B2B copy doesn't have to suck

We end up working with a fair number of B2B clients. It amazes me how often they complain about their services/product being dry and boring. Most of the time they sit down and pound a few meaningless pages of copy, or they work with a mediocre B2B marketing consultant to develop their website content.

The result is almost always the same, boring copy that reads like a laundry list of ultra-generic product benefits. I can recite these by memory: increased ROI, lowered cost, lowered support burden, greater flexibility. Whether they're selling hosting, contract manufacturing, or consulting — the benefits always end up being the same, regardless of what the product actually does.

The reality is that too many B2B companies are scared of actually having a personality. They confuse being interesting with being controversial. They forget that their target audience is made up of ordinary people who desire nothing more than to learn a little bit more about what their company does in as clear and conversational a manner as possible. A website shouldn't try to dazzle customers with bullsh*t and buzzwords.

Some B2B companies prove that it can be done right. American Fiber Systems is a good example (this company was acquired so website is no longer active). Their copy has personality galore. It has a tone that sets them apart from their telecom competitors. If they can make fiber optic access sound great then there's no excuse for other B2B companies.

The key is to not be afraid of being yourself. Too many companies are afraid to come across as "small," so they write their copy to be just as boring as their bigger competitors. This is a huge mistake. The best copy is engaging and authentic. It reflects the essence of the company.

The truth is, website copy is the start to one of the most important conversations a company has. It's a one-on-one talk with a potential customer. There is no acceptable reason (fear & laziness don't count) that B2B companies can't put the extra effort it takes towards making their copy worth reading.

Written by Adam Harrell on May 11, 2009

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Great points. Just shows the importance of marketing leadership with in an organization.

Dull copy doesn’t stop at the website. It usually extends across all communications - press releases, white papers, case studies and product briefs. Even blogs at these companies emphasize product features rather than showcase perspective or vision.

While there are a lot of exceptions, folks inside many B2B companies believe that because they sell complex technology, their copy needs to be written in a serious, technical and dry tone. Marketing departments often have their hands tied because content decisions and writing style are influenced by product marketers and technical managers who won’t approve any copy with personality. Too risque. Without buy-in from the top it’s almost impossible to affect real change, so marketing tags along.

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Adam Harrell
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