Break Into B2B Marketing Writing and Ditch the Content Mills

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Want to learn more about breaking into B2B writing? Join the Five Figure Writer community to watch a free webinar and get started.

If you’re like many new writers, you’re hesitant to write for the B2B audience because you’re not quite sure what it means to be a B2B writer.

Sure, there’s a technical definition — business-to-business — but what does it really mean to write for a business? And what do businesses want from their writers?

Your questions are well-founded.

Businesses are serious business, and you don’t want to step into a field with a lot riding on your words when you don’t entirely know what you’re about. But, with the increased growth in the B2B writing market and rates that run upwards of $1 per word, it would be a disservice to avoid this field without at least looking into it.

Here’s a bit of background information about B2B writing and what it takes to be successful in this lucrative writing field.

Why B2B writing is worth it

According to the Content Marketing Institute’s recent 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends survey, businesses need content. Seventy-six percent of marketers report they will produce more content in 2016 than the year before, 51 percent say they’ll increase their budget for content in the next 12 months, and 60 percent say that producing the content is their number-one challenge.

You know what this means? It means that there’s a huge built-in market for writers who know how to talk about business problems and sell products and services to other businesses.

These clients already know they need your services and they already know your services are worth the cost. They just need to meet you and get sold on the fact that you’re the right writer for them.

Skills you need to be successful in B2B writing

You know the market is there, so how do you know you’ll enjoy the work? Here are three skills you’ll need to be successful or desirable as a B2B writer:

    1. Writing talent: You know how to put words together into convincing and well-received sentences. You know how to convey meaning clearly for readable, relatable online content.
    2. Business awareness: You understand that businesses invest in products and services to make more money and then re-invest that money in their products and services. You know how customer service, marketing, leadership, and sales work together to keep a business afloat (and if you run your own business, you definitely know this!).
    3. Digital research savvy: You know how to perform research online to uncover interesting statistics and quickly understand the lingo businesses use for their products and services. You have a basic knowledge of SEO keywords and writing for search engines to help businesses get online traffic.

If you aren’t strong in any of these three areas, that’s where you can hone in on your training to grow your skills and become a great B2B writer.

How B2B writing is different

Writing for a B2B audience is a topic that could be a whole course. But you can get started in this field by understanding a few simple principles.

First, understand that the B2B audience is made up of people who represent a company. While for B2C (business-to-consumer) writing you write to an individual who is making choices for himself, when you write for a B2B audience you’re writing for an individual who is making choices for his place of work. He’ll need to justify this purchase to his boss or his boss’s boss, and he’ll want to know all of the technical details up front.

Second, know that the B2B audience values statistics and information about the return on investment (ROI) that comes from the products or services being advertised. Essentially, they want to know that spending $1000 on the product you’re advertising will net the company $2,000 or $5,000 more revenue. Any investment needs to provide a return.

Finally, B2B audiences take in information in the marketing age in many different ways. B2B writing can take the form of blog posts and articles on a company’s website, or articles via a high-traffic publication like Forbes or Inc.

B2B audiences also might need to recieve content in the form of press releases, white papers, and case studies, each of which have their own format, best practices, and price points.

If it sounds like B2B writing could be a good fit for you, don’t waste another minute writing for low-paying content mills.

Dig deeper into which businesses could benefit from your writing speciality and craft a few example pieces with these principles in mind.

B2B writers, share your story: How did you get started in this field?

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Sarah Greesonbach
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Comments

  1. What, no comments? 🙂 Andrea and I will be checking in on this post early next week to see if there are any B2B-specific questions! You can also find us on twitter at @AwYeahSarah and @DreaEmerson.

    • Jonathan King says:

      Ok so I have all those skills except the SEO skills of which I am at the intermediate level.

      Any ideas on how to dig deeper and find potential clients?

      • I’m an aspiring writer and I have all the traits that you have mentioned above. Problem is I live in Swaziland, a country in
        Southern Africa that does not have much opportunities in writing.

        • Hey Sbusiso,

          Having an Internet connection connects you with a global economy — I encourage you to not let your location hold you back from working with a company virtually!

          SJG

      • Hi Jonathan,

        Intermediate SEO is great! I got started just by understanding keyword saturation (# of times the word shows up in the post).

        Finding potential clients is a huge topic that many awesome people have written about, but I’d start first by making a few spec pieces (making them up) for industries you’d like to write for, then cold/warm emailing people on their company pages to make a connection.

        We’ll talk more about this in the webinar Thursday, too!

  2. Lauren Bowen says:

    This is great! DO you have any tips for calculating that ROI? How can you convince these businesses that they’ll get a return? What might that ROI pitch look like in practice?

    • Hi Lauren,

      This is a great question! ROI is difficult to identify from the outside of an organization, especially if you tend to be a piece-by-piece writer or if the organization isn’t good at tracking ROI, either. I tend to avoid this by targeting organizations and departments (like marketing) who already know the ROI is good and already know they need writers. If you have to spend your time convincing a business they need a writer, it’s a red flag that it will take more of your time and energy than it’s worth.

      SJG

  3. Hi. What do B2B clients expect to see on a portfolio to convince them to hire a writer?
    Thanks in advance.
    –Katrina

    • Hi Katrina!

      From my perspective working with B2B clients, a well-organized portfolio (they can see what kinds of writing and where it’s been used and who you’ve worked with) with clear examples that might pertain to their business are attractive. You can get there by writing pieces “on spec” and setting aside an hour or two to make up examples of B2B writing.

      SJG

  4. Hello!
    I would love to know how to get into this business. What is typically expected and how are jobs typically found?

    Thank you in advance for your time.

    Carla

    • Hi Carla, thanks for your question — We’ll dive into that in the webinar Thursday, so if you can’t attend live I know you’ll enjoy the re-play later!

  5. I’ve done plenty of B2B work for appreciative repeat clients, but I’ve never found any who would pay $1 a word! Where are these clients hiding?

    • I’ve been freelancing for the past six years, following a career in public relations and marketing writing. It is possible to earn $1/word if you follow some guiding principles.

      One, follow the money. Look for successful B2B companies in economically vibrant industries, like B2B software and other technology developers. Those firms typically provide fairly generous budgets to their marketing departments for external resources, part of which is to fund content development. Two, like anything, experience and knowledge matters. Working in-house for many years, I was able to learn about a particular type of technology, as well as the industries that the technology serves. If you don’t have experience and want to work for a certain type of business with a certain type of B2B product or service, I guess research, blogging, and winning smaller projects could eventually help a writer demonstrate his or her ability to work on larger projects. And three, I wouldn’t bid on a job as “I charge $1/word.” Instead, ascertain the scope of the project–how much research might be involved, the level of difficulty, how many review cycles may be required, and its general word count–then provide an overall figure as a bid if it justifiably warrants and equals $1/word. (And realize, too, that you must offer to work on some rounds of editing, and not just write a first draft and be done with it. That $1/word always requires changing, rearranging, polishing and additional work to those words. But hey, that’s writing, right?)

    • I agree with Marc here! I wouldn’t lead with a per word rate (I charge only by the project and never by the word, but the rate just works out to that amount sometimes), but finding organizations that already know the value of content is key. Then work on writing premium content that is directly tied to marketing and sales (lead gen white papers, blog posts, etc).

  6. Hi Sarah,

    I have been a freelance writer for about a year now and am gaining some traction in the inbound marketing and academic ghostwriting arenas.
    What I found interesting about your piece is that from you standpoint the content mills should be avoided, and yet a link has been included to an article that seems to contradict the premise of your article.

    Have you worked for clients and earned $1 per word? Please share a few tips from that experience. Thanks and make it a great day.

    • Hi Jireh,

      Right you are! I think the editors here slipped that link in so there would be some cross-links in the post, but in general I think content mills are a great way to “cut your teeth” writing and learn to write really fast. However, the goal is always to move on from content mills when you’re ready and really make a living!

      As I answered another question above, I have had a few $1/word assignments, but I never actually charge by the word — I charge per project and sometimes it comes out to that value by accident. I wrote more about how to attract high paying clients here, too: http://fivefigurewriter.com/mythical-high-paying-clients/

      Thank you Jireh!

  7. Thanks for this. I’m new to freelance writing, but I spent the past 12+ years as an attorney. My former career has allowed me to get writing gigs from my very first day as a freelancer. I was trying to figure out how to incorporate that experience in a more concrete way. I would never have known to research “B2B” without your post. Again, thank you so much.

    • Hi Kris — Great to hear! Yes, sometimes a keyword or a phrase can unlock a whole community of writing opportunities. Let us know what you learn about pitching those clients along the way!

      With your background, I also want to send you to http://jamespublishing.com/. Find a way to contact him, because if he is still hiring writers he provides a great rate and timely invoicing for people with a law background!

  8. Joel Henderson says:

    How would I get involved doing this type of writing?

    • Hi Joel, thanks for your question — We’ll dive into that in the webinar Thursday, so if you can’t attend live I know you’ll enjoy the re-play later!

  9. Chuck Warren says:

    I think the biggest question all of us have is – how do we get started? How do we learn, and from who? I know I have the talent to make it as a copywriter or in the B2B spectrum, and I have extensive experience writing for several non-profits which has given me a little exposure to writing professionally. But for those of use who are staring at our computer screens day after day wondering where to begin can you at least point us in a direction?

    There should be some resources, or a conference, or a class, anything. I find myself stuck, trying to get the tires to stop spinning but with no idea how. I have plenty of fiction and non-fiction book ideas but I think we all know a writer has to make a living like everyone else and either copywriting or Business to Business sound perfect.

    But… where… who… how… help us Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re the only one who can.

  10. Hi Chuck,

    I totally get where you’re coming from — there are some blogs and courses specifically about this kind of writing (Ed Gandia’s http://b2blauncher.com comes to mind!) but you can also use your trusty old friend Google! Our webinar Thursday will also have some “get started” ideas for your portfolio, so if you can’t catch it live I know you will enjoy the re-play.

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