I’m still astonished when people say that business-to-business copy-writing is dull. Even more amazed when they talk about technology in the same breath.
Perhaps I’ve been lucky to work with some of the most inspiring tech businesses of the past decade or so. Maybe it’s because I’m a geek with an arts degree who’s fascinated by the impact of technology on society.
Either way, I’m obsessed with the way in which our world is changing, faster than ever before. And I get a kick out of producing technology content that makes people sit up and take notice.
Coaching for clarity
I’ve also spent a lot of time coaching writers, both in-house and agency-side. In one b2b agency, I managed a team of 20 authors. More recently, I mentored a group of ‘content superheroes’ for a client that wanted employee advocates to blog about the business and share industry news on social media.
These authors represented all backgrounds, all abilities. But whether it was an intern, an ex-journalist or the CEO, I gave them all one piece of advice above all others: “make your copy more human”.
What do I mean by this? Put simply, too much b2b content gets bogged down in abstract language: systems, software and processes. Instead of talking about people, we talk about companies, clients or the c-suite.
In other words, it’s hard to tell an attention-grabbing story when blundering through bits and bytes, or describing a business in a way that’s best left to a PowerPoint org chart.
So how do you make your copy more human?
Five quick tips for starters
i). Put yourself in the shoes of the end user. Think about employees, who are using the technology. What makes them tick? What pressures do they face at work, day-in, day-out.
Talk to an end-user if you can. Ask them questions that demand an energetic response. If it’s a sales person, for example, what was it like to be under pressure to hit their targets? If it was the person who signed off the software purchase, how excited and nervous were they feeling during deployment and testing?
ii). Appeal to basic emotions. Building on point i). What feelings should the article evoke? Fear, joy, relief, or wonder? Weave these into the narrative of the copy. Doesn’t matter if it’s a case study, a brochure or a video interview. Make sure that the reader or viewer can ‘feel’ the story through the actors in your narrative.
iii). Think of the end-user as the hero in an epic adventure. Imagine how the tech helps them overcome their obstacles and battle their way to success. Frodo had his sword, Sting. Arthur had Excalibur. Ok, so LinkedIn Sales Navigator might not be the stuff of a fantasy trilogy, but use any narrative technique you can to make the story sing!
iv). Imagine your end-users as characters in a Hollywood tech-thriller. Remember Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) in The Social Network discovering that ‘relationship status’ is the missing ingredient for his new social platform; Joshua, the supercomputer playing out Armageddon scenarios in WarGames; or just about every episode of Mr Robot.
All of these examples use basic story-telling techniques that you can also use, including suspense, action, humour and fear. And if that sounds crazy, remember, it is a lot easier to edit down the rough edges of over-dramatic content than it is to make dull copy exciting.
v). Draw a picture. Infographics are a great way of helping your audience to better understand the benefits of technology. How many people are using it? What is the impact on the growth of the business? How much memory, how many devices, where is it used? Seek out the nearest designer and get them to work with you from the start. Their visual imagination will help you plot your story before you even begin writing or filming.
Bonus grammar point. Always try and make people the subject of the sentence. “A sales person using LinkedIn Sales Navigator can access hundreds of potential new clients every day,” reads a lot better than, “LinkedIn Sales Navigator enables sales teams to access hundreds of new prospects every day.”
There you go for now. If anyone complains that your b2b copy is dull, point them towards this article and set them straight. Alternatively, drop me a line. I’d be happy to talk to your people about becoming better content producers and social media participants. Until then, keep your copy human!