A Step-by-Step Plan to Create Compelling Long-Form B2B Writing
Many B2B writing projects involve short-form copy, such as emails, social media content, online ads, and more.
But there’s an entire segment of the B2B landscape that involves long-form copy. These are projects like white papers, special reports, and some articles in which you’re writing 2,000 words or more.
One of my recurring projects is writing a 12-page special advertising section for a trade publication. With this project, half the pages are filled with ads, while the other six pages contain one long article.
I recently completed a 12-page special section in which the main article was close to 5,200 words. In addition to reviewing background information, I also conducted 20 interviews.
Putting all of that information into a compelling, engaging article can be challenging. A specific process helps handle all the moving parts more easily and effectively. I’ve fine-tuned my process so it saves me a great deal of time, while ensuring a well-thought-out final product.
So, here are 12 steps I recommend to help you organize your information and write a long-form project.
- Review and highlight the background information. From the company’s website to press releases, product sheets, and more, highlight information you may want to use in your project. Save these documents in a research folder.
- Review and highlight transcripts of your interviews. Make sure you record all of your interviews and have them transcribed. I use Temi at $0.10 per minute for my transcriptions. Read through and highlight the information you may want to use either as background or as a direct quote. Save these documents in an interview folder.
- Determine your writing buckets. You’re not creating a hard outline, just several categories of information. For example, when writing about the opening of a new sports facility, my primary buckets were the intro, general information, construction, food and beverage, art program, sponsors, technology, team store, transportation to the arena, and the closing section.
- Organize your background information and transcripts into buckets. Each individual piece of background information will fit in one or two buckets. The interview transcripts may fit in multiple buckets. Put each piece in its primary bucket. You’ll handle the additional information later.
- Write each resource individually. At this point, don’t worry about the flow of your content. Just write about the information you’re taking from each press release, each product sheet, and each interview. In the bucket you just identified, write the number of paragraphs it takes to use the information from that resource. Write the additional information in the second bucket. For example, if a transcript includes information that belongs in both the sponsor and technology sections, write the sponsor information in the sponsor bucket first. Then move to the technology bucket and write that information. Repeat this for each piece of background information and each transcript.
- Roughly organize each bucket. Work on each bucket individually. Review everything you’ve already written and revise and edit it into a semi-finished section.
- Check your word count and make sure you’re on track. It’s easier to write more than you need and make cuts to the copy than it is to add to copy that’s too short. For my 12-page section, I needed 5,000-6,000 words. So, if my copy was 4,000 words, I knew I needed to write a lot more. If I wrote 7,000 words, I’d be in good shape as I could bring the copy down to the right size through editing.
- Add to each bucket where needed. If your copy is too short, determine which buckets need more information. This isn’t necessarily about the length of the bucket. It’s more about how thoroughly you covered the topic. For buckets that need more information, either keep writing for that bucket or rewrite it entirely in a more detailed way.
- Organize your copy.
- With an outline. If you prefer to use an outline, create one based on your buckets and the information within each bucket. Then organize your copy to match your outline.
- Without an outline. If you don’t like using an outline, put each bucket in the document in the order that makes sense. Do the same with the copy inside each bucket.
- Review your copy as written. Edit your entire document from start to finish.
- Check your flow. Print the entire document on single-sided paper. Physically cut the paper in sections or paragraphs. Read through your document and manually move the sections or paragraphs into an order that flows well and makes the most sense. In some cases, you’re only moving paragraphs. In other cases, you may want to move an entire section or an entire bucket. Once the puzzle has been arranged, number the pieces in the right order. Go back to your computer and move the copy in your Word document to match the order you created. If you want to do all of this on the computer, you can use a program like Scrivener. I like to see the big picture, so the manual method works best for me.
- Review, revise, and polish. Go back through your entire document to make final edits and revisions.
It sounds like a lot of steps. But this method has saved me a tremendous amount of time when writing long-form copy. Rather than looking at resource files multiple times, I only look at each file once and then move on to the next one.
This method can help you write compelling long-form copy in a quick and efficient manner.