Switch Your Focus
Do you hate self-obsessed social media influencers? What’s your tolerance level for vanity post after poorly cloaked vanity post?
I will guess “lots” and “very low” for your answers.
In that case, I have some bad news. A lot of B2B writing comes across in a similar, self-serving fashion.
“Would you just look at us? We’re amazing! Listen to this list of all the reasons we’re great! Isn’t our platform the sexiest thing? We’re also smarter than everybody else.”
This approach often stems from the best intentions — explaining why your product or service is worth buying; convincing your core audience that you’re legitimate and experienced; providing concrete evidence to support your offer.
But if you wouldn’t abide an acquaintance droning on and on about their accolades (unless you specifically asked), you can understand why this sort of writing doesn’t sit well with a lot of people (i.e., ticks them off).
It’s not just that it’s often boring and makes readers angry they can’t get those 35 seconds of their lives back, though that’s true. It’s not because the writing is usually rife with jargon or other generic-cream-puff words, though that’s a problem as well. It ain’t even because it’s sometimes so stuffy and professional you could use it to iron a funeral suit (the funeral for your audience’s attention).
It’s because it’s full of cringeworthy self-importance. Overarching all-about-me-ism. A “who can boast the most” talent show.
At the end of the day, no matter how much you sanitize your image, no matter how many yacht pictures you add to the copy, no matter how many features and reasons and arguments and 25-cent words and C-list celebrity quotes you include, you’re focused on the wrong thing.
The clients are the real heroes. And they owe you nothing. They don’t come to you because you’re fancy (though that’s sometimes a superficial motivation). They come to you because they have a serious shenanigan that needs solving.
You are the aid to their dreams. You are the stepping stone to their greatest wins. The solutions you’re providing are to their problems in service of their journey, their adventure. Your B2B writing should reflect that.
What does this look like in action? It can be pretty subtle. Here are some made-up B2B and B2C examples (because this applies in both realms):
Workflow automation/IT company billboard
- Version Us: “We do everything.”
- Version You: “Never lose a file again.”
Home improvement tagline
- Version Us: “We get it done.”
- Version You: “Own your home.”
Career coaching ad targeting 40+
- Version Us: “My 8-figure life can be yours.”
- Version You: “Pivoting is your greatest success story.”
Online education institution home page subheader
- Version Us: “The top choice for 45,000 working adults.”
- Version You: “There’s no such thing as too late.”
B2B proofreading company outreach email subject line
- Version Us: “We only hire the best of the best of the best proofreaders.”
- Version You: “Your words are your reputation.”
Sure, at some point you need to talk about features and toss out statistics that blow your competition out of the water. But if all you’re doing to woo your audience is wax poetic about your impressive assets, there’s a strong chance you’ll alienate the very people you’re trying to reach, especially if there’s a distinctly empathetic alternative.
Businesses exist to solve problems. And behind every problem is a person — a person worthy of respect, honesty, compassion, clear communication, and true partnership.
Write like it.
Did you miss the rest of this series? Check it out here:
- How to Make B2B Writing More Compelling Part 1: Show Don’t Tell
- How to Make B2B Writing More Compelling Part 2: Drop the Jargon
- How to Make B2B Writing More Compelling Part 3: Be Unprofessional
- How to Make B2B Writing More Compelling Part 4: Focus on the Benefits of the Benefits