The fields of B2B copywriting and social media marketing are very similar in a lot of respects. Both are interested in finding compelling ways to get complex messages across. Both are heavily impacted by changes in communication best practice. And the landscapes around both are constantly evolving much faster than many people realize.
Earlier this year, I was invited along as a guest on Good Copy, Bad Copy, the B2B copywriting podcast, by our friends at Radix Communications. We had a great chat about all things social media (You can listen to the episode here), and it was really interesting to hear how similar the challenges in B2B copywriting are to the ones many of us in social media are facing today.
There was lots of good discussion, but by the end, both sides wanted to know more. So, together we devised a fun idea for a pair of head-to-head blog posts. We put our questions to them, and they put their questions to us—lifting each other up so we can both get a better view of what’s going on over on the other side of the fence.
Here’s how Radix’s senior copywriter Steve George responded to our questions about the current state of B2B copywriting. If you’d like to see how we responded to Radix’s questions, head on over to this blog’s twin post on their site.
Question 1: What are some of the most interesting topics you've produced effective – or just really creative – B2B tech copy for? Similarly, are there any interesting or surprising asset trends that you're seeing in the market?
Steve: It’s a really exciting time to be a B2B tech copywriter, because the technology is being applied across a huge range of industries in really exciting ways. That’s given us the opportunity to work with new companies and write about subjects that just a few years ago would have fallen well outside of our field of expertise.
We’ve been able to write about topics from supporting young people’s mental health and GPS hacking, to the ethics of AI and managing volatile refrigerants. That’s helped us create some really fresh and exciting content, just by virtue of how unique and interesting those subjects are. (We’d love to show you some, but we’re sworn to NDA secrecy!)
In terms of asset trends, we’re finally seeing B2B break free from the shackles of long, visually impenetrable content formats. White Papers and Solution Briefs are giving way to exciting new formats like Turtl. And think back to 10 years ago; could you imagine a brand like Cisco creating a graphic novel to promote its security solutions? That’s the world we live in now, and it’s a much more exciting and engaging world for everyone.
It’s all part of a wider push to creating the kind of content that real humans actually enjoy looking at, which has been a long time coming!
Question 2: What topics/subjects do you think we'll be seeing more of in B2B tech copy in 2019? Is there anything typically seen in B2C that you think B2B brands will start dabbling in?
The main subjects covered in B2B copy aren’t changing much (outside of technology being applied in new places), but we’re certainly seeing people change the way they approach those subjects. There’s a huge push towards putting things in very ‘human’ terms and simplifying traditionally techy messages, which is making a lot of B2B copy feel much closer to B2C content.
So much of today’s enterprise tech is sold on its simplicity—that’s the essence of most cloud solutions. So, it makes sense that the same principles are being applied to the copy that promotes and explains that tech.
Disruptive new brands like Xero and Zendesk are great examples of this. Things like accounting and customer service platforms would traditionally have been purchased and managed by a core IT team. Today—thanks to cloud—users are the buyers, so that’s who both brands speak to. And they speak to them well.
Question 3: We all keep hearing how important it is to have a distinct voice and tone, and to even try to incorporate things like humor into often very jargonny B2B tech copy. But how important is that really? Are many brands doing this? Are you seeing any shifts in brand voice/tone guidelines accordingly from your clients?
Steve: It's incredibly important. But it’s not just about finding a distinct voice, it’s about establishing one that properly reflects who you are.
In the B2B tech space, there are lots of people saying lots of very similar things about solutions that are sometimes almost completely indistinguishable from one another. Tone and voice are our best tools for helping brands stand out (unless they have actual USPs of course!)
A few years ago, we had a tough time convincing traditional B2B tech brands to do that. Now, they’re more willing to venture away from traditional, rigid B2B tones. I suspect that’s largely because they’ve seen other brands around them having success. It’s what the new guys in the market are doing, and it’s what many of the big players are starting to experiment with more.
Question 4: Seems like everyone is pushing out tons of copy and interesting content these days, even in B2B. How do we get our copy to stand out?
Steve: There’s no better way to make content stand out than to make it valuable. Never create content for content’s sake, and if you don’t have something compelling to say, say nothing.
Start by thinking about what your customers really want to know, and work back from there to create the kind of content they’ll be genuinely excited to read or consume. If you’re solving a real problem or meeting a real need, you’ll attract viewers. But, more importantly, you’ll attract the right kind of viewers—the people likely to share your content, engage with your brand further, and ultimately, buy whatever it is you’re selling.