MTM Ep#27: How to improve your B2B copywriting skills with Josh Waldman and Alex Swope

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Welcome back to the More Than Marketing podcast. This week, we have two of WebMechanix’s very own employees take over the podcast. Our hosts are Josh Waldman, a direct response copywriter, and Alex Swope, a search engine optimization expert. Alex discussed Google’s search algorithm and the EAT process in an earlier episode.

These two discuss misconceptions and tips about B2B copywriting. You’ll learn why copywriting doesn’t have to be boring in the B2B industry, how to improve your copywriting, how to elevate the user experience with your writing, and more.

If you want more, look out for our upcoming companion article that dives into more details on B2B copywriting tips.


– Hi, I am Josh Waldman and I am the Direct Response Copywriter here at WebMechanix.- Hey, I’m Alex Swope. I’m the SEO SME here at WebMechanix And we’ve snuck in!

– We are taking over Arsham’s podcast this week.

– [Arsham] If you can communicate more directly, get a, how will my product make you feel. Like, that’s gonna stick with somebody much longer and put you out ahead of the pack.

– All right, so here to talk about some B2B copywriting.

– We are, it’s exciting.

– Which is near and dear to my heart because we’ve got some B2B clients, and love pumping up their copy. So one thing that I’ve noticed is that B2C, we can all imagine ourselves as a C because we’re all, we’re all customers at some level in society. And so we have this feeling of, like, oh that could be fun and friendly and interesting and we kinda know what we want to see and read. But since B2B, it’s like–

– It’s so flat, it’s so boring. It’s like completely unaffected which is so bizarre because I mean, businesses are still, I don’t know, I think we should still have expectations for interesting communications from businesses to other businesses, or like even if it’s just an email drip. You should still have some sort of expectation of like, this will be pleasant to read. This isn’t going to be the most boring thing I see all day. And I think that’s where a lot of people kind of shut down when they have to like write copy for a B2B business is it’s always about just getting the message across and being super direct and there’s never any room for embellishment.

– Yeah, I feel like there’s like this big push to be super professional which there’s nothing wrong with but I feel like that often is translated into stick to the hard facts, which often translates into features.

– Exactly.

– Versus benefits.

– Exactly, and I think a lot of the time too when people try to go with that really professional, direct tone there’s still word choice decisions you can make even if that’s appropriate, even if it’s for like a legal client or something, it’s more along those lines. There’s still word choices you can partake in to make something feel more casual , or even more readable. ‘Cause sometimes I feel like people hinge on trying to sound smart or sound informed or something like that, but I think it makes a lot more sense most of the time to choose the easiest word for the situation you’re in.

– Yeah, and that’s a good point ’cause like there’s definitely instances where using specific jargon makes sense depending on the audience, right? It’s like if you’re talking to, you know, a lawyer or a law professional audience you can use, you know, the parlance of their actual day to day, but at the same time you only wanna use that where it’s like actually gonna connect with them, and that they recognize it and they say like, okay, you know what you’re talking about.

– Exactly.

– And then for the rest of it it should be like, you know, you’re at a cocktail party, you’re networking, you’re talking to somebody in a professional setting and you’re talking to them like a human being.

– Exactly, I also think we have a lot of, we have a lot of SaaS clients, a lot of like software products that happen, and I think that’s, that in particular in the B2B world, is a space where I think there’s so much opportunity to write really colorful, interesting copy because they’re always, these companies are a lot of the time talking to project managers, or developers, or even UX designers. And I think that there’s gonna be some amount of jargon that they have to use because if you’re talking about test cases and things like that, you have to actually like dive in to the vernacular. But there’s also room to have like a lot of personality, especially if it’s a sort of like regular checking in email or if its part of a drip that someone’s on as part of a free trial. So I think that there’s like those instances in particular. I feel like there’s so much untapped potential there for people to get more fun and more engaging with the language they use.

– Yeah, I think that just sticking with like SAS or some other complicate. That is the thing like a lot of B2C things, it’s like relatively easy to understand and grasp. It’s like, oh, a pair of shoes. Or oh, um, you know, let’s get something complicated like a car, it’s like, okay, like miles per gallon, price point different kinds of styles. And B2B usually it’s a much more complicated product. The price point is much higher, and, you know, one of the things that hopefully I think can help, especially the software SAS company or something like that stand out is getting into that, emotional response, tapping into that for the audience to differentiate between them and a bunch of other competitors that are offering maybe very similar products. But if you can communicate more directly, not the benefits or not the features, not all the specifics on something, but get a like how will my product make you feel? That’s gonna stick with somebody much longer and put you out ahead of the pack.

– I totally, yeah, and especially again with sort of things that are designed for Dev, something about one of our clients that’s super into that sort of test case development type field. And I think that a lot of the value there comes from exposing pain points and showing you ways that this product can address those. And I think that sometimes that’s like, that’s like the core of so much copywriting, but it always works. It’s like getting to that emotional appeal and helping people fill a need. I think that’s something that’s super important. And another thing that I think, especially with the more involved SAS products that’s really, I think sometimes gets overlooked when people are writing websites or writing feature pages, is breaking down the information in a way that makes sense. Instead of just sort of giving you all the information you need in a bunch of super long paragraphs, which I feel like happens a lot, especially with some of the clients who are a little bit older, a little bit more like set in that kind of way of speaking to their consumer base. I think sometimes even just like swapping paragraphs and figuring out how to present information in a way that makes sense and guides someone through what it’s like to use their product, is so valuable in communicating what you do to people better.

– Yeah, and I mean it’s not exactly copywriting but I’ve recently been on a bunch of B2B SAS websites and seen videos that are very short. Like 40 seconds, a minute. And that’s plenty of time for me to like actually see their product in action, and like understand it at a level that would take me, that I couldn’t get from paragraphs and paragraphs of information.

– Yeah, absolutely.

– And so that I think is a big opportunity for those kinds of companies to say, hey, maybe instead of paragraphs and paragraphs of information on our, or like you know, all these, you know, charts of different specs, lets put up a video of somebody actually using the software so that we actually show them what this could do for them. ‘Cause people connect the dots once you show them what it does.

– Exactly, and I think a lot of the times companies are scared to kind of invest that type of time or money into producing a really great video that’s really emblematic of what the product does, but that same video can be on a features page, it can be in a welcome email, it can be, you can link to a White Paper. There’s so many things you can do with the same 45 to 60 second piece of video content, especially for these more complicated SAS providers that it’s just such a valuable resource you can have. And you get to basically repurpose it as many ways as you can.

– Yeah, and I mean there’s a bunch of like resources nowadays that make doing stock video or like animated video a lot more approachable. You don’t necessarily have to hire an animator anymore to like do a pretty decent looking, professional video for like, to like explain a concept. And then like screen capture for, especially for like a software or something like that.

– Like you know, obviously the better quality you can get is gonna be good but it’s not necessarily as heavy a lift as it would have been five years ago or something like that.

– Yeah, and I always, whenever I think of a feature video or a product use case video I always think of because I feel like its–

– Yeah, you’re really into

– I’m really into! But I really like the way they sell themselves and I think they, they use sort of like that, you know, that bright, animated style that’s like kind of en vogue? where everything is big color blocks and things like that? They do a lot of that and a lot of really smart feature, they show their features in really smart ways that sort of instantly click if you’ve ever used a project management software before. And I think that they know that’s their audience. So if they’re showing someone how this operates under the schema they already have and they can sort of show you where it adds value and again what pain points it addresses, to me that’s like a home run.

– And, they’re like YouTube retargeting is–

– I know.

– Like unbelievable.

– It’s intense!

– Like every time I fire up a YouTube video they are there. And they not only are using the video to walk you through the actual product, but they start off with, this is what it feels like to manage your team with, and it’s like a very emotional, visual thing that has nothing to do with the software itself. It’s just like this is how our product is going to make you feel, and they lead with that, and then they give you like and here is the actual product.

– I will also say, I don’t know if you’ve seen any of their out of home stuff, but all of their out of home copy I think is really smart. It’s very… So I used to live in New York and when they were running they would buy whole trains and paper their ads all over. And they would have, they would be really cute things we need to address in New York. And it would be like crime bosses, check. And like moms drinking oat milk with their kids, still in progress. And it’s just like little cute things like that where that’s like really they don’t have a lot of space for copy especially because it’s such a visual interface, but they use what they have so smartly that you’re like this is a B2B type thing. It’s a SAS product and I’m really interested in it and think it’s pretty quirky and pretty fun.

– Yeah, and I guess like that’s there’s definitely a difference between a product. So I think this is the thing, I think you and I have talked about this before but marketing a product to somebody that is going to use it, versus somebody that’s going to buy it for their team to use or for their company to use, different.

– Totally different.

– And I think that with the person that’s seeing the ad is someone that’s gonna be in the software using it to project manage, as opposed to, you know, if Arsham, you know, is seeing it and he’s like, yeah I mean that’s kinda cool and fun but like what.

– What value.

– What value does it provide and can I give it to my, my team to actually use it.

– And I think that’s another case where the channel you use to communicate totally affects how that’s getting out because you know that out of home, and I’ve even seen ads on like Instagram and I feel like those sort ofreally digital first social network forward tactics really play well to all the project managers and people like that. But then on the other side of things they might be better suited to using LinkedIn if they’re trying to get to people who are a little bit higher up the food chain who are actually the ones buying and implementing for a whole team. And that’s something, you know, I haven’t seen it but I’m also not in that, I’m not really in that demo. So I’m not sure if that exists or if it’s an opportunity for that.

– And you know speaking of something like or like SEMrush or something that’s, you know, like, especially the SAS that somebody’s going to be in, I see ads for that on Facebook.

– Me too, all the time.

– And that works for me because that’s a product that I actually would be in.

– Yeah, exactly.

– You know, as opposed to something I’m going to buy for the company and then like, I won’t have daily interaction with it. It makes sense for me to see it in Facebook,

– Yeah.

– And it doesn’t feel out of place.

– And I think SEMrush is actually really good.

– Yeah. I see those all the time. And I mean there are so many competitive products like in that space. But to me I’m always, SEMrush is always top of mind ’cause I always see that. It’s pretty straight forward, all of their ads really do a good job of showing you what the value is and what the service is. And I don’t know, whenever I think of sort of a search engine marketing thing I think of them and first instead of thinking of maybe Spyfu or something else that’s like in that same space.

– Yeah and I guess there was something you said a while ago I think. You were talking about pain points?

– Yeah.

– And I think that this is something that I see a lot in, in general in marketing like strategy or marketing, copy, or like conversion rate optimization is a lot of times like marketing teams and sales teams don’t necessarily communicate the daily interactions with the customers to get the feedback of, “Oh, when I talk about this people light up.” Or, “When I talk about this, “people seem like they’re zoning out.” Or, “I hear this as a pain point all the time.” I mean besides price, like obviously price is always going to be a big thing but anytime I’m working with a client usually your point of contact is gonna be on the marketing side. And I’m always like, here is a list of questions I have for your sales team because a lot of times that’s, they’re gonna have the information that’s firsthand from interacting with the client. And it’s gonna give us those pain points so that you can take those and do whatever you need to with the copy or the messaging or to mitigate the pain points and address them so that, you are actually positioning against competitors or against what other people are saying.

– Yeah, and I think the pain points thing too, you can, there’s definitely, there are multiple ways to approach addressing a pain point. I think you can be a lot more fear based and you can, sort of go for, this is the worst thing in the world, you should be scared of this, you should want to stop this, versus taking a more empathetic approach which is expressing that you are sort of commiserating with the person you’re marketing to and you understand why those things are a problem and why it’s important to have them fixed. In a previous job like I, I would set up a standing meeting every week with the, with a couple of the customer support advisors because they’re like, they are the most involved people with anything that goes wrong or anything that people see as a failing of the messaging or on the product and sort of getting into that sphere instead of the marketing thing allows you to see how the messaging is actually being received and like, what people are getting from what you are telling them, ’cause it might have a totally unintended consequence that’s leading to a lot of frustration and a lot of calls to the call center and I think that that’s a really good place for writers or really anyone to kinda start rethinking how they’re messaging a product.

– Yeah definitely. What else, what else?

– What else.

– B2B copywriting.

– Let’s see here.

– I wonder if we have any notes. Oh, yeah, so, you said something and I thought it was really smart which is that B2B you don’t have generally as much of that like brand loyalty that you see in B2C and that can totally change how you write about, how your communications come across.

– Yeah, and I mean, I think there are some B2B brands that have, I mean,–

–, Salesforce, you know there’s–

– Right there, that’s one! There are a couple that have really strong brand evangelists because either they’ve been around forever, they have really strong voices, or they have like a really unique service offering. But for a ton of sort of mid market B2B companies, it’s so much about maintaining positive relationships and not really assuming anything about your audience because you can’t ever really bank on that cache of sort of brand recognition that someone like Mailchimp might have because if you’re a smaller provider you have to consistently message new features and you have to consistently drive home why people should choose you over a competitor. And I think that keeping that top of mind is something that kind of gets neglected sometimes which is why, you know someone comes to you and they’re frustrated with conversion rate or they’re frustrated with drop offs after someone signs up for a trial. I think that there’s a lot of work that you can do both on the website and in introductory emails and even like display ads for the product. I think there’s a lot you can do to sort of reframe the work that you’re doing and really drive home benefit driven value ads that you can sort of glean from this.

– Yeah and I think that the consistency in the messaging, the consistency in the tone and the brand voice is even more important because that’s one of the things that creates that like, brand loyalty for these larger companies. It’s not, I mean, on the one hand it is that they have lots and lots of users, they’ve been around for a while, they integrate themselves with your business but they also have a consistency in okay, that’s Salesforce.

– Exactly.

– Okay, that’s Mailchimp. And if you don’t do that with your own messaging, then all of a sudden you don’t have the brand recognition to stand out and be seen as consistent just based on your name, so your copy has to work extra hard– in order to remain consistent so that the follow up emails you’re sending, they connect it back to, “Oh yeah, I was on that website and I downloaded this “White Paper and that’s right I’m so busy. “I looked at it and then, you know, I put it away “but now I’m getting re-engaged with “and I connected the dots.” As opposed to, okay here’s a fragmented piece of messaging, and here’s a fragmented piece of messaging. And they can’t hold together.

– Right, they don’t make a cohesive anything really. And I think that something that gets neglected a lot of times is, you might run into a marketing person from again, kind of like a mid market, SAS product that competes with one of those bigger players in the game. And they might be like why is this successful, why do they have so much of this. And a lot of the answer is because they have great writers. I know specifically places like Dropbox and Mailchimp and any other sort of big enterprise thing like that, they have whole teams of user experience writers, and they have product writers, and copy, and everything sort of working in concert. And I think that that can sort of, I don’t think should scare anyone away from investing in that type of resource because even if you just put a little bit of different thought into the way you craft your messaging, that can have such an immediate impact on conversion and interest and everything else that I think it’s something that a lot of people kind of don’t even consider as piece of the puzzle in boosting conversion or boosting sign up, or anything like that.

– Yeah, and I think that B2B, you know we kind of led with this is that they, you kind of, take the human element out of it when you start thinking like B2B. But absolutely it seems like there’s a lot of like stock phrases that just kind of come in like contact sales. Or, you know these CTAs that you might see where, if you’re thinking about a B2C audiences, it’s like wow, we really have to convince these people the value we’re providing or for them to pick up the phone or contact sales. But as soon as it’s B2B again it’s like, oh our CTAs, you know, they can just say like something very plain Jane. But no, you still have to work just as hard in order to message what that benefit is.

– Exactly.

– Like okay, am I gonna just get on the phone with somebody who’s gonna give me the hard sale and like waste my time? Am I gonna get like a demo walkthrough?

– Yeah.

– Is that gonna be customized for like what I actually need? Like are you gonna talk to me about what my problems are and then come up with a customized solution? Like what, what is actually gonna happen once you get in touch with them?

– Yeah.

– Message that, set that expectation because we’ve seen over and over again that skyrockets conversion rate for any kind of B2B application, yeah.

– Absolutely, and I think another thing that people don’t necessarily consider all the time is you’re trying to get somebody to sign up, you’re trying to get that initial conversion. I think a lot of time attention drops off right after that. I think people sort of neglect the users or the customers who are already in the pipeline, already using the product. And I think so much of that comes down to maintaining a really appropriate, exciting engagement strategy for people who are already on your product. So whether that’s sending a weekly check in email to sort of give them their stats, or their weekly overview. Or it’s getting someone excited about a new product launch or a new feature launch. I think that there’s so many opportunities that can really keep people excited about using a product because again there’s not a lot of brand loyalty. So if someone finds a more appealing alternative, there’s not really a lot that’s stopping them from switching. So I think throughout their lifetime as a customer, reinforcing the messaging over and over again in ways that are interesting but don’t feel annoying or don’t feel grating is really important. And so I think that’s something people overlook a lot.

– Yeah, no, totally. So I think that we’ve covered a lot here.

– Let’s look here.

– And I think that we, oh yeah, I like this thing you said about don’t oversell with B2B, I think that’s really funny.

– Yeah, because I mean, you can’t really, I think it’s disingenuous to sell something as like, “This is gonna transform your life, “and totally redo your business.” And in a lot of cases it’s not gonna do that.

– Yeah.

– But it’s gonna make your day to day easier and I think its important to realize that there’s just as much value in that–

– Yeah, that’s enough!

– As there is in this big, transformative thing you’re trying to sell.

– Yeah, it’s like, everybody’s working hard. Everybody’s trying to squeeze some more productivity out of their day, and if your product can help somebody do that and make their life easier and you can communicate that effectively then that’s really the benefit that you leave with and you don’t have to oversell that.

– Right.

– You know, you just have to show, like, hey look, there’s a niche right here where our product does something pretty awesome. It’s not going to be a cash machine that you just turn on and money comes out of the walls but it is going to do x, y, or z that’s just going to make your life a little easier. I think that’s what B2B audience, that’s what they want.

– Exactly.

– You, know we think about like a B2C audience, it’s like, oh I want to be sexy or I wanna be like, fit and healthy or I wanna be secure. And all those things, I mean, matter to a B2B person but, I think that ease and convenience and those kinds of things, or you know, looking good or performing well so that you have that job security, so that you get the raise, so that you do all these other things. Or just so that you have time to work on the stuff you wanna work on.

– Yeah, exactly.

– I think that’s the kind of stuff that you really hit home on And you don’t have to oversell it.

– Yeah, we’ve got a client right now that does, their line of business is kind of not that glamorous they do, they do law firm management platforms and that’s kind of their whole deal and that’s something that on the surface might seem super, like, unsexy but they have this excellent point that they hit on over and over again about the number of hours they save every week for people who use their software. And that’s the type of thing where they should always be leading with that front and center because if you, if their firm, or a firm that uses this can save eight hours a week, that’s such a huge, huge thing that sometimes might get buried in the messaging because they wanna talk about their cool, the things that they think are cool features or what they think could be transformative. But those eight hours a week are in themselves, the selling point.

– And I’ve seen, and you know to talk about like, specifics in language, it’s like, you know, you get at that not with just, “You know you’ll save about eight hours a week.” But it’s like okay what does that mean for this person. It’s more time with family.

– RighT.

– More time growing your business if that’s what it is. Less time doing like, kind of menial, paperwork type stuff. And it’s like that, like it’s just taking that benefit to the next level to make it emotional, to make it really tangible for that person.

– Right.

– And like, that concept, that messaging is like–

– It’s like a home run.

– That makes light and yeah, that’s, that’s light and night and day.

– Yeah, and again you look at, you look at the people who are actually getting the marketing for this. And it’s, you know, they’re lawyers and they’re running their own law firm which they, you know, don’t really know how to do that well and if you think, they’re tired, they’re working insane hours every week, they have so much on their plate already. Sort of, bringing this as a, like, here’s how we can help you a little bit so you can spend time doing what you enjoy doing. You can spend more time on cases, you could spend more time with your family. Sort of diving into what the average person who’s gonna see the most benefit out of this is like, I think is a really good place to ground the copy you write in.

– Yeah, absolutely.

– Well that’s it.

– Oh Josh, this is always a pleasure.

– I know its fun.

– Talking with you, I think we’ve kind of covered a lot of this. I mean there’s a lot more that we can say.

– That’s true.

– I think, you know, we’ve got a blog post coming out about some more of these details. So people should definitely check that out if this was interesting at all but I’m sure we’ll be back.

– Definitely!

– If Arsham let’s us take it over again.

– Yeah!

– But yeah, I guess for now we’ll sign off here. Thanks for listening everybody.

– Yeah, thank you.

Josh Waldman

Josh Waldman

Alex Swope

Alex SwopeDirector of Strategy

Podcasts Info:
Creative + UX
News + Business

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