The best lesson I’ve ever learned about copywriting for B2B audience came several years ago from our agency president, Mary Olivieri. I handed her two paragraphs of bland, droning copy intended for a print ad in a wind energy trade pub. She raised her eyebrows at the length, handed the draft back to me and said,
“Remember that you’re talking to a human being.”
That phrase, although a bit… jarring at the time, has stayed with me through hundreds of subsequent B2B writing assignments, and it has never once led me astray.
It doesn’t matter if you’re speaking to a food scientist or a roofing contractor, a CMO or a CTO. Your reader is a person with unique interests, hobbies, goals, and life experiences — and they will not get fired up and ready to buy if you’re showing them the same old corporate buzzwords.
So, make it interesting. Make it relatable. And make it snappy.
1. Make it interesting
It’s a common misconception that B2B writing is boring by nature.
Sure, the topic might not be one that you, as a writer, would choose to wax poetic about. But it’s your audience’s passion, possibly even their life’s work. It doesn’t bore them... and once you know enough about it, it won’t bore you, either.
This is why it’s so important to “wear the hat” (something else Mary is fond of saying). What do they think about their industry? What do they want their work to do, and what can you do to help them achieve it? Once you immerse yourself in your audience’s world, you’ll be able to write creative copy that hits all the points on the brief — in a way that matters to them.
For example: in researching the food scientist audience for our client MGP Ingredients, we discovered that they viewed their work as science and art. That ended up inspiring an entire campaign.
Need some help getting inside your audience’s minds before you dive into writing? Check out this blog series on Beating Writer’s Block with Improv.
2. Make it relatable
Your target audience reads your ad, visits your website, or attends your webinar because they’re interested (to some degree) in the product or service that you offer — so reward them for getting this far by demonstrating that you get it. Speak their language. Make them feel seen.
This will help you arrive at more impactful creative concepts, like this one we developed for Firestone Industrial Products Ride-Rite™ air springs. Our audience? Truck drivers. Their one wish? A smooth ride.
3. Make it snappy
Audiences in the B2B space are busy. They want to know whether you can help them, and they want to know it yesterday.
But that doesn’t mean your copy needs to be all work and no play. Just keep it to the point.
Remove the extra adjectives you threw in because they sounded good. Summarize. Use bullets. Send the reader to your website or include a phone number for more detailed information.
Here’s an ad we wrote for remodeling contractors, on behalf of our client ITW BuildClean. Every word on the page is intentional.
I do believe long-form copy has a place in advertising — but it needs to be in the right place, speaking to the right audience. And if you’re going to make it long, you had better make it sing. Write something your audience will want to pull out of the magazine and hang on their wall.
It’s Worth the Effort
Copywriting is the most fun I’ve ever had at work, but it’s easy to fall into a groove. Remembering how the audience will experience an individual ad is key — you only have a moment to grab their attention and sell your message. Take the time to get it right while you’re writing it, and they won’t feel like they wasted their time reading it. They’ll be grateful... and so will your client.