Why B2B Marketers Should Shift to a Conversational Voice and How To Do It

Michael Brenner on Oct 15, 2018 in Content Marketing

One of the biggest mistakes that B2B marketers make is thinking they sell to an entity rather than a person. B2B is certainly a different audience than B2C, but in the end, it’s people who make the decisions to buy your product or service. And people want to know that your brand is human and authentic. It absolutely matters, especially if you’re investing in content marketing, which is the majority as 91 percent of B2B marketers used content marketing in 2017; however, that doesn’t mean it was effective.

Voice and Content Marketing

In content marketing, the foundational concepts are about creating content that is relevant and interesting. You’ll find that creating such content requires a shift in voice. It’s time to ditch the formality of your content and embrace a conversational tone. It could completely change the way that prospects look at your brand, creating higher engagement and conversions.

Your voice and tone also need to be part of your content marketing strategy, which should be documented. Currently, only about 25 percent of B2B marketers have a documented content marketing plan, which means there probably isn’t a voice and tone style guide either.

What are Voice and Tone?

Voice is not what you say, it’s how you say it. This includes word choice, syntax and all the elements of language. Voice is your brand’s personality, so if your voice is overly formal and filled with jargon, that’s how your audience will see you, which could be hampering your growth.

There are times when voice will shift, which is the tone. Tone depends on the format and audience. It makes more sense for a whitepaper to be data-heavy and a tweet to be short and lively. Voice is consistent; tone can change but should always be in concert with the overall picture.

How to Create a B2B Voice That Resonates

Developing your voice and tone isn’t rocket science. It should be rooted in the company’s value proposition. Your brand’s voice should stay true to the value proposition by first determining three attributes that describe it. Each attribute then gets fleshed out. Then the questions to ask are: what does it mean to have the attribute? And how does that impact word choice and syntax?

For example, if an attribute is friendly, how does this impact how sentences flow and what type of modifiers express it? Use sample sentences in the voice and tone guide so that the attribute has some context. In this section, you should also create lists of words to use or avoid. In the end, each characteristic of the brand should be in harmony with its value proposition and be relatable to its audience.

Simplification of Language Is a Good Thing

Many times, B2B companies think that simplifying their language “dumbs down” the content. In actuality, being overly verbose is a good way to get ignored. When the language used is simple and easily understood, you are much more likely to connect with an audience because this content is the beginning of a conversation. Sounding human is the best way to start that conversation.

Simple doesn’t mean that your copy isn’t compelling. Rather, it’s a shift in strategy to relate to your target audience. When you have that almost intimate connection with buyers, it will impact their decisions. Simplicity often equates to being clear and concise.

There is no need for an abundance of modifiers. Whatever is written, no matter what the format or channel, needs to follow the rules of simplicity. When you take out all the fluff, this is the heart of the story you want to tell.

This approach matters whatever the industry. Typically, in technology fields, there is a tendency to sound overly formal. The rationale is that the audience is highly intelligent and sophisticated. They are, but that doesn’t mean you should be writing something for academia.

This type of content could even seem condescending. To remove the formality, consider using simpler terms that mean the same thing and cutting out adverbs. Instead of excessive adverbs, use stronger verbs.

Also, it’s a good idea to look at the length of sentences. When you have sentences at or exceeding 25 words, this can be a problem. Consider if you were reading the sentence aloud—wouldn’t that literally take your breath away? Shorter sentences with length variation creates a natural rhythm, which makes them easier to read.

Readability Matters

You may or may not have heard of readability. This is another part of your voice and tone; it means how syntax, word choice, and sentence length are working together to make content easy to read. You may have some decidedly important points to make, and those may be complex, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider readability.

If a sentence is long and winding, no one’s going to make it to the next paragraph. One great way to test the readability of your content is to use the Hemingway App. It’s a great tool that gives your content a grade and points out different aspects like adverb usage, passive voice, simpler alternatives, and if sentences are hard or very hard to read. You can then make edits based on the feedback.

What About Jargon?

Many industries have associated jargon. But does it add value? When should you use it?

A good rule of thumb is to use jargon only if it’s how your audience speaks. For example, a product may have a formal name, but if that’s not how your audience talks about it, then why use it? Maybe it’s more of an internal reference. The bottom line is that unless the jargon represents what a buyer would call the product or use in a search term, then you should toss it.

B2B voice and tone are certainly evolving. There have been many shifts in the discipline, most to a more conversational voice, which changes a brand in a positive way. Having a consistent, relatable voice will make all the difference as you begin this conversation. And from there, the conversation only becomes more intimate, turning interest into conversion and delivering greater content marketing ROI.

To begin your voice transition or development, rely on the experts at Marketing Insider Group. Start now by getting in touch.

Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner
Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.