In the world of marketing, all customers and prospects can be divided into one of two broad categories: retail and business. Similarly, all marketing efforts fall into one of two categories: business-to-consumer — or what marketers cleverly call B2C marketing — and business-to-business, or B2B marketing.
During my career, I’ve written content targeted to both B2C and B2B audiences. However, most of what I’ve written and continue to write is within the realm of business.
So this month I’m sharing a few thoughts on how to write better B2B marketing copy. Here are my top 10 B2B marketing copywriting tips:
1. Know and understand your audience.This is absolutely critical to good B2B marketing copywriting. If you don’t know your audience — and I mean reallyknow your audience — it’s going to show in your writing. I guarantee it.
For example, I’ve been writing a newsletter targeted to owners of automobile dealerships for the past six years. The auto dealership industry is very different from any other industry I’ve ever written to. I’ve had to learn this industry inside-out in order come up with good article topics and write content that’s accurate and relevant to this audience.
2. Don’t be too jargony.It’s easy to fall into jargon when writing B2B marketing copy. Some of the most annoying jargony phrases I see far too often are synergies, best practices, deep dive, game changer, paradigm shift, push the envelopeand solution oriented. Use these sparingly in your B2B copy, if at all.
3. Keep it simple.There’s a misconception among some B2B marketers that business writing should be complex and sophisticated to show customers and prospects that they’re smart and know what they’re talking about. I disagree — strongly.
I’ve written copy targeted to some of the most complicated industries out there, including financial services, information technology and employee benefit plans. The biggest challenge when writing to these industries is making very complex topics interesting and understandable. Remember: There’s no need to use a 50-cent word when a 5-cent word will suffice.
4. Focus on your readers, not your business.This is by far the biggest mistake I see in B2B marketing writing. The copy is all about the business: how great their products are, how knowledgeable their staff is, how long they’ve been in business, how wonderful their service is. You get the idea.
I’ve got news for you: Your readers really don’t care about any this. They care about one thing: What’s in it for me? So B2B marketing copy needs to focus on the benefits to customers and prospects of doing business with you. Or even better, it should add value by educating readers — for example, about how they can manage their finances better or boost their sales and revenue.
5. Use the right style and tone.This will differ based on the type of industry and the image your business wants to convey. Financial services firms, for example, usually (but not always) lean to the conservative side in their marketing communications. On the flip side, industries like travel and leisure, fast food and alcoholic beverages often use a more informal and creative tone and style.
6. Write a great headline.One study found that eight out of 10 people read headlines, but only two out of 10 read the body copy. If you don’t grab readers’ attention with a great headline, then it doesn’t much matter what else you’ve written because not many people are going to read it.
Your goal in writing B2B headlines is simple: Get people to read your copy. There are lots of different headline styles, like numbers or lists, questions and how-to’s. Any one of these could work for your content. Just make sure your headline is compelling enough to draw readers into the copy that follows.
7. Follow it up with a compelling lead.If your headline is good enough to draw readers into your body copy, the next challenge is to keep them reading. This requires a strong lead that gives people a reason to keep reading past the first paragraph or two.
There are many different ways to do this as well. For example, you can tell an interesting story or anecdote, share a relevant statistic or data point, or lead with a quote from a famous person. Just make sure that whatever you write is compelling enough to draw readers into the meat of your content.
8. Eliminate sloppy mistakes.In our world of texting and tweeting, spelling, grammar and punctuation errors have become acceptable to many people. But there’s no room for these in professional B2B content … period.
So be sure to proofread all your B2B copy carefully before publishing or posting it. Better yet, have someone else proofread it because it’s hard to proofread your own writing. There’s not enough time to proofread, you say? Make the time — you simply can’t afford to take shortcuts here.
9. Don’t be a grammatical stickler.At the risk of raising the ire of my high school English teachers, I’m going to suggest that you break a few grammatical rules occasionally in your B2B copy. For example, it’s OK to start an occasional sentence with But or And. The same goes for writing incomplete sentences and one-sentence paragraphs.
Don’t go overboard with these techniques, of course. But when used in moderation, they can be very effective in B2B copy.
10. Write using the active voice and in second person.Writing in the passive voice severely weakens B2B copy, as does writing in the third person. There are very few situations that call for passive or third-person writing, so you should avoid it in almost every instance.