Many writers approach the idea of B2B content with a preconceived mindset. In contrast to B2C, some of the common assumptions of this task are the writing must be uber-professional sounding, pumped full of industry jargon, and to put it bluntly, kind of boring.
Now, no one is going to argue that there is a certain degree of truth to these assumptions. The content definitely has to be professional-sounding, there certainly needs to be some industry jargon here and there, however, it doesn’t need to be overly boring.
Writing B2B content (and developing a content marketing strategy around it) is an art that few can truly master.
In many ways, creating stellar B2B content is about finding happy mediums.
Now, that’s a loaded statement right there.
In this post, I will dive into the specifics of what it takes to write B2B content that engages readers, rather than bores them to tears.
Understand that B2B Pain Points Are Multi-Dimensional
The biggest difference between writing for B2C and B2B is the buying process. More specifically, the decision makers.
In B2C, you are writing for one or two decision makers spending their own money. In B2B content, you are writing for multiple decision makers spending the company’s money. According to Harvard Business Review, on average, there are 6.8 people involved in a B2B purchase.
Moreover, each of these people have their own set of interests when it comes to a product or service. The biggest mistake you can make as a B2B writer is viewing these pain points and interests from a single point of view.
As an example, let’s pretend you are writing B2B content to promote a sound editing SaaS program for smaller creative agencies on the cusp of rapid growth. It might seem obvious to focus the bulk of your efforts on promoting the functionality of the program and how it improves the lives of the sound editors.
However, it’s unlikely that the sound editors are the ones making the final decision of whether or not the company will purchase the product.
In regards to B2B technology sales, there are going to be many different pain points that play into the decision to buy.
Let’s start at the top.
The Founder/CEO of the company:
Ultimately, this is the person who signs the check and has final say over the purchase. This person is concerned with all the other pain points involved and whether or not your software can effectively remedy them. So, you need to appeal to this party in a way that easily spells out how the software will benefit the organization as a whole.
As you could assume, the CFO is primarily concerned with the feasibility of the program. You need to make it clear how this software will positively impact the ROI and the bottom line. Keep in mind, most B2B buyers are more concerned with the quality of a product and how it will affect the organization in the long term.
To get the blessing of the CFO, you need to convey how every cost is a positive investment that will pay off both now and in the future.
In order to appeal to the Chief Operating Officer, you are going to need to get into the nitty-gritty details of the program. The COO is well-versed in the technical details of what the sound editing process entails and you will need to be very professional in showcasing your expertise.
This is where a happy medium of jargon will come in useful. Now, technical jargon in B2B writing is an interesting thing. On one hand, too much jargon can come across as overkill. On the other, too little jargon can make it look like you don’t know what you are talking about. In both scenarios, poor use of jargon can kill your credibility almost instantly.
When you are writing for pain points, appealing to the COO would likely be the most important piece of the puzzle in this situation. It needs to be clear how the technical details of the program can improve performance and solve many of the day-to-day problems within the department.
Chief Sales Officer:
The primary goal of writing for the Chief Sales Officer is to convey how the program’s performance capabilities can improve the nature of selling projects.
For example, the program might be able to give the sound editors more versatility and improve turnaround times – which are huge selling points for clients. Overall, the benefits need to be spelled out in a way that sales representatives can use to close deals.
The Sound Editors:
These are the people on the front lines using the software every single day. This is where your content needs to get super technical and informative on how the program will make every day a little bit easier. You need to pinpoint some of the major hurdles sound editors face and highlight how your solution can conquer them.
The gatekeepers tend to be one of the most overlooked and undervalued parties in the B2B sales process. Always remember, not all deciding parties are directly affected by the product itself.
In many cases, when something goes wrong or the client needs to get in contact with you, it’s the executive assistants and administrative staff that have to do the dirty work. That being said, when writing B2B content for your product or service, you need to promote factors like excellent customer service, live chat, 24/7 support, etc.
When you are writing any sort of B2B content with the intention of gaining sales, leads, or genuine interest, you need to look at the big picture and understand the diverse pain points and how they factor into the customer journey.
Without this knowledge, there is simply no way you will convince an entire organization that your product or service is the answer to their problems.
B2B writing is all about credibility. Unfortunately, making claims with little to no legitimate evidence or data isn’t going to cut it with a high-level B2B audience.
Keep in mind, the general trust in businesses these days is at an all-time low – with no signs of slowing down. In every claim or message you promote, you need to think about how you are (or aren’t) building trust.
Now, when you are working to prove a point in your writing and need to back it up with data, it can definitely be tempting to grab the first statistic you find on the internet. If you are writing for a B2C readership, you can sometimes get some leeway here. But if you are writing an in-depth case study or whitepaper for a B2B audience, you can’t use just any data; it needs to be credible.
Be sure you are looking at the firm or institution that produced the data. If it’s some obscure name that no one has heard of, who knows if the information is accurate? In this current era of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” it’s no secret that people are getting increasingly skeptical of the information they hear. Moreover, the BS radar of the average reader is getting more advanced by the day.
In terms of determining the credibility of a dataset, there are a couple of strategies to keep in mind as you’re writing.
For starters, if you look at a study, report, or survey from an organization you haven’t heard of, look them up on Twitter. If they are verified with the blue check mark, this is a good indicator that they are a credible source to use.
However, this is only a surface level of examination.
You need to have an understanding of whether or not the organization is biased. For example, if the figure comes from somewhere like Fox News or The Daily Wire, it will immediately come with a right-wing stigma, regardless of how unbiased the data itself is. Always try to use neutral sources.
Next, you need to look at the sample size. If there are only a handful of parties surveyed in the study, this doesn’t do much to give conclusive answers and cannot be used to make big generalizations. While smaller sample sizes can definitely be useful in a certain context, it needs to be clear why the researches chose this sample size (“Because it was convenient” is not acceptable).
Another huge factor is timeliness. If you offer anything related to technology or a digital service, the importance of fresh data cannot be understated. For example, if you are an SEO agency writing a whitepaper, using a stat on keyword placement from five years ago isn’t going to be relevant today. Search engines (and the rest of the digital universe) change by the hour. Using obsolete data isn’t just unhelpful to the reader, it doesn’t do your own credibility any favors. The best practice is to use data one-to-two years old.
As a general rule of thumb, only use stats and data when absolutely necessary. Do your best to ensure they come from highly-reputable sources that readers will instantly recognize without raising an eyebrow.
Leverage Real Life Stories
Perhaps more important than credible data in your B2B content, is real life examples.
When it comes to any sort of sales or marketing, you can talk up your product or service however much you want; stakeholders want to know what other people in similar situations got out of the solution.
Going back to the sound editing software example, potential buyers would want to know how other agencies benefited by using the program. This information is so powerful because (ideally) these agencies are neutral third-parties and have no ulterior motives in using their own experience to promote your product or service.
For the most part, case studies are among the most powerful weapons in B2B sales.
This is a golden opportunity for you, as a writer, to showcase the unique brand voice, convey expertise, and show that your product or service has the solutions to common problems while using previous success stories to put it in perspective. If you have a client that benefited greatly from working with you, ask them if they would be open to participating in a case study.
Writing a case study for a B2B product/service should certainly be in-depth and comprehensive, but it shouldn’t be overly complex. The basic principles go back to our earlier topic of appealing to all the pain points within an organization. The difference here is you need to provide real-life proof that the product/service alleviates them. Again, this is a game of happy mediums.
A case study should tell a story.
Just like any other type of story, it needs to clearly present the problem, solution, plan to reach the solution, and the end results.
Before you create a case study, you need to:
- Identify the buyers’ problems.
- Define the consequences for ignoring the problems.
- Discuss solutions that do not work and why.
- Talk about what can happen once the problems are solved.
- Inform the readers why your product/service is the ideal solution.
- Give the readers a clear call-to-action.
Once you have a firm understanding of these elements, you need to back up your points with the real life examples. Putting your offering in a real perspective is a fantastic way to demonstrate your value and niche authority.
If it’s done right, think of it as a customer testimonial x1000.
Over to You
To come full circle, one of the most important things to remember when writing B2B content is that these readers are people too, not lifeless robots.
While you definitely need to have a strong sense of professionalism and industry authority, the content itself can have that witty charm and uniqueness that many associate with B2C content. In fact, this is one of the best ways to separate yourself from the competition.
The art of writing B2B content is something that can be easily killed by the wrong mindset. Quality comes from your ability to critically understand the big picture, provide credible data to support your claims, use the past to your advantage, and give it all an original twist.
About the Author: Kevin Svec is the Chief Content Strategist at E2M Solutions Inc. When he’s not working or hanging out at one of San Diego’s beaches, he is managing Impulsive Wanderlust, a travel + leisure website he founded – here is a marketing-focused piece he wrote on SEO Tips for Travel Websites. Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn and Twitter.