In this exclusive interview, Steve Slaunwhite explains what a Lead-Generation Specialist is and why they can command top fees from B2B companies. It’s one of the strategies Steve has used to attract more clients and increase the value of client relationships.
Q: Steve, can you explain a little bit about what a Lead-Gen Specialist is and what type of copy they would write. Is it copy with a lot of hype?
A: Okay. Well, let’s start with “What is a Lead-Gen Specialist?” Let me back up a little bit, just to let everybody know what a lead is. In Business-to-Business and amongst Business-to-Business companies, most companies focus their marketing efforts on generating leads rather than direct sales.
To give you an example, a sales training company is not going to sell a $35,000 sales training program directly from their website. You know, no one’s going to read a sales page, and then push the “Buy Now” button, and spend $35,000 of their company’s money on a sales training program without a lot more information, without a longer sales cycle.
What’s more likely to happen is that someone who is interested in this sales training program for their company would go on the sales training website and download a white paper, or sign up for a webinar, or do something else like that. And when they do that, they become a lead. And then that sales training company follows up on that lead, and hopefully, eventually, closes the sale.
So most of the marketing effort of B2B companies is generating leads, getting potential buyers in the marketplace to, in a sense, raise their hand and say, “Yes, I’m interested.” And that’s the biggest activity in B2B marketing.
Now, what a lead-gen copywriting specialist does, is help companies generate leads by writing all the lead-generating pieces they need to do that — and that typically includes emails, advertisements, landing pages, direct-mail letters, direct-mail postcards, autoresponder emails, and video scripts. All the things that we think of as sales pieces, as sales copy, those are the type of things that a Lead-Gen Specialist will tend to write.
Now you asked me, because it’s sales stuff, is it hype-y? Well, it’s certainly persuasive. I mean, this is sales copy that you’re writing to generate leads, so it’s certainly persuasive. But because it’s B2B, it tends to be very low hype and tends to emphasize more of the informational aspects of the offer, or it’s more fact-filled; it builds more of a business case. So it tends to be more business-like, it tends to be a lot less hype-y.
So that’s what being a Lead-Gen Specialist is all about.
Q: Well, it sounds like a big portion of what B2B companies need from copywriters, and as such, it would seem that the skill would be highly valued by B2B companies. Have you found that to be the case?
A: Yes. Leads are the lifeblood of most B2B companies. Most B2B companies spend most of their marketing effort and marketing money on trying to generate leads, because they know the more leads they generate, the more sales they’ll get, right?
The more sales they get, obviously the business grows, so they’re focused on generating leads. And that’s why a copywriter who is a specialist in lead-gen marketing can do quite well, because you’re helping companies do what is the most important thing that they do.
There is a survey that recently came out by a think tank called eMarketer. And eMarketer is a company that does a lot of studies in marketing. They did a survey amongst marketing managers of Business-to-Business companies and they asked them, “What is the most important activity in your marketing department? What is your number one priority?” And the number one priority on their list — 62% said it was lead-generation.
Now that’s one survey, but every survey I’ve ever seen, over the years, where you ask marketing managers of B2B companies, “What is the most important thing for you? What is your number one priority?” It’s always generating more leads; that’s what they want to do.
So if you’re a copywriter who can help them generate more leads with the copywriting that you do, then obviously, you’re going to be very valuable to that marketing director in that company.
Q: You had mentioned that most B2B companies do this, so it’s not particularly tied to a specific niche. This is pretty much across the board. Do all B2B companies need this service?
A: It’s pretty much across the board. Now there are some types of Business-to-Business companies that, maybe they do a lot of direct selling and they don’t have a multi-step sales process, so they don’t generate leads. That’s pretty rare. I’d say over 90% of B2B companies are involved in lead-generation to some extent. And I would say for most of those, lead-generation is a huge priority for them. So yeah, they’re right across the board across all industries.
Q: That’s great, because that means copywriters of all different levels of experience and types of experience have an opportunity. Now is this something that they will hire freelancers to do, or do they prefer to do it in-house? Is there really an opportunity there for B2B copywriters?
A: Well, it’s the same opportunity as any other type of marketing writing project. For example, you could say case studies. Do companies do case studies in-house, or do they outsource them? Well the truth is, some companies will do case studies in-house and have their marketing manager write the case study. Some companies will outsource it to freelance copywriters, and some companies will get their ad agency to do it. So it’s one of three.
It’s the same thing with lead-gen materials. When a marketing director of a company needs an email written or an ad written or a product sales page written for their website — you know, these lead-gen pieces — they’re just as likely to farm it out to a good freelance copywriter as they are to do it in-house, or they may farm it out to their agency. So it’s the same no matter what kind of project that you’re going after.
Q: So what are some of the reasons that this particular specialty, writing lead-generation materials, would appeal to a copywriter?
A: Well, it will appeal to a copywriter if they enjoy writing sales copy. Now, a lot of B2B copywriters like writing content. They like writing articles and case studies and white papers — informational pieces. And that’s wonderful, that’s great. But if you’re a copywriter who also likes writing some of the more persuasive stuff, like the short emails, and maybe the short sales letters and the product pages and product descriptions, and ads, then you’re going to really love lead-generation because that’s what it is; it’s writing all that kind of promotional stuff.
Another reason why copywriters might like this type of project is — these are very important to clients. I mean, if you can write an email, or an ad, or a sales letter, or a product description that’s going to help a company generate lots of leads, and you write something that is really successful for the client, you are their hero. They will find you very, very valuable because — not to put too much of a point on it — I mean, you’re making the money. You’re helping them generate leads; leads lead to sales. So you become a very valuable part of the lead-generation process for that company, and they’ll come back to you again, and again, and again, to seek your help in writing similar materials.
So, those are some of the reasons why this specialty might appeal to B2B copywriters. But you know what, even if you are the kind of B2B copywriter who prefers to write content, like white papers and case studies and newsletter articles and blog posts and things like that, that’s fine. But you still should learn to write lead-generation materials because you could easily double your project income by knowing how to write lead-gen materials.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you are someone who writes case studies, okay? You write a case study for a company and you charge that company $1,000, $1,500 for a case study. But you know what, that company is probably going to use the case study as an offer in a lead-generating campaign.
Okay, now you’ve written the case study and then it will be used as an offer, wouldn’t it be nice if you can go to your client and say, “Listen, I’ll write the emails and the letter and the other lead-generation materials as part of that campaign, since you’re already using the case study?” If you did that, you could essentially double your project income because you get the job of writing the case study, but then you also get the job of writing all the lead-generation materials that go around that case study.
Q: It seems that it works the other way as well, if you write the lead-generation materials, they might ask you to write some other collateral for them.
A: Oh, absolutely. But that’s the same with anything. If a client likes your writing — and this is especially true in B2B — if they like your writing, then they tend to come back again and again to the source, they tend to come back to you, wanting you to write more stuff.
Q: Well, that’s fantastic. That does sound like a pretty easy way to make these projects grow quite a bit so that client becomes much more valuable to you. Can you give us a quick overview of the three key parts of the lead-gen process?
A: Sure. Let me put it in perspective. Let’s say you have a client and they’re going to use a white paper as a way to generate leads. So they’re going to send out an offer of a free white paper to a list of prospects. And those prospects who are interested in the white paper become leads for the company that they’ll follow up with later. Okay?
So from the copywriting perspective, the first part of the lead-gen process is the offer. What is the offer? In this case, the offer is a white paper. Okay? It could be many other types … there’s many other types of offers, I can give them to you later, but in this example, let’s say it’s a white paper; that’s the offer, that’s Part One of the process.
Part Two is the copy you write to promote that white paper. It’s the email you write to promote the white papers, the press release. It’s the ad, it’s the banner ad, it’s the sales letter, it’s whatever piece you’re asked to write to help promote that white paper, that lead-gen piece. That’s Part Two of the process.
And Part Three of the process is follow up. Because once a lead is generated, your job as a copywriter isn’t over. You’re often asked to write the follow-up emails to follow up on those leads and stay in touch with those leads and nurture those leads. So one lead-gen project can result in a lot of work for you; you could conceivably write the white paper, which is the offer, the sales letter and email used to generate the leads to begin with, and then a series of follow-up emails later on.
So this could be a nice project for you, and that’s a typical lead-generation project.
Q: You had mentioned white papers being a potential offer, are there a couple of other examples you can give us, of types of offers that may be used in a B2B company’s lead-gen process?
A: Yeah. These days, the number one type of offer is the content offer. And by content, it means some sort of information — white papers, case studies, webinars are very popular, infographics, how-to guides, e-books, or information kits.
And by the way, those are all things as a copywriter you can get involved in writing. A lot of copywriters who write lead-generating materials like me also write the content. I often write the content and I write the lead-generating materials.
So I’ll write the white paper, and then I’ll write the ad, and the email, and the web page, and the landing page used to promote that white paper. I’ll write all the lead-generating stuff, because I can double my project income. Even with webinars, I’ll get involved in helping a company script out a webinar and develop a webinar. So content offers are the number one type of offers, and the good news is that as a lead-gen writer, you can significantly increase your income by also writing that content.
There’s another type of offer that’s quite common in software and online applications, and that’s the free trial offer which is probably the second most popular offer you’ll see out there amongst B2B — free trial or free demo.
The third type of offer is what I call “hard offers.” A hard offer is when you’re asking the prospect to do something significant, like book an appointment, or schedule a 30-minute phone consultation, or agree to see a salesperson, or something like that. Those offers are more rare because it’s a very hard lead to generate because you’re asking a lot of the prospect. But that’s another type of offer as well. But I’d say 60, 70% of the time, B2B copywriters will be working with content offers.
Q: Steve, when you work with a company on their lead-gen process, do they already know what they want to make their offer, or do they consult with you sometimes and look for your advice?
A: It’s about 50-50. About 50% of the time, a client will already have a good idea of the content, or will already have the content. You know, they’ll already have a white paper, or they’ll already have a webinar that they’ve used in the past, and they’re going to use that as their offer to generate leads. So they’ll have something and they want you to write the lead-generation materials to promote that offer, okay?
But the other half of the time, the client will want your advice on what the offer should be. In fact, it’s funny, my very first client ever, way back in the 1990s when I launched my copywriting business, was a company who contacted me because they wanted to generate leads, and they wanted me to write a sales letter to generate leads. But they didn’t know what the offer was going to be, right? And they asked me, they said, “Steve, can you help us out with the offer?” So even my very first project, where I didn’t have any experience at all, I was being asked for my advice on offers. And I think off the top of my head I said, “Why don’t you do a short special report on this topic?” And I just threw out a topic at them. And the client said, “That’s great. Can you write that for us?” And I said, “Sure.” And immediately, I turned a small project into a big writing project without even knowing what I was doing, really.
But that happens all the time. Half the time, clients will ask you for advice. They’ll say, “Should we offer a white paper? What topic should our white paper be on?” or “Should we offer a special report?” or “Do you think we should do a webinar?” And they’ll ask for your opinion. And don’t be afraid to give your opinion. You don’t need to have a lot of expertise to make some suggestions about what kind of offers. You know, brainstorm with your client. If you get involved in that process where you are helping a client figure out what their offer is going to be, and their offer is a content offer, then there’s a high likelihood you’re going to get hired to write that content, whatever it is, okay? So participate in that conversation. Don’t be afraid of it because you’ll probably get the job and get all the lead-generating copywriting work that was around that offer. So you have a big project that’s going to land in your lap.
Q: It sounds like you really are able to position yourself as a trusted adviser to that company, which could only help your possibilities of working with them in the future. Was that your experience?
A: You have a different status with a client when you’re specializing in lead generation. If you are a … I’m going to be careful how I will say this, but if you are … let’s say you’re a newsletter writer. You write newsletters for B2B companies. A company will contact you and say, “Okay, write our newsletter for us,” and you are their newsletter writer, that’s about as far as it goes. But if you are helping them generate leads, then you are seen more as indispensable, you know? You are someone that is helping them generate leads, get sales, build their business.
I’m trying to avoid saying you’re higher up the ladder, but in a sense you are. You’re sort of at the top of the heap if you are writing lead-gen materials for companies simply because it’s just so valuable to companies. I mean, you’re doing something that’s helping them build their business, you know? So yes, you are seen as more of a … much more of a trusted adviser, as a consultant, as an expert. Your status is different and better.
Q: Are there any final thoughts you’d like to share about lead generation in general?
A: Well, just to say that I think all B2B copywriters should know this. This is a big opportunity for copywriters.
Even if you’re focusing on content, you should know how to write lead-gen materials, because if you do, it can significantly increase your income and also make you much more valuable to your clients. And I’ve noticed a trend over the past couple of years where those copywriters who are able to, in a sense, become rainmakers for their clients, to not just write your client stuff but to help them generate leads and build sales with the copywriting that you do, you become much more valuable to clients, and subsequently you can charge more, and the clients are more loyal. So I think this is something that most B2B copywriters should learn.
And one final thing, writing lead-gen stuff is a lot of fun. Like I said, they’re short projects, they’re creative, they’re fun to write, and they don’t tend to require a lot of research. Like if you write a white paper, it’s a lot of research, but not lead-gen stuff. So there are many reasons why I enjoy it, and I think a lot of other B2B copywriters will enjoy it as well.
There’s something else I want to mention too and I forgot to mention, is the reaction from clients. When you tell a client you’re a copywriter, yes, they’re interested because they immediately start thinking about how they can use your services. But, in my experience, when you say to a client that you are a Lead-Gen Specialist, they know exactly what that means and exactly how valuable that is. They become very interested very quickly, because like I said, they’re looking for ways to generate more leads. And if you can play a role in that, then they’re going to be interested in talking to you.
Q: We talk so often about how important it is to differentiate yourself as a company from someone else so you can have that competitive advantage to sell your product. It’s the same for us as copywriters, and this would really help differentiate you from other copywriters. You can walk in and say, “I’m a Lead-Gen Specialist.” And immediately you are not in the same category as they are.
A: You’re absolutely right. It’s a way to stick out and be unique because you have that specialty. But at the same time, it doesn’t restrict the type of projects you handle, because as a Lead-Gen Specialist, you’re going to be offered to write all the other content pieces anyway.
Q: Fantastic. Well, Steve, I have thoroughly enjoyed this. I’ve taken lots of notes and I’m very much looking forward to hearing how other people have implemented some of your strategies and are having success. And we love to hear about people that have had some lead-gen experience, and their experiences and their successes with getting business through this. So thank you so much for joining us and sharing your wonderful expertise.
A: Well, thank you. My pleasure.
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