For a B2B sales team it’s really important to judge correctly the mind of the recipient when sending follow up sales emails.
The path to a sales contract is tortuous and certainly not linear. There are many places where a poorly written sales email can foul your pitch. Marketing and sales need to collaborate with strong Account Based Marketing and Customer Relationship Management strategies to overcome this. Here’s an example from today.
Well written direct sales copy
If you have a clear understanding of the prospect’s stage in the sales funnel, your emails can be written to align with the precise needs of the prospect at that exact time. Otherwise you are guessing – like throwing darts in the dark…. all misses.
I went to a conference recently and the sponsor has been hounding me ever since about his software.
Yes I did give them permission to contact me.
Yes I did take a look at the lead magnet they offered.
BUT I’m not taking their sales call. Because I’m not going to be buying…. and they could have found that out earlier in the day and so saved their sales team a lot of effort.
Who is this prospect?
Just because I attended their talk and said they could contact me…. does not mean I’ll become a customer.
First thing wrong – the lead magnet was plain vanilla – same for everyone.
Second thing wrong – the landing page was a cornucopia of articles, undifferentiated and left me with too much choice. So I read none of them. I am interested in the topic… but with a bit more care, this campaign could have been so much better.
A cheeky sales email
I replied to his third message (repeating a link to the landing page and asking to do a demo) to explain my reasons.
And so I sent him this reply.
4 Reasons your sales email failed
Here are the reasons I am not an appropriate prospect
Why I didn’t want to answer your email (It was about YOU not me)
How your subject line alerts me to the sales opportunity – and puts me off (There are better subject lines)
How copywriting can help you discover more about ME before you push ahead for a sale (Customer Journey)
Why XYZ has not yet demonstrated the correct alignment to my need (Awareness Stages)
If you want to fix a time with me, please let me know.
Cheeky, I know but sometimes you’ve gotta shout out that THIS IS WRONG ….. sales tactics from a B2B marketing expert.
I teach a lot of my clients how to use freelance platform marketplaces as a way to find good marketing support contractors.
Upwork is a popular platform. But getting the best out of it depends on one very important skill – briefing.
How to brief a marketing job
A well-briefed job produces the desired output on time and on budget. But many marketers will tell you that this is not what they’ve personally experienced – whether with an agency, with freelancers or sub-contractors. Let’s set about understanding the skill and the process of making a robust brief and project managing a job to a successful outcome.
The brief parameters
Start by writing down what you want the job to achieve, a goal if you like.
We need a new design for….
Troubleshoot this issue….
Copywrite using these keywords….
Sell this product….
You get the idea.
Next go to the platform of your choice, I’ll use Upwork for now, and find out what the template briefing pages ask you to provide.
Write on a document each of the questions they ask. Use these to understand how the platform will use your information to brief the applicants. If they ask you to set an hourly rate or budget this means it will exclude experts who don’t fit your parameters. Which skills are you listing as necessary? If you ask for questions to be answers, what do you want to learn from those questions – are you using them to screen in or screen out applicants?
You need to set guidance for what success looks like for your project.
The key to a successful Upwork hire
Get the expert to step slowly though the early stages of your selection.
What do I mean by that? Instead of diving into the job and assuming that the work track record examples are sufficient proof of expertise, create a carefully thought-through path whereby you gauge their skill, their communications, their responsiveness and align that with your personal project and its needs.
Here’s an example. I have a website UX redesign project – what are the stages or milestones? How can I find out who has deep expertise compared to shallow experience? The key is to ask good questions.
These are actual questions set for an SEO brief
Have you drastically increased traffic for a website?
Can you briefly explain how will you help us achieve the expected outcome?
I recommended changing these to
How good or bad is our website SEO?
How will you research key words?
They are very simple questions – and the key is that you should know the answers already… In this way you can see if the responder is trying to bamboozle you or gives actual detail of their work process. You want the latter.
The answers will allow you to quickly find out
is their English (written) good enough?
do they sound confident they can do our job?
Creative briefing stage 2
After you have shortlisted, then you need to message the applicants. This is when you actually speak individually to your contractors. Beware of agencies applying where the salesperson replies and you don’t know who will be doing your work. Insist on speaking to them direct.
I usually ask these questions
What are the stages and key milestones in this project?
Can you estimate the number of hours you need for each stage?
And again assess their response, use of English and speed to reply.
Then I call the top 3 and have a 5 minute chat to run through their answers (stages and hours estimate).
After this, I make my hire decision…..
Can I help you learn how to brief?
Get in touch. Briefing is a skill and a process. You can learn how to do it well. There are some nuances which are specific to types of job and not appropriate for a public post like this. Happy to help.
I write a lot. Words, words, words. Each project is designed to fit into a particular desired outcome within a marketing strategy and tactical framework. I say that so you understand context.
Context in writing is both important and valuable – but more about that later.
My actual pen and notes for B2B copywriting
How I write marketing copy
Getting a message across using printed words (as opposed to audio, images or video) is a giant challenge. Knowing how long humans have been writing, you’d think that everything that could have been written has been. And yet…. we know that’s not true. The imagination and skill of mankind to innovate is immense.
My writing is usually business to business copywriting for marketing purposes. That’s my area of expertise. And so the steps I take begin with the outcome. What do I want to happen as a result of a prospect or client reading what I’ve written?
End goal is to click through to website
End goal is to understand how to write B2B copy
End goal is to reply with a question
These examples are all valid outcomes and each requires very different copy treatments.
The first version is always factual
What are the true, inalienable facts that support the end goal? I list these in a brain dump document. Frequently these are the result of conversations with the client, the internal team and existing customers.
Then I supplement this with some desk research. Reading ‘around the subject’ can come from many sources – newsletters, online magazines, blogs, books. Interestingly, I rarely search social media for this information. My choice – it may suit your needs. The amazing Knowledge Hunter, Geoff McDowell, taught me so much about this subject.
Adding more copy material
From the wider reading I copy/paste and add in more themes, concepts, nuance, examples, phrases and keywords. I also look out for no-nos. These are things I want to avoid.
Sometimes images, colours, layouts and other visual elements present themselves from this research too. That can be very helpful as my brain often leaps forward towards the end result WAY earlier than it’s supposed to. To avoid distraction, I save and note these ideas back in the research document. By noting them, I have preserved the idea; but I’m not focusing on them at this stage. It means I don’t lose the inspiration – I can revive that thought later just by re-reading my notes.
This all contributes to a second draft. This is when I decide the overall frame for the project and HOW does this translate into the copywriting. This could be storytelling, it could be demonstration, case study, questioning, educating. There is a lot more information added, there are more concepts and overall I just write freely incorporating the research information and framing arguments, emotions and logic into one long piece of writing.
This is the place where context comes to the fore. How will the message be delivered, what will the recipient be doing or not doing? Where in the customer journey will they be? What is the outcome or next step goal in this campaign?
Editing and refining copy
This is the part I love.
Precise and concise are watchwords which I hope any client applies to a testimonial about my business copywriting.
Taking what I wrote and simplifying, cutting, removing extraneous information and honing it down into a tight, precise and well-organised message is a repetitive task and it gives me so much pleasure. Sometimes I use a technique of adding in sub-headings (as in this blog) because it helps me to organise and find the big messages in the very long copy.
Often I leave the first opening paragraph until last because it’s so hard. Sometimes I switch the first and last paragraphs – try it!
Headlines and calls to action are a separate challenge and I may do a couple of different versions or give options and let the client choose. This is because they are mostly better-informed about their product or service than I am. Teamwork helps work out what will resonate and achieve the goal.
And then I sleep on it
Yes this is really the final step before showing it to the client, adding it to a mock-up or an EDM. This is important and is one reason why planning at the first step needs to include deadlines and allowances for sleep time.
7 things I’ve appreciated after sleeping on my work
My brain is fresher in the morning
I process ideas while resting
Better re-writes are (nearly always) possible
I can check that I haven’t missed anything out [done this MANY times – but rescued the situation before the client read it]
Reflect on alternative approaches which I earlier discarded
Opportunity to print it onto paper and read out loud
Check grammar, punctuation, capitalisations and links all working and correctly placed
And that’s it. The whole creative writing process for B2B copy.
About the picture illustrating this article.
That’s really my pen and my notebook, photographed this morning as I got a tiny bit of inspiration for a client as a result of doing some research for a different client. It’s odd the way my brain works. And I have learned to respect my brain process and to always seize the moment and make the notes when they jump into my mind. I don’t have to use them – but I’m sure I will lose them if they aren’t captured.
I do not have the neatest handwriting, yet using blue-black ink in an old-fashioned fountain pen gives me both pleasure and the chance to read my words again without guessing what I meant to write. Someday I’ll photograph some of my notes which turn out to be illegible even to me. Generally when I rush to write, legibility suffers.
The unknown part of writing inspiration
The pen also lives in a leather case. My ritual of opening the case flap and flicking back the long cover, unsheathing the pen and unscrewing its lid before writing still gives me a frisson. I never know exactly what will come out of the inky nib onto that pristine sheet of paper, onto the next empty line, or inserted between the paragraphs of print.
And the pen – a birthday gift chosen with care while on holiday. I got the nib re-surfaced by this amazing pen expert who recommended not using ink cartridges. He also explained a lot about the issues of ink/paper and my unique hand/pressure and what a converter is, not a bladder. There is a distinction between them.
So now you know my B2B writing process. What will you do with this knowledge?
I got a question about what the four elements that comprise a “professional email”. I don’t know why the questioner thought that there were four parts. My best practice has three parts:
Tell them what you’re going to tell them
Remind them what you already said
Good email message structure
Slightly less flippantly, the structure of a good message is based around short sentences, simple sentence structure, short words and a clear indication about what you want the reader to do next.
If you can achieve all those things, that’s a great start.
More sophisticated messaging can come through with brand tone of voice, longer messaging plans over months / weeks and a mix of brand, educational and product/service messages. [Ask me how to plan your email marketing.]
Drafting and editing email messages
My personal method when creating EDMs is to work through these steps
What is the key message?
What is one thing I want the reader to do?
Then I start writing…. beginning with the LAST paragraph
Add in any context that explains the message (in case they are new to my list)
Remind them of benefits
Ask for the money / action
Add a PS.
Then I sleep on it overnight. Always.
Because most of my messages can be improved and that only happens after time passes. I think my brain matures the message and having a bit of time after having written it means I can move into editing mode. That is a very different brain space and a different skillset.
Now I’m not a visual specialist so I get someone who is good at images to contribute here when I can.
And then you just need to do it many times to improve your skill.
https://creativeagencysecrets.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/green-chameleon-s9CC2SKySJM-unsplash-scaled.jpg17072560Rebecca Caroehttps://creativeagencysecrets.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/CAS_Logo_1line_RGB.jpgRebecca Caroe2020-06-23 14:09:122020-06-23 14:14:01Key parts in a professional email
Take a look at your most recent email marketing campaign and review where people clicks and how many people clicked on each link.
I found that we were getting a lot of clicks in an unexpected place and we were able to correct that in our next campaign iteration. I also recommend a chrome extension which will help you appraise your website clicks.
https://creativeagencysecrets.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Click-analysis.png4241384Rebecca Caroehttps://creativeagencysecrets.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/CAS_Logo_1line_RGB.jpgRebecca Caroe2020-05-19 16:41:092020-05-19 16:41:09Click Analysis to raise ROI
Writing tone of voice aligned with brand values is a powerful marketing tool.
This email is so powerful because the structure of this message is aligned to brand values
open Reminder of their mission
Then acknowledge pain
New tools that support their community
Sign off with a humble acknowledgement
The full text
Dear SoundCloud Creators,
Since our founding, SoundCloud’s mission has been to give people the power to share, connect and grow through music.
As the coronavirus crisis has unfolded, we’ve seen a global outpouring of tracks on SoundCloud — with a 50% surge in creators uploading in the past month alone. But behind this creative response, we know there continues to be financial loss and uncertainty for our creator community.
Today, we’re accelerating a series of new initiatives and over $15M in direct investment to support creators on SoundCloud during this difficult time.
New direct fan-support button for all creators. We’ve created a simple button for your SoundCloud profile to connect your preferred way to receive direct fan support including Kickstarter, Patreon, Bandcamp, Paypal and more. Learn how to get this live on your profile right now.
$5M in free promotional support for all creators to drive more plays on SoundCloud. For the rest of 2020, we’re giving away all of our Promote on SoundCloud inventory. Tag your SoundCloud uploads #GetMorePlays and our editorial team will select up to 5 artists per week to feature with promotion. More details to come soon on our blog.
Immediate launch of Repost by SoundCloud, a new marketing and distribution service. Independent artists who want to take their career to the next level can now access professional marketing and monetization services plus industry-leading distribution features. Repost by SoundCloud is available to everyone, no play count thresholds. Learn more here.
$10M artist accelerator program to support independent creators’ career growth. We are committing $10M to help fuel the careers of independent artists upstreamed from Repost by SoundCloud into our artist services offering, Repost Select. Apply here.
We understand our efforts here are no match for the care providers on the frontlines of this global crisis. But we will continue to look for ways to support our global SoundCloud community, so you can keep sharing music we can all turn to in these challenging times, and long into the future.
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https://creativeagencysecrets.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/CAS_Logo_1line_RGB.jpg00Rebecca Caroehttps://creativeagencysecrets.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/CAS_Logo_1line_RGB.jpgRebecca Caroe2020-04-03 16:40:112020-04-03 16:40:11Analysis of CEO message to customers
Our team brings you the news about our economy that requires intensive investigation, providing an important resource for Kiwis who want to make well-informed financial decisions. Your contribution fuels our capacity to provide independent reporting & analysis, while also keeping our site open for comments & community engagement.
A case study – the client supplied the text at the top.
It was from a popup on their website. But the display required the prospect to scroll to read it all.
I re-wrote the copy into two versions so they did not have the scroll bar appear and also to give a slightly different emphasis on the messaging.
Rewrite copy version 1
Our reputation is built on expert news reporting on the NZ economy. We are an important resource for Kiwis making well-
The chosen version published.
informed financial decisions. By paying to support us, you’re ensuring we continue to be an independent, powerful media site where our analysis and your commentary builds a robust community of interest.
Shortening New Zealand to NZ is not my preferred way of writing, but suits this situation.
The focus on expert news is secondary to the informed financial decisions
Strong adjectives and a clear expectation of what the outcome will be
Rewrite copy version 2
We specialise in news about the NZ economy which takes intensive investigation and journalist resource. Our reputation is built on helping Kiwis make well-informed financial decisions. Your support means we can continue independent reporting, expert analysis, and enables moderated commenting on the website.
The focus is on the quality of journalism comes first
The reader’s desire for decision-making secondary (at this time of Covid19 – most are reading news pages)
Many like the ability to comment. Many news sites have withdrawn this feature.
Can a prospect tell “at a glance” whether you are the right business for their needs? Web visits last ever-shorter durations and so your positioning [the message about what you do and for whom] is critical.
I was asked by a client to provide examples of marketing agencies who have good positioning on their websites.
Do you agree with my picks?
Good brand positioning copywriting
https://www.disruptiveunicorns.com/ We specialise in inbound marketing and lead generation on the HubSpot platform. Using design thinking, we help businesses scale in a sustainable growth manner.
One way to find out if you don’t want to work with them, is to re-write their offer in the negative. So if I don’t want inbound and lead generation – don’t go here. If I’m not using Hubspot I probably won’t get well-served either.
If I’m not a digital marketer needing tools or training – go away.
Below that they have 3 audiences identified – Teams, Marketers and Agencies so they offer further refinement of tools and training offers.
https://spur.co.nz/ Creating live experiences that build brand love. We are a full service live-marketing agency. Our areas of expertise include sponsorship, experiential marketing, corporate events and promotional staffing. We connect brands to people to create brand love.
So if I don’t want a live experience – go elsewhere. Using the bold words allows speed reading to focus in on key services and skills. The “Brand Love” message is lovely and slightly fluffy – who doesn’t want this for their brand?
Finding your audience and positioning your business to align is not something to do once and leave. The business world changes frequently and so fine-tuning your language, offering and audience is a useful exercise.
Remember – excluding prospects who don’t fit your ideal customer persona is important too.
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https://creativeagencysecrets.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Three-audiences.png9622328Rebecca Caroehttps://creativeagencysecrets.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/CAS_Logo_1line_RGB.jpgRebecca Caroe2019-05-22 14:52:352019-05-22 14:52:37Business positioning - do this