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Moving from copywriter to B2B content writer

Have you ever worked as a copywriter?

Then, as a copywriter, you understand more about marketing than writers from any other career path.

And you’ve probably got some wonderful skills.

So why not cash in on the biggest writing boom in years: B2B content?

photo of a copywriter jumping from a pile of books to a laptop

What is B2B content?

As you know, B2B content includes blog posts, case studies, e-newsletters, press releases, slide decks. video scripts, white papers…

In fact, B2B content includes any piece of writing that helps a company rise in Google’s search results and attract prospective buyers.

But it’s not sales copy. And there are never any “Buy now” buttons in the margins.

B2B content is designed to help business people understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.

And there’s a desperate shortage of good writers who can produce it. That’s where you come in, as an experienced copywriter.

You already have many skills

Let’s review the great skills you likely already have:

  • Understanding why B2B buyers buy
  • Analyzing an audience
  • Doing in-depth research
  • Interviewing experts
  • Writing to persuade
  • Following house style
  • Meeting short deadlines
  • Handling reviews and comments

All these will be very helpful to you as a B2B content writer.

Some new skills you may need

Here are some skills you may need to develop to succeed in B2B content writing:

  • Writing to explain
  • Handling quotes and sources
  • Proving all your claims with evidence
  • Formatting documents for quick scanning
  • Telling an engaging story

You can learn all these, both by studying good samples of B2B content, and with practice at writing your own.

Three things you may need to “unlearn”

Be warned: When you first start to write B2B content, your past experience as a copywriter may get in your way.

That’s because sales copy appeals more to emotion than logic.

So you’ll need to shift your focus from selling to providing useful information.

If you can shift your attitude enough to get past the following hurdles, you can have a wonderful future as a B2B content writer.

1. Sell the steak, not the sizzle

Copywriters are often told to “sell the sizzle, not the steak”. But B2B content is different.

To reach a skeptical business audience, you won’t be able to get away with any lofty slogans or glib promises.

You’ll need to eliminate any hype, fluff, superlatives, and lofty promises.

You’ll need to find solid facts to build a logical case or tell a real-world story.

In every piece, you’ll need to dish out plenty of “steak”.

2. Talk features, not benefits

When you write copy, you automatically link every feature to a benefit. You paint a picture of how much better people’s lives will be after they buy.

When you write B2B content, your text may need to drill down deeper into features. You may need to describe how a feature is implemented, or how it solves an age-old problem.

You may need to discuss the durability of some materials, or the precision of an algorithm.

Of course, benefits are important.

But in B2B content, they are sometimes secondary to the nitty-gritty information about features that business people are seeking.

3. Don’t ask for the order

When you write B2B content, you never “ask for the order”.

The documents you’ll be writing are used to support a complex B2B sale and to help business people make a decision that can take many weeks or months to complete.

At the end of the document, you might encourage readers to take the next step in the sales cycle, such as visiting a website.

But in B2B content, you seldom ask readers to pick up the phone and call the order desk.

No sales pitches, just useful info

As you move into the field of B2B content, remember that business people aren’t looking for a sales pitch.

They are looking for useful content to help them understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.

If you can provide it, you will position your client as a trusted advisor that prospects can rely on. And you can have a wonderful career as a B2B content writer.

Need more help getting started?

Check out my Crash Course in B2B Content.

This is a quick-start guide to writing the 12 most popular forms of B2B content, from blog posts to white papers.

The crash course describes each format, shows examples including a detailed video walkthrough, tells the going rates you can charge, and gives lots of tips to help you start writing that format right away.

By the way, before I started That White Paper Guy, I was an all-around copywriter. I wrote ads, brochures, data sheets, scripts for webinars, online sales letters. You name it, I wrote it.

About 20 years ago, I started to focus on B2B content like white papers and case studies. I haven’t looked back.

About Gordon Graham

Author of close to 300 white papers on everything from choosing enterprise software to designing virtual worlds for kids, for clients from Silicon Valley to Switzerland, from tiny startups to 3M, Google and Verizon. Also wrote White Papers for Dummies which earned 50 5-star ratings on Amazon. And Gordon was recently named 2019 Copywriter of the Year by AWAI.

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3 Comments

  1. willyshane on May 29, 2015 at 10:28 am

    Thanks again Gordon! I haven’t been a copywriter long and not written much of it either.

    I think now is the perfect time to focus my efforts on writing B2B content. Sounds right up my alley.

    William S

  2. Adam T. on December 23, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    This is excellent, Gordon. I’ve been struggling to hit the ground running with consistent copywriting work.

    I think the problem now was that I was saying no to the wrong things. Writing B2B content might be something to do.

    Take care and Happy Holidays,

    Adam

  3. Inés on November 8, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    Thank you again, Gordon! This was one of the clearest explanations I’ve ever read. I haven’t been working as a writer for a long time, so it’s fantastic to know the difference between B2B and copy at this stage.

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