Speak as you eat
There’s a saying in Italian that goes ‘parla come mangi’ (or the slightly tweaked dialectal version ‘parla come magni’). It means ‘speak as you eat’. You can hear Italians saying it to their friends when they explain things in an unnecessary, complicated way. And you can hear me thinking it every time I come across the words ‘ensure’, ‘solution’ and ‘enable’ on a piece of B2B copy.
Truth is, nobody actually speaks that way. Not even the person who commissioned the copy. Of course, those words do have their own place in the B2B world. Formality can serve a purpose and has its specific audience. But we also know most people connect better with language they speak every day.
Chi troppo vuole nulla stringe
(grasp all, lose all)
So, why does B2B always seem to rely on big words to attract professionals? I think this tendency comes from the belief B2B communications need to be logical and feature-led, as opposed to the more emotional marketing of B2C. I disagree.
As copywriters, we make the complex simple. It’s in our job description. This is particularly important for B2B, where we often get information directly from subject matter experts. But when we do our job, aka digest and repurpose that information to fit shorter messaging, our clients always feel we’re not giving the full story. And there’s a reason for that.
Thing is that when you know everything about the product you’re selling, you also know exactly what it can do for you. But your audience doesn’t know that. Before learning about the cutting-edge technology, they need to know the product can make their work easier, better, faster. The how comes after.
Tutto il mondo è paese
(it’s the same all the world over)
In his book Predatory Thinking: a masterclass in out-thinking the competition, creative director and copywriter Dave Trott tells creative teams to sit down together before learning much about the product or service they’re marketing. This way, they can look down the ‘customers’ telescope’ – think from the perspective of those who don’t know anything about what’s being sold, and ‘they may not even want to’.
It doesn’t matter if Trott was thinking of B2C or B2B customers – people are people. They don’t want ‘the latest wi-fi enabled quick-fix solution’; they want an extra tea break because our client’s product made fitting a pipe much easier. So that’s what we should give them.
Chi non risica non rosica
(nothing ventured nothing gained)
B2B needs an emotional pull too. But we won’t get there by continuously explaining things in a complicated, unnecessary way. Our audience will simply stop listening. I dare you: speak to an Italian the way you write your words, and they will let you know how bored they are with an exhaustive gesture (no? Just me?).
The idea of approaching B2B more like B2C is nothing new, but many still struggle to see the similarities. I understand this: it’s scary to break the mould – especially when no one else seems to be doing it. But B2B is changing, whether we can see it yet or not. So, we can either lead this change or wait for everyone to change it for us. We will just go hungry in the meantime.