Limited Time Only–Free Elevator or Landing Page Content–While Supplies Last Only

Here’s something for nothing. Perfectly suitable for landing pages, elevator speeches, or a wealth of other important message elements.

YOUR NAME HERE delivers industry-leading YOUR CATEGORY HERE lifecycle solutions, aligned with your critical business needs, that drive down costs, satisfy customers and improve the bottom line.

Now, how easy was that?

All right. It’s a trick. If that sounded at all good to you, like something you could work with, think again.

I see this kind of one-size-fits-all content all the time–and I look at more product content then any ten men alive. Absolutely meaningless content. Content that tells me absolutely nothing about what the company does. Content that, put in with all the other simliar content from all the competitors, makes the product exactly one more brown cow in the brown cow herd.

I remember when I learned the technical term for this.

I was running marketing for a company. We were in a meeting about brochures or something. One of the attendees was a founder and the CFO. Dick’s background was Sales. We were dealing (as I recall) with some feature or function that we wanted to promote that wasn’t ready yet, nor even fully defined.

I was going on about what we could say, and Dick finally said “So, we’ll just throw in some more Generic Marketing Bullshit?”

The answer of course was yes.

GMB is an ugly thing. It does nothing to communicate with B2B tech markets. It does nothing to inform. It does nothing to move a selling cycle into gear. It’s just wasted words.

The cause of GMB is fear. Fear that if we don’t dress up our product in fancy fluff-and-feathers messages, our markets won’t be compelled, or magnetized, or excited, or whatever superlatives and fluff are supposed to make them be.

But here’s the thing. You really can talk about what you do. It’s all the market wants to hear about. Don’t be afraid to tell them what you make. Don’t be afraid to talk features. Go ahead. Talk turkey with your tech markets.

Free range turkey, that is: without any added fillers or GMB.

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The Value of Copywriters

The value we bring as professional copywriters isn’t that we write well. A lot of people write well. Many of the Marketing executives I deal with came up through the copywriting ranks. I’m very good. Some of them are very good.

The value we bring is not about writing. The value we bring is:

  1. We learn the topic/product on our own.
  2. We listen well, take notes, understand the key points.
  3. We don’t need a lot of handholding, asking question after question–we know how to research
  4. We understand the market/audience–we know how to talk to experts.
  5. We make smart decisions on our own–we know how to solve issues of structure and theme without help.
  6. We hit our deadlines. Every time.
  7. We write drafts that don’t need a lot of revisions–we get it right the first time.

Once we get all that down, the writing is the easy part.

Eschew the “New”

Hey old timers. Remember when the coolest thing you could put on your web site was some pea-green, football-shaped, spinning animated GIF with the word NEW written on it?

Many B2B vendors, especially in the tech world, are still at it.

They love to promote their latest releases, and their latest functionality. So when they update their data sheets or their web pages, the word “new” appears often.

“New! Full support for mobile integration!”

They’re proud of what they’ve built and they want to share it with everyone.

Not a good idea.

First of all, when does a new feature become a standard feature? Many sites are still promoting “new” features that are in fact many months old. Just one more thing to maintain.

Second, why expose where you are on the innovation curve, compared to your competitors. If your Report Dashboard is new, why advertise it, since Acme may have had one for years?

Most importantly, the only people that care whether your features are new are existing customers you’re trying to upgrade. For new customers, the age of the feature is completely meaningless.

The Best Tip You’ll Ever Get on Creating B2B Headlines

You can’t swing a mouse online without hitting foolproof tips for writing headlines–compelling, effective, magnetic, sure-fire–all kinds of headlines. All the same advice, and not all of it applicable to B2B copy.

Here’s a better way

Copy the trade magazines.

Headlines attract readers and readers attract revenue. Editorial boards spend money answering the big Headline questions. Their magazines are where the research exposes itself. Analyze them. When do they use rational verbs and when comparatives? How many ask a question? How many puns? When are they dull?

That forms a real basis for both the structure and creativity of your headlines.

A Few Research Tips

Some quick and basic tips to make research easier and more successful.

Naturally, search first for the product category–like “Enterprise Content Management.” That will get you to the Wikipedias and other general information sites.

For a deeper, more detailed, dive grab some particularly beefy phrase and search on it. I’ll use content from Oracle’s Enterprise Content Management pages. Here’s what I pulled:

Provides complete management of document images within transactional business processes, including content management and business process management.

The first thing you’ll notice in the search results is that Oracle’s content is listed first–no surprise there. Get rid of the Oracle stuff by adding

-oracle

to the search string.

To find statistics and analyst opinion, add this to the search.

+”according to” percent

If you want to find academic papers on your topic add this to the search:

site:.edu

If you want to find what associations and organizations have to say, add this to the search

site:.org

If you want to get a feel for what ECM users think and say, use this string

ecm forum

An End to Generic Benefits in B2B

Recently, I copied a client’s existing benefits bullets from its web site, and scrambled them up with its competitors’ benefits, and made one long, alphabetized list. The client couldn’t identify which benefits came from its own content and which was the competitive stuff. It all looked the same.

If you’ve read my articles on Benefits vs Features in the B2B world (here’s one) you know my bias against the generic benefits blather many (most?) B2B companies spill. The notion that our markets need to be told about the benefits of a product category is fundamentally flawed.

B2B markets buy the way the average consumer buys a car. It’s a major investment. Few of us get up in the morning and on the way to the golf course decide we’ll stop to pick up a little Maybach. We think about it long and hard.

When we go the dealerships, we already know what a car does. We’d be stunned if the salesperson started to talk about how it gets us from here to there faster than walking, or that it goes forward and backward, or that it can play music while you drive. We know all that. What we want to know is:

1. Why is this Ford better than that Honda?

2. Why is this dealership better than Across the Street Motors?

The first of those is a features question, pure and simple. From gas mileage to seat warmers to autopark: a features game all the way.

The second is the benefits issue. Not the benefits of the car, but the benefits of the business. Their services. Their warranties. Their personality. Benefits statements specific to that company, not generic to that car.

This is how B2B operates. When someone shows interest in a B2B product, they know what it does and why it has value. That’s why they’re talking to you. They want to know why your product is better than someone else’s (the features) and why your company is a better one to do business with (the benefits).

Take a look at your own benefits statements.

Are you telling your marketplace that your cars go forward and backward?

Look It Up

Long long ago, I was preparing for my English Master’s exams. I was to be tested on every major era of English/American literature (Renaissance, Romantics and so on). I had a problem: I had never studied the Victorians (and one of the major texts for the essays was by Matthew Arnold). I knew they were out there. But I knew zilch about them. I was in a quandary.

What did I do?

I was a Teaching Assistant: a sort of/kind of/junior member of the Faculty. So I went to see Bob Chianese, who taught Victorian Studies (and whose classes, therefore, I had never taken). I sat in his office and explained my plight, and asked if we could discuss the Victorians for an hour or so.

He listened. And then he said:

“So. You want me to tell you during my office hour everything I’ve learned in 20 years of studying Victorian literature?”

I left his office chastised, chastened and just as clueless as when I entered.

But he made sense didn’t he? After all, all I really had to do was read some Victorian writers and a little bit of background.

That mixture of outrage and bemusement is what a copywriter’s clients feel when they’re asked to tell the writer everything he needs to know in order to write something compelling and convincing and powerful and so on. When the writer sits in front of them with eager eyes and a blank piece of paper, waiting to learn who, what, where, when, why, how, in what order, in what color, to solve what problem. And so on.

Some copywriters even ask their clients to fill out questionnaires—I should have tried that with Dr. Chianese:

Bob, I’ve got a date, but if you’d just fill out this form I titled “everything Mike needs to know about the Victorians to get his Masters,” I’ll do a great job.

Our job as professional copywriters is to relieve the client from the burden of teaching us. Part of our job is to learn on our own what we need to know: not to come to the client asking for a free ride to knowledge. It’s to study, to research, to do the hard work of figuring out something that’s sometimes completely new to us. When you encounter a term, an acronym, a concept that you don’t understand, don’t make a note to ask the client. Look it up. And when you don’t understand something about what you find when you do look it up, look that up too.

That’s one of the things that separate Wordsmiths from Professional Writers.