Your Roadmap to Conquer Mediocre
A prominent reviewer for Ann Handley’s book Everybody Writes declared:
“I just glanced at the Table of Contents and I’m already a better writer.”
That’s what we call a Big Promise. And, Handley does not disappoint.
With these few tips from her 74 lightning quick “chapters,” you can add immediate sparkle to your B2B content. How?
First, you’ll learn how to “tell the story only you can tell.” And, with a sprinkling of some new basics and a few broken grammar rules, you’re ready to write content that stands out.
Opportunities Are Everywhere for Stand-Out Writers
According to Handley, almost half (47%) of B2B companies continue to struggle with presenting engaging content that attracts customers.
The reason? The world is littered with mediocre, or worse, “good enough” content. And, this presents an “awesome opportunity” for writers to lead reluctant companies away from safe, “done by everyone else” copy into a world where compelling content drives views, trust, and ultimately sales.
Welcome to your roadmap.
Craft the true story only you (or your client) can tell
To combat content mediocrity — tell a story.
Even a company that sells industrial tie wraps has a compelling story that shows the heart of their product, brand, or their unique place in customers lives — or even the greater world. Stories have a place on their web pages, their sales materials, blogs, and even in company bios.
But, as you know, B2B clients are often uncomfortable with storytelling. Facts, proof, and statistics are their commodity.
Yet, stories connect. They build rapport, confidence, trust, and ultimately sales. So, to dig into the true story only you can tell, start by asking:
- What is unique, different, groundbreaking, or quirky about the business or founder?
- What boring, humdrum element would others think is pretty cool?
- What’s an “unobvious” or contrarian way to tell the story?
- What a-ha moments have the leaders of the company experienced?
- What is their vision to change the world (or their part of it)?
Finding the story is only the beginning. Now, go ahead and use these three tips to give it life.
Tip #1. Words Are Your Currency — Use Them Well — or Lose Them
All the words you choose should provide clarity, movement, and engagement. Learn where to be generous and where to cut ruthlessly. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Place the most important idea first — in sentences and paragraphs
- Don’t bury the lead: “It is important to remember that three in ten kids go hungry every day.”
- Instead, shine a blinding light on the main point for more impact: “Three in ten kids go hungry every day which means …”
A simple formula follows regular grammar rules:
Subject (hero) + verb (action) + (if necessary) qualifiers or modifiers.
- Engage with livelier verbs (or just better ones)
- “Write” could be craft, create, scribble, inscribe.
- Change “to be” verbs (is, are, been) to remains, typifies, mirrors.
Check out wordhippo.com or thesaurus.com, both free, and sprinkle in some zestier verbs.
- Remove “that!” And all other “do-nothing” words
- We have loved cooking there.
- Write 10 things that you want to accomplish.
- Have you ever noticed how when someone smiles …
Tip # 2. The Three Grammar Rules to Break — Starting Now
Grammar rules for B2B companies are often strict, especially if copy is reviewed by committee.
But, within a story, it’s easier to slip in these “light touch” rule-breakers to add energy, momentum, and elements of conversation to your copy.
Rule #1 to Break: Don’t Use “Because,” “And,” or “But” to Start a Sentence.
And, why is that?
Because the grammar police might go crazy if you do.
But, we also know using them is more compelling and conversational.
Rule #2 to Break: No Fragments. Ever.
Real conversations are littered with fragments. It’s how real people talk. To give flow and life to a story or copy, it’s okay to indulge in a few. They move the eye, the comprehension, and the dialogue along.
Rule #3 to Break: Don’t End on a Preposition or “Good Grammar Is So Hard to Come By.”
Considered a no-no for formal writing such as dissertations or scientific findings, an ending preposition is just fine for story or conversational writing.
One caveat. Our job is to make to make sense. “Where are you?” always works better than “where are you at?”
Tip #3. Subduing “Weblish” — and Other Tech-Speak — for Content That Has a Heart
“Weblish” are words or phrases only a robot could love. And, in B2B, they also take the form of acronyms or tech-speak. The truth is, they lack the heart of real-world conversations. When faced with weblish, use sparingly and ask yourself:
Do we really have “a lack of band-width” or is it “no time?”
Is “let me slack you on that?” more understandable than “I’ll get back with you in 10?”
It’s better to be clear than cute — so chose your weblish wisely.
More Golden Nuggets — Guaranteed
What’s left out, but not less valuable, are story tactics and wisdom for website pages, social media, blogs, curation, branding, and — the key to it all — how to develop “relentless empathy.”
So, while many B2B companies still don’t understand what good content looks like (at least 47% by last count) with these tips — you have a valuable key.
And, armed with these few nuggets (with a glance at the Table of Contents of Everybody Writes) you’re ready to help your client break the bonds of “good enough” or “mediocre” to craft content that makes them — and you — stand out.
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