Writing B2B content for online marketing is difficult. On one hand you have a set message to deliver, but on the other you must be interesting, otherwise, you risk losing your audience.
For short passages - keep words simple, sentences short, and use signposts in your writing.
But for longer copy, you have to do more than that.
Your writing must make an impression, convince someone of something, and then get the reader to do what they might not otherwise do.
So how can you do that?
There are countless blog posts on this topic. Sorting useful tips is not easy.
At a high level, writing online B2B content requires two approaches which may seem contradictory, but can help you deliver lively, yet relevant, online copy.
Write your B2B Content for your Persona
To write persuasive and compelling copy, think about your personas.
- What do they care about?
- What’s on their mind?
- What problem are they trying to solve right now?
- What can they accomplish by reading your writing?
This is not the same thing as keeping your words simple and your sentences short.
Writing for personas means stepping back from your writing tools, assembling a logical structure, and checking, constantly, that you’re writing something which your personas value.
Focusing on your persona offers three main benefits.
De-clutter your copy
When you have a clear idea what you are writing and who you are writing for, you’ll feel confident to remove the 'business speak' which clutters writing and confuses readers.
Using words like 'leverage', 'synergies', and 'learnings' during a corporate meeting might seem normal, but you would never use them elsewhere, so don’t clutter your writing either.
Grab your reader's attention
When you feature items which people are already interested in, rather than what you want to say, readers will be attracted to it.
According to research, individuals pay close attention to and focus on things which they consider interesting.
Keep your reader's attention
Readers are faced with the same distractions we all face: emails, messaging apps, phone calls.
The competition to keep your reader's attention is almost too overwhelming to consider.
But writing about something which the reader thinks and cares about, can transcend these distractions and capture the reader.
… you're not finished yet. Writing which only considers its audience can end up sounding like an essay written at school.
It will cover all the right points but be lifeless. And lifeless writing loses readers.
There is a paradox though. To make your writing interesting, you must write for yourself. This means putting words down as they come into your head. Writing as you speak and think.
Somehow, this seems wrong. We’re meant to write to attract and keep your personas’ attention. How will writing in our own voice accomplish that?
I will address this later, but first let’s look at the benefits from just writing for yourself.
Your writing will flow more naturally
If you bind yourself to writing for someone else, then you will simply find it harder to write.
Writing is easier when the only filter you use in deciding what to say is your own preference, not what you imagine someone else's to be.
Your writing will sound more human
Back to removing clutter. If you write in a way that makes sense to you, then you’ll naturally remove the words which make you sound like a corporate-speak robot.
Words and phrases such as mission-critical and going forward never appear naturally when speaking.
Writing for yourself will keep them out of your copy as well.
You will break rules and catch people off guard
The most important reason to write for yourself is because it makes your writing more interesting.
So, delivering your own quirks through your writing makes you stand out from the crowd and be interesting.
Resolving the paradox
William Zinsser, in On Writing Well, discusses these two opposing approaches to writing. He says that trying to do both seems like a paradox but explains that writing for personas and for yourself are two separate tasks which you can do in the same copy.
Writing for personas, he calls 'craft' and writing for yourself, he calls 'attitude.'
When you think of what you are going to say, you are practicing the 'craft' of writing and you should think of your personas.
When you think of how you are going to say it, you must inject your own personality, your own 'attitude', and you need to think of yourself.
It's easier said than done as nearly all writers struggle with these opposing constraints.
Yet to capture and keep an audience, we must use both approaches when writing.
…how can you manage this paradox?
Every writer does it in their own way, but consider:
- Think what you want to say and who you want to say it to.
- Put together an outline which covers your main points.
- With your outline in view, write a draft in your personal voice.
It takes practice, but allowing yourself to write in your own voice is liberating and will produce more interesting copy.
And managing this apparent paradox also makes writing online copy much easier, even enjoyable at times!
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