How much does market knowledge matter when you’re hiring a copywriter?

2nd September 2020 | Posted in copywriting

As a marketer, do you feel you can only hire freelance copywriters who understand your industry inside out?

Or do you believe that approach, experience and willingness to learn are more important skills?

It’s perfectly understandable that you may feel you need a writer with a thorough background in your specialised business. But there are plenty of reasons why a good copywriter with experience across a range of industries can successfully deliver your marketing communications project.

I thought it would be useful to take a look at the benefits of both approaches.

Before I go any further, I should just mention that I’m talking here about marketing copywriting, rather than content writing for blogs, which is something slightly different. Marketing copywriters often do need a deeper knowledge, but how deep very much depends on the project.

What do you need a copywriter to do?

How technical do you need your writer to be? For many project, the most important role for the writer is to work with marketing in identifying and creating messages around business benefits for their readers, rather than technical benefits.

For IT leaders, that might be greater effectiveness and/or lower costs. For pharma organisations it might be easier access to markets.

A writer doesn’t need to know exactly how to use the products or services to communicate the advantages and benefits of doing so.

The value of niche knowledge writers

I’ve been working with the tech industry since I became a copywriter, and while the needs and desires of their customers has evolved over time, the core elements are still there.

I understand those, and that helps drive the copywriting, as does just enough understanding of industry terminology to be credible while still being clear.

Focused industry copywriters offer many benefits to busy marketing departments. They

  • Can work from a base of knowing what your customers’ needs and aspirations
  • Are likely to be familiar with the terminology of your industry
  • May know who your competitors are and what they are offering
  • Will know the reliable sources to go to for background research

Why use experienced writers without in-depth specialist knowledge?

On the other hand, experienced marketing copywriters of any background will ensure they’ve researched the subject before the conversation starts.

I’ve broadened my client base across many industries, and across businesses from global corporates to self-employed start-ups.

My most recent forays have been into the healthcare and pharma markets, where I have no academic or working background, but it’s worked. And I’ve discovered that a little can actually be an asset – as long as I’m willing to overcome that lack of knowledge enough to make the writing resonates with the audience.

That’s because if I’m going to make sense of a complex subject for my audience, I need to ask questions. And that means my clients need to be clear in their answers. Spending a little time considering what the message to the audience is and how to frame it is invaluable for all of us.

A great copywriter who isn’t a specialist in your industry:

  • Will take little for granted, and ask questions that could set you thinking about your aims and values, as well as those of your customers
  • Can apply their research, listening and marketing writing skills to any project
  • Will get behind the industry jargon to make sure messaging is clear and succinct for any audience

Whatever the industry, some tasks remain the same

Whatever the industry, whatever the size of the client, there are facts that need to be understood for copy to be successful.

  • What is the business for?
  • What are its goals?
  • Who is the audience – current and prospective customers – and what are their needs?
  • How does the business answer those needs with its solutions?

Which to choose?

If you’re creating communications such as white papers, in-depth case studies, or ‘how to’ guides that are deeply technical and applicable to a small area of your industry, it makes sense to opt for a specialist copywriter.

Yet if what you need is someone who can write convincing copy for your website, brochures, sales guides and more, based on matching your customers’ needs with your solutions, it’s worth looking beyond specialists for flexible and experience writers to work with your team.

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