When you come into the office in the morning, do you put on your business hat and turn into a robot? No. And neither do your business customers. So why do we write web copy as though we are talking to one?
According to a recent study from CEB, emotion plays a bigger role in B2B purchase decisions than most marketers realize. Although business customers may be looking at vendors through the lens of their company, behind that lens is still a person. Remembering that you are writing for that person—rather than for a business—can make a big difference in the effectiveness of your content.
Does professional have to equal boring?
The same man who visited websites on Sunday researching cars is a sitting behind a desk on Monday researching cloud storage systems. The same woman who was looking into vacation packages for herself yesterday is looking into marketing automation tools for her company today.
The consumer websites that we view regularly on our non-work time are focused on captivating copy—often with a bit of humor—written concisely and presented in a friendly and approachable manner. Boring doesn’t cut it on a consumer website. Yet, when we put on our B2B writing hats, boring copy tends to be the standard.
Whether it’s a B2B or a B2C website, the fact remains that users make a “stay-or-go” decision within seconds. So the first job of website copy is to grab the users’ attention and keep them on the page. You stand a better chance of doing that if you apply techniques similar to those used for consumer websites. That means an aesthetically pleasing webpage with reduced text, written in an informal tone.
Make your copy engaging and compelling. Just like those in a newspaper, your headlines should grab the reader. The usual marketing speak or standard business lines aren’t likely to do the job. Instead, try humor, surprise—or even controversy.
If you manage to keep the reader on your website, at some point you will probably need to provide more detailed information about your products and services. That doesn’t need to be boring either. One way to keep it interesting is to write to and about your customers rather than about you. We call this you versus I writing.
To illustrate, here are two examples of website copy:
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Which do you find more engaging? If you’re like most people, it’s the video camera content written for consumers. Even when it doesn’t use the word “you,” it speaks directly to the reader, suggesting he or she “relive the glory” and “share it.”
You might be thinking, “Yes, but a video camera is naturally more interesting than an enterprise data cleansing tool.” True, but even the boring tool can have better copy, by focusing on the reader and his or her experience. Compare this rewrite to the original:
Do you just love data deduplication and standardization? Our guess is no.
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This revised text may not be as exciting as that for the action camera, but it’s more personal than the original text and speaks directly to the benefits for the user in a much more informal way.
Speak to the business person, not to the business
Which brings me to the next point. Not only should you speak to the user and about the user, you should speak about the user’s problems. We often forget that the business user researching a product or service likely has a personal stake in the outcome of that research.
The user searching your website may have been tasked with finding a solution to a business problem—in which case his or her reputation is on the line. That person will be blamed or praised depending on how well the solution works.
Or the user may be looking for a solution to a problem that affects him or her directly. Maybe he’s trying to eliminate daily, time-consuming tasks so he can focus on more strategic work. Maybe she’s looking for a product that will end the complaints of the people her department serves. Or finding a vendor who can implement a solution to meet critical corporate initiatives. In these cases, the solution may directly make the user’s life easier or more difficult and may affect his or her work review or career.
You don’t have to know the reader’s specific situation to write in a way that speaks more directly to him or her. Simply keeping your focus on the person rather than on the business, and writing for that person, can change the nature of your website copy to make it more compelling.
Text like “Improve the ROI for your business” becomes “Deliver good ROI to your management.” Text like “Save time and money” becomes “Make your work life easier, and meet budget goals.” And text like “Increase user adoption and user satisfaction” becomes “Tired of hearing complaints from your users? Turn complaints into compliments by…”
Speaking directly to your business buyers’ concerns and issues shows them that you see them as real people and that you understand the personal impact your products and services can have on them. It suggests that you empathize and care. As human beings, we prefer to interact with and give our business to people who actually see us as such and who care about the outcome for us. So, if you want to make the sale, write your copy for humans instead of robots.