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To fuel their marketing efforts, business-to-business (b-to-b) companies produce written materials by the truckload everything from ads, sales letters and web pages to case studies, white papers and e-zine articles.
How do you tap this massive and well-paying market? Here are five things you need to know to get started.
1. Don’t let the technology scare you
There’s a misconception among many freelance writers that b-to-b is confoundedly technical. And if you’re not a techie, you can’t join the club.
Not so. There are many b-to-b products and services that are not at all complex.
Recently, I created a series of sales letters for a firm that publishes business directories. (Essentially, phone books.) A few weeks ago, I wrote an ad promoting a seminar for Human Resource managers. In both cases the material was easy to understand.
Sure, some b-to-b products and services can be difficult to get your head around. But not impossible. If you read the background stuff and ask the right questions, you’ll be amazed at how quickly and clearly you can understand even the most complex gizmo.
2. Pick an industry you know
I bet you have experience in at least one segment of the b-to-b market. Think about it. You may have worked for a company that sells to other businesses. Or have a hobby, such as gardening or travel, that can give you insights into the business-to-business side of those industries.
To break in to the b-to-b market, start with an industry that’s most familiar to you.
That could be computers, business books, building materials, even hotels. You’ll be more credible when approaching prospective clients. And you’ll learn faster, too.
3. Consider agencies and design firms
You can and should approach companies directly for freelance work. But don’t neglect agencies and design firms. They can be an excellent source of b-to-b writing gigs.
Unless they specialize in the market, most agencies don’t like to handle a b-to-b writing project in-house. It scares them. They much prefer to farm out this type of work to “specialists”. That’s us.
4. Start by writing articles
Can you imagine jumping into the b-to-b market with an assignment to write a complex direct mail piece, technical brochure or website? Ouch.
Instead, ease your way in by writing articles.
Most writers are adept at crafting articles. And a lot of b-to-b marketing materials are articles, or at least a close facsimile. These include case studies, ezines, newsletters, and press materials. Start with these types of projects if you can.
Then expand your repertoire perhaps to direct mail or white papers as you gain more experience.
5. Get smart
It pays to educate yourself on b-to-b marketing in general, and b-to-b writing in particular.
• Read all the books and articles you can get your hands on.
• Study samples of b-to-b work written by others. (You can view samples on many copywriter websites. B-to-b companies too have brochures and other marketing materials available for download on their sites.)
• Talk to other b-to-b writers. Become active in a writing group, marketing association or online discussion board.
• Take a business-to-business writing course.
Breaking into the b-to-b market may take some time and tenacity, but it’s worth it.
Due to the sheer volume of lucrative writing projects that just one company can offer, all you need is a few good clients to keep your schedule full.
NOTE: Steve Slaunwhite is one of the instructors for the Breaking into the B2B Copywriting Market workshop….
BOOK: “Writing High-Tech and B2B Copy for Fun and Profit” by Bob Bly