So you’re ready to launch a paid writing career… Want to know one of the easiest, fastest ways to get established with clients and build an impressive income?
First, make the decision to specialize in “B2B Writing.” B2B, or business-to-business, is one of the quickest ways to establish yourself in the professional writing world. It’s a field that offers tons of potential clients, plenty of variety, and terrific opportunities for those who want to make a great income as a freelance writer.
Better still, there are more than 5 million B2B companies in the U.S. and Canada alone! Which means you’ll never run out of prospects.
B2B writing also offers a wide range of writing projects, including web pages, direct mail letters, emails, advertisements, brochures, newsletters, blog posts, social media profiles, white papers, and lead generation.
So there’s plenty of variety… but it’s also easy to feel overwhelmed by so many great options.
That’s why, today, I want to focus on the very last option in the list above: Lead generation for B2B. Why? Because it’s in demand, it’s lucrative, and it’s a relatively easy starting point that can get you noticed quickly.
This One Skill Rockets You to Prominence in B2B Writing
Ask the marketing director at any B2B company what his most important goal is, and you’re likely to hear lead generation.
Why is it so important? Simple: Without robust lead generation, the sales force has no prospects, the operations department has no customers, and the business has no money. Think of it as a car with no wheels — worthless!
It’s no wonder B2B companies love to find writers who understand lead generation for B2B and can write copy that gets results. Even a small improvement in a company’s current lead flow can mean a significant increase in revenue. And that’s worth noting, because in B2B marketing, especially for larger, more expensive sales, companies don’t advertise to make a sale.
Instead, they work to get leads. That means their goal is to collect a name, an email, and often the physical address of a potential buyer. Once they get that information — meaning they have the lead — that’s when a company’s sales force goes to work using the company’s content marketing strategy. And that’s how companies work to turn the lead into a sale.
10 Keys to Effective Lead Generation for B2B
Let’s consider a company that sells building access systems to prevent unauthorized entry. Instead of an online ad selling the access system, the company offers a free white paper titled, “3 Ways Your Building Access System Might Be Vulnerable to Hackers.” To get access to that white paper, all an interested prospect needs to do is enter her name and email address. She’s then given immediate access to download the white paper.
And because she entered her contact information, the prospect is now considered a lead for the company, and the process of converting her into a customer can begin.
So, what does that process look like? Though it varies from company to company, here are the 10 most common keys to effective lead generation for B2B…
Key #1: Develop a Customer Avatar
The more you know about a company’s best prospect, the better you can tailor your lead generation copy to call out to him or her. Building a customer avatar will not only help you create the proper offer, it will also make writing the copy much easier.
If your client doesn’t have an avatar for the product, help them build one!
The best resource, if available, is the company’s own data. Who has been buying the product? What do they have in common? You can use this information to link details and create a customer avatar.
Some of the questions you should ask when developing a customer avatar are:
- What job title does the ideal prospect have?
- What is this person’s role in the company?
- Does this person have decision-making authority?
- What problems is this person facing right now?
- What are the corporate goals the product can help the company achieve?
- What are the personal goals the product can help your prospect achieve?
- What are the negative consequences of making a wrong decision?
- What are the negative consequences of doing nothing?
- What needs does the prospect have?
- If others are involved in the decision, what does the prospect need to persuade them to buy the product?
- What is the personality type of the prospect?
- What media does your ideal prospect use most?
This isn’t an exhaustive list, so feel free to add your own questions as you talk with your client.
Once you have a clear avatar, you can move to the next step — choosing media.
Key #2: Choose the Right Media
For many years, print media was the primary marketing channel for B2B lead generation. Companies bought print ads in trade and business magazines or sent direct mail packages with business reply cards.
For many years, companies also have used news releases, speaking, and trade shows to gather leads.
Those methods still work today, but the media options have greatly expanded to include online opportunities such as banner ads, social media, and online articles.
It would be impossible to use every possible marketing channel for lead generation — and ineffective, as well. Instead, you want to use the media your avatar uses most.
In the example we used earlier, the prospect is likely the head of security for the company. Because of the technology needed to secure restricted-access buildings, you’d expect her to be online savvy. That’s why offering a white paper download is a good option.
A side note here — when you choose your media, make sure your copy is appropriate for that medium. As I was doing research for this article, I ran across a lead-generation ad for a consultant. The page was simply a reprint of his online ad using his podcast as the lead magnet. The print ad actually said, “To listen to an audio podcast, mouse over the title, and click Play.”
Really. Don’t do that. Ever. Not only does it not direct the prospect to a specific subject within the podcast, it doesn’t capture the information. And it’s unlikely that listening to a podcast will be the most effective marketing channel for this person’s business. So don’t just shoot for what is convenient. Dig deeply to figure out what makes sense and what works!
Key #3: Make a Compelling Offer
If there ever were a time someone would give you his or her email address without getting something in return, it has long past. Whether in print or online, prospects now expect to receive some value for giving you information. We call that something a lead magnet.
Ideally, the lead magnet is not just helpful, but also a sales piece, encouraging the prospect to take the next step with the vendor.
White papers that address a problem the prospect is having are common lead magnets. Companies also use webinars, online videos, and live events to compel the reader to enter an email address.
As with the lead-generation ad itself, the offer should make sense for the medium being used. For example, offering an online video in a print magazine would be strange, but offering it in an online ad works.
It’s also possible to have both a soft and a hard offer in your lead-generation ad. Instead of requesting a special report, the prospect might be ready to talk with a sales representative. Allowing the prospect to click to talk with someone, or to check a box to be contacted, captures the hottest leads and lets him or her bypass the usual sales funnel.
Regardless of what you offer, it must be something of use to your prospect. If a lead-generation campaign isn’t performing, replacing the lead magnet may be all that’s needed to get better results.
In some cases, simply changing the title of the lead magnet will be enough. Which leads us to our next key…
Key #4: Have a Strong Headline
Successful writers, and copywriters in particular, know the importance of a strong headline. If the headline doesn’t capture the prospect’s attention, you’ve lost the opportunity to turn that person into a lead.
The same concept holds true for email subject lines and the title of your lead magnet.
An easy tip is to use Mark Ford and Bill Bonner’s 4 U’s© to make your headlines, titles, and subject lines stronger. That means you should make sure those pieces of copy contain the following: Urgency, Usefulness, Uniqueness, and Ultraspecificity.
Here are two actual headlines from an insurance industry magazine:
“Trust Matters Most”
“Build a Profit Center for Your Business from the Premium Financing You Already Arrange.”
Which one do you think will generate more leads?
Clearly, the second one is a much stronger headline with more usefulness, plus it’s ultraspecific. The first one is so vague it could be used for just about any product in any industry.
The lesson is simple: Take the time to write a strong headline, title, or email subject line that will motivate the prospect to act, and you’ll have a more successful B2B lead-generation campaign.
Key #5: Use Bob Bly’s Motivating Sequence
Prolific author and revered copywriter Bob Bly has written hundreds of successful lead-generation pieces. He’s identified what he calls the “Motivating Sequence” for successful B2B sales copy. Keep this list handy and use it when you write your B2B lead-generation ads.
Step 1: Get the prospect’s attention
Step 2: Identify the problem
Step 3: Present the solution
Step 4: Give proof
Step 5: Call to action
It’s really that simple!
Key #6: Use B2B Copy Fundamentals
Although lead-generation copy is a type of direct response writing, B2B buyers don’t respond to salesy, hypey, over-the-top copy. Instead, use your persuasive writing skills to speak to the buyer’s emotions and desires.
And yes, the B2B buyer does have emotions! In fact, there are two, sometimes conflicting, emotions in play.
First, there is a desire to purchase the best product for the company — one that solves a problem, saves the company money, or increases efficiency.
Second, the buyer has her personal emotions involved — she might want this decision to help her get a promotion. And she definitely doesn’t want to make a mistake that gets her fired!
A savvy writer will address both aspects of the buyer’s emotions to get the lead.
Another aspect of B2B copywriting is the importance of presenting both features and benefits. Many B2B products are technical in nature, and a prospect needs specific information about the product, in addition to the benefits it can provide.
Above all, keep the copy prospect-focused! No one is drawn in by copy talking about how great a company is… even if it is.
Key #7: Qualify the Leads
Sending emails to unqualified leads isn’t a big expense, but having a sales representative waste time selling to them is. The success of a B2B lead-generation campaign isn’t just the total number responding — it’s the number of qualified leads that will later become buyers.
Talk with your client and agree on the ideal level of qualification. Depending on the type and price of the product, some companies might want only the highest qualified leads, while others are more interested in a higher volume of leads.
Even if the volume of leads is most important, someone who never will buy the product the company sells isn’t a true lead and will need to be weeded out as early as possible.
Online media provides more opportunity for qualification, although good copy can guide the reader to disqualify himself, too.
An easy way to qualify the leads includes directing the sales piece to a specific person or title such as “corporate security director” or “HR manager.” Another method of qualification is to ask additional questions in the online form such as number of employees, corporate revenue, or number of locations for the business.
Just keep in mind — the more questions you ask on the opt-in form, the fewer leads you’ll get, so make sure your client is aware of the impact of adding them.
Key #8: Offer a Solution, Not a Product
You may have heard it said, “No one needs a drill, they need a hole.”
Far too many B2B lead-generation ads tout the company or its newest product. They go on and on about how wonderful the product is. Your prospect doesn’t care. At least not yet.
Instead, focus on the problem the prospect has — or might have in the future.
For example, here’s a headline from a lead-generation ad: “Grow and Thrive in the Digital Future of Insurance.” Even if you don’t know much about running an insurance agency, you can tell the problem is adapting to changing technology. The ad goes on to explain how the company’s software helps agents do business more efficiently.
One trick is to think about what question prospects will type into their Internet search bars. What’s the problem they need to solve right now?
Key #9: Give Prospects Multiple Ways to Respond
This is a common mistake in lead-generation copy — not giving prospects more than one way to respond. Allowing prospects to respond by mail, email, phone, fax, text, clicking on a link, or entering information in an online form makes them feel like they are in control of the conversation.
Even in an online ad, giving prospects the option to call or click to chat instead of only entering their email addresses can make a big difference in the success of the copy.
Besides the obvious benefit of having multiple options, there’s a bit of psychology here. When prospects see the option to call, entering their email addresses seems like a much smaller step than if the only option is to fill out the opt-in form.
It’s certainly possible to send prospects from a print ad to a web page, but if you do, make sure you send them to a dedicated landing page — not their company’s home page! Remember, your goal as a B2B lead-gen specialist is to capture prospects’ information and get them interested in a specific product or service — not to sell their company as a whole. Plus, you don’t want to ask your prospects to do extra work and click around a website to find the information they need. Give it straight to them in a compelling way.
Key #10: Include Testimonials
Whenever possible, include one or more testimonials from happy customers. It’s the most effective way to add credibility to your lead-generation copy.
Hopefully, your client has a bank of testimonials so you can choose the ones most relevant to the lead magnet and problem you are addressing.
Include as much information as possible — name, job title, and company, at a minimum. If there’s room for a picture of the client, even better.
The Quickest Route to Success as a B2B Lead Generation Specialist
Put these ten keys to success together, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a sought-after B2B lead generation specialist!
And while it helps to learn the keys to persuasive writing and study copywriting, it’s still something you can get started on today. To help you launch as fast as possible, I recommend you take a look at the AWAI program by B2B writing expert Steve Slaunwhite, Become a Lead-Gen Specialist: Earn Top Fees Writing B2B Emails, Landing Pages, and Ads That Sell. Steve gives you a step-by-step guide on how to build a successful career in lead generation for B2B, complete with templates, tip sheets, and examples for creating outstanding lead-gen content.