The #1 mistake B2B copywriters make
What’s the #1 mistake B2B copywriters make? How can they avoid this mistake or fix it?
We asked eight accomplished copywriters these questions.
Here’s what they told us.
Mistake #1: Not learning the craft
“A common mistake? Hanging out their shingles too soon,” says Gordon Graham, also known as That White Paper Guy. “Lots of beginners try to do copywriting without getting enough practice to be much good at it.”
“Some people don’t even have any samples of their writing,” he says. “How do they expect to get hired?”
What can writers do to avoid this?
“Practice, practice, practice,” says Graham, who has written more than 236 white papers.
“Maybe find an organization you admire that can’t afford to pay for copywriting and do a freebie for them.
“Get up every morning and organize your day around your writing,” he says.
“Practice really will make you a better and more confident writer… someone who’s worth hiring.”
Mistake #2: Hesitating to jump in
On the other hand, B2B copywriter Casey Demchak finds the biggest problem some copywriters make is over-preparing before they embark on a freelance career.
“I’ve talked to many up-and-coming copywriters who are going to start their business after they…
- Complete one more AWAI program
- Attend one or two more copywriting conferences
- Finish reading this or that copywriting book
“My advice to B2B copywriters is that you’ll never be FULLY prepared to start your business—so just do it!”
“More often than not, moxy, guts, energy and a willingness to learn through trial-and-error are your greatest assets when starting a business,” says Demchak.
“Plus, seasoned copywriters are always learning for many years after they start their business. So you may as well get after it.
“Don’t be afraid to put the cart before the horse,” he advises, “and just get rolling!”
Mistake #3: Being difficult to work with
B2B copywriter Casey Hibbard has written more than 1,000 customer stories.
Her top advice?
She says too many copywriters are not easy to work with.
“If you want to get repeat business and referrals, you have to be good at what you do AND easy to work with,” she says.
“That means listening closely to your client’s needs, and taking client feedback in stride. You simply do what it takes to make the copy right.”
Communication is also huge, says Hibbard. She suggests giving clients frequent updates on what’s going on with their projects.
“Set a schedule to update them every day, every few days or every week, depending on the nature of the project.”
Clients appreciate regular communication, she notes.
“If you’re going to be on vacation, let them know in advance, and complete as much as you can beforehand. And NEVER COMPLAIN—about anything.”
Mistake #4: Writing superficial copy
Bob Bly is a well-known direct-response copywriter and marketing consultant.
He’s published more than 85 books on writing and related subjects.
The biggest mistake he sees B2B copywriters make is to write superficial copy about technical products being sold to technical prospects.
As a result, the content sounds like it has been written by a salesperson who doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
The best way to avoid this?
“Learn more about the technology, the market, and engineering, computers, and science in general,” advises Bly.
This is great advice from someone who knows: Bly is a trained engineer who has specialized in writing about technical products for decades.
Mistake #5: Not understanding the industry
“The biggest complaint that I hear from my clients is that they can’t find a B2B copywriter who understands their niche,” says B2B content writer Rachel Foster.
For example, a writer may use a casual, consumer tone when addressing B2B buyers. That’s missing the target.
She advises B2B copywriters just getting started to focus on one industry, such as manufacturing or technology.
“Read the publications that your clients’ customers read to become familiar with the jargon, tone, and trending topics,” she suggests.
“Once you are familiar with one industry, you’ll find some overlap with other B2B sectors and you can expand out.”
Mistake #6: Not understanding the prospect
Steve Slaunwhite is a copywriter, market strategist and speaker who’s written numerous books, including one of our favorites, The Wealthy Freelancer.
He says the #1 mistake he sees is not having a clear picture of the prospect before writing copy.
“For example, if the target market consists of accountants, most copywriters will make some assumptions and then start writing,” he says.
“The best copywriters, however, first find out what makes accountants tick. And as a result, they end up writing better copy, faster.”
And that’s why buyer personas are so important, he notes: They help copywriters visualize who they’re trying to reach.
Mistake #7: Not being persuasive
Sally Cole has worked with companies like Google and Adobe to analyze data, develop strategies, and write white papers.
The #1 problem
B2B copywriters don’t use enough persuasive techniques in their writing.
“As a result, they achieve nothing, and might as well have not written anything at all,” she says.
To fix this, Cole suggests B2B copywriters learn more about persuasion by reading about these techniques and experimenting with them.
One of Cole’s favorite short documents on this topic is The World’s Most Powerful Written Persuasion Techniques by Lou Larsen.
“And copywriters who want to go deeper can read books on the very comprehensive persuasion reading list maintained by Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert,” she says.
Note to self: Add these to my own reading list.
Mistake #8: Writing boring content
Ed Gandia, a top business coach for writers, agrees that quality is the biggest culprit for B2B copywriters.
“In many cases, writers forget they’re writing for people. So they add way too much data and way too many facts,” he says.
“The copy is too often not conversational at all. And the writer fails to include story elements or emotional components that would drive more engagement.”
His first suggestion echoes Slaunwhite.
“Learn more about the target audience for the piece. What do they ultimately care about?” he asks.
“Find their emotional hot buttons. Do they want to look good to their boss? Are they trying to avoid risk? Get into the mind of that prospect first.”
Next, he says, make your copy more conversational.
“Let a lay person read it and see if they get it,” he suggests. “If they can’t understand the general idea of your piece, that’s a clear sign that you need to get back to the drawing board.”
Get at it
So what are you waiting for?
Follow the advice of these experts: Learn your craft and jump in, be pleasant, understand your audience, and be persuasive, not boring or superficial.
Master these elements of writing and you’ll likely enjoy your writing projects more and to see your income rise.
Do you see any other common mistakes that B2B copywriters make? Be sure to tell us in the Comments section below.
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You make a big dent in the reader’s confidence in the article and its contributors when Gordon Graham’s exhortation to learn the copywriting craft is immediately contradicted by Casey Demchak.
Gordon’s excellent recommendation to practice and to build a portfolio of work before opening for business is dismissed by Casey as over-preparation.
A recipe for confusion, wouldn’t you say, if the first two experts are at loggerheads? (And please don’t tell me to keep a balance between the two — that would be spurious).
Hi Nick, I know what you mean. The contrast between our comments shows there’s no absolute right-and-wrong here. I do think Casey and I are both urging anyone seeking to become a professional writer to GET WRITING. You only learn how to write by writing, not by taking courses or setting up a website or even reading blog posts. So in that sense we’re both on the same page.
Thanks for the persuasion reading list! I love Scott Adams, so it’s fun to see he’s still active with Dogbert’s online empire :).
Regarding skills, or for anyone interested in an exploration of what makes writing tick, you might try “The Sense of Style,” Steven Pinker’s recent book. I am reading it now and it’s both convincingly analytical and…stylish! An elegant balance–kind of maddeningly elegant for a book by a cognitive scientist.
The smart B2B Copy Writers recognize and research all these mistake before which are mentioned in this article.
Interesting thanks for your post
I found this site very useful.
I am researching and about to start a writing B2B career.