On our latest podcast I was talking to Emily about the skills that characterise a truly great B2B technology copywriter, and I wanted to expand on that in this post.
Most B2B tech marketers would agree that finding writers who excel in all of these areas is almost impossibly hard. (A recent micro-survey by Velocity Partners revealed that finding great copywriters is a worry for 52% of B2B marketers, particularly because most marketers are looking for writers who can do so much more than just write.)
And with content marketing moving into a new phase where only the very best quality stuff is going to stand out and get read, writers who possess all six of these skills are more in demand than ever.
1. Great writing: You know how your audience talks, and you write that way. You use metaphor, examples, analogies and anecdotes to bring your writing to life. Your words flow so effortlessly that the reader forgets they’re reading Six Ways to Turbo-Charge Your Data Storage Architecture, and instead feels transported to a blissful nirvana where their data storage worries are already solved.
2. Tech knowledge: You can get to grips with the tech your client sells – probably not in nitty-gritty detail, but you know what it is, what it does, what makes it great and how it’s different from previous versions and competing products. You know your M2M from your V2V, and your hypervisors from your NoSQL databases. More to the point, you know who the hell might want any of these things, and the fantastic things they might be able to do with them.
3. Business experience: You know what a supply chain is, how it works, and all the ways it could go wrong. You’re au fait with seven different categories of risk, you know your kaizen from your Kanban and your balanced scorecard from your Lean Six Sigma. If someone asked you to hold the fort at GE while Jeff Immelt nipped out for a sandwich, you probably wouldn’t completely suck.
4. Marketing chops: You know what an ebook is for, what an infographic needs to do, and how a nurture campaign works. You know what your clients are measured on – which means you know how important your subject lines and CTAs are – and how your writing can get them the results they need. (You also know what ‘CTA’ stands for.)
5. Interviewing skills: You’re confident, comfortable and curious in meetings and phone briefings. People warm to you and enjoy being interviewed by you. You know the questions that will draw out the most interesting information for the audience, and you’re not afraid to ask them – even if deep down you think they might make you sound silly.
6. Audience empathy: You know who you’re writing for, and you feel their pain. You never start a project without a persona, which means you can readily put yourself into the shoes of an ambitious HR manager or a put-upon compliance officer. You know what their work entails, you know what keeps them awake at night, and you know how to frame your writing to get their attention and interest (in a good way).
The good news is that lots of these skills can be learned (though nos. 3 and 6 are tricky ones for freelance writers with little or no direct experience of big business). And for those writers who are willing to put the time in to learn them, the opportunity at the moment is enormous.
SIDE NOTE: I really wanted to do this post as a Venn diagram, but it turns out that a six-way Venn is a massively complicated – though undeniably beautiful – beast. Kudos to Emily for giving it a go, with all credit to Combinatorics.org for the basic Venn shape. Which all leads me to think that probably an up-and-coming seventh essential skill for a B2B copywriter is a decent grasp of maths…
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