is a rare and valuable species: a hybrid of techie and writer, they not only know which bit plugs into what (and why you really don’t want to plug that bit in there), but they can explain it clearly and simply to the end-user. Look at the credentials of your prospective copywriter. If they’ve got a degree in medieval French literature (guilty) and a career history of writing e-newsletters for leisure resorts, you probably won’t want to let them anywhere near your new RS-Z160 user manual.
What they’re good at: datasheets, user manuals, FAQs, knowledgebase articles, technical instructions of any sort.
Business value: They keep users happy (and safe), and reduce expensive calls to your helpdesk.
While writing this I’ve noticed that the types of copywriter also map to different stages of the buying process, which I find pretty interesting. So if you’re creating top-of-the-funnel educational content you might get the best traction with a Marketing Copywriter, while for middle-of-the-funnel content you may do better with an Explainer Copywriter, and for bottom-of-the-funnel stuff, a skilled Digital Copywriter or Technical Copywriter may boost your conversion rates. It would be interesting to hear other people’s thoughts on this.