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August 26, 2009

Keeping the Humanity in B2B

A little part of me dies every time a client reads some copy and responds with this critique:

"It needs to sound more businesslike."

In my experience, what that usually means is that they're looking something impersonal, clinical and flat. With a lot more jargon and a lot less personality. A simple missive from one machine to another.

It's unfortunate that so many people consider this approach SOP for B2B communications. What they're forgetting is that businesses, no matter how big, how corporate, how technical in nature, are run by people. And people respond to emotion, depth and sincerity, whether they are reading a novel or the employee newsletter. That said, here are few simple ways to keep the humanity in B2B:  

1. Let the purpose dictate the tone.
If you're writing an instructions manual, then by all means, be concise, technical and straightforward as possible. But if you're introducing a new initiative to your employees, or a new product to the market, or your new services to a prospective client---if you're doing anything that you want people to get on board with and get excited about, make your language convey that excitement.

2. Don't be afraid to address the reader directly.
When did "you" become a four letter word? Remember, no matter what the purpose of your piece, your reader is still a person. You can be personal without being unprofessional. In fact, it's often a great way to capture the reader's attention and make a real connection. 

3. Do be afraid - very afraid - of jargon overload.
Some people think jargon makes you sound really, really smart. The irony is that all the really, really smart people can see right through it. If you're substituting buzzwords and overcomplicated biz-speak for real substance and value, the only people who will buy it are the ones you probably don't want to do business with anyway.


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