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Stop writing boring B2B case studies! 6 questions to ask and answer honestly – before you pick up a biro

Imagine meeting someone who just told slightly different versions of the same story over and over againit would get very boring very quickly! And yet every day, identikit case studies are boring B2B buyers to tears on supplier websites in sectors like technology, engineering, and construction.

The case study is an outstanding marketing tool when used wisely and sparingly. So, before you plop down the four headings Client/Challenge/Work/Results on a brand new page, be honest with yourself.

Is this a story worth telling?

Knowing for sure if your work has made a big difference to a project or client is never easy. Because you were smack-bang in the middle of it all, it might well have felt transformative. And maybe it was. Whether it’s a niche job for a big name or a game-changing solution for an ambitious company, it must be a story worth telling. There’s a big difference between a story you want to tell and one that your reader wants to hear.

Is the story relatable to our primary decision-maker – will they care?

The story cannot just be about you and your solution. It has to be relatable.  Your readers must identify themselves in the story.  You want them to be thinking ‘That’s me – I had that problem or I know I will have that problem again real soon’. The hero in the case study story is not you – it’s your customer for choosing you. The challenge they are presented with needs to be common enough to strike a chord, but still require a high degree of expertise/creativity/technical excellence to solve it.

What do we want our reader to think right after they’ve finished reading it?

In a nutshell, you want them scrambling for their phone, hastily printing off, or sending the story to their boss for a second opinion. Your main messages must be coming through loud-and-clear. For example, if your target audience value specifics like say design, service, or installation, they must be absolutely convinced that your firm fits the bill, in those terms.

Most of the time, case studies are selling a ‘safe pair of hands’ and a ‘solid track record’, but this does not have to be boring. Think of your buyer pitching your services or solution to their boss. Now imagine how they can sell you if you give them something to shout about. Case studies are a guarantee that you have been there before. Your company has already faced this challenge head-on – and delivered the goods.

Were the results that good – and are they measurable?

At the time, you were really happy with the project. And so was the client. But if there’s a chance that a competitor has done a similar job to you when faced with a similar challenge, then you might not sound so special after all. That might seem harsh but B2B content just has to stand out. And the best way to stand out is to talk about outstanding results.

At the very least, your results must say something about you and your solution or service. And they must be measurable and digestible. Numbers and metrics work best because they mean one thing – proof. They are proof that you have delivered working solutions – and demonstrate in clear and practical terms  how much better off your client now is, thanks to you.

Is this our best work – or the best example of what we stand for?

This is a tough question. And this is where we talk about vanity vs. practicality. The project you want to write up into a case study might well have been for a big client and you might have been paid a heap of money. But, does this story demonstrate your expertise, or showcase your point of differentiation?

The easiest way to answer this one is to ask around. Chat to your senior management team and find out if they feel this project was a great example of what you do best. If you are going to write this case study, the answer had better be a resounding and deafening ‘yes!’.

How much can we talk about?

For SMEs in particular, a little touch of paranoia and caution is understandable. It’s natural to be worried about providing too much detail. On the other hand, if you want to tell a good story and then realise that while the beginning and the end is great, the middle is a bit woolly – then you have a problem.

At best, you might sound overly secretive and at worst, you’ll come across as a complete spoofer, leaving out crucial details. This is particularly the case in technology, construction, and engineering where very precise solutions are often devised on a project-by- project basis.

The world is full of boring case studies. And this doesn’t have to be the case at all! Before you pick up a pen, grab 15 minutes to answer these questions honestly and make sure you’re not adding to the pile

*photo from Marcus Aurelius on Pexels…

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How Builders and Construction Suppliers Can Let Their Web Content do The Work

For many years now, I’ve written for everybody in the construction sector from contractors through to specialist engineers and geotechnical experts. And if you’re selling to construction buyers, there’s a few things that you must take into account when writing copy and content for your website.

In an industry that is well known for being understated, it’s never a good idea to take the hard-sell approach. Alienating or irritating a prospect through an overly enthusiastic or tone-deaf sales pitch could prove disastrous, given the size of the average project value. These days, construction buyers will do their initial research online and it’s crucial the words on your website will do enough to get on their long-list, or better still, short-list.


Five things you just have to do when writing web content for construction buyers

  • Just say it straight. Engineers, architects, builders, and specifiers have a finely-tuned nonsense radar. Your audience are creative, professional men and women who solve complex problems on-site and off, every day. They want certainty, experience, and expertise. No high-falutin’ promises. No hyperbolic, blowhard nonsense.  Take it easy with the flowery language and long sentences –  because it won’t get you anywhere.
  • Just use the right amount of jargon. While they might hate nonsense, they don’t mind a little jargon here and there. And that’s because the use of jargon and acronyms is often a quicker, more efficient way of saying something – as long as everyone knows what you’re talking about. For B2B audiences, you should never eliminate all jargon, but be careful about what you keep. For example, in passive-house construction, everyone knows what ICF means. As a general rule, if there’s a quicker way to say something that everyone will still understand, say it that way.
  • Just tell your success stories using case studies on your site. Prospective construction clients want to see a proven track record above almost everything else.  By creating a 2oo-300 word case study, you will guide your reader through a typical successful project, mentioning what the main problems were and how you overcome them. In one fell swoop, you get to demonstrate experience, track record, expertise, technical ability, and customer satisfaction – and do it all in the right context.
  • Just play to your strengths. Some aspects of construction are very challenging and require very specific skillsets. Let’s assume you regularly build or refurbish commercial premises in city-centre locations. Making sure your clients can continue doing business-as-usual requires an ability to handle everything from traffic management and access to complex project management, and much more. Or, let’s say you only build homes that meet the highest standard in energy efficiency. These are all key competitive advantages that you need to communicate through your web content.
  • Just make sure you do yourself justice. Every builder demonstrates a certain level of technical excellence on every project, but they’re often not very good at communicating these points. From Health & Safety protocols to equipment standards or required methodologies, you must present your firm as a fully professional construction partner. You need to identify what issues are of particular concern to your audience and weave them naturally throughout your web content.

Above all, you need to take a walk in your prospective buyer’s shoes. Imagine the pressure they are under to get this big decision right. If they choose the wrong contractor or supplier, that will be a costly error for everyone involved. Use words to persuade and convince them that your company has what it takes to deliver a successful project.

And if you need any help writing these words, feel free to get in touch

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What your industrial B2B copywriter needs to know about the real industrial buying decision-making process – in one short story

Industrial B2B copywriters like me have always bought into the whole power-of-storytelling thing because most industrial buying decisions fall neatly into the three bits that make up pretty much every story.

 

So, if you sell or supply anything like enterprise software, industrial components, commercial machinery, or similar large-scale investments, the following tale is going to sound familiar. And in order to sell your products or services into these hectic B2B environments, your copywriter will need to know this story too.

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What your B2B technology buyer is really thinking when they’re reading your marketing content and collateral…

By addressing the emotional concerns of your prospective B2B tech buyer, and not just the technical considerations of the project, you’ll engage the person behind the title. For too long, many marketers have pictured your typical IT buyer as a human spreadsheet, ticking boxes and clarifying administrative and budgetary needs.

When developing your marketing materials, remember that technology buyers are people too and if you listen closely enough, you’ll hear their emotional concerns loud and clear…

“I’ve heard that one before” – if you sell B2B technology, you’ll know that everybody wants a piece of the IT or engineering decision-maker. Possibly the most marketed-to professionals in any industry, these guys and girls are promised the sun, moon and stars from people like you every day of the week and as a result, they‘re sceptical about the ability of any solution to deliver on its promises. You can counter this concern by presenting real evidence where possible through research reports and testimonials.

 “I still have to work here you know” – in work, we all want to do the best job we can and how our peers and colleagues see us is very important. Your prospective customer will consider how your solution will impact on their daily working life and they wonder about how it will affect their image and position in the company. IBM have built their marketing message on this very idea thanks to that famous 1970’s cliché – ‘nobody ever got fired for buying IBM’. Recognise this and address it through your content and collateral using, for example, a detailed, role-based case study or success story.

“I’m not sure it’s worth the risk” –when it comes to complex, expensive products and services, risk is intensified.  You should also bear in mind that if there is a high level of technical support or implementation required, your prospect might already have an existing relationship with their current service provider.  And there may be a feeling that whatever benefits your solution offers, the relationship with the existing supplier may be valuable and not worth losing. Your collateral must show you understand any risk and detail how you can reduce it or better still, eliminate it.

 “I just don’t get it” – just because you understand your product suite intimately, that may not be the case for the buyer. When preparing product and service information, consider what might already be preconceptions, and seek to clarify misunderstandings where possible. Be prepared to use diagrams, tables or videos to help communicate complex aspects of your solution.

“Change?… Me?” – sudden change can be scary and when it comes to selling software or hardware that can have a major impact on an existing network or technology infrastructure, it can make buyers very reluctant to fully engage with your marketing materials. If they have already invested in hardware, software, and training for their existing solution, why would they get rid of all that to use your product or service? You need to convince them that this change is certainly worth it and you can do this by showing empathy and that you understand the nature of any specific changes, addressing them as required.

Humanise your marketing content because your B2B tech buyer relies not only on their research and technical knowledge, they listen to their gut too.

And for help in developing those materials, I’ve been writing B2B technology copy for more than 15 years and can give you the expertise you need – email diarmuid(at) oconnellcopy.om now, I’d be delighted to hear from you.

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B2B focus: It takes two – why sales and marketing folk must work together to create content that gets results…and how they should do it

Who doesn’t enjoy the passive-aggressive banter between sales and marketing people, often about content development and who does what? You’ll be glad to know I have a great suggestion to unite them.

The next time you see sales and marketing folk together at a water cooler/printer/canteen, just take them aside and calmly tell them  in an agony-aunt manner that in order to create great content they must work together and that this is how you should do it. They will instantly come together in their overwhelming hatred of you – job done! Easy!

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If you’re an SME B2B technology company, define what you want your website to do and build your content around that

Understanding your website communications goals has never been more important for the tech-sector SME. In broad terms, a technology B2B website aims to do one or more, of three things. Identify what you want to do and develop a content strategy that will help you realise your goals.

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Selling B2B? – You’ll need a b2b copywriter that understands the difference between writing for consumer and business audiences

On their journey from consumer to professional buyer, people change – a lot!

As a consumer buying just for yourself, you’re probably at your most vulnerable to emotion and impulse buying. And when buying for your family and friends, you tend to be less impulsive and a bit more cautious.  But when you go to work and are tasked with buying something as a professional buyer for your business or organisation – you turn into a completely different person.

If you’re selling b2b (business to business) and creating content to connect with decision-makers in any industry, an experienced b2b copywriter knows that there is a big difference between writing for consumers and business buyers.

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Marketing events and seminars – just get out and about

Ever seen the film ‘Rear Window’? James Stewart plays a house-bound hero in what some call one of Hitchcock’s greatest works. I also sit beside a window most days and can identify just a little with Stewart’s character. And if you work for yourself and find that you’re keeping clients on the phone a little longer than usual or that you look forward to the small talk at the local café every day, perhaps it’s time you got out and about too. But where do you go?

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Are you juicing your web content? – The grey area between black and white hat SEO copywriting

A bit like professional cycling, doping was once endemic in SEO web content and copywriting. The demise of keyword stuffing and a crackdown on high levels of keyword density in the last 18 months has levelled the playing field and those trying to do the right thing are now getting the rewards for their efforts. Ok – stuffing your content with keywords and stuffing your veins with EPO is not exactly the same thing (c’mon, I’m looking for a hook here)…but still….if you’re juicing, you’re losing.

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Copywriting for print

Fundraising copywriting – the one, single thing you must do in your fundraising communications

Yesterday morning a fundraising letter fell lightly through my post-box complete with a dusting of rapidly-melting snow.  I opened the letter and waited for the first paragraph which would tell me what the problem was and how I could help. After reading that first paragraph, I was a little shocked….