4 Telltale Signs of Boring B2B Copy

I saw this list at the B2B Marketing Blog. Do you agree that these are trademarks of flat, boring B2B copy? What else would you add?

1. Passive voice.
2. Industry jargon.
3. Vague.
4. Third person.

It’s pretty easy to get stuck in the boring copy rut. But you can do surgery on your copy before you submit it.

Get rid of the passive voice. Ditch that cold-blooded third person voice.  If at all possible, use “you” liberally  instead. And so on.

Pretend you’re writing to one person. In fact, don’t pretend—do it. (I often times put the name of a real person at the top of my copy.)

This will help you turn boring copy into engaging copy.

Alas, My Volunteer Proofreader Is on Sabbatical

Early this morning my September e-newsletter was delivered to email inboxes across the land. Unfortunately, even with three or so proofreadings by yours truly, I discovered an omitted word. It happens.

Mistakes are one of the pitfalls of being a solo professional. Everyone needs another set of eyes. The other set of eyes for my e-newsletter (which would have caught the omitted word) is my ex-neighbor in Seattle. I’ll call him Michael because that’s his name.

Michael is a brilliant mathematician and computer guy, as well as a copy fanatic and strict grammarian. That’s exactly what you want in a proofreader. (He also has a warped sense of humor, which I enjoy.)

I’ve been grateful to have Michael pick my copy apart until the other day when he said I would have to work without a net. He’s even more busy than usual. It’s my loss.

“I’m a little worried that you’re going to eliminate my position,” he wrote me in an email this morning.

“Not a chance,” I wrote back.

As I again learned this morning, I need that extra set of eyes whenever it’s available.

Read my tips on minimizing mistakes.

Carnegie: Arouse an Eager Want

“You can’t make people do something they don’t want to do.”

That’s what Dale Carnegie wrote in How to Win Friends and Influence People, a classic self-improvement bestseller that also contains a terrific example of a “How To” title or headline, perhaps the best of all time.

Carnegie goes on to say “arouse in the other person an eager want.”

I was reminded of Dale Carnegie when I saw my wife (who has more friends than I have socks) reading our weathered paperback copy of the popular title.

How do you arouse an eager want? That’s for each of us to figure out in each specific instance. But if we’re thinking about it as we construct marketing messages and copy, we’ll be ahead of much of the pack.

Carnegie offers more than a few clues, including this: “The only way to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.”

To repeat, consider it a simple two-step approach: 1) Find out what people want. 2) Show them how to get it.

Can an 83-Word Billboard Work?


Click image to enlarge. (Daniel Bowen/Flickr)

Conventional advertising wisdom says to keep words to a minimum on a billboard – or in any form of advertising, for that matter. In an age of 140-character attention spans, messages should be super short and lightening quick. At least that’s what the experts often say.

So, the above billboard (technically a giant poster) with eight lines of copy and 83 words is definitely zagging when others are zigging. It’s located in the main concourse of Flinders Street Station in Melbourne.

Is it smart or misguided?

Continue reading “Can an 83-Word Billboard Work?”

8 Effective Headline Types for B2B

“If you haven’t done some selling in your headline, you have wasted 80 percent of your client’s money.”
−David Ogilvy, Confessions of an Advertising Man

Writing a compelling headline isn’t as easy as it looks. That’s why it’s good to consider all the possibilities.

I thought of headline types after seeing a recent post at copyblogger. Actually, headline types haven’t changed much, if any, over the years. Following are eight variations that can work well for both B2B and B2C copy.

1. Direct. Direct headlines make a straightforward statement to readers. (Save up to 70% on generators.)

2. Indirect. Indirect headlines are designed to pique the curiosity of readers, providing the payoff in the body copy. (Issaquah is now home to 42,469 of your favorite authors.)

3. News. News headlines can be used when you have news or a special announcement. (Introducing the first watch you can wear with a wet suit and tie.)

4. How to. How to is the workhorse of headlines, promising useful information. When you’re drawing a blank, try a how-to headline. (How to get more mileage out of yellow pages advertising.)

5. Question. Question headlines are effective when your audience wants to know the answer. Craft a smart question and you’ll have them eating out of your hand. (What does the pilot strike mean for your travel plans?)

Continue reading “8 Effective Headline Types for B2B”

The Calculator Concept

135168824_a23f67c327_s“A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”
-Yogi Berra, baseball legend

Hard times and hard-hitting creative often go well together. More specifically, I’m thinking about creative – I’ll call it the calculator concept – that computes savings or demonstrates a financial benefit in dollars and cents. Examples follow.

An Avaya ad featured in B2B’s Chasers section is straightforward. The copy reads, “With Avaya Unified Communications for Small Business, we’re ready to grow.” The call to action, which serves as a link to a landing page, reads, “CALCULATE YOUR ROI >>.”

Here’s another example from last year’s election season. On the home page of BarackObama.com, a headline read, “What’s Your Obama Tax Cut?” A calculator graphic accompanied the payoff copy: “Barack Obama’s plan will cut taxes for 95 percent of workers and their families.” The click-button copy was “FIND OUT.”

Whether used in B2B, B2C, or even politics, the calculator concept is solid because it focuses like a laser beam on a monetary benefit. That’s a smart creative strategy in hard times.

(Image: atomicshark/Flickr)

Write to One Person

Writing persuasive copy is a challenging task, even for a pro. There are a lot of tips to consider, but today I want to mention one simple idea that will make every piece of your copy and each of your marketing communications (or other communications) marginally if not significantly better:

Write to one person.

Even though the size of your audience might range from dozens to thousands, think of just one person in your mind’s eye, someone who fits the key characteristics of your audience.

I gave this advice to a non-pro not long ago. The young woman had the daunting task of writing an appeal letter to raise her own financial support for a new ministry. A recent college grad, she is an extremely bright person and talented writer, but the prospect of writing a letter asking for money shook her up.

Let me give you one bit of advice, I said, a small secret. Write to one person. Immediately, her face looked a little more relaxed, and she thanked me.

I was reminded of this strategy today when I saw a post at copyblogger, Five Ways to Bulletproof Your Copy.

The five ways? Depending on the circumstances, Sean Platt notes that he writes to his (1) mother, (2) father, (3) sister, (4) wife and (5) his friend Marco.

By doing so, he’s writing to just one person. The result is more personal, compelling copy that can influence and motivate the dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people who will read it.