I learned a few things after 25 years in public relations and marketing and working with technology executives and technical people; just because you know your technology does not mean you can write-to-sell.
Writing-to-sell (marketing writing) is different and can benefit with the perspective of an outsider and good marketing writer. Of course, there are executives and technical people that can write well and about many topics in their industry, but that doesn’t make them good marketing writers. Here are some business writing tips for better B2B.
Less is more.
It’s ironic that as written information becomes more important to the business buyer, people are less willing to read. Blogs that used to routinely post 2,000-word pieces are cutting back to 500-words. Today’s blog post is about fewer words, singular focus and stories (yes, even in B2B) that resonate with the reader. Cut out technical jargon and watch out for the million acronyms out there. Avoid long sentences and over-intellectualized structure. Get to the point and provide a solution.
Jargon is often used when a writer wants to not say anything. Technical readers hate business writing—all that “solutioneering” and “data-driven thinking”—words that ultimately, mean nothing. While sometimes jargon is unavoidable —in a technical specification, for example—simplify for a blog post. Even for people in the same field as you, jargon is often inefficient and creates more questions than answers.
Write once, check
twice ten times.
I am often amazed at how often I have to edit my writing, but the brain is tricky and will ignore errors because it knows what you were trying to say. The best thing to do is take a break, do something else and come back to proofread later. You need to detach. Proofread immediately after you write, and then again hours or, better yet, days later. Typos happen to everyone, but people judge harshly for those mistakes.
Re-think the flow.
In addition to catching typos, putting some time between writing and re-reading your work can help you rethink the flow and any errors of tone or perspective. For instance, writing angry comes out in the tone of your piece. Make sure your work says what you want it to say and how you want to project it.
Be professional but not too formal.
There’s a tendency to think of all business communication as formal, which isn’t necessary or even very productive. Formal language is fine for legal documents and job applications, but like jargon often becomes invisible, obscuring rather than revealing its meaning. Of course, informal doesn’t mean unprofessional. Business communications are no place for silly humor or anything that wouldn’t be considered PC.
Remember the basics.
Just like a news story, your communications should answer all the questions relevant to your audience: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? For example, who is the audience intended for this blog post (because you are writing to that, right)? What should they know? When and where will it apply? Why is it important and how should they use this information?
Call to action.
Most business communication is meant to achieve a purpose, so add a call to action. It shouldn’t shout or be annoying but a simple CTA can be very effective. Even better, make it something the reader should do right now. Don’t leave it to your readers to decide what to do with your information. It doesn’t hurt to politely ask them to do something.
Benefits not features.
A cornerstone of effective writing is describing benefits, not technical features. Feature lists went out with 80’s technology. For example, what a Cloud buyer cares about is the savings in capital costs, lower operational costs, reliable and consistent IT infrastructure, etc.
Hire a freelancer.
Writing is most likely not your strong suit but more importantly, you probably have other—bigger things to do. A good writing contractor can produce marketing material, training manuals, corporate newsletters, blog posts, and just about any other kind of writing. Don’t want to pay? The problem with that thinking is that chances are, your blog posts won’t get done or they won’t be consistent, or they won’t fit with your overall business development strategy, or they will be poorly written by someone in your organization that’s in too much of a hurry. Consistency and frequency are important parts of a good business and marketing strategy that breeds conversion and delivers ROI.
And yes, you need a strategy. Expect to pay $40 to – $125 an hour for good writing – anyone who charges less is either not very good, or not very business savvy.