Is it just me or is most marketing content for B2B pretty dry? So much of our content says, “This is our software. It enables you to do this, so that you can do that.”

I’ve been thinking about the “dry and boring” problem for a long time. Longer than I’ve been a marcom writer and even going way back to the days when I was a marcom consumer, as an IT Director. I just keep thinking there has to be a better way.

The emergence of social media has helped changed the face of B2B marketing, an improvement in my opinion. It has a way of personalizing the relationship between vendor and customer. But something still seems to be missing. So, what if we could market using more storytelling?

Don’t you love a good story? Isn’t it more fun to listen to someone tell of an event and make the story come to life? Case studies are the closest we come to incorporating stories into our marketing content and I think even these could be improved. What I’m talking about is taking case studies and other marketing content to higher levels of storytelling. I’m talking more about creative non-fiction.

Creative non-fiction takes something that is true and writes it in a way that touches our senses. It creates a visual image and stirs up emotions using dramatic openings, realistic details, and expressive dialogue. These are just three ways to make a dry story compelling.

Dramatic openings – Capture your readers from the start. Use visual and exciting openings to compel them to read further.

Old: “Company ABC was spending 8 hours backing up their servers and when backups were running, everyone else had to be off the system.”

New: “The ringing phone interrupted the silence in the data room. On the other end was the CEO, hot that he was locked out of the system as he tried to get some last minute information for the board meeting in 30 minutes.”

Realistic details – Help the story come alive by providing details that touch the one or more of the five senses with detailed descriptions of the scene.

Old: “The vendor held a kickoff meeting to get everyone familiar with the project plan.”

New: “The blue dry marker squeaked across the white board as Joe, the project manager, highlighted the details of the project plan to the VP of Marketing, IT Director, and the project team.”

Expressive dialogue – I find customer quotes within case studies to be quite helpful. They offer a change in voice from the writer to the customer. However, most quotes end with the words “says” or states” such as “states Mr. Smith” which are really expressionless. What if we used more expressive dialogue tags?

Old: “We achieved a 50% improvement on our processing time,” says Mr. Smith, Operations Manager.

New: “We achieved a 50% improvement in our processing time,” the Operations Manager Mr. Smith boasted with a smile.

These are just a few tricks taken from the creative non-fiction world and I’m no fiction author. I’m sure every one of you could come up with even better examples.

It still may be a stretch to incorporate this style into our traditional marketing content and I’m probably treading on new ground here, but I throw it out there as a new, more personal direction for B2B marketing.  What do you think?

3 Comments
  1. Terri,
    You’re definitely treading on new ground but I love the idea! As long as the wording conveys the key messages, why not jazz it up? Perhaps we B2B marketing writers could start presenting our clients with an alternative draft that follows this new, personal direction. I’ll let you know how my clients respond.

    Best,
    Stephanie

  2. Hi Terri! Great post and ideas to humanize copy. I agree wholeheartedly, B2B copy is too dry and “just the facts ma’am” oriented. Especially when engaged in target marketing — make it personal — tell a story!

    Not only are stories more fun to read, they’re easier to remember and tell others.

  3. Over the past several years of my B2B freelance writing career, I’ve been treading a middle path–between the “old” and “new”–that serves the marketing manager’s needs while at the same time makes the copy fresh and enjoyable for the reader. The key is telling a compelling story using the facts at hand. If it’s a dry topic, and many are within B2B, I’ll add anecdotal content that drives home the marketing points while adding human interest. My clients find this just the right balance between dry copy and something that’s better left to creative non-fiction writers.

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