Traditional B2B marketing is interruptive.
Marketers contact their targets, make an initial sales pitch and try to get an appointment, prepare a sales presentation, take the time of the target to make that presentation and pitch, and then engage in follow-up contacts, hoping to move that target to a paying customer.
This process involves at least four interruptions.
Today, buyers are tired of these interruptive-style marketing tactics. They want to be more in control of their time and when they decide to explore businesses that can meet a need they have. In this respect, they are not unlike today’s buyers of consumer products.
No one wants or needs a sales pitch.
A New Type of Writing for Marketers
This new buying market has meant big changes for B2B marketers. Their writing skills no longer involve introductory letters, proposals, brochures, ads, and other product or service presentations. These are types of writing involved in pushing their way into a target buyer.
They must now become content marketers – engaged in the type of writing that draws buyers to them. They must engage potential buyers by providing value, solutions, and education, not by pushing a product or service – a very different type of writing genre. This type of marketing requires unique and creative kinds of writing skills.
The marketer who is uncomfortable with content marketing will need to master these skills quickly.
Fortunately, there are many opportunities for online self-education these days, and many courses on content writing are available. The following writing skills will determine whether a B2B marketer will be successful in this new customer-in-control market.
Writing Website Copy for B2B Marketing Success
There are several writing skills involved in creating copy for an entire website. Before any content is written, it is assumed that the marketer has developed a customer persona. This means that s/he has developed very specific traits and characteristics of a typical customer and that customer’s needs and desires. In B2C marketing, this has meant an individual.
In B2B marketing, this means that a marketer looks at current businesses that are customers and those that are as yet untapped. For example, a project management software business may have made great inroads into other the markets but not into manufacturing or other service industry niches.
Developing a “persona” for those industries will be necessary, because their approaches to project management may be very different.
Once that persona has been developed, website content can focus on customer “pain points,” problem solutions, and relationship building.
Of course, products and services are featured on some of those website pages. But each page must be carefully designed not to sell but to provide important information for target customers that may be at different places in the purchasing process.
- Skill: Writing for SEO: If a marketer is not familiar with SEO strategies, s/he will not be able to create copy that pushes the website up on search engine rankings. While Google states that it is focused on user experience and content, potential customers still search by keywords/keyword phrases. Metadata and meta descriptions will need to be engaging but also include those keywords which are most popular with the target market. Phrases for headings, internal links and alt text will also be important.
- Skill: Content for Landing Pages: This is tricky, because each landing page has a purpose, and the writing must be uniquely crafted for that page. A home page, for example, should not be pushing products and services. It should include exciting and engaging copy about the company and speaking to solutions. Other pages need to be tailored to where the target is in the sales funnel – just needing information, wanting to know more about the company itself, or ready to look at the product or service detail and pricing. Here are some key things to think about:
- Headlines and sub-headings must be catchy and engaging
- Content must relate only to the purpose of the landing page
- CTA buttons and forms must be well-designed and based upon what research says is most effective. The writer has to find the right balance between engaging the target and scaring that target off by being too pushy or asking for too much information on a form.
Writing Blog Copy for B2B Marketing Success
A business that has a website but not a blog is losing a lot of traffic. Effective well-written blog posts do many things. They provide a target audience with important information, with education and entertainment, and, if they are written with SEO in mind, posts can end up with high rankings on search engines. Here are key writing skills involved in blog posts:
- Skill: Headlines: If there is a single most important writing skill for blog pots, it is the headline. In fact, many bloggers state that they spend as much time developing a headline and fist sentence as they do writing the remainder of a post. A headline is what compels a reader to move down to the post itself. Marketers who are not particularly creative in writing headlines need to either find someone who is or use some of the new tools available to craft them.
- Skill: Reading Level: In a B2C market, reading level for blog posts should be at about the 7th grade level. Reading levels for B2B posts may be a bit different, but must be geared very carefully toward the reading audience. A blog for lawyers, for example, may include posts with very technical language; a blog targeted to manufacturers of farming equipment, on the other hand, will use a very different style and reading level. Any marketer who is a newbie to blog post writing should check out successful posts of a competitor and then try to emulate that style and language level.
- Skill: Format: Blog posts must be scannable by the reader. Any content writer who wants to understand page formatting of blog posts should access some of the more popular blogs (Buzzfeed, Lifehack, etc.) to see how posts are put together. There are very short paragraph, separated by sub-headings in bold, so that they eye can travel quickly down the post to determine if there is anything of interests. Lists of things should always be bulleted, again so that they reader can scan quickly. Customers, whether in a B2C or a B2B marketplace, are in a hurry.
- Skill: Content: Each post must have a purpose. It is the marketer’s job to be aware of the questions, problems, and needs of the target audience. Posts must be designed to answer those questions, solve those problems, and provide options for meeting needs. When those topics are addressed, without a sales pitch, readers develop trust in the company. Trust translates to return visits, to linking to a landing page, to a conversion or two, and, ultimately, to a sale. Additional posts should work to establish relationships with potential customers. Featuring employees, telling stories about the company and its customers, etc. all put a “human” face on a company – this is important to all customers, whether they are other businesses or individual consumers.
- Skill: Visuals: While you may not consider visuals a type of writing, they are. Readers and viewers are about 53 times more likely to stop and take a look at content if there are visuals that grab attention. Great photos, images, infographics, and videos are becoming a must for blog posts. Plan to create or import at least one visual in every post you write. And make it in color. Today, there are great tools for amateurs to create a variety of visuals. Use them. Videos are becoming increasingly popular in B2B marketing, as are slides. Writing scripts and text for slides now falls to the content marketer too.
- Skill: Providing Value or Benefit. At the end of each blog post, it is important to do something that maintains connections. One way to do this is to have conversation thread potential, so that readers can ask questions, provide comments and suggestions, and engage in conversation with one another and with the marketer who of course must monitor conversations and participate at well. Another benefit may be to have an offer for a white paper, and e-book/guide, a webinar, podcast, or a research report. Have a link or a CTA button for the reader to get that. Also, offer a subscription to the blog, so that all future posts will be delivered directly to a reader’s email. All of this must be done very carefully, so that nothing “smells” like a sales pitch.
- Skill: Content Curation. New content marketers sometimes give themselves more work than they have to. Of course, they have to be experts in the business niche of the company for which they work, whether as an employee or a freelancer. What they may not realize is that there is rich and great content already out there related to their business. Using a tool like Buzzsumo or Quora will give them hot topics in their niche and the most popular current posts and discussion threads. Accessing these, the writer can then use that content, add to it, make it better and re-furbish it as and better post. Then, drive people to that great post by advertising it all over the company’s social media platforms.
Writing Content for Social Media Promotion
Other than having a LinkedIn profile/account, most businesses have left social media promotion to B2C marketers. This is rapidly changing, as B2B content marketers have seen great opportunity to promote their brands and develop relationships with potential customers through a variety of social media platforms.
In addition to LinkedIn, businesses are turning to Twitter, Facebook and YouTube as mean of driving traffic to their sites. The content, often visual, provides readers/viewers with a more intimate understanding of the company and its people. And, of course, there is always the inevitable URL link back to the website or to the business blog where questions are answered, solutions are provided, and value is given.
Part of the point of using social media is to keep the brand name in front of as many potential customers as often as possible, so that when that potential customer is ready to purchase, the company’s name is foremost in their minds.
- Skill: Content for Social Media Platforms: Content must never be of a sales pitch variety. Instead, write content that will give the company a “human” face – its involvement in charities, photos of employees, feature items on happy customers, and small amount of text. Writing “teasers,” especially on Twitter and Facebook will then link a target back to a landing page on the site or to a particular blog post that addresses a problem or a question.
Content writing is a unique “beast.” It is like no other writing, and many writers are spending some time “getting up to speed” to be relevant in this new world of content marketing.