Marketing is all about communication.
And when it comes to business writing, communicating your message clearly to your prospects is priority number one.
Unfortunately, this basic principle seems to go unnoticed far too often — especially in the world of business-to-business (B2B) marketing.
It doesn’t matter if you’re writing to the CEO of a billion-dollar corporation, an account executive, or the head engineer at a consulting firm — at the end of the day, they’re all people, just like you and me.
Remember — businesses aren’t reading your copy. People are.
Despite this truth, many writers still commit the “sin” of trying to sound smart and business-like.
The end result? Their copy doesn’t get read or it confuses prospects.
Trying to sound smart in your copy won’t help you. It might stroke the ego, but 9 times out of 10 it will only detract from getting your desired outcome.
Take This Simple Test
It’s time to experience this firsthand. Read the examples that follow.
As you do, notice your reaction and ask yourself … “Would I keep reading other pages on this site if I were a prospect for this product/service?” and “Is it clear how I can benefit?”
(FYI: Anytime you see a poorly done black highlight — hey, I’m no Photoshop whiz — that’s me marking out the company name.)
My first reaction: “Huh?”
This is exactly why trying to sound “business like” backfires. Would you, as a prospect, honestly be compelled to read more?
I had to read this one a few times. I clicked the “Solutions” page to see if I could get a better understanding:
Eh … I don’t know what to say.
Maybe they offer technical or IT consulting services that help any area of your business? (If you think you know what they’re really offering, please share your interpretation in the comments!)
This is another reason why sounding too “smart” can backfire on you. It runs the risk of making your prospect feel “dumb.”
This one is another technology company, offering to help with the challenges of Big Data (so we’re on the same page, Big Data refers to all the different kinds of data businesses can gather in today’s day and age — things like tweets, blog posts, comments, clickstream data, sensor data and more. It’s “big” because there’s so much of it created on a daily basis).
The last sentence offers some hope.
I get that whatever they’re offering can help my IT department do stuff faster — and help me uncover new ways to make more money and achieve my return-on-investment in less than two years.
Still, it took a few passes at it to really understand what was being said.
If you can avoid it, you don’t want your prospects stumbling over your copy. Like a good novel, they should be so caught up in the ideas, benefits, and emotions your copy evokes, they don’t realize they’re “reading.”
Keep It Clear And Simple
Instead of trying to sound business-like, write as though you were talking to someone.
Yes, you’ll still have to use some jargon and industry terms used by your prospect. But it’s all done within the context of easy-to-read and understand copy.
Take a look:
This is pretty good.
Some buzz words are used, but overall it communicates their message in a way that’s understandable.
I get what they do and if I were a prospect, I’d be interested to learn more.
Here’s another example:
I don’t know a single thing about the trucking industry, but I understand what they’re communicating here. Kudos to whoever wrote it.
One more example:
How’s that for clear, compelling and direct!? If you were the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of a company, or someone high up in the marketing department, would you be interested in learning more about what they could do for you?
I bet you would be!
That’s why it’s so critical that you don’t make your reader work to understand what you’re trying to say.
Copy Can Never Be Too Easy To Read
Remember, your goal is to communicate your message and have it be understood.
No one is going to complain that your copy was too simple for them. Copywriting legend Bob Bly puts it best:
… as a chemical engineer myself, I have been writing copy aimed at engineers, scientists, mathematicians, systems analysts, and other “techies” for 34 years. And in all that time, I’ve never been told that the simple, plain English copy I wrote was “too easy to read.”
Don’t be afraid of making your copy “too easy to read.”
It’s a far better goal than trying to make your copy something worthy of studying in a college-level English class.
Best of all, doing so can only help improve the strength and persuasiveness of your copy — giving you the results you set out to get in the first place.