Writing B2B, not B2-In-Your-Face

The amount of forcefulness in the tone of marketing content is really important. Readers are intelligent enough to come to their own conclusions without being shoved to the checkout counter, and a gentler approach would work better. Mark Twain puts it this way: 

“A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it.” 

Simply said, an outcome could be suggested without spelling it out explicitly.

There is also a common thought that writing is a basic skill. That if marketing consists mostly of writing it’s a cakewalk. So why is so much “informative content” off-putting the way bad advertisements are? 

Scream-to-action

BUY. THIS. NOW. A call to action that is more of a scream. Aggressive writing can be so hard-sell you feel the spittle in your face or a pushing hand at the back of your head.  

When it comes to B2B, as opposed to B2C, readers represent businesses. They could be under tight deadlines or pressure to go for low prices, but above all are there to weigh their options when deciding on a product. A survey shows that companies want their marketing efforts to lead directly to sales, which is short-sighted and this shows in their tactics. 

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Pop-up ads: the reason we have AdBlocker now. (Image credit: Seeker)

We’re far from the days of pop-up ads but the “here’s what my business can do for yours right this moment” finish is still common. While this tactic could lead to sales, it may not be suited to B2B selling. It’s important to remember the person behind the screen is a purchasing agent short on time and under pressure, i.e. they would rather not have to switch vendors if service is consistent.

The issues this approach brings to selling are easy to imagine. It could end with a buyer being aggravated and losing interest, putting the unfavourable content further down the line. This is especially damaging if a product’s market is already saturated and highly competitive.

It could even end with the business losing sales over time because online buyers are very much free to decide for themselves, and if unhappy with their experience will simply write off a product by closing the tab on their browser and Googling something less aggressive. 

The relationship approach

As with any form of communication, people can make their own decisions. Being informative and adding value to their time spent on your content, beyond deciding on the product is a worthwhile cause. 

What if, instead, you actively managed and took on a tone of voice that is less intrusive. To start though, tone of voice is an indicator of a brand’s values and modus operandi, depending on how it comes off. 

This isn’t to say that force should be entirely removed from tone of voice in marketing material; just the right amount of it can win over an entire niche because of its charisma.

Marketing content could instead inform and guide a reader towards knowledge or a product and, as a result, start a meaningful relationship between two businesses.

It is especially important for B2B content, where the reader brings the interests of their organisation along wherever they browse. Readers’ decision-making processes are often guided by logic and financial incentive.

B2B readers are also motivated toward a long-term, sustainable relationship. If you find yourself having to write content for a business selling to another business, take this as the first push in support of a softer, more familiar approach to selling. 

To develop this tone of writing, you can try some learnings from the B2B experts at MailChimp and their Content Style Guide, which leads to them developing copy characterised by:

  1. Plain speaking – valuing clarity above all, for readers who are assaulted with jargon every day
  2. Authenticity – building rapport by relating to customers’ challenges and passions in a “familiar, warm, and accessible way”
  3. Translation – simplifying B2B jargon to educate as many readers as possible, and
  4. Dry humour – where appropriate, it can convince prospects of your understanding of their world.

Then, you would be able to better convert in the long run. 

Not everyone who reads your material will end up purchasing, maybe because they aren’t ready, or on the off chance that the product is unsuitable. A good number of B2B businesses cater to a niche, not the entire market.

At the very least, if the content is written memorably and in a way that they liked, a seed is planted, and a good impression of the company behind the product is made.

So go gently, and build a solid, lasting relationship with the community you’re writing to, even though you’re doing it for a business that needs the dough to come around.

By Hongrui Chin, Public Relations Executive, Mustard Tree Communications

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