Here’s a powerful four-stage approach to the business of selling to business people.
First—we’re writing to sell to people at work
Whatever else we know about our reader, we know this: they’re busy. (Not time-poor, incidentally—I’m a fan of plain English.) That means one thing.
We have to be relevant, not brief. An executive won’t read a ten-word email if they don’t think it’s relevant; therefore, short isn’t better.
Second—we’re writing to sell to people
There’s one inescapable fact that a lot of B2B copywriters forget. Business people are still people. And even if they do make decisions based on the business benefits, they are also considering how their decision will affect them personally. The significance for us as copywriters is that we forget our reader’s humanity at our peril. Yes, you have to make the business case for a business purchase, but remember this:
One reason CEOs care about shareholder value is because their bonus is based on increases in shareholder value.
One reason an IT manager cares about network security is because their next pay rise will be based on the number of days lost to virus attacks.
And one reason an HR manager cares about absenteeism reduction is because they want the corner office with the view over the river that goes with the HR director’s job.
In other words, people make business decisions at least partly for personal reasons. Tap into their emotions, as well as their reason, and you’ll get a far more sympathetic hearing.
Third—we’re writing to sell
Next, our reader is making a business purchase. As copywriters, we have to uncover and promote the benefits to the business of taking the desired action. Business benefits can be encapsulated in phrases such as:
Gain peace of mind (Very useful if you’re selling to health and safety managers who don’t want to end up in court.)
Make bigger profits
Reduce staff turnover
You are also usually selling to a decision-making group. So you have to address the needs, motivations, and reservations of each member of the group.
There is no separate language called B2B-ish, though to judge from the rubbish I have to wade through regularly, many writers believe the opposite. Use plain English. Why say “prior to” when “before” is available? Why say “substantial revenue stream enhancement” when you just mean “a big hike in sales”?
And it pays to distinguish between technical vocabulary and the threadbare clichés that fly around most organizations. I have many favorites, but high on my list just now is “going forward” (as opposed, presumably, to “going backward”—always useful in business).