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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Why you need a marketing audit, and how to do a good one.

As with every function in your organisation right now, marketing needs future-proofing. But, in a very uncertain world, trying to prepare for ‘what’s coming next’ is really tough. How do we identify and manage our greatest risks? And how do we spot and invest in your biggest opportunities?

Marketing needs particular attention in your strategising and planning because it requires significant and ongoing investment, and is (or should be!) a key driver of revenue. In a recession, marketing becomes even more important. According to a 2020 Harvard Business Review article:

Companies that have bounced back most strongly from previous recessions usually did not cut their marketing spend, and in many cases actually increased it. But they did change what they were spending their marketing budget on, and when, to reflect the new context in which they operated.

#1 Why should I do a marketing audit?

The question you should NOT be asking yourself right now is “How can I cut my marketing spend?”.

The CORRECT question is “What marketing investments should I be making – to survive and thrive?” To answer this question, you probably need a marketing audit.

A marketing audit helps you ensure your marketing approach and investments fully support your business strategy. A well executed audit focuses attention on the data points and benchmarks that show you what’s working, what isn’t, and where your key opportunities are to bring more efficiencies, economies of scale and effectiveness into your marketing function.

#2 How should I approach a marketing audit?

To have impact, a marketing audit needs to be rigorous, and based on an analytical, evidence-based approach.

A marketing audit should consist of the following distinct stages:
Stage 1: Definition of objectives and scope
Stage 2: Information and data gathering
Stage 3: Analysis and benchmarking
Stage 4: Delivery of findings and recommendation – including an operational plan to ensure the right investments are made in the right areas, at the right times, and with the required measures in place to ensure a good ROI.

#3 What should I include in a marketing audit?

The following elements of marketing should be reviewed within a marketing audit:

  1. Your overall business strategy and goals. It is essential your marketers have a thorough understanding of what you are aiming to achieve as a business, otherwise your marketing efforts won’t be well focused.
  2. Your target market, especially their profile, size (total addressable market, aka TAM), and your current penetration of TAM. Your TAM should ideally be divided into market segments that are then prioritised.
  3. The value proposition of your brand(s) and product portfolio(s). What are the ‘problems to be solved’, or ‘jobs to be done’ that mean your highest priority target market segments need and value your product?
  4. Your competitors, and your positioning against your key competitors, with a focus on your core differentiators and USP(s). These should relate directly to the ‘problems to be solved’ and ‘jobs to be done’ – as per above point.
  5. Your marketing objectives, and how success against these objectives is measured and visible at all times. Remember that these need to line up behind your business goals, with marketing metrics that should tie clearly and directly into financial results.
  6. A ‘warts and all’ SWOT analysis of your marketing function – incorporating an evaluation of:
    1. Insight on your customers i.e. what 1st party data you hold on customers, starting with the most basic information stored in your database about your TAM (see point 2 above), and also covering the most advanced useful information you have about levels of engagement and propensity to purchase.
    2. Your marketing systems and integrations for data flow i.e. martech platforms, digital marketing platforms, analytics tools, etc.
    3. Your brand assets i.e. visual branding, messaging, consistency of touchpoints, customer experience of your brand.
    4. Marketing channel and tactics deployed to date, and how these have been optimised to date and how they have performed so far.
    5. Your marketing processes i.e. manual and automated, within your marketing function, between your internal marketing function and external partners (e.g. marketing agencies) and between marketing and other business functions. This includes how marketing strategies and plans are created, and how campaigns are managed and executed.
    6. Your marketing people i.e. overall level of internal resources, skills and team structure (also considering that some ‘marketing tasks’ may be done by people not in the marketing department); external resources/expertise you rely on for marketing to work; and how your marketing function communicates/integrates/collaborates with key external parties and other functions for overall synergies,

Key activities a marketing audit process should include are:

  • 1-2-1 interviews with key stakeholders
  • Group Q&A sessions to gather all the information (sometimes called ‘workshops’)
  • Review of relevant documentation and reports, including org charts, job descriptions, financial data, customer survey findings, process maps, supplier agreements, samples of collateral and content, etc.
  • Review of system set ups and relevant data within systems (via direct access into systems)

#4 Who should conduct a marketing audit?

There is no escaping personal and/or confirmation bias if someone ‘internal’ conducts a marketing audit. Therefore, a marketing audit should be conducted by a suitably qualified ‘3rd party’ i.e. someone not involved in the day-to-day of a business (or business unit), but with a strong background in marketing, in a similar kind of organisation, with a similar business model or product set.

This 3rd party could be a central marketing resource within a large organisation, or a trusted external partner.

#5 What should I expect the output to be?

The party conducting the audit should present findings and recommendations within a comprehensive report, including:

  • Executive summary
  • For every relevant area of marketing (as above) – key findings and recommendations, with clear link between recommendations and ROI to be expected from implementing these. These pages should link to detailed appendices, examples, templates, and analysis as relevant.
  • A recommended investment plan for filling gaps and ensuring marketing is set up for success.
  • A high level recommended operational plan, or ‘roadmap’, on how recommendations should be executed in terms of priority, sequence and timeline.

Be prepared: conducting a marketing audit will in itself require investment and time as it needs to be approached skilfully, and with a good level of rigour. A ‘half baked’ audit will probably do more harm than good, but a well conducted audit should give you incredibly valuable insights, and help you make good decisions about how to invest well in marketing – which should pay for itself many times over.

If you’d like to have a chat about how best to approach your marketing audit, please drop us a note on info@mpg.biz.

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How to get all the marketing skills you need – when you need them

At a recent Renewd virtual roundtable discussion that I was privileged to chair, we heard from our hugely impressive and inspiring guest speaker Monique Ruff-Bell of TED Conferences.

The overall round-table discussion theme was “Leadership challenges and opportunities in a post-pandemic world”, and during this very dynamic session the following key points really stood out for me:

  1. How important it is for business leaders to really understand the perspectives of those ‘further down’ in the hierarchy of an organisation, especially in roles they themselves have not worked in. Only by trying to put ourselves in their shoes, can we see the value they can offer and how to help them grow and reach their full potential.
  2. How we need to embrace diversity in all its forms if we are to build better businesses, including diversity in ethnicity, religion, gender, personality, and also importantly – how people think, and therefore, communicate.

This got me thinking about a key marketing problem in nearly every business I have encountered over the past 10+ years of consulting and running an agency. And this may well be the biggest thing holding your business back – especially if you are looking to scale profitably.

And here it is…

Many business leaders, most of whom have never held a marketing role, expect the impossible from their marketers. They have never walked in their shoes, or even tried to.

One person is expected to have strong competencies in a wide range of areas that vary greatly and require completely different skill sets and natural strengths. Businesses often expect the same marketing person to be great at copywriting AND tech implementations, or database development AND design, etc. 

Businesses often hire junior, inexperienced people as marketers (because they’re cheap and available), and then don’t provide the support and training these people need to succeed. 

Sometimes they hire more senior and experienced marketers, and because they’re paying them more, expect them to deliver a depth and breadth of tasks simply impossible for one person to handle. They want strategically strong people to also be very good on all things ‘hands on’.

This results in frustration (for all parties) at best, and failure of a marketing function at worst.

To counteract this issue, it is important to recognise the five marketing skill sets that every business needs (see our blog from December 2020), and accept a diverse team of marketing ‘thinkers and doers’ will be needed to deliver all the skills you need.

Some of these marketing skill sets can sometimes be combined into one role – if the person in the role has the experience, aptitude and interest in the relevant areas.

And it is important to recognise that certain elements of marketing, particularly the very technical aspects, are often better outsourced – for three reasons:

  1. Certain types of marketing specialists are scarce to the extreme (especially in data, martech and analytics), so are difficult to hire and retain.
  2. An ‘all in-house’ marketing function that includes all resources and skill sets you need, full time, can become expensive and difficult to manage. Some specialist skill sets and flexible resources needed may best sit externally – to compliment what you have inhouse.
  3. There are some marketing specialists you may not need full time, all year-round. Often to be most effective, a marketing specialist’s work is best focused on specific projects that are time-bound, and with set deliverables. Unless they have a pretty full quota of ‘business as usual’ tasks to work on a daily basis, then project based resourcing, using consultancies, agencies and/or freelancers, may be a better option.

The most successful marketing functions we have seen over the past ten years have found ways of working in a highly collaborative and integrated way with strong external partners – over a long period of time. This has enabled them to easily outsource elements of their marketing as and when needed, and thereby always have access to the best skill sets and a good amount of flex in a stable and scalable hybrid marketing team.

Circling back to the Renewd discussion, it is important for business leaders and marketing leaders to take full responsibility for building diverse and fit-for-purpose marketing teams. They need to walk in their shoes, and see their perspectives when it comes to working out how best to build a strong marketing function.

This includes supporting them in working out what needs to be done inhouse and what should be done by external partners, and then ensuring the right level of executive sponsorship is in place to support the marketing function to succeed.

Want to know more about Renewd and the online round-tables you could join?
Find out more at https://renewd.net/. Join the community with a free basic membership here.

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