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 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
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.
One of the more exciting projects we have had the pleasure of working on recently, was for the University of Auckland. The goal was to help educate first-year students and encourage them to seek out and engage in smarter finance decisions. Now, unless you are an aspiring investment banker, learning about finance is probably as appealing as putting your hand in a bee’s nest.
So how could we help the University put the fun back in Finance?
We decided the best way to achieve this would be in the form of a ‘finance quiz’. Unlike something one might find on a credit card application or a tax return, this quiz would be worded and styled in a way that resonated with the student population and would hopefully encourage them to find out more information in the areas they were weakest.
As is often the best way to communicate with students, humour and relatability were key requirements. Picturing what might appeal to the broader student population was a fun challenge, forcing me to think back a few years to my undergraduate studies (I don’t think my mental maturity has changed). Although I am surely a poor representation for the collective student population, I feel we were still able to convey situations that most students can relate to. In case I found myself on a ridiculous tangent, we also had representatives from the university and focus groups of students to guide the direction.
What did we do?
The quiz was composed of 10 questions and 5 ‘finance’ personality types, originally provided as a guide by our Accounting/Finance clients, Love to Grow. Each question was adapted to accurately relate to current student issues. The character types were developed to be funny, but identify potential shortfalls in each student’s knowledge, which would encourage them to seek out more information. Although the final text was ultimately unrecognisable compared to the original, our aim was that the message would remain useful as an indicator of each student’s financial situation.
Check out some examples below:
And the results…
“Boom! You’re a go-getting super badass, with the wind in your hair and explosions in your rear view mirror. Life is sweet right now, and you totally know it. But it’s worth thinking about a safety net – just in case your luck runs out on the next roll of the dice! Start playing the long game using our money tips.“
“Okay, you’re not frivolously wasting your money away, but you’re not doing anything useful with it either. There’s no sense in making sacrifices if you’re not getting anything out of it. Gone are the days of stuffing money under your mattress for safe-keeping. You need to put it to work! Be smart with your money. Check out some financial pointers.“
Due to the nature of the project, we had to strike a balance between what was cheeky and fun, and what might be perceived to cause offense. This resulted in a generalised and somewhat ambiguous character break down.
Thankfully, through some crafty wordsmithing, we were able to combine the light-hearted and cheeky self-assessment, in a way that would not upset any students and still provide a valuable resource for those who needed help.
It was a fantastic opportunity to work together with a team made up of such diverse skills. We hope that the students who take the quiz will find it valuable and fun to play!
Thanks University of Auckland for the opportunity and Antoris & Luc Design for your help on this project!
The finance quiz itself has been published publicly on the UoA student financial resources page. Try it for yourself and let us know what you think!
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https://creativeagencysecrets.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/CAS_Logo_1line_RGB.jpg00Creative Agency Secrets Teamhttps://creativeagencysecrets.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/CAS_Logo_1line_RGB.jpgCreative Agency Secrets Team2016-05-03 15:31:502020-05-27 16:56:02Do you need help with your finance literacy?
I am subscribed to get emails from Nick Johnson from Incite. His copywriting is exemplary and I regularly find myself wanting to take the actions he requests.
Look at this picture taken from my in box of recent messages I’ve received from Incite.
Cold email subject lines
Did you notice that few of the subject lines actually say what’s in the message. So if I want to know what it’s about I HAVE to open the email.
some of the message subjects aren’t written with capital letters – makes it look like Nick wrote it quickly and forgot – but it’s more a feature of personal email not mass email and so I think this is clever, if used occasionally.
They clearly experiment with subject lines – one of them is a ‘Newsletter’ and is titled as such, but the content of many of them could be classified as news.
I have highlighted two parts because they show best practice.
The Red box surrounds subject lines in which they’ve included my name. It feels like it was written just for me – but I know it’s just a personalisation insert from their database – but nonetheless it’s effective.
The Orange box encloses a subject “a quick heads up” which they used twice. The first one follows the pattern of not saying what’s in the body of the email. The second is sent with the same subject but as a forwarded (FW) message from Nick’s colleague, Kate. It is the same message inside, but it makes me think I’ve overlooked the earlier message and so I feel more inclined to open this one.