Why is B2B writing so bad so often?

Why does so much Business to Business (B2B) marketing feel so substandard? Or, to ask a different but related question, why do so many B2B marketers report their job as being so hard? Is B2B marketing different from any other form of marketing? People often approach it as though it lives on a planet of its own. As though the rules of marketing function in an entirely different way, and you’re no longer marketing to “normal human beings”.

At the Copycourse, we see B2B as just like any other form of marketing, only more so. You’re still selling to a human being with all their prejudices, emotional needs and foibles, as the late great Bill Bernbach would have reminded us. But yes, it is different in that the groups of people you’re selling to are often an elite global village as well as a global market. They know each other, and the products, often before the product has come out, and they have an inside track on the reasons not to buy from you. And just like any village there are a lot of unspoken elements in the space. A writer needs to understand this world before they put pen to paper.

But there are other reasons writing content for B2B can seem daunting. A business often buys as a committee: A junior or a technician researches a new product, and FD approves the cost and they sell their choice into a CEO. These four different animals that comprise the target audience can make it hard for an inexperienced writer to juggle different levels of detail.

So what makes for good B2B? First of all, recognise that good B2B content can do the job of any amount of initial meetings. Explaining stuff, communicating philosophy, giving knowledge away, helping prospects to structure their thinking in more productive ways. If you can help them do that, you’re helping them buy from you. And, as with any problem, one of the first steps in creating decent content for an organisation is identifying the lack of it.

A good story well told.

It’s remarkable how little useful information is contained in the pages of numerous websites in Business to Business. One of the exercises we do in the B2B class is write a convincing piece of text on any random product from any random industry, and see if you can tell it blind from what’s actually up on the website.

What this often shows is the writer of a website has communicated nothing you couldn’t have guessed at and just blah blah blahed their way through page upon page in the vague hope that somehow a friendly spider from Google will be impressed. But Google is getting smarter these days, and knows SEO padding from proper content. In exchange for a person’s attention and time you must offer them substantial thought leadership, understanding and or insight. Not just descriptions of the product on offer.

Your company’s website may well be an insight-free zone. If that’s the case, it’s almost certainly a click-free zone.

The way to change all this starts with a very simple but high-touch process: Interviewing knowledge holders in the company to find out what they can tell you. As a rule, CEO’s are generally pretty smart people with a multidisciplinary intellect, otherwise they wouldn’t be running the company. Ultimately you’re looking for ideas and insights that are going to arrest the intelligence of this kind of person, so that they read your text or watch your video and think ” I’ve never really thought of it like that, but they must have a point.”

Are you too lazy to write short?

Occasionally, a lazy writer will blame the complexity of their products for the poor way they’ve communicated things. But if you understand your product and why people buy it and you’re a decent communicator, you should be able explain everything people need to know about it, in just a few sentences.

Remember, Einstein’s theory of relativity can be explained in a few sentences in plain English. If you want to know how Stephen Hawking explains the the paradox of cosmology, he does it in a super spare, highly readable seven line story. Of course we’re not all Stephen Hawking. But your software, machine tool, medical service, analytics algorithm can’t be any more complex than that.