Is your B2B content alienating your readers?

I read a piece of B2B content yesterday. Well I tried to read it.

The content writer was obviously well-educated and had tried to be clever in how they presented key points but instead had made the piece inaccessible.

Notice board that says 'Insert Something Cleve
Photo by Olivia Bauso on Unsplash

It was already a technical topic but was peppered with historical references to illustrate what they were trying to say.

References that didn’t mean anything to me and had to look up.

I was so busy trying to work out the historical references I ended up not really understanding the points the content writer was trying to make.

The thing is, if your audience finds your B2B content difficult to read and understand, there is a good chance they will probably throw in the towel rather than persevere.

Or if they don’t get a particular refererence, they may misunderstand your point.

Using unfamiliar references can also alienate your audience, which is the opposite of what you want.

Your copy may even give a whiff of showing off or sound slightly smug and knowing.

Encourage reader engagement

None of which is particularly good for encouraging reader engagement.

If your target audience is engineers with a love of medieval literature, then fine, reference The Wife of Bath (Chaucer) in a piece about designing steel supports for large glass feature windows.

But if the majority of your audience don’t have a penchant for old English fiction, then it’s probably best to leave Chaucer on the bookshelf.

You could explain the reference if it’s easy to do so, but only if it doesn’t hugely detract from the flow of the piece.

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The benefits of putting personality into B2B content

‘I don’t think sounding authentically you is the exclusive preserve of social media.

When I’m writing and commenting on social media, Grammarly grumbles at my word choice. Or rather, it points out that I overuse words such as ‘great’, ‘brilliant’, ‘really’ and ‘excellent’.

Make your writing sound human. Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

But when I am writing as myself, rather than for a client, those words are me. They are words I say—a lot.

I see social media as a conversational platform. It’s not a report or a brochure; it’s me talking to my connections, so I use the same words I’d use in a conversation.

They reflect who I am. Why hide my personality?

But I don’t think sounding authentically you is the exclusive preserve of social media.

Think of it another way. If you go to a networking event, how do you talk to people?

Do you talk in a manner that makes you sound like a PowerPoint presentation? I doubt it.

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Learning the hard way how to write web content headlines

When I first started writing my theatre blog 11 years ago my headlines were rubbish.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

I was trying to be clever or witty, sometimes using puns or a play on words.

But the more I learned about writing online content, the more I realised my approach was entirely based on what worked in print rather than online.

My experience and background was magazine journalism after all.

An article in a magazine or newspaper has images, graphics, tables, box-outs, subheadings etc. which help grab attention.

And an article in a magazine may already have context.

If someone has picked up a copy of ‘Window Box Weekly’, they are probably interested or at least curious about window boxes.

Try to find your own content

A big test was trying to find my own theatre blog content using Google. I knew I’d reviewed a particular production, but my ‘clever’ headlines meant it wasn’t coming up in searches – certainly not on the first few pages of results.

For example, I saw a play called Grief by Mike Leigh, and the headline of my review was ‘Good Grief?’

See what I did there? It might work if the piece sat in the theatre review section of newspaper or magazine, alongside a production photo and a subhead.

But out of context and with just two words to go on, it didn’t work so well.

Getting savvier about online search

As I started to understand how people find stuff to read online (search engines, social media etc.), I realised my headline style needed to change so that people could find my blog posts.

And know what they were about from the headline.

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Twitter can teach you better B2B content engagement

First, it was text messages that had a limited number of characters, then Twitter arrived, and we had to hone our skills at writing succinctly while grabbing attention.

Photo by Eric Prouzet on Unsplash

And yet when we are writing B2B content for platforms where there aren’t restrictions we seem to forget we need to work just as hard to get people interested.

Just because you have more space to fill with words doesn’t mean readers have more time to read.

Most B2B content is consumed in a digital format rather than print now. We scroll headlines, and social media feeds to find interesting content, often making snap decisions about whether to engage – click through – and read based on just a few words.

The discipline of writing succinctly for a Tweet – although more characters are allowed now – is a good one. It teaches you to get to the point in an engaging way.

In just a sentence or two, you need to say something interesting or intriguing or useful. Or you want to make them feel something or react.

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Starting points for writing good thought leadership

Thought-leadership or opinion pieces are great content and good for visibility when approached the right way.

They are an opportunity to present your take on market trends or topics that are useful and interesting to your clients.

You can pitch them to B2B publishers and business news outlets or use them for client newsletters or on your own website to help build authority.

hand metal music musician
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

They’ve been part of my working life for many years.

As a freelance, I ghost-write them for clients who don’t have the time or find writing them tricky. When I was features editor on a B2B magazine, I used to commission and edit guest columns.

Common mistake

The most common mistake when ideas for thought leader pieces were being pitched was a lack of opinion or viewpoint.

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