Friendly doesn’t have to mean mindless: a guide to writing for B2Bs
The trend towards a friendlier, more personal approach in marketing communications now extends to the B2B world. But friendly doesn’t have to mean mindless, argues our MD and Founder Joanna Watchman.
Serious… business-minded… highly-technical… these are the words you’re most likely to associate with B2B marketing in the technology sector. Indeed, a formal writing style that’s focused on facts has long been the norm in this industry. When marketing for green-tech products was solely focused on achieving coverage in the trade press, this tone of voice worked. Now, however, opportunities for coverage in these publications are narrowing, while the Internet’s reach is widening.
What the B2B sphere is experiencing is a shift: a softening in the way companies communicate with their potential customers. This shift can be attributed to the rise of content marketing. As content plays an increasing role in marketing campaigns, tailoring that content to the reader becomes ever more important.
Mind your language
Even when they’re reading about subjects like green technology, people want to be talked to in the language of the Internet – and that language is, overwhelmingly, informal. Little wonder, then, that a growing number of businesses feel that the most effective tone of voice for their marketing is no longer solemn and serious – it’s warm and friendly.
It simply doesn’t fit to use the language of the board room when you’re trying to connect with someone who might not even be sitting at their desk. These days, your prospective customer is just as likely to be reading your content after work, on their smartphone or tablet.
If trade magazines are a 9 a.m. business meeting, the Internet is a post-work session down the pub. And, just as pub meetings can surprise you by producing the best ideas, the advantages of communicating in this informal style should not be ignored.
Show your personality
A huge part of gaining business advantage lies in differentiating your company from your competitors. And the secret to being different might just lie in being… yourself. Whole consumer brands have been built around their management team’s personalities – Innocent Drinks is just one example. Now this trend is coming to B2B.
The old adage is that people do business with people. So why not let your potential customers know who you really are? You’d show your personality in a sales meeting, after all. There’s no reason not to show your personality in your marketing, too.
Content and chatter
Warehouse lighting specialist Greenlite Lighting Solutions is one company that has found success by giving its marketing an injection of informality. As a family firm, with a strong emphasis on doing right by its customers and colleagues, Greenlite has always been a company with a personality. But that personality was noticeably absent in its dull corporate brochure and website.
Content Coms helped the emergency lighting maintenance firm to communicate its true ethos, by revising its website and brochure, and even introducing an internal communications toolkit. Sales and Marketing Manager, Andy Chell, has been positioned as the figurehead of Greenlite’s marketing activities. A monthly column, called Chell’s Chatter, which is ghostwritten by the Content Coms team, provides an ‘honest broker’ look at the big issues in the lighting industry – all delivered in a friendly, informal style.
This marketing style could be called: less lecturing, more chattering. And it can pay dividends. It can establish your company in a crowded market and foster business relationships. A word of caution, however: in this style, it’s all too easy to say nothing at all.
The key to good marketing lies in communicating complex ideas in simple terms. But simple does not mean simplistic. Blog content can, all too often, feel like a lot of empty calories: written in that all-important friendly tone of voice, but without a factual basis. In a sector as fast-moving and densely-complicated as the technology sphere, it’s essential that all marketing copy displays a grip on the facts – whether it’s a White Paper or a short blog article.
As marketing becomes ever more content-focused, it’s critical to use the tone of voice most appropriate to the audience. The informal approach isn’t right for every company, but for many, being friendly isn’t just a way to make friends – it might just be a way to bag new business, too.