Writing for your online B2B audience

Posted by Mark Wellings | 20-08-14


Clients in B2B markets easily grow tired of receiving digital content. A lot of it says much the same thing and is very long-winded.

So how can you make your digital content different? 

To grab their attention you need to act fast. Get to the point and make your articles as accessible (and pleasing to the eye) as possible. To help readers find what they need quickly and absorb it effortlessly, use:

  • short sentences
  • sub-headed sections
  • simple vocabulary

What the user wants matters most

Clients won't usually read your content unless they want information. So when writing for them online, start with the same question every time: what does the reader want to know?

Meeting that need means being:

  • specific
  • informative
  • clear and to the point

Really know your audience

Your online readership is often less select and exclusive than those reading hard-copy.

Some of your online readers might not be so engaged with your subject matter on an everyday basis. Others would have found your digital content through Google or other search engines. Think of your different readerships in concentric circles: your digital readership is probably broader than your print readership.

This could mean they’ll be:

  • Less engaged and less familiar with you and your subject matter
  • More impatient and expect to get what they want almost at once

Don't just follow the crowd

Heard about how more people are reading content on smartphones? You’ve seen them on the train and bus, right? But what percentage of your target audience are using these devices? And are you ready to create regular bespoke content for digital channels rather than just replicate print material?  

By following the latest trends you might not actually be serving your readers as well as you think. Nobody should know your readers better than you, so really think about what they do and want, not what fads suggest they do and want.

Speak their language

Use the same vocabulary, phrases and industry references that clients often use, but steer clear of excessive jargon. This makes them feel that the content provider understands their specific circumstances and challenges.

For example, in the recession many clients bemoaned reductions in resources and an inability to influence the board. Slipping such issues into your text helps to show you understand them, their needs and their business.

How people read online

Online readers don’t start at the top and read all the way down – they have roving eyes.

People tend to read a web page in an 'F'-shape pattern, according to various web-user studies. They look across the top, down the side, then read further across when they find what they need. So put the most important information at the start of titles, sub-headings and bullet points.

Make sure your bullet points are all in the same tense and verb form, with any common information in the preceding sentence. Consistency is comforting and helps comprehension. Inconsistency does the opposite.

Good example:

At our latest workshop you can learn about:

  • International arbitration
  • Reputational risks
  • IT outages’ impact on supply chains

Bad example:

At our latest workshop:

  • You can learn about international arbitration
  • You can learn about reputational risks
  • You can learn about IT outages’ impact on supply chains

Keep it simple

Short and common words are easier to recognise and understand. Clients might typically be intelligent and well-educated, but that doesn't mean the text needs to be an intellectual challenge.

When you use longer words (9 or 10 letters), users are more likely to skip shorter words that follow – words of 2 or 3 letters. The more complicated words you use, the more words your readers will skip.

Look at this sentence: “The recently made revisions to the International Association of Insurance Supervisors’ insurance core principles will not be applied before 1 January 2015.” It’s just an example, but you can imagine people missing that ‘not’. This is a big deal.

How about:

“Do not use the IAIS’s new standards before 1 January 2015.”

Less really can be more

Your digital content should be tailor-made to the needs and habits of your digital readers. Don’t make it a dumping ground for whatever material you can get your hands on. Over time it will resemble an overgrown garden. Remove old, superseded content, and publish only what the user needs to know so they can complete their task. Nothing more.

Mark Wellings

Written by Mark Wellings

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