The book, Everybody Writes by Ann Handley is a popular guide for elevating marketing content, writing skills, and general marketing know-how to new levels. Ann offers her witty take on these topics throughout the book and gives tips to help writers improve their craft. In this blog, we’ve highlighted 10 B2B Copywriting Lessons Our Writers Love that are not only important for writers and marketers but can help anyone gain new insights into the content creation and copywriting thought processes.
1. Develop deep empathy for your readers and always be part of the solution to their problem.
As a writer, your role is often about understanding a little bit about life and passing it on in a way that’s easy to understand. In order to know and respect what your audience wants in the first place, you have to get inside their heads and focus on their perspective.
2. There’s no single correct way to write / Be open to new approaches to storytelling.
Whatever you were taught in school is a great basic guideline but shouldn’t be relied upon for professional writing. Explore what’s possible with writing in the formats you’re provided. Is there a different way you could approach the topic, the layout, the number of words? Could it be simpler? Do we need words at all? 🤔
3. The purpose of content is to please customers, not bosses or clients.
The writer should be the audience’s biggest advocate with any piece of content. Think about what value the piece is adding to their situation or how it could be made more enticing, and never lose sight of the audience’s needs while satisfying the needs of everyone else who has a say. The writer will likely be the first to realize when the audience’s needs are being overshadowed and must clarify the purpose and direction of the piece with everyone involved.
This one is pretty straightforward, but it’s essential. The more time spent thinking about what and how to say something, the easier it is to say.
- Why am I creating this? / What’s the objective?
- What is my key take or point of view on the subject?
- Why does it matter to your audience? (Often your headline)
- Could I put it more shortly or remove avoidably ugly writing?
5. Make use of analogies to break down complex processes and concepts.
As Ann puts it, “Think of an analogy as a gift to your readers that helps explain a complex process or concept with familiar, relatable specifics.” An analogy does more than just explain; it shows. Ann’s example uses a metaphor (a gift) to describe an analogy, which only shows, no explain. Sort of a missed opportunity, IMO.
Ex. Instead of: The pavement is covered with tiny speed bumps that are 10-12 mm in diameter, try, The pavement is covered with tiny speed bumps about the size of acorn caps.
6. Only solicit critical information in fillable forms.
No matter how irresistible you think your FREE content is, too many form fields will repel potential leads like garlic to a vampire (analogy). Clients often request specific form fields, and I typically give them whatever they want. But if there’s anything unusual or excessive, I’ll note it for review during the approval process with a reminder that we want to make the audience experience as easy as possible.
7. Even in B2B marketing, we’re still selling to people.
Our business is “B2B,” but all content is meant to be read by human beings who have to make real decisions about how to run their jobs, teams, departments, divisions, and entire businesses. They have concerns you need to get ahead of before they even ask, pressures you need to alleviate, and goals you need to help them achieve. Use wording that speaks to what human beings want, not just search engines.
8. When your writing is subject to committee or client approvals:
- Get signoff on an outline, then start writing
- Set clear expectations for rounds of revision and approval process
- Seek an OK, not opinions – Please approve is better than Please provide feedback/suggestions
9. Write about news that’s really news.
Not every internal development is worth reporting on if it’s not interesting to the public. Examples include blogs about minor product upgrades or new hires. Would a reader turn to their friend and say, “hey, listen to this…?” It’s rarely the writer’s choice what to write about, but think about how the news could be delivered and suggest what would be most beneficial to your audience while respecting the needs of the business.
10. Quality content must have clear utility, inspiration, and empathy for the audience to succeed.
Ann’s secret formula for quality content:
Clear Utility x Inspiration x Audience Empathy = Quality Content
If any element of the equation is 0, the quality of the content will also be 0. Within that formula, continue to innovate and do unexpected things. Find out what works with your unique audience and do that thing consistently again and again.
These ten tips are distillations of only a small portion of the range of concepts explored by Ann Handley in Everybody Writes. Everybody Writes is a casual, enjoyable, and thoughtful book that can help writers hone their craft and solidify processes. For non-writers, the book offers a unique opportunity to understand marketing writers’ thought processes and strategies, which is a great way to inspire new content ideas and directions.
If you’re serious about taking your copywriting, content, and marketing materials further, we can help. From branding and messaging to social media to blogs, we work to understand your audience’s needs and show them how you’ll make their lives better and do it better than your competition. Check out our Content Marketing services to see how we can help. If you have any questions or are ready to get started, contact us anytime.