Copywriting: how every B2B marketer can improve this skill set

If you read our earlier blog about how to conduct a marketing audit in order to future-proof your marketing approach, you will know that it is important to audit the overall marketing function. This includes your inhouse marketers’ skill set – including your marketers’ copywriting capabilities.

From conversations we’re always having with leaders of B2B businesses, and heads of marketing teams, there seems to be continual frustration with copywriting not hitting the mark. We believe there are some universal reasons for this common challenge:

  • Marketers often don’t have the same deep and instinctive understanding of their target personas as their colleagues in other departments – such as sales, content or product development. This is because marketers usually don’t talk to as many customers, based on roles and responsibilities, and because marketers have to spread their time across many different marketing areas – such as martech, data, analytics, design, digital channels etc.

If marketers don’t have a good process, and support from their colleagues, so they can draw out deeper knowledge on key customer value points and best ways to articulate these – then they’re ‘writing blind’.

  • Copywriting is subjective. No matter how clear the USPs and benefits are, there are many ways these can be organised and explained in words. And everyone has an opinion.

    We have worked with many frustrated marketers who find it impossible to please their colleagues/stakeholders with the copy they are tasked with writing. They find constructive feedback is often lacking, and they’re often expected to ‘get it right first time’ – with very little help from their colleagues who naturally have a better understanding of their customers based on roles and level of experience.

To address this issue, we have some practical suggestions on how to improve a marketing team’s copywriting skills and output. Here they are:

#1 Messaging strategy

In a previous blog we covered the importance of developing a messaging strategy before any copy is written. If you haven’t yet read this blog (or have read it and need a refresher) see: Build a winning messaging strategy: a step-by-step guide.

A good marketer will work through these steps to make sure they understand their target persona well enough to write impactful copy – for every channel, and in every stage of the marketing funnel.

#2 Length of copy

We often hear business leaders expressing firm opinions about the ideal length of marketing copy. Like most things in marketing, this depends on context, i.e. the communications objective, the channel and the stage in the customer journey.

And the key word here is ‘customer’. Every good marketer knows that it doesn’t matter what internal stakeholders prefer – it’s the customer experience when being exposed to and engaging with marketing copy that matters most.

Various lengths of copy are needed within one, integrated marketing campaign:

  • Short-form copy is needed at the top of the funnel, in areas such as organic social media posts, and paid media ads in social channels and Google. Short copy also works well at the very bottom of the funnel, when it is known that customer is very engaged and they just need a relevant marketing messaging to push them over the line.
  • Medium-form copy is typically needed in middle of the funnel activities, such as email campaigns and on website pages.
  • Long-form copy is needed for content-rich pieces such as case studies and blog posts, which sit at various stages of the funnel – but typically short and medium form copy is required to ‘sell the benefits’ of a long form piece so that a customer is incentivised to read it.

A good marketer will consider the objectives, channel and context, and then ensure the length of copy is suitable within the relevant context.

#3 Copy and design

In the ‘experience age’ of marketing, copy typically sits alongside and within relevant imagery – whether static or dynamic (including video). Often the purpose of copy is to produce audio content i.e. as the script for a video or podcast.

Design/visuals/sound effects and copy need to blend well, and together need to seamlessly incorporate CTAs (calls to action) to optimise conversions to the next stage of the customer journey.

A good marketer will consider all aspects of the message i.e. the words, the pictures and the CTA devices. And it is the marketer’s job to make sure that the way in which all these elements come together is suitable for the format and meets the communications objective.

#4 Copywriting vs editorial writing vs business writing

There is a big difference between writing good marketing copy, and writing content for other business requirements:

  • The purpose of writing marketing copy is to persuade someone to do something. It is subjective and should be biased.
  • Editorial or business writing usually needs to be more objective.

In marketing, editorial writing is needed to create content that feeds into content marketing – requiring a piece that is credible and valuable for the customer.

Business writing is typically used for formal reports such as internal strategy documents, and company reports for investors.

These three types of writing vary greatly in terms of their objective and context, and it is very important not to get them ‘mixed up’! There is nothing more off-putting to a senior business executive than reading a ‘puffy’ piece of writing in a business report. And marketing copy that is not persuasive isn’t going to do its job.

A good marketer will recognise the difference between copywriting, editorial writing and business writing, and should be able to deliver all three well – as per relevant context.

#5 To write well for your customers, you need to read what they’re reading

Many marketers in our community are older Gen Z’s and Millennials (aged 22 – 40 as of 2022) who consume a large amount of news and entertainment via social media, where short form videos with subtitles are prevalent. If you’re writing for this demographic, then this is a really important style of communication and copy to understand and do well.

However, a lot of B2B marketing copy (as well as editorial and formal business copy) needs to be written for senior decision-makers who are aged 40+. A large number of the target audience groups MPG’s clients serve are C-suite executives, who tend to be aged 50 and over.

For an older marketer to write well for a younger audience, they should immerse themselves in the channels their younger audience is spending time in e.g. Tik Tok and Instagram, and they should be paying close attention to how content is presented and consumed. This should define their copywriting style for this audience.

Likewise, when younger marketers have the job of writing for older audience groups, they should make a concerted effort to spend time on Facebook, and read what their target personas read e.g. The Economist, The Financial Times, and well-respected, editorially-led news and information providers in specific, relevant industries, such as Retail Week and Infrastructure Investor.

Issues with spelling;  abbreviations that an audience won’t understand; language that is too informal or formal; and poor grammar (especially problematic when writing for older audiences!) are unfortunately far too prevalent in the copy marketers produce.

Generally speaking, the marketers who read more – and read widely – tend to be stronger at copwriting. So, if you are a marketer struggling with copywriting, I strongly recommend you get reading! It doesn’t matter what you read, but make sure you include some high quality publications that are editorially-led. Even an extra 15 minutes a day of reading something you wouldn’t normally read will probably make a big difference to your natural copywriting abilities!

Good habits make good marketers.


Copywriting is a challenging area, and therefore potentially also your best opportunity to get ahead of your competitors. But a pro-active and constructive approach is needed to make sure copywriting is a marketing strength. If it is a weakness, your whole business will suffer.

MPG can help your B2B marketers get better at their copywriting. Our most popular MPG Academy training course is the B2B Messaging Masterclass that has seen over 100 successful students over the past two years. Get in touch to find out how we can deliver this training for your marketing team – complete this form to find out more https://www.mpg.biz/academy-request-more-info/.

The ‘effective messaging’ training programme delivered by MPG Academy was very relevant to our team’s day-to-day work. I’m seeing a lot of the learnings being taken on board and used. All the theory was made applicable – which was hugely valuable. I would definitely recommend this programme for B2B marketers.

Mathilde Le Borgne, Head of Marketing, Licensing Portfolio, Informa Markets

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What’s going on with email marketing?

Email is a challenging area for B2B media and events businesses right now. Several companies have recently told us they are struggling to maintain strong levels of engagement and good enough results from their email campaigns – especially where email marketing had been a strong channel for them until relatively recently.

When investigating this email marketing challenge for a range of clients, we are finding that declining email performance is due to a similar set of issues, all of which have similar solutions, regardless of the market or product in focus.

In this post, we share MPG’s five key recommendations for fixing an email marketing performance problem:

#1 Database development

  • There are 4 things to get right with your database to achieve strong engagement and conversions:
    (1) relevance
    (2) currency
    (3) size/number of contacts you can email
    (4) how your contacts are tagged, or organised.
    Simply put, you need a database of enough of the right kinds of contacts (those who will find your value proposition relevant and valuable), that are up to date and correct, in order to achieve engagement and conversions at the required level.
  • To understand how much room there is for growth in your database, you must understand your total addressable market (TAM).
  • Lead generation tactics such as downloadable content pieces, powered by inbound marketing, are a very important way to constantly and reliably grow your database with relevant, interested, and engaged contacts, all year-round.
  • Additionally, dedicated, targeted database research is a very effective way of filling key gaps with relevant (high quality) contacts. Get in touch with MPG to find out how we can help you invest well in this kind of research – to achieve a strong return on investment, short term and longer term.

Find out more about MPG’s Database Development & Optimisation services

#2 Segment and target

Segmentation and targeting well have always proved – in MPG’s projects – to almost instantly improve email performance. The main purpose of segmentation and targeting is to make sure the content of the email as relevant as possible to the person receiving it.

Firmographic, behaviour-based, and demographic segmentation are the three methods we recommend – often to be used concurrently. The exact segmentation method chosen should always be based on the desired outcome of improving relevance to the audience. More relevance = more engagement, which usually = more conversions, which usually = more revenue.

To enable segmentation, ensure your lead generation (data capture) and data research efforts include the categorisation needed to organise your contacts well to enable segmentation and targeting.

Emails targeted as specific segments should be used to present the most valuable and compelling benefits and features from the perspective of the email recipient. As with all marketing, measure to understand results and improve as you go along.

#3 Get and use a messaging strategy

To make sure your email copy is highly relevant, and to ensure the relevant messaging is consistent and reinforced at every stage of the customer journey, you need a dedicated messaging strategy.

As part of this, it is important to consider which stage your customer is currently navigating in their journey in purchasing from you. Using progressively more product-focused, persuasive language as customers become more engaged will support your conversions.

#4 Make your website work well

As the end destination of all your emails, your website is a key component in the success of email marketing as a channel.

Your website is where customers should end up when they click on an email, so it is essential the journey from email to landing page is logical and seamless. For example, if an email recipient clicks on a Download Brochure CTA, they should be directed straight to a page where this is possible – not a website homepage where they then need to hunt for the thing they’re looking for. 

As the purpose of email marketing is to drive traffic to your website, it is essential your website is easy to navigate and presents the most relevant information to the email recipient. 

Your website is also essential for strong lead generation, so having your website properly optimised will both increase your pool of contacts for future email campaigns, and improve the lead conversion you get from existing contacts.

Find out about MPG’s Optimised Website Services

#5 Get a good mix of content-led, product-led, and offer-led emails

Having a variety of content-led, product-led, and offer-led emails ensures dynamic and engaging messaging and CTAs, which in turn improves email performance. 

Avoid fatigue and messaging stagnation by using a good mix of email content. For event marketing in particular, plan well ahead with a marketing timeline where emails tell a story well based on how your product is developing. For subscriptions and membership marketing, map dynamic and relevant content in to an automated workflow. This will keep your content fresh and engaging for your audience.

And of course, before drafting an email, you should have a good idea of what your objective(s) are, e.g. pushing downloads of a new brochure, or registering interest. This will ensure focus on a core message, and make measurement of success more valid and viable.


There is a lot more to be said about how to make email marketing work well – it is a formidable topic! Considering the above 5 recommendations as a first step will ensure you have are covering all your bases. A comprehensive guide on email content best practices could populate several blogs! For now, here are the key points to keep in mind:

1) Test & learn
When it comes to email, small changes can make a big difference, so it’s important to test and learn from your emails about what drives the best engagement.

Areas for testing include:

  • Subject lines – your subject line will indicate straight away whether your email is relevant and interesting to the recipient. Using an open ended question is a great way to capture people’s attention, and you can then go on to answer the question within the body of the email. The best way to to approach this will depend on the email content and audience. Try different approaches and measure results to identify the optimal one.
  • Sender names – in the same way that you A/B test your subject lines, monitor your open rates to see which “from” name leads to the best results. Depending on the focus of the email, you may find your recipients prefer to open emails from your event director or sales reps/account managers (e.g. for offer led emails, or spex campaigns). We usually find with B2B emails that include the sender’s full name alongside the company’s name work well, e.g. “Full name @ MPG”
  • Call-to-action variations – test a variety of CTAs to see what makes your audience click e.g. ‘View full agenda’ vs ‘Discover key themes’. See more on CTAs below.
  • Format – experiment with different combinations of plain text/designed, brand sender/personal sender info, and short/long content. Run A/B split tests constantly and track results (focus on click through rate) to identify the content style the audience prefers for the different types of comms.

Don’t forget: when doing email tests, you should always only test one variable at a time.

2) Clear call-to-actions (CTAs)
Limit yourself to two, max. three, CTAs in each email, thinking about the action you want your audience to take, and prioritising that. Your CTAs should always contain a verb and it’s a good idea to vary the terms you use. For example, rather than saying ‘Book now’ for every purchase CTA, you could use ‘Secure your place’, or ‘Register today to claim your discount’.

Ensure that the landing pages you are driving traffic to are optimised for a smooth and consistent user journey between channels. Start and finish with the primary action you want the reader to take so that there is an obvious next step when reading (or skimming!) the email.

3) Use personalisation
Short, plain-text emails from a personal sender name tend to work best for ‘personal’ reminders to leads and other warm contacts, e.g ‘I want to make sure you don’t miss the early bird’ or ‘I’m the Sponsorship Manager at x, I thought you’d find this useful…’ Combine personal sender names with personal subjects lines, e.g. ‘Will I see you there?’

4) Sender email
Email marketing requires trust between the sender and the recipient. Using ‘noreply’ email addresses can erode this trust, and can harm your deliverability if noreply email addresses are automatically filtered to spam folders. Using a reply email that appears to be a personal email will build trust and will provide an open channel of communication between your organisation and your customers. The email can direct people to a shared inbox which can be monitored for genuine responses from your customers.

In this article we have presented a set of strategic and holistic suggestions, alongside practical and actionable tips. This holistic approach is important because all elements of your marketing are interrelated. You cannot view a particular marketing challenge or opportunity in a simplistic, one-dimensional way. All digital marketing channels are dynamic and connected, so a dynamic and connected view and solution is also needed for your email marketing!


Do you need to improve the performance of your email marketing?

Team MPG includes email marketing experts who can help you create, refine, and execute on an Email Marketing Strategy. Or we can create an Email Marketing Playbook for your team, with a set of guidelines, examples, and templates that will drive stronger engagement, and growth-driving results.
Please get in touch to find out more. 


The work MPG has done with my team has been really valuable. Their strong strategic and operational marketing expertise, and the way they have shared it with us, has been highly relevant for our business – helping us address multiple challenges and opportunities we face.

David Laird, President & CEO, Strategy Institute

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Build a winning messaging strategy:
a step-by-step guide

As competition intensifies in an already very crowded digital world, demonstrating a deep understanding of your customers’ pain points and motivations, and effectively communicating your products’ relevant value, is more important than ever.

But, like many aspects of marketing – this is easier spoken about than done well! In MPG’s recent blog, we shared some uncomfortable ‘home truths’ about why your marketing probably isn’t working as well as it should – due to poor messaging. This issue usually boils down to 2 things: your marketer lacks deep enough knowledge of your customers, and/or your marketer is not able to identify, articulate or lacks confidence in the USPs and benefits of your offering.

Good messaging is not simply about having good copywriters on hand. As with almost all aspects of marketing, a robust, integrated strategy makes all the difference.

So, here we’re sharing with you MPG’s tried and tested strategic approach to creating and deploying strong, on-point, impactful messaging.

 

Build and deploy your winning messaging strategy – in 5 steps

For every product, you should have a messaging strategy documented that outlines what you want to say and how you want to say it – informed by your product’s USPs, and your audience’s needs.

This is often missing from the marketing toolkit of those put in charge of marketing your events, memberships, subscriptions and growing your engaged communities. Or if this kind of documentation does exist, it is often over-complicated – so doesn’t lead to practical, efficient and impactful execution. Or it is under-developed, missing key pieces of the puzzle.

 

Here are the 5 steps MPG recommends you take to create your well documented messaging strategy:

Step #1: Map your market and identify key market segments

When you create your market map, you proactively define and size your market. This is essential to gain a better understanding of the composition of your audience, and to identify the most important market segments to focus on for growth.

 

Step #2: Identify and articulate key ‘needs to be met’ and ‘jobs to be done’

Note down the specific needs your product is meeting for key market segments, as well as jobs they are getting done by using your product. Also work out, and capture in your document, how your product is meeting these needs and helping them do the key jobs they need to.

 

Step #3: Define USPs and benefits for key market segments

Using the insight gained from steps 1 & 2 above, do two things:

  • Identify what makes your product different from the competition – in the most important way that your customers value. This is your all-important USP that needs to shine through in all your marcomms.
  • State the specific benefits your product delivers by solving important problems and helping your customers get important jobs done. Keep asking yourself ‘so what’ to find the benefit in amongst all your product features – and capture the benefits in a way that is specifically relevant to your most important target market segments.

 

Step #4: Write your core copy

Using what is produced in Step 3, add the following to your messaging document:

  • A strap-line that incorporates your USP
  • A series of succinct bullet points focused on your benefits

This becomes the core copy you should then repeatedly use in various creative ways in multiple channels – ensuring all channels are well aligned.

 

Step #5: Execute – down the whole funnel

Using your messaging strategy document as your ‘bible’, start building out messaging using copy, images and content at the top of your funnel that consistently and repeatedly communicate your USP and benefits.

As your customers move down the funnel and become more engaged, you should share more detailed and persuasive pieces with them, expanding on the key needs to be met, problems to be solved and jobs to be done, and how your products USP and benefits match these. This is what creates the ‘desire and action’ you need from your customers – making them enquire or buy.

 

Well planned and executed marketing messaging is not optional – it’s essential.

B2B business leaders who don’t invest well in marketing messaging are effectively throwing money away on things like martech and data. Without the right messages reaching your audience, the money you put into your marketing systems and digital platforms won’t deliver a strong enough return.

So don’t delay – get your marketers to follow the steps above as soon as possible. And if you’re working with a marketing consultant or agency to develop your messaging, make sure they are following an equally robust process to earn their keep!


 

Do you need better marketing to unlock revenue growth in your business?

Team MPG works with a select group of companies as a key part of their marketing function, providing ongoing strategic insight and direction, as well as consistently strong execution.

Our marketing strategists, marketing operations experts, and digital marketers form MPG’s well-oiled marketing machine that has delivered strong results for our clients since 2014.

If you would like to find out more about working with MPG, please get in touch.

Get in touch to boost your marketing performance


Working closely with our internal team, MPG developed a strong marketing strategy focused on achieving revenue growth for a key product in our portfolio – including recommendations for a virtual offering. We were impressed by the science and rigour they put into the process. I would recommend MPG as a good strategic marketing partner for a B2B brand.

Anna Knight, VP Licensing, Informa Markets

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“Our messaging is just not as good as it should be!”

“Our messaging is just not as good as it should be!”

This is one of the most common concerns CEOs and senior executives share when they first approach MPG for help. And we’ve been hearing this one a lot lately!

As the digital space is now so crowded with products – legacy, pivoted and new – messaging to make brands and products really stand out and attract the right customers has become much more challenging. It has also become more important than ever – which is why we’ve included it as one of the 5 areas of particular attention for marketers as we return to live events.

Good CEOs and business leaders instinctively know when what they see going out in their marketing campaigns is not hitting the mark. They know what is most relevant to their customers – what addresses their pain points and highlights their opportunities.

But, at the same time, they find it hard to put a finger on what is wrong with or missing from their marketing messaging.

When we ask CEO’s what they think their messaging is lacking, the common answers are “the copy just isn’t strong enough”, or “what we’re saying in our marketing  isn’t compelling enough” or “we don’t feel like we’re getting our message across”.

So, why is this happening? 

When we dig a bit deeper, the causes are usually one, or both, of the following:

  1. Marketers don’t have a deep enough understanding of the market they serve – the pain points, motivations and what is most important/relevant to their customers. They don’t understand ‘the jobs to be done’ in the customers’ world.
  2. Marketers don’t feel confident in product USPs and don’t know how to articulate the benefits their customers gain from buying and using a product. This usually happens because they don’t understand their customers well enough (as above), or because the product is not strong enough and maybe doesn’t have a clear USP or set of benefits ‘built in’.

This lack of customer knowledge, product knowledge and confidence in their value proposition permeates everything from high-level strategic marketing planning right down to individual social posts. 

This is often not the fault of the marketing department. The truth is that marketing is often set up to fail by not being given the investment and support needed. And often marketers are expected to – without complaint – regularly ‘put lipstick on a pig’ (no amount of good marketing messaging will save a product that is not relevant and compelling…). And then they are blamed when the messaging is not strong enough, and other things go wrong. So, it is no surprise marketers’ can be shy of tackling messaging head on!

So what’s the solution?

Firstly, CEOs should ensure the right level of investment is going into marketing and that those given the task of creating and pushing out compelling messaging have all the support and resources they need to get this right.

Secondly, whoever is entrusted with creating the right marketing messaging should be approaching this strategically.  Often products that are not market leaders or do not have clear USPs still need marketing, and impactful messaging can still be created in this situation – with the right approach. 

In next week’s blog, we will share the process MPG follows to build a messaging strategy that ensures your messaging hits the mark – every time.  Make sure you’ve subscribed to MPG Insights to get the next installment!

 


Want to build & execute a watertight B2B marketing strategy?

MPG has a proven track record in creating and executing marketing strategies that deliver sustainable, long term growth and success for our clients.

Learn how we build winning marketing strategies


I cannot recommend MPG highly enough. Their commitment and unique expertise in data-driven, digital and integrated marketing has been very valuable to Social Media Week. They’ve been instrumental in helping us build our brand and community online and offline, and their product marketing performance has also been very strong. We’re delighted MPG has been on our team!

Toby Daniels, Co-founder & CEO, Crowdcentric Media (Social Media Week, acquired by Adweek)

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