It’s easy to think everyone understands the things you understand. That’s a misconception.
Communicating, especially copywriting, isn’t as easy as it looks on the surface. This is even more true in business-to-business (B2B) copywriting.
See, businesspeople aren’t a generic group of identical folks. That can create a real challenge to write for them as a group.
The issue lies in making rookie mistakes. If you do that, you can alienate everyone who might want to do business with you.
That could mean a significant decrease in new clients and even current clients. Nobody wants to associate with people who can’t communicate.
In this article, I’ll explain some of the most common B2B copywriting mistakes you might be making as a writer.
Here’s how you can avoid needless pain and ensure recognition as a thought leader.
First, you might want to consider the following challenges to every marketer and copywriter. There are several things to bear in mind, including:
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Why does any business communicate? If you’re boring, there’s no point. Readers won’t come back, much less buy from you. So why do you think bananas come up so often around here? I do love bananas. But part of why I talk about them so much is because it’s unusual, and people tell me it’s memorable.
How often do you see a banana? Who do you think of when you do?
Not being boring has obvious benefits for reaching your target audience. Getting remembered leads to sales.
One of the easiest ways to be memorable is to tell a story your audience can relate to; a story that could be about them. For example, take Mary Bloomhead, the owner of a house and office plant business in Kensington. Her business increased by a third when she shared stories of clients’ lives improving after buying from her.
A plant can be a mark of compassion or proof that a company cares about how its employees function in the office.
One such story was about a large Asparagus fern by an architectural firm for their office. It lived for several years as a focal point in their well-appointed waiting room. Then, when one of the firm’s partners and founders retired, his coworkers gifted him the fern. Two years later, the partner died from an illness. Then his daughter spoke at the funeral about how the fern was her father’s pride and joy. She mentioned how he took care and comfort with it, making sure that it had the proper amount of humidity and food. She said he told her it was his way of staying connected to the work. It gave him purpose as he transitioned to his new life. He even played classical music for it.
She continued by saying that her family would pass the plant down. That one sale made by the company would be impacting the community for decades to come.
What stories do you have to tell? How can or should you interact with your community by talking about what you do?
Here are more copywriting mistakes that are sabotaging your conversion rates.
Who do your targets wish to be? Who your buyers and audience members are isn’t always who they want to be. You need to communicate with both.
Examine any well-known advertising campaign. For example, do they sell razors to guys by showing other men who are lonely and introverted? Why do they have attractive women in most motorcycle advertising?
“Who” does your business wish to be? If you can’t answer that straight away, ask yourself how you want other people to see you. Do you want people to see you as innovative? Frugal? Alluring? Or do you want to seem traditional, knowledgeable, and strong? No one but you and your staff can answer these questions. Some focused time spent on discussing these things will pay off for any company.
We’re always talking to who our audience wishes to be, as well. Marketing gurus speak about identifying your audience. The thing is, it’s less than helpful to make these personas out of whole cloth. You have to base them on actual people.
The better you understand what your prospects want, the better your communication works. You’ll also have a higher likelihood of moving the proverbial needle.
Ask what your audience wants as well as who or what else they’re listening to and considering. Consider exploring what interests and influences them (e.g., what they read or who they respect).
It’s beneficial to know what problems your prospects have and what they think of products in your niche.
Learn how copywriting can spark buying behavior in your target market in this article.
Often you’re not writing for a single person but a team, especially in B2B sales. According to research, cross-functional teams execute many purchases, not only individuals. This is especially true when it comes to technology-related purchases. Organizational practices and perspectives often override individual stakeholder preferences. As a result, selling technology can be tricky since the average tech sale involves 14-23 people.
You don’t communicate in the same way to one person as you would to 14 people. Teams want help developing use cases for products, and your communications can help. More effective “comms” lead to more sales. Simple, straightforward copy is the best copy. The “baffle them with BS” days are long gone.
There’s no substitute for research. PR folks may tell you that the thing to do is hold a focus group. Depending on your niche, the people you want aren’t the type who’ll come to a focus group for a moderate incentive. Think big. Be sure that you’re contacting people who are part of the decision-making group you wish to meet.
Modern teams espouse a certain marketing principle. This principle comes down to not making decisions based on opinions or convention. There’s data, even for those in very weird niches. Locate it and use it.
Get the tone right, or don’t bother. Get it too wrong, and you can damage your brand. Don’t believe it? In 2019, Peloton saw its stock drop by 15%. All because viewers perceived an actress in a commercial as fearful and controlled. People still discuss those ads, and it’s no surprise those discussions are negative.
You can do worse than “bad tone” and alienate large swathes of your market. For example, see Dove’s ill-conceived so-called racist ad of 2017. In it, a black woman was “cleaned” and took her shirt off to reveal a white woman. People felt outraged for a good reason. The parent company, Unilever, is still regretting that one. As a result, many women — of all skin tones - stopped buying their brand.
Examples of these kinds of needless message failures aren’t very hard to find. For example, see H&M’s “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” or Heineken’s “Sometimes Lighter is Better” commercial.
Of course, racial insensitivity isn’t the only mistake brands and companies have made. Disparaging or slandering a competitor’s business is another misstep that can cost a fortune.
At any rate, messaging isn’t something that you should do on the fly. Many businesses have come unstuck by doing so.
You can and should check how tone comes across to various groups outside your group. There is no substitute for research and paying attention. There’s a story about Chevrolet not being able to sell the Nova in Spanish-speaking countries. It’s not factual, but it could’ve been true. (“No Va” in Spanish means “It Doesn’t Go!” Which isn’t the best name for a vehicle.)
How could it have happened, you might ask? Some people think translating a document does the trick or that all cultures are the same.
They’re wrong. You won’t make that mistake, will you?
Can I persuade you to be persuasive? What’s sales copy that’s not persuasive? To my mind, it’s noise. There’s so much noise surrounding us today that it’s incredible.
Sometimes we have to start the persuasion at the very beginning. Like I needed to persuade you to read this far, you have to persuade readers to listen, talk, or engage with you. Never mind closing a sale with them.
Asking people to jump through hoops is a surefire way for a prospect to lose interest. For example, you don’t want to ask them how much a product or service costs. Instead, persuade them that you’re going to make things easier for them, and you’ll be well on the way to a sale. In “Don’t Think of An Elephant,” a book by George Lakoff, he explains how to persuade people by “framing” situations. The bottom line is that our minds behave in predictable ways.
People have written and discussed the sales funnel, an accurate model of how people buy. What it’s not is an accurate depiction of the way that every person and every organization works.
This is important because it shows that framing and communication aren’t guesswork. There’s science behind what we do. Academic and business-funded studies about communications take place every day of the year. In other words, there’s case law. History is available. It’s not conjecture.
You can beat your head against a wall trying to do this all yourself with an internal team. You can also work with people who communicate in a deliberate, clear, and careful way.
You can reach the people and companies you want to reach and influence them. But no one does it by throwing out messages and “seeing what sticks.”
Part of what persuades people is being clear and direct. It’s not going to be effective if you attempt to focus on eight million details at once. Take a look at the copy that companies like Apple use to sell their products. They don’t write about all of them. They do one concept, one product at a time.
Social proof is another thing that’s necessary for persuasion today. Business teams, like individuals, respond well to reviews, ratings, and other use cases.
You don’t have to take my word for it. See the testimonials from people who have chosen my firm.
“Social Proof” includes everything from a video of your product to an “unboxing” video. Particularly if your goods and services are high-end, social proof can pay off.
Learn how to make your copywriting significantly more persuasive here.
Whether it’s “Watch this Space,” or “Get on my newsletter list,” or what have you — the adage will hold — “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” So ask your people to do whatever it is you want them to do. It’s that simple, but people fail to do it often. And make it easy for them to take action. If I have to stand on my head to figure out how to contact you — it’s not going to happen.
So, give adequate thought to what you want to ask your audience to do. Then, ask for what you want and need. This is like selling anything. At some point, you have to ask them to buy what you’re selling. Or, to put it another way, you’re not likely to make a sale if you don’t ask them to buy.
No one ever has said, “Wow, these people haven’t even asked for my business, I’ll spend lots of money with them.” Ask for the sale. Close the deal. (Even if it’s not a “sale” at first.)
The entire internet, it seems, has embraced the tactic of using a “freebie” or a “lead magnet.” For example, you may have been on a webpage, and a screen popped up with a message like “Hey! Do you want eleven thousand bananas? I’ll give you a discount of $2.00 off of 11,000 bananas, and I’ll even throw in my list of the four best banana sellers on the planet. All YOU have to do is to give me your name and email address on the form below.”
You might have also seen forms with all the above, but there’s an asterisk that takes this even further. The text could even be in “2 point” light-grey type on a grey background.
Next, they say something like, “Filling out this form gives us the express permission to text you, email you, and mail information to you every month until you find this document and call us between 11:00 am and 12:14 am on Wednesdays.” You don’t want to do that to people. It leaves a bad taste in their mouths, even if they love your business and the products and services you provide.
You can “market” in that way, but it doesn’t mean you should. Few industries and marketers are going for the “one and done” sale. Instead, everyone’s trying to build long-term partnerships and customer relationships that'll last for years. Those kinds of relationships happen by treating your prospective customers as intelligent people.
Long-term relationships are always the best way to go. That’s why we make an effort in every client interaction to make things easy, comfortable, and happy for all.
You won’t find me trying to trick you into agreeing to anything (such as endless daily emails from me.) This is partly because that stuff is annoying and also because it doesn’t work anyway.
When was the last time you thought, “This company has been emailing me often for months now. I don’t know who they are, but I’ll buy something from them.”
Even ultra-conservative banks know making people feel the right things brings financial rewards.
In a study of the 10,000 most shared stories on the English-speaking web, the majority evoked the emotion of awe. Now, someone selling plumbing equipment won’t inspire awe about a metal u-bend. This is part of why nonprofit companies produce videos like this. For-profit companies have begun to see the need for that sort of communication as well.
Evoking awe isn’t the easiest goal, but it’s not impossible. Along with awe, what was the emotion of the next most shared content according to that study? Yes, the ones that had the quality of creating amusement or laughter. The person who shouted out “Funny content!” gets a free bunch of bananas.
Creating emotional reactions isn’t the simplest thing in the world, but it’s possible. As always, you have to consider the culture for which you’re writing. Businesses have organizational cultures like countries do. It not only makes sense to consider them, but it’s imperative to do so.
It’s also important to bear in mind that your impression of a country’s culture doesn’t tell the whole tale. You’ll have to do research. This does not have to cost thousands and thousands or hold up your projects for months.
For example, many sarcastic advertisements work very well in the UK. They create tons of laughter, buzz, and social sharing. Yet if you tried to run some of them for a US audience, they might not reflect well on your business in the States.
The point is, even if you are selling metal u-bends, you should not be boring. You don’t have to be dull. Consider who’s buying your products, and be mindful of how you communicate with them.
Another emotional reaction that you have to avoid is a tendency to write for the “lowest common denominator." Yes, many people out there aren't brilliant. The thing is, you can’t dumb everything down too much, or you’ll lose the goodwill you’ve worked so hard to create.
We give away a lot of useful information every month here on the blog and in our newsletter. If you want to communicate in an effective, world-class fashion, hire experts in the field. We’ll help you build long-term relationships with clients who’ll knock your socks off.
Do you think you’re the exception? Do you need to worry about building a long-term relationship with your prospects? Do a few searches on the “cost of customer acquisition.” The most cost-effective way to deal with customers is to keep them. The most expensive customer to get is the one that you haven’t sold anything to yet. We can help with all that.
In this article, you'll know how to trigger powerful emotions in your copy for increased conversions.
You can earn impressive amounts of money by marketing well and writing good copy. It’s also possible to make yourself and others look good while doing so. It only takes a little thought, effort, and research.
You’re already well on your way now that you know which mistakes to avoid. Other insights from people in communications can also save you time, money, and energy.
Many people new to the field of specialized communications and copywriting feel overwhelmed. You can avoid that. Make a point to build on existing systems and messaging. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, and you shouldn’t try.
Benjamin Disraeli said, “What we learn from history is that we do not learn from history.” That quote applies to copy just as much as anything else. Make sure yours is an exception to that rule.
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