As a freelance writer,
I was thinking about pitching a couple of weeks ago, as I was asked to pitch to a client who made a special request, and I really wanted to write for them. I had made three pitches with any response, and I wondered if I wasted my time pitching to this client, and a few other clients at the same time. It took some time, yet I contracted with a few of the clients after several days . Graphic design and digital content writing are different skillsets, so I've changed my perspective on pitching lately.
The power and perils of pitching B2B content
Pitching topics for blogs, white papers and ebooks isn't as simple as picking an idea out of the air. It's important to take stock of your existing content, and decide on keywords, themes which are important for your company to convey to your customers. As a contract writer, I'll often evaluate what your competitors are publishing, including articles and long-form gated content. As a marketing executive, you'll likely have more insights into
- What your customers are asking about
- How your existing content is ranking on search engines
- How your content doing in terms of converting browsers to buyers
- Your conversion rates on goals like contact form submissions, product purchases and downloads
I frequently get invited to pitch on content marketing platforms, to offer my services to their clients. It provides a prospect with peace of mind that I understand what their company does, their value proposition, and that I can effectively describe scenarios and use cases that tell good brand stories.
As I started my freelance writing career, I would pitch to clients, and if I didn't hear back, I would likely never approach them again. Experience has changed that perspective, and I'll often pitch multiple times to a client I really want to work with.
When I'm invited to make a "Hot Pitch", I tend to make the pitch more detailed, with an H1 headline, an introductory paragragh, H2 subheadings, a short conclusion, and a call to action when it makes sense. For cold pitching or casual pitches (to companies I don't have a relationship with) I'll usually make it much shorter, focus on building credibility, and lead with my portfolio of work for similar customers.
Ideation is part science, part imagination
Pitching is more complex than just throwing out at few ideas. There is research on what a prospective client's competition is writing about, what pertinent article topics are trending and even what your company wants to prioritize in the short term. I work with many clients who prefer to provide me with an article or whitepaper brief, or even a topic, and we start the project with an outline which includes the a brief introduction, the high level points of the content, and some on-page/off-page links to background resources.
When I work with a client, I really appreciate open, clear communication. If a pitch I make isn't ideal, or if it isn't a priority for you right now, it would be great to pitch to you again. The Toronto Blue Jays and other baseball teams get three pitches before striking out (a batter, I know) so a couple of quick signals helps me to throw one down the middle of the plate. With many of my clients, I ensure I have a contract in place before I start pitching. If none of my pitches ends up with a "home run" idea, (based on a client's feedback), there's no work completed, and no charge to you, as my customer. The more pitches we discuss, the more I will learn about your business, and I'll become a more effective part of your content creation team.
When I pitch to clients and they turn me down and use those ideas with another writer, or do it inhouse, it feels like a fast ball on the arm. Though if that is the way a client does business, it's really a win for me in the long run not to collaborate with them.
Web content writing is like using a chalkboard, not a stone tablet
The great thing about digital content is that it is easily modified, restructured for a better user experience, and edited many times over. If a client wants changes to the wording of an article, it's easy to make changes on a content management system like WordPress, or using the collaborative editing functions of Google Docs or Microsoft Word. I've edited content for my clients, and I am happy to make a couple of rounds of changes to get a pitch, outline, article, whitepaper or e-book content right.
Marketing managers, CEO's and other executives I work with want their digital content to get their company found online, build business authority, and convert browsers to buyers. I completely understand that, and I am writing this article for those same reasons. You want to work with a writer that takes the time to understand your business, can write in your company's "voice" and inspire your audience to act. I share those goals, and I'm happy to take the time to take your ideas, outlines and topics and craft content which bring those ideas to life.
- Writing keyword rich headlines, subheads and content
- Creating content which is conversational, targeted at your ideal persona/audience
- Use UX best practices in laying out articles which make content more digestible on a browser (mobile and/or desktop)
- Editing my content for grammar, spelling and flow
- Editing my content based on a customer's constructive feedback
If you are a B2B marketing manager, or another professional seeking a competent, freelance content or copywriter who is invested in your business success, it would be great to have a conversation with you on the phone or over Skype or Google Hangouts. You've invested heavily to get your web presence to where it is today. I can create quality content to help you reap better rewards from your digital marketing channel.
Are you looking to expand your content marketing efforts, but don't have the time, or core competency to develop high quality content? Whether you are looking for a writer to pitch you ideas, or have some topics or briefs you want converted into articles or whitepapers, I'd be happy to partner with you to meet these goals, so please contact me or set at appointment through my Calendly link.
Are you a fellow freelance writer, looking for better freelance pitching strategies? Check out Clearvoice's Freelance Guide to Better Pitching. I've learned from it, and other webinars and Facebook Live events Clearvoice hosts on the topic.
I disagreed, and wrote this article. The H2H movement seems to have faded, but likely is lurking around somewhere. This was a "stream of thought" blog, so forgive the structure. I have evolved! 🙂
Should H2H be the New Marketing Standard?
Recently, there has been a bunch of chatter on the social media channels suggesting the acronyms B2C (Business to Consumer) and B2B (Business to Business) give the buzzword/acronym the old heave-ho into the jargon dust bin.
Those who support this change in strategy suggest the better, more accurate acronym is H2H for Human to Human. The argument is that executives in business that run businesses are, after all, human beings. They have hopes, desires, needs and goals and should be marketed to, not as business entities, but as "flesh and blood" human beings.
Although there is truth to the fact that yes, business decision makers are human and respond to human attributes like the need to feel, be valued, to understand and be understood, as do consumers. There are many similarities between B2B and B2C marketing, and just as many differences.
Here are some of each:
Similarities between B2B and B2C
- Buyers base loyalty on relationships and trust
- B2B and B2C are both targeted at people/human decision makers
- It is more expensive and complex to get a new customer than to retain an existing client
- Clients want to feel understood, valued, and if they need help they want a knowledgeable person to help them
- B2B and B2C clients self-educate, and often do a great deal of research before approaching a sales person/walking in the door to make a purchase.
Emotional and rational thought both play a part in the buying process for both business models. Since there are fewer decision makers involved in a B2C purchase, emotional reasons can outweigh rational ones. B2B transactions are ruled by multiple executives, and tend to be decided on a more rational buying criteria.
Both buying personas are price sensitive, however quality, level of service, supplier relationships, prestige, timing and other factors may be more important than price for certain products or services.
- Important factors in purchase decision-making include total cost of ownership, depreciation, status and return on investment (financial and non-financial payback)
- Effective marketing channels include social media, and targeted media (broadcast, internet, print).
- Due to volume of transactions, immediate payment is the usual form of payment either with cash or credit card. Payment on account is almost a thing of the past.
- Product, market share, share of wallet key drivers.
- B2C e-commerce often requires focus on product pictures, detailed descriptions and visually/emotionally charged buying experiences. Personalization based on previous pricing and site navigation stats is the norm.
Why B2B and B2C Should be Approached Differently
B2C transactions tend to have a shorter sales cycle and involve a few decision makers. B2B sales cycles can often go on much longer, and there are often multiple decision makers with a variety of different motivation factors for selecting different products and suppliers.
- Rational motivators such as cost by volume, efficiency, delivery time, supplier reputation usually outweigh emotional factors, but not always.
Businesses often buy in much greater volumes, and they are not necessarily the ultimate consumer of a product. Relationships with suppliers may be contract based and be much harder to break should competitors approach when a prospect already has a competitive product/service/solution in place.
Consumers tend to have less vendor “lock in”, and are freer to buy from a competitor should their satisfaction change. Businesses are often a single supply chain stage in the process of getting a product to a consumer, there are different distribution/value chain attributes that need to be considered in marketing or sales.
- B2B sales are usually lower in transaction volume than B2C however value of individual transaction is usually higher.
- Factors such as location, sale price, and convenience tend to be a higher priority with consumers. The ability to get a price reduction based on volume purchases or strategic relationships is not a common trait of business to consumer sales.
- B2B sales are often more service oriented than B2C and marketing is geared towards a bundling approach of many products or services. There are B2C bundles or “combo deals” however they aren’t as widespread, or volume driven as in B2B.
- Payment by cash or credit card exists, although payment terms on account are the norm. The dollar value is prohibitive to pay based on cash or put on a credit card for the most part.
- B2B marketing is mind-share and market-share driven, while B2C is very transaction driven
- B2B e-commerce is more fact-driven, part numbers, features, and tools for resellers to post product details to their catalogs are more the norm. Personalization based on relationship data is the norm.
Though the idea of H2H instead of B2B or B2C is good in theory, there are a number of logical reasons to approach each segment differently.
If you can think of reasons why H2H should, or shouldn't be adopted as an all-inclusive industry term, I would be interested in hearing them. Although each is of equal importance to industry in general, B2B and B2C have different attributes that make marketing to them merit different, although still human approaches.
This is not likely to be the last word on this topic, although the debate is definitely an engaging one!
Remember in school,
- Capture attention
- Build credibility
- Increase your understanding of subject matter yourself
- Establish and nurture relationships
- Differentiate yourself from your competitors
- Establish strategic partnerships
Your prospects and customers prefer to educate themselves about what you offer rather than talk to a salesperson right away. Sales people apply pressure on customers (as they are trained to do) buy a product or a service on their timeline. If you are a sales or marketing professional, clients are often waiting until they are as much as 60-70 percent of the way through their decision making process before they contact a sales person.
If you aren't teaching your prospects and customers about your domain expertise, your competitors definitely are!
What Should I be Teaching my Prospects About?
Blog posts are a great way to initiate the process of teaching your B2B clients about:
- How to reduce cost
- How to increase profitability
- How to better satisfy their customers and increase loyalty
- How to get their products to market faster and to the ultimate consumer on time
- How to deliver services on budget, on time and which create recurring revenue stream
Obviously there are many other topics you can cover, depending on your industry, yet these are common themes. Striking a balance between providing just enough educational content, and teaching your customer into the hands of a competitor is challenging.
You also don't want to train yourself out of a consulting gig, software development contract or a software installation and integration contract by giving away all of your expertise.
A great way to provide your target audience with some thought leadership, without losing too much of your intellectual capital is to use gated content. Have a prospect register on your website before they can access your whitepapers, ebooks, guides and/or videos. Encourage them to sign up for your mailing list, or attend a web seminar.
When you are writing your web content, focus on the strategic business value of your products and services.
Create pages which showcase your:
- Success stories
- Industry expertise and strategic partnerships
- Strategic business benefits, though benchmarking studies or ROI calculators
- Involvement with industry associations, community groups and non-profit organizations
Know When to Hold a Prospect, Know When to Set them Free
Make it easy for a prospect to opt out of your marketing campaigns. If your content isn't of value to someone, and they won't be contracting your services, (or buying your products) anyway, they aren't of any value to being in your database. It looks good to see a big number in your leads report.
Yet, any seasoned B2B sales professional will prefer to have 100 quality prospects who are interested in talking than one thousand leads who never want to talk to them.
There are many articles on the web on how to create engaging content for your audience. Write regularly and go deep on value. Keyword-stuffed Blog posts which are full of BS/fluff won't help your credibility, and they won't get shared among your target prospects on social media.
Examples of Educating to Sell
My "Top 10" of the most successful B2B thought leaders in the "educate to earn trust" category I know are:
- Jeffery Gitomer - B2B Selling Coach/Guru/Author
- Marketing Profs
- Atomic Reach
Educating customers with your marketing content helps you deliver value to customers, differentiate you from your competition, and establish loyalty. Consider the popularity of TED Talks. Another common example is Twitter chats have grown from organizations like Startup Canada/Intuit or Buffer.
Initiate conversations with your customers by helping them see the strategic value of your expertise. Web content is a way to let a prospective customer know you have experience in addressing concerns that they are looking to address, and are confident you can do so again. Build a following of prospective customers who look forward to hearing from you, because they looking forward to learning something new.
Have you run across a company or individual which is especially adept at using the "educating to build trust" model? Tell me about it in the comments section below, or contact me today!