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This is part two of our exclusive interview with Asuthosh Nair and Santo Thie. In part one … we had them discuss their general take or overview on B2B marketing content. To say the least, it was quite a warm up indeed as the two, especially Asuthosh, technically dived into the topic like divers competing for Olympic gold.
This time ‘round we are getting a tad deeper as the two tackled tips for writing good B2B content, the recipes for success and also delved into the video aspect in B2B marketing. And so without further ado, part 2 starts now.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the video are the personal views of the interviewee and and do not necessarily represent the philosophy or viewpoints of their organization or clients.
Transcript of the Interview
Asuthosh is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of GetIT Comms while Santoso is the Project Manager (PMP) and Team Lead on AV Media. Both of them have superb technical grasp, insight and experience as well as having a great handle on the topic at hand which is B2B marketing content (specifically white papers, e-books and video).
Recipes for success
Asu: When it comes to white papers, the traditional concept of it is very long (around 20 to 30 pages) and goes into a lot of depth. Those are certainly key to a lot of B2B industries we are talking about because they do value the detailed technical information and research that goes into it. But unfortunately not everybody is able to commit their resources into that kind of approach.
It then pays to talk about what you know best. If you are selling to a customer and you are very much familiar with what you are selling to them then write about it. Write about the best practices that you have been putting into use. Talk about the kinds of common challenges that you and your customer tend to face and what are some of the easy and recommended ways of solving them.
In terms of writing style, obviously it pays to put a lot of effort into it. It’s important that it reads well, appears fairly polished and easily reference-able. In this day and age, don’t just look at producing a 20-30 PDF that hasn’t got any links at all. Litter it with links and references so people always have an online resource to go to. You must keep in mind to really have a very strong focus as well. You can talk about many things and definitely when you start writing it, your thoughts will spread like wildfire and you would go into all kinds of channels. So it helps to have a clear flow. In fact it helps to spend a couple of weeks on committing to a particular flow of content and then start writing to that instead of going into big thickets of information.
Some of the information can also be put into sidebars. They are like shortcuts wherein you might want to say more things but you don’t want to make them part of the main flow of the content. For example, you can use them to quote small case study bits or information which can help aid the overall understanding of what you are trying to say.
Definitely you’ve got to look into the design of it as well because if you just produce it into five A4 sheets of plain text then surely it won’t work. You’ve got to look into enhancing it with good graphics with readable fonts and lots of hyper linking to make it web friendly. Since we have produced white papers as well, you can take a look at the ones we did to get an idea of some of the things that we are trying to say regarding that.
Now onto e-books … I think David Meerman Scott once referred to them as “the stylish cousin of the white paper”. It’s mainly because they have a lot more leeway in terms of the writing style. I guess it’s just a kind of compartmentalisation because white paper people tend to associate it with a very formal and rigid kind of writing (which needn’t be the case obviously) and that’s also the general expectation of the audience. Whereas the e-book is generally a book in electronic format, so anything goes and they are willing to adapt to it. E-books in that sense are a little more conversational where you can talk to the audience practically. And you can have all the online enablement that you want with that. That’s something that distinguishes e-books from white papers. We don’t really consider it a real distinction though because when we look at our white papers you might think that it looks like an e-book.
The thing about all this content is that it’s also important to have a “live version” of it. It has to have a landing page or some sort of micro-site where the content you put in is linked so that people can go to it directly. And then always look at it in a way that the content you are producing is not only just for whitepapers or e-books. Look into creating content like blog posts for example. If you have 5 or 6 chapters in an e-book, as single chapter from that can probably spin off three or four blog posts. Some of the sidebars can spin off factoids for Twitter.
The content that we’ve mentioned can also be reformatted into newsletters. Part of the beauty of writing content for e-books and whitepapers is the flexibility you have with it. We don’t want to put any success mantras because it ultimately depends on what you have to say. If it really rocks then people are going to take to it and they are going to spread it for you even if you don’t ask them to. And of course make it share-able. Make sure there are plenty of widgets all around to help people share it instantly without having to type it and send it through their social networks.
Tips for writing good B2B content
Asu: The most important but often neglected thing is to give them a reason to read it. Be clear about what you want to write and be clear about why it should be read and why it should matter to the audience. Some of the key things is the fact that we like to write what we want to say but usually that’s not what people want to read about. Of course it might be the case sometimes but it won’t be the way you want to tell it to them. So you’ve got to really write to the audience. You ought to give them a reason to read it and listen.
The other thing is that you need to take a stand with what you are saying because if you are going to sit on the fence then people are not going to be sure what to make of your words and opinions. They’ll just look at it as a general reporting piece or something and you’ll become more of a reporter rather than writer. A writer tends to take a stand with what they say.
It’s also very important to have structure to your overall content. It has to be clearly structured not just in your mind but also on paper. You must have a clear heading, sub-heading, etc. and you should also have plenty of call-outs and so on because they really help in defining a clear structure to what you write.
Also remember that you are ultimately talking to humans. Although you might think that the whole bunch of suit wearing, technical data reading people do not feel like the way most people do, geeks are human too. They like to be spoken to rather than being lectured on. Adopt a very conversational style and use humour when appropriate. It can just be a throwaway line at the end of a paragraph or chapter but that can really help enhance the reading experience.
And of course I think the tone matters too. You must have a concrete and specific voice. Use “you” because it tends to work a lot due to the fact that people associate themselves easier with that. One of the biggest differences between a scientific research paper and B2B content (whitepaper, e-book, etc.) is that the former will talk in a very passive voice and would be very distant from the reader while the latter always tries to make themselves as close to the reader as possible as if they are speaking directly into the ear. Take for example a podcast. It’s seems as if somebody is having a conversation with your heart. That sort of intimacy helps.
I also think that confidence matter as well. If you write in a wishy-washy manner then that is going to speak through. Even if you are wrong, I think people will appreciate your confidence and honesty. If people say that you are wrong at least they have responded and that is always good rather than not having any response at all.
When it comes to writing style and all that, there are tons of resources online. There are great resources like whitepapersource. Michael Stelzner is like the “father of white papers”. If you go to the site I’m sure that you’ll see very solid tips on how to write and so on. So these are the general tips that we feel is important in enhancing the quality of your content.
Video for B2B
Santo: It’s simple because you like people talking to you. That’s one thing you know. Watching video is “real” in a way that it’s face to face. Even if it’s not really real-time, you do have somebody talking to you. And there are many things that you can show more in video rather than putting into writing. Sometimes it’s hard to describe something in writing and it’s much easier to show in moving pictures. It’s definitely easier to show rather than to tell. This is where video fares better. Another thing is when you have someone talking in a video. It’s not only the words that you pay attention to but also the body language. You have facial expressions and gestures which help you communicate better. If we look at it this way, then video can definitely communicate better.
Asu: I’d also like to add another thing which is sincerity. I mean the written word can just like be a tabloid where anyone can say anything which can be contorted in whatever way and can be taken out of context. But in video, sincerity shows. If you are listening to somebody talking about how your solution made their life better, it will definitely show in there. They can’t fake it if you are talking to a real customer, well unless they are really good actors but that’s a completely different point. Video brings out sincerity. This is to tie in with what has been said about body language and all that. And of course putting them in the context of their working environment will lead people to see a certain authenticity to what is being said.
Santo: And I just want to draw an illustration between written and video. A video case study versus a whitepaper is the same as a movie versus a novel. In videos, you can direct people to be more focused on where you want to bring them. When you read something on the other hand, different people can always have different interpretations on what is written. They can view different pictures in their mind as opposed to video where it is clear that everyone has the same mental image. So yes, it’s more focused. And of course you can cover more in video in a short period of time.
Stay tuned as the last part (Part 3) follows next week.