Should B2B Copywriting Be More Conversational?

conversational copywriting

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Should you write the way you talk? Many copywriters I follow (Dean Rieck for example) and learn from certainly think so. But persuading the B2B marketing crowd of conversational copywriting’s merits is another matter.

Conversational copywriting is an informal style that mimics they way you’d talk to a friend, but with all the ‘ums’ and ‘you knows’ taken out. Readers find it easy to read because it’s a friendly and fun way of writing. It offers benefits for copywriters too.

People don’t like to be sold to. But they will listen to friendly advice.

Conversational copywriting can swoop under the reader’s radar, scanning for sales spiel, and project your pitch in a way they find comfortable to read and can connect with. It talks through your product in a positive light that doesn’t force the message, whilst projecting empathy for the reader’s problem at the same time.

Conversational copywriting is, however, not to everybody’s tastes. In the B2B world (where I’m spending a lot of my time, these days) it can be seen as unprofessional and not the way a brand should project itself.

Instead, many prefer to adopt a tone they think sounds impressive or important. But when you’re writing copy for your own benefit, rather than the reader, you can be left with a convoluted soup of jargon and corporate speak (‘best of breed’ is a particular pet hate of mine) with all the personality of a fax machine.

Personally, I think whether you’re writing B2C or B2B, you’re still writing for people. When you remove the business suit and tie, you’re still left with people with everyday problems and challenges they need solved.

So shouldn’t you write in a way that’s easy to understand, easy to relate to and doesn’t cause the reader’s eyes to glaze over? Or adopt a serious tone to try and sound impressive? I know which side of the fence I stand on.

4 Comments. Leave new

Yes, I think pretty much all business writing should be more conversational. I once worked at a corporation and they would always scold me for using the word “you” in my writing, saying it was entirely unprofessional (i.e., “If you encounter a 404 error, please contact the system administrator.”) and they’d want me to write in this peculiar 3rd person abstractions (“if a 404 error is encountered…) . It drove me crazy. I didn’t enjoy writing it and I don’t think the recipients enjoyed reading it very much, either.

This is a common dilemma. The problem for the copywriter is.. do you stand firm and argue your point with a client? Or, do you bow down and write the copy in a stiff, corporate tone that you don’t think will work? In other words, is it more important to please your client or your reader?

Brett – There’s a lot to be said for making ‘micro copy’, in particular, more conversational. It makes your website more personable and lets you put a personal stamp on all your site’s little messages.

Ben – Generally I think the first priority is keeping the client happy (after all, they’ll be paying your invoice, rather than the readers), but I always like to offer my recommendations and explain why they should think about the reader rather than sounding important for their own benefit. I think a lot of execs have grown up with the stiff style, so to them that’s how B2B copy should sound. I think it’s going to be a long, hard battle pushing the conversational style, but I, for one, am going to keep trying.

Yes. It’s easy to read and I personally find it more engaging.

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