34. How to Turn Skeptical B2B Buyers into Customers with Copywriting | Rachel Foster

Slide Ep. 34: Interview with Rachel Foster

How to Turn Skeptical B2B Buyers into Customers with Copywriting

EP 34-Rachel Foster

This week’s episode is all about the power of the written word, especially in the world of B2B tech. In our conversation with Rachel Foster (CEO and B2B CopywriterFresh Perspective Writing), she elaborates on the challenges of making sure that the B2B tech copy resonates with the target audience, the importance of collecting market research, and why copywriting is half about writing skills while the other is about process. She also explains why buyer personas and profiles are crucial in copywriting, and why it’s critical to understand the different stages of the buying process.

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • Rachel believes that copywriting is not just about the writing skills but also about the process. [5:42]
  • How to make sure your copy aligns with your readers [7:14] 
    • The importance of developing personas and conducting research prior to writing the copy. [8:36]
    • Collect the Voice of Customers data and mirror the language they use. [9:44]
  • Tech companies need to position themselves as a must have instead of a “nice to have”. [14:36]
  •  You don’t need to tell your readers everything about your product. [18:15]

Companies & links mentioned in this episode:

Transcript

SPEAKERS

Christian Klepp, Rachel Foster

Christian Klepp  00:08

Hi, and welcome to the B2B Marketers on a Mission podcast. I’m your host Christian Klepp, and one of the founders of EINBLICK Consulting. Our goal is to share inspirational stories, tips and insights from b2b marketers, digital entrepreneurs, and industry experts that will help you to think differently, succeed and scale your business.

Okay, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this episode of the B2B Marketers on a Mission podcast. I’m your host, Christian Klepp. And today I’d like to welcome a guest to the show who is an expert in the field of b2b technology copywriting. Her copy has helped her clients to skyrocket the response rates, clearly communicate complex messages. And as she likes to put it turns skeptical b2b tech buyers into your best customers. So Rachel Foster, welcome to the show.

Rachel Foster  00:53

Thank you. Thanks for the invite.

Christian Klepp  00:56

Yeah, I hope I did you some justice with that introduction. I’m absolutely thrilled to have you on the show, Rachel. So let’s get things started. You know, tell the listeners a little bit about yourself and also how you got into copywriting. I’m pretty sure there’s an interesting backstory there.

Rachel Foster  01:18

So I’ve been doing b2b tech copywriting, I launched my business, Fresh Perspective Copywriting, in 2009. I’m based out of Toronto, and I’m originally from the States from the Niagara Falls / Buffalo area. And I moved to Toronto in 2007 after I married my Canadian husband, and so I was just kind of looking for something to do. And I was trying to find some work and I ended up getting a job that just was not a good fit, for me to say the least. There’s a big story, I won’t go into everything. So I ended up going to see a life coach and trying to figure out what I wanted to do. And because I had spent three years prior to moving to Canada as a proposal writer for an architectural firm, she suggested that I try freelance copywriting. And so at first I was hesitant, because I didn’t see myself like going into business and trying to sell and doing all of that and, and she said, I think you could be really good at it. So I ended up hearing about a course that a local b2b copywriter Steve Slaunwhite was posting on how to get started as a freelance writer and I went to it and after that I was sold. I was like, Okay, I’m all in, I’m going for it.

Christian Klepp  02:35

Nice. And the rest, as they say, is history. Right?

Rachel Foster  02:40

After that, I was actually fortunate enough to get a grant from the province of Ontario business startup grant. So I did three months of business development training, and I did the business plan and have that approved and that’s officially when I started in 2009.

Christian Klepp  02:56

That’s such a great story, Rachel. And you know what, we do have one thing in common because I also married a Canadian. (laugh) Yeah, and we met out in Shanghai, in China many years ago, and we moved back to Toronto, you know, shortly after we got married. So, um, that’s a fantastic story. Talk to us about a recent project that you’ve been working on that’s gotten you really excited and motivated.

Rachel Foster  03:22

So I’ve been working with a company for a little over a year now. And they do asset performance monitoring technology. And so when they brought me on as a copywriter, after their branding, after they worked with the branding agency. And so I’ve been working with them in the past year, doing everything from their website, to a whole ton of white papers, case studies, email sequences, and it’s been really exciting to work with them as they grow. And since I’ve been working with them, they’ve expanded out their marketing team, and they’ve just been trying to get into new areas. And so that’s really exciting.

Christian Klepp  03:59

That sounds like a ton of work. But that’s clearly to your advantage, of course.

Rachel Foster  04:06

Yeah, I enjoy all of it.

Christian Klepp  04:08

That’s great. Rachel, let’s have a conversation about a field, you know, that you’ve built your career and expertise upon. And you know, that’s namely b2b tech copywriting. So we all know it’s one thing to write good copy, but writing effective copy for b2b tech that engages and converts, that’s an entirely different beast. Right? So talk to us about some of the challenges that you’ve seen, you know, through the years when it comes to b2b tech copywriting.

Rachel Foster  04:35

So I think the one of the biggest issues that that b2b tech companies struggle with is making their copies so it resonates with their buyers. You know, a lot of times tech stuff could come across as boring. And especially if you’re selling to not just an IT person. You know, a lot of b2b tech companies also sell to business buyers. So it’s having that copy that resonates with both the IT and the business buyer.

Christian Klepp  05:03

Right. Right, exactly. But, you know, um, no, that’s exactly it, like, you know, writing it in such a way that it’s not just resonating with the target audience, but also making it interesting, but like, you know, what’s your secret sauce? Like, you know, how do you how do you take this, I would say like, rather complex information. And converting that into Copy that, you know, not not just copy that people will actually want to read, but you know, it will actually get them to engage with a said company and their products and services respectively.

Rachel Foster  05:42

So, I always believe that copywriting is half about writing skills and half about your process. It’s all about the process of getting that information. And one of my favorite parts of a project is when I have tons of information that I’ve collected from my clients, either through interviews, or through data, or through Voice of Customer research. And I have it all and it’s everywhere. And I start to feel a little bit overwhelmed, you know, thinking, how is this all going to come together. But then I take that information, and I start to organize it into an outline. So I’ll take all the, for example, if the customer has a quote about a result that they achieve, I’ll put that with results. If we’re talking about the challenges, I’ll put that with challenges. And then I’ll see how the messaging starts to come together. And that’s a very exciting part of writing the copy for me.

Christian Klepp  06:31

Right. It almost sounds like you’re trying to put together like a 5000 piece puzzle, right? In order to like paint this paint this beautiful picture somehow.

Rachel Foster  06:42

Yeah, it’s definitely about getting starting out with the, you know, the sketch of, you know, what you may want to achieve, and then bring it all together.

Christian Klepp  06:50

Indeed, indeed. So tell me in your professional opinion, like, you know, you’ve alluded to it in the past couple of minutes. But what do you believe is necessary, you know, when you’re developing crafting a B2B tech copy, and specifically, when it comes to developing copy for, as you said, websites, email, I would imagine also white papers and case studies.

Rachel Foster  07:14

Yeah, so I think the first thing you have to do is you have to make sure that your copy aligns with your readers. So you have to know who you’re writing to. What is their role? What challenges do they face? What are their goals, and in particular, over the past year, the challenges that they had two years ago may not be what they’re dealing with now. And so to think about that, how have their challenges changed over the past year? And how can you better support them. And you also have to think about, you know, where your buyers are in the sales cycle. So you’ll speak differently to somebody who is just educating themselves about their problem, versus somebody who is already familiar with your company, and your solutions. So if I’m writing a webpage, or really writing anything, I need to determine where the readers are starting from and how much they know about your company, and then where you want them to go, because the copies are going to be about getting them to go from where they are to that next step.

Christian Klepp  08:12

Yeah, that’s a that’s definitely some great advice. Um, tell me this, Rachel, like, How important do you think, you know, because you were referring to like, you know, that it was important to understand who it is you’re developing or writing this copy for. How important do you believe it is to develop, you know, target personas, in order to like, you know, be able to craft that copy properly?

Rachel Foster  08:36

Yeah, it’s definitely important to understand who your personas are. So if you haven’t done buyer personas and profiles, you know, it’s a good idea to get to those first before you start diving into your copy, otherwise, the copies not going to work. And then and then research is plays a huge part in writing copy, because, um, you know, a lot of people think we will read something, and they’ll say, Oh, that sounds good. But you know, it’s not whether the copy works doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t really matter how good you think it sounds, it matters what your readers think about it. So you want to collect information about your customers as possible.

Christian Klepp  09:16

Right. Right. And I mean, and I’m glad you brought that up, because on the topic of market research… I mean, this isn’t just a situation that’s unique to B2B alone. I mean, you know, you also have this in b2c, but tell us about, you know, what’s your technique? Or what’s your process in terms of like how you filter through copious amounts of information, in order to craft the right content in b2b tech?

Rachel Foster  09:44

So you always want to have the Voice of Customer data. So any testimonials, reviews, survey results, and one of the things that I like to do in copy is actually mirror the exact language that your customer uses back to them when they read your copy. That way, you know, you’re hitting on the pain points that they struggle with. The things that matter the most to them.

Christian Klepp  10:08

Yeah, no, that’s absolutely right. So in other words, like when the customer or the set target audience reads that they, it not just resonates with them, but they say like, hey, that, that sounds like me, that sounds like the problems that I’m having. Right?

Rachel Foster  10:22

Absolutely.

Christian Klepp  10:23

All right. Um, you’ve been in this industry for about 11 years, right? If I’m not mistaken. So talk about some of the changes that you’ve seen across the b2b tech landscape, and how you think B2B markers should evolve with these changing dynamics.

Rachel Foster  10:40

Yeah, so things have changed a lot in the past 11 years. One of the most important things I’ve seen is probably the rise of the empowered b2b buyer. So buyers are doing their own research now. And I think it’s 70 something percent through their sales cycle before they talk to a salesperson. So you know, your copies is your sales rep, and they’re going to be interacting a lot with your website and your thought leadership. So that really has to help you stand out.

Christian Klepp  11:10

Right, that’s exactly it. And any other changes that you’ve seen in terms of the content and how, or, for example, like how the copies evolved?

Rachel Foster  11:20

Yeah, so I think in the past few years, there’s been a rise of something called Conversion Copywriting. So copywriting has always been about getting customers to take action or to convert. But a few years ago, copy hackers developed a term called Conversion Copywriting and they built the process around that which I’ve studied through them. So that process, which basically involves getting tons of research and data before you even begin the copywriting process.

Christian Klepp  11:48

Right, right.

Hey, it’s Christian Klepp here, we’ll get back to the episode in a second. But first, is your brand struggling to cut through the noise? Are you trying to find more effective ways to reach your target audience and boost sales? Are you trying to pivot your business? If so, book a call with EINBLICK Consulting, our experienced consultants will work with you to help your b2b business to succeed and scale. Go to www.einblick.co for more information.

When you started out the year, you had a plan. And then COVID happened, followed by a lockdown, followed by everything that went on with the economy. So you know, talk to us about some of the things that you’ve had to do in order to I would say strategically shift your business in order to ensure that there’s a certain degree of continuity.

Rachel Foster  12:37

Yeah, so I’ve been really fortunate that I already worked from home. I have a home office. And so I had everything in place before that started. But one of the things that I did this past year was I actually cut back on the number of clients that I work with, just you know, with everything going on. And just a built up stress of this past year, I just prefer to work with just a few people. So I have a few long term clients. And I really like this a lot better than working with too many clients at one time, because I could spend more time getting to know my clients and then actually thinking about the strategy behind the copy and feeling more present when I’m working for them.

Christian Klepp  13:18

Right. Right. As opposed to like, you know, having to deal with multiple clients with multiple deadlines and multiple deliverables. And you’re trying to juggle each one of them, right.

Rachel Foster  13:28

Yes, too much. I think I’m at the point now where I’m ready to take on one more clients that kind of just like a scab used to things. But yeah, it’s definitely a lot better just to focus. So I think my theme for the past year has been simplification.

Christian Klepp  13:44

Yeah. Sounds like you’re in a pretty, I wouldn’t say perfect, but it seems like a bit of an ideal situation, right? Where you know, you’ve got enough work to keep you going. And now you’re ready to take on take on a bit more. I mean, it’s not something that everybody can, can say is, you know, something normal, especially during this period, right?

Rachel Foster  14:06

Yeah, yeah. It’s been it’s been very difficult for lots of people.

Christian Klepp  14:09

Yeah, indeed, indeed. Speaking of which, you know, like, the pandemic has clearly affected and disrupted multiple industries across the globe, and you know, your field is no exception. Right. So talk to us about some of the changes that you’ve seen as a result of, you know, the lockdown and tell us about your three top predictions moving forward when it comes to b2b tech copywriting.

Rachel Foster  14:36

Yeah. So I’m following CompTIA the past year and they send out monthly newsletters that talk about the state of technology companies during the pandemic. And they have all kinds of data on how tech companies have been impacted. And for the most part, they said that 84% of tech firms have seen an increase in the business opportunity days, in particular, SaaS, cybersecurity, moving from on premise to the cloud, all of those areas are, are doing pretty well. And one of my clients actually, they help people work remotely. So they’ve been really good at shifting their positioning over the past year to focus on those aspects of their business, and I’ve been doing a lot of work for them. And but despite that 58% of the tech companies said that customers are cancelling or postponing their contracts. So sale cycles are getting longer. And I think one of the things is like, a lot of customers are cutting back to just the essentials. So if they’ve been in the sales deal with you, they think it’s nice, but they don’t think it’s a must have, they won’t purchase. So that’s something like tech companies need to do is they need to position themselves as a must have instead of the nice to have.

Christian Klepp  15:56

Right, right. Yeah, that’s right. Oh, and, you know, thank you for sharing that. Those are very relevant observations. In fact, I had a guest on the show a couple of weeks back, who’s an expert in cybersecurity. And he had mentioned that, you know, as a result of pandemic, over the past 12 months or so, the, the incidence of cyber-attacks in here in Canada, and also in the United States have gone up considerably. And a lot of that is attributed to the fact that everybody is working, spending a lot of time online. A lot of companies are still working remotely. You’ve got huge teams, you know, that are still working from home. And these employees, they’ll need to somehow access confidential information or data via their internal network. So definitely, there’s the whole need of like setting up the relevant IT infrastructure to make sure that the operation still works seamlessly. Right. And, you know, also to the observation about sales cycles being longer. Yeah, that’s, that’s certainly true. And but I’ve also read, you know, in some sectors, while in some sectors marketing budgets have been reduced, and others in the b2b sectors, you know, some of them have slowly started to roll back.

Rachel Foster  17:26

Yeah, I think so. Despite that, I was reading something yesterday, I can’t remember who it was from, but they basically said the marketing budgets have been pretty stable going into 2021.

Christian Klepp  17:37

Okay, um, Rachel, this is one of my favorite parts of the interview. Um, it’s, uh, you know, there’s in every field of expertise. And you know, b2b tech copywriting is certainly no exception. There’s a few commonly held beliefs or conventional wisdom, or, you know, things where people say, Oh, well, you know, that’s just the way we’ve been doing it, like, for so many years, and, you know, that’s it. That’s, you know, you just got to accept that. So, talk to us about one such belief when it comes to b2b tech copywriting that you strongly disagree with? And why.

Rachel Foster  18:15

One of the things I strongly disagree with is that you need to tell your readers everything about your product. Yeah, you know, you might be selling to it, people who love technology and learning about all the features and all the cool things you have, but they may not necessarily need to know everything. Right.

Christian Klepp  18:31

Yeah.

Rachel Foster  18:33

So you know, tear it down. Focus on you know, what stage of the sales cycle are they in? And what do they need to know at this point?

Christian Klepp  18:40

I mean, it’s not, I don’t know, ponder me this. Do you think that it’s a general issue in b2b? Because you know, I’ve seen that happen many times over where people just get tempted to reveal everything. Right.

Rachel Foster  18:57

Yeah, I think it’s an issue, especially if you have a… get a lot… the more people who are involved with approving the copy, the more bloated it’s going to get. So now people in the marketing teams like, they typically know this, but then sometimes they might need somebody from the sales team to take a look at it and approve it. Salesperson wants to put in everything and then the SEO person needs to get all these keywords in. There’s just too many people looking at it. And then the more people look at it, the more bloated it’ll get.

Christian Klepp  19:24

It’s the old decision by committee approach. I mean, you could almost compare it to and correct me if I’m wrong, you can almost compare it to a teaser trailer for a movie. I mean, like, would you go on… If you saw a 20 minute teaser trailer, then what’s the point of watching the movie, right? (laugh)

Rachel Foster  19:42

 Yeah, they show everything already.

Christian Klepp  19:43

Exactly. It’s the same to a certain degree. I mean, of course, depending on what medium you’re referring to, but even something like a website, for instance, right? I mean, there’s no need to reveal or provide copious amounts of information about the product on the website, because you got to people a reason to go and contact the sales and prompt them to act. Right? That’s what the call, that’s what the call to action is there for.

Rachel Foster  20:10

Yeah. And another issue is that tech companies typically have several buyers so there’ll be the tech person and there will be the business person and sometimes the finance person and all these people want to know different things. So you can’t put everything all on one page, or there will be too much, too confusing.

Christian Klepp  20:24

Exactly. Name one thing that you think people should start doing, and one thing that you think people should stop doing when it comes to b2b tech copywriting.

Rachel Foster  20:35

So I’m gonna go back to something I learned when I went through my business development program way back in 2009. But I think it’s still relevant today. And so during our sales class, a lot of us new entrepreneurs were really hesitant about sales, because we thought it was sleazy pitching, you know, Glengarry Glen Ross and everything. So our sales instructor had little magnets that he gave us not only said stop selling, start helping, so that’s something I think is still relevant today. So instead of, you know, focusing on the sale, and, you know, calling somebody to download the white paper. You know, focus on educating them and helping them and you could do that through your thought leadership content, and your website copy and, and pretty much all those content.

Christian Klepp  21:27

So you mean, there’s like none of that… Okay, um, you know, are you open to jumping onto a 15 minute demo? Here’s the link to my Calendly. (laugh)

Rachel Foster  21:38

There’s the time and the place for it, but I went to a session where some tech buyers were talking about what they thought about tech marketing, and some of the IT pros on the panel, actually said after the demo the white paper, Lola. They won’t answer their phone in the next hour.

Christian Klepp  21:54

Yeah. And especially you know, in the current economic climate, you know, where… I mean, even under normal circumstances, you know, people are pressured to hit their sales targets. But even more so in a climate where not everybody is buying. Right. Exactly. Rachel, thank you so much for coming on. I mean, you know, this has been such a great session, you know, what’s the best way for people out there to connect with you?

Rachel Foster  22:23

Sure you can connect with me on LinkedIn, just Rachel Foster. And then my website is freshperspectivewriting.com. And I have a blog there that I publish maybe about once a month, and then I also have various b2b marketing resources.

Christian Klepp  22:40

Fantastic. Rachel, this has been such an interesting and informative session. I really do hope that the listeners not only took notes, but I hope that they will walk away from this interview having learned a thing or two about copywriting for b2b tech. So thank you so much for coming on.

Rachel Foster  22:54

Yeah. Thanks for the invite.

Christian Klepp  22:56

Thank you for joining us on this episode of the B2B Marketers on a Mission podcast. To learn more about what we do here at EINBLICK, please visit our website at www.einblick.co. And be sure to subscribe to the show on iTunes or your favorite podcast player.