A Guide to Writers for Marketing Managers and Business Owners
>by Richard Pelletier
I’ve lost track of the number of times clients have said to me, “I’ve never worked with a freelance copywriter before. How’s this work?” I’ve also heard, “We hired a freelance copywriter once before. It didn’t go too well.”
To the first, I usually say “It all depends.” And to the second, I say, “I’m sorry to hear that.”
Given how critically important effective content is to your business and how important copywriters are to the creation of same – it might help to shine a little light on things. How do you choose a good freelance copywriter and how do you increase the odds of getting through a project successfully?
This topic could fill a book, but for now the goal here is to provide you with a few ideas to help you make better decisions, which can pay real dividends.
A Zillion Scribes in a Million Places
Type “freelance copywriter” into Google and watch what happens. You’ll see stuff like, “Persuasive phrases that deliver sales.” “Psychological Copywriting That Helps You Legally Pick People’s Pockets.” “Killer copy. Will do whatever it takes.” My all-time favorite? “Our copy grabs the reader and forces them to buy your product.” Whoa, baby. That’s some promise. Does that come with dessert?
I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a genuine and urgent need for a really good, completely reliable copywriter only to have to sort through all of that. I hear Marvin Gaye – “Mercy, Mercy Me.”
In fact, there are many reputable, experienced and even sound-of-mind copywriters listed on the web. This piece will help you figure out how to find them.
Let’s run through a fictional example to see how this could play out.
A small, successful IT company based inVancouver, WA
Say you’re a small, successful IT consulting company, ManagedData Systems, Inc. You have about 65 employees, 9-10 million in annual sales. You have a standard, brochure type website that an employee wrote for you. Your business has reached a plateau. You’re aren’t shrinking, and you’re not growing.
Your site gets a large number of hits but doesn’t generate much in the way of sales or inquiries. Your printed collateral is mostly out of date. Your company is extremely skilled in the niche market you serve and is very customer centric and so you sell mostly by word of mouth. You have high-profile splashy competitors and you have learned, based on hard evidence, that you actually serve your clients more effectively than they do.
Your problem is that hardly anyone knows this.
First, the commitment
So with some urgency, after prodding from the one person sales and marketing staff, you commit to improving the quality of your site. Beyond the website project, you’ve been persuaded to spread the good news via monthly press releases, doing a few case studies a year, maybe launching a newsletter. You’re intrigued by corporate blogging.
You don’t want a marketing agency or an ad agency for reasons of your own, maybe because of the cost, maybe that’s just someplace you just don’t want to go. You just want a copywriter to help sharpen up what you already have and to help create some new materials as you look ahead.
First, you are going to identify very clearly and explicitly what you are trying to get done and what you hope to achieve – your long and short term objectives.
Next, consider these questions.
Who am I trying to reach? Employees, other businesses, consumers, investors?
How are we going to capture new leads?
Am I trying to build or extend an existing brand or am I working on a series of stand-alone, loosely connected projects that will support my overall sales and marketing efforts?
Which is more important? Finding a copywriter who understands the intricacies of my particular business or finding one who can help me make a strong business case for what my company sells? BIG difference.
Am I more comfortable working with an established company that provides copywriting services or with an individual who I can build up a long-term relationship with?
Do I have the resources (time, personnel, funding) to devote to hiring a copywriter and providing s/he with all the information and access s/he will need to succeed?
Am I willing to work remotely? What is my deadline?
So based on the above, our fictional firm, ManagedData could reasonably arrive at the following:
A refreshed website with a more effective presentation of the company story. Lead generation pieces – white papers – that prospects can download (after providing an email) to learn about specific service offerings and the company’s value proposition. (Which needs refinement.)
Long term goals
To position the company more effectively against larger, better funded competitors and to advance the company’s value proposition: big company IT consulting skill set with small company service ethos and costs.
So when ManagedData Systems went looking for a copywriter they knew what they were looking for.
They needed a copywriter with B2B experience, who will work to create long-form copy — stand alone pieces that will drive the (refined) value proposition forward to support and enhance the sales and marketing process.
They’ve decided on a copywriter who knows how to build a business case.
They are entrepreneurial, so they like working with individuals more than they like working through multiple layers of bureaucracy, hence the decision to go with a freelancer.
They have made a solid commitment in terms of funding and assigning people internally to help move the project forward.
They are willing to work remotely.
ManagedData then creates an internal Briefing Document to outline the following:
Deadlines for various stages of the project
Keywords (If a list has been developed)
How many paragraphs various web pages will need
Into Google our IT firms types: “B2B Long form copywriter” ( I suggest you try this yourself right now.)
Improving the odds of success
Once a candidate has been selected, ManagedData Systems is going to ask some questions to increase their odds of success.
They will confirm their candidate has a business to business core capability.
They will look for an ability to write in different styles and tones of voice.
They will ask what process the copywriter uses in discovery and in content development.
They will ask for writing samples and references.
They will check on the writers interview process and whether transcriptions are available.
They will ask for areas of experience and expertise. (There are lots of variables in the business to business market.)
To succeed, both copywriter and client are going to agree to a fixed, but with some flexibility built in, schedule of deliverables from beginning to completion.
I’ve listed some examples below of projects that I’ve been involved with.
A New England Based Printing Company
New website and new content.
Long term goals
“We want to be a resource for a creative group of up and coming designers. If we are a resource, then our sales staff can get in the door. If we’re a resource and we can get in the door, we can build our credibility. If we are more credible, we are more successful.”
A Virgina based web developer for a niche market
New messaging. New content for website.
Long term goals
“We need to gain greater clarity over the four service/product offerings we provide. If we have greater clarity, our salespeople will know better how to communicate to prospects, which in turn will yield better results. We need to position ourselves better against other providers, and to be more attractive to potential employees and prospective investors.”
A Portland Oregon, liberal arts college
A comprehensive guide to higher education online.
Long term goals
“Our goal is to develop content that serves two functions; strengthen our brand and create “link bait” in order to drive more traffic to our site in order to register more students.”
A Pennsylvania based global manufacturing company
A newsletter to announce big wins, new strategic
initiatives and new personnel moves.
Long term goals
“We’re developing a global communications program in
order to grow and exchange intellectual capital across multiple divisions and
to “flatten” the global organization.”
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