Here’s something I know with absolute certainty: Serving up B2B content that’s not ready for prime time is worse than serving no content at all.
As a marketing professional who wants to stay current, I spend a sizable chunk of time each day combing industry blogs (Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs, Social Media Today, Copyblogger, Business 2 Community, et al). I also enjoy stumbling across “hidden gem” blogs—those of small agencies or solo professionals—particularly when creative headlines on Twitter and Google+ catch my eye.
I love finding news and tips I can use, both for my own benefit and for that of my social communities. Like everyone else, l want to be known as a consistent sharer of original, high-quality, salient content that can help readers improve their game.
The other day, I found a catchy, insightful post on one of those “hidden gem” blogs. I had every intention of tweeting it, but I decided against. Two reasons I can recall, though there were others:
“…the shear volume of content…”
“You’re headline needs to be…”
Thoughtless, careless. I clicked away without further ado.
B2B prospects who are sizing you up for the first time expect to read excellent content. One sloppy error can destroy your credibility in an instant.
Writing Quality Trumps Timeliness, Relevance, and Practical Benefits
No matter how much you know, how much you’ve accomplished in your career, or whom you’ve counseled in the past, your communications will backfire if you don’t use language correctly or effectively.
Proper grammar and syntax are nonnegotiable. A recent survey of more than 1,000 U.K. consumers indicated that “poor spelling or grammar” was by far the most brand-damaging aspect of companies’ social media posts.
That’s just the happy-go-lucky B2C crowd. I think it’s safe to assume the discerning business leaders we’re targeting (whose trust is tougher to earn) are going to come down much harder on careless errors like these.
For all writers, having a solid command of the English language is critical. But for marketing writers, there’s a lot more that goes into the mix.
B2B Audiences Have Discriminating Tastes. Will They Be Impressed?
Think of the tastiest, most satisfying layered dip you’ve ever eaten. You probably couldn’t identify every individual layer or the precise combination of flavors, but swirled atop your cracker, the stuff lit up your taste buds and left you wanting more.
Here are what I’d like to call (for the purposes of this post) the Seven Creamy Layers of Effective B2B Content Writing, ordered from bottom to top.
1. Perfect Grammar and Syntax. Enough said.
2. Fluency. Are you alternating sentence structure and length? Are you tripping over your own clauses and interrupters? Is your phrasing too wordy? When you read your writing out loud, does it sound repetitive? If you answer “yes” to any of these, say “no” to your urge to publish right away.
3. Flow. Is your writing organized thematically? Does it progress smoothly and logically toward or in support of key takeaways? Are you leading readers off on too many tangents? Will they have a tough time following your train of thought? Remember: You might be a poet at heart, but you need to have a point and lead readers to it on a clear-cut path.
4. Originality. If you’re writing about a well-worn subject, put your own stamp on it—your personal perspective, professional experiences, and knowledge of a much wider world beyond marketing and industry. Be serious, funny, reflective, metaphorical, controversial, multidisciplinary, or whatever fits the bill—as long as you own it.
5. Credibility. Do you have the professional chops, the passion for your subject, and the factual support you need to convince readers you’re worth their consideration and time?
6. Persuasion. Connecting with readers on an emotional level is at the very heart of a content writer’s job. I’ve written a lot about this layer—the secrets of history’s great communicators, the importance of emotional intelligence (EQ), using humor to build rapport and trust, marketing with humility and passion, the parallels between marketing and marriage, and the universal laws of audience engagement. The best way to sum it all up? Be genuinely committed to serving your readers.
7. Connection. Finally, you’ll want to leave readers with a pleasant aftertaste. Include a polite call to action that strikes just the right tone so readers will feel compelled to take a meaningful step in your direction. If you write your content thoughtfully, effectively, and in good faith, you should never be afraid to ask for something in return.
What Do You Think?
How critical are you of sloppy content? Would you add any layers to the mix? Please leave a comment below. I’d love to continue the discussion.