How to be a better B2B writer, in 50 copywriting tips

Is this the definitive guide to B2B copywriting? We couldn’t possibly comment. But we can promise you 50 practical writing tips in a single blog post…

50 copywriting tips header

Writing for B2B brands is a tough job.

Understanding your audience. Finding the angle you need to make your copy compelling. Getting through that awkward first draft. It’s complicated and often daunting.

With that in mind, I’ve pulled together all 50 of the copywriting tips that we recently shared in the 50th episode of Good Copy, Bad Copy: The B2B Copywriting Podcast (if you’d rather listen than read, you’ll find it here).

Some tips are from our writing team here at Radix; others were contributed by such B2B and writing heavyweights as Carlos Hidalgo, Maureen Blandford, and that screenwriter from Green Wing.

Strap in, and jack into the Matrix. You’re about to learn copywriting kung-fu.

50 copywriting tips that will make you a better writer

50: Burn your schoolbooks.

“Forget what your English teacher told you. Starting a sentence with ‘and’ or ‘but’ is not only totally allowed, it’s actually preferable in many cases.

“Starting with a conjunction helps keep your sentences short, makes your writing punchy, and it’s a great way to catch your reader’s eye when deployed at critical points in your argument.”

George Reith: 7 pro copywriting secrets that can improve your writing – fast

49: Make it real.

“When you’re writing about something everyone else is writing about, you can still make it fresh and relevant for your audience by using stories, quotes and anecdotes that other writers haven’t used. Bringing your copy to life with real people’s thoughts and experiences makes it more enjoyable to read. Showing other people in the same situation as your reader can create a bond of empathy.”

Emily King: “Everyone’s talking about it”: 5 ways to put your own spin on industry topics 

48: Feelings first, jargon later.

“Technical talk is all well and good, but it needs to be saved for when you’ve already generated interest. Talking about how many gigawatts your flux-capacitor needs to operate is only interesting to an audience if their entire future is at stake.”

John Kerrison: Everything that’s wrong with your web copy—and how to fix it

47: It’s the magic number. (Yes it is.)

“Threes rule in writing. Beginning, middle and end. Stop, look and listen. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Use threes to hammer home your point.”

Emily King: Five easy ways to improve your B2B copywriting

46: Skeleton? Key.

“Produce skeleton drafts. A skeleton draft is essentially an outline of how you intend to structure the copy. They’re really good for ensuring that the overall idea is in keeping with what the client had in mind. And they can be a good way of reducing the number of revisions needed after the first draft as well.”

Jamie Thomson: Copywriter, Brand New Copy

45: Chill.

“Never start a piece of copy stressed or anxious. Go get some fresh air, have a wee, and get yourself a cuppa – it doesn’t matter what order. A mind under unnecessary stress doesn’t tend to enable great copy.”

Ben Philpott: Copywriter, Radix Communications

44: Comedy? It’s no laughing matter.

“Remember that humour often doesn’t translate across cultures and languages.”

Fiona Campbell-Howes, Managing Director, Radix Communications

43: Ebooks are easy.

“To write a good ebook you need to be relevant, direct and human. Make an emotional appeal. Give the designer lots to play with. Promise value, and deliver.”

David McGuire, Creative Director, Radix Communications

42: Maria von Trapp knew NOTHING.

“Having trouble getting your words out to begin with? Then don’t start at the beginning when you’re writing long form content.”

Emily King: Five easy ways to improve your B2B copywriting

41: A picture of you.

“Build a picture of your ideal reader. That’s what I call a pen portrait, but others call it a buyer persona or a customer avatar. And I think none of the so-called rules of copywriting are of any real worth, unless they lead to text that resonates with the intended audience. Forget about the rules, forget about you, and think about them – it’s all about them, really.”

 John Espirian, Freelance Technical Copywriter

40: Who needs trees anyway?

“It might not save trees, but printing your writing out to edit can be far more effective than looking at it on a screen. You know, to help you catch errors, poorly phrased bits, and stuff like that.”

Emily King, Content Marketing Manager, Radix Communications

39: Act up.

“Writing a video script? Your marketing video, like any story, should have a strong narrative. And for the most part that will be a condensed version of the three-act structure you’ll find in films, novels and plays.”

John Kerrison: Lessons from the silver screen: a Hollywood guide to B2B video writing

38: Stick to the subject.

“[When writing marketing emails, be] prepared to spend as much time (or more) writing subject lines as the email itself.”

 Shelly Lucas, B2B Content Marketing Consultant

37: Switch chairs.

“There’s a [neuro-linguistic programming] technique that I sometimes use. It involves taking yourself to the situation, and watching another person – which is you – speak to that other person. Move around between the three chairs, picturing how it feels to be the person that’s being talked to, and be the person actually saying it.

“Put yourself in the place of the brand, and in the place of the customer. Really think about how you can convey this message, and sell the benefits, and captivate them in an emotive way.”

 Lyssa-Fêe Crump, Catalyst of Disruptive Innovation, Headforwards

Put yourself in your audience's place.

36: Back it up.

“Be specific and back-up your claims in your content. A B2B audience is quite different than B2C in many cases, and often they require more convincing about what you’re saying. Make sure you do this early on in your content, using real statistics and figures from reputable sources. Say where the sources are, and use practical and easy to understand examples where possible, to make things that little bit easier to digest.

“Once people buy in to you, they’ll engage with your content.”

 Amy Walker, Senior Account Manager, Modern

35: ABM? Raise your game.

“Keep in mind when you’re writing for ABM: Your reader knows their stuff, so if you can’t convince them in your copy that you’re an expert in whatever area you’re writing about, it’ll get ignored. Do your research; interview experts, account managers and sales reps – these are the people on the ground with the intimate knowledge of these accounts, make sure you use them.”

Nick Prescott: How to nail ABM copywriting: 3 things we learned at InTech

34: Let’s make this plain…

“Plain English isn’t a less sophisticated way of writing: it’s a clearer way of writing. Use it.”

Emily King: Five easy ways to improve your B2B copywriting

33: Make a good impression.

“My tip might help if you’re struggling to find the right voice for a business or brand. Find a commentator, writer, or celebrity, who feels like a close fit for tone and style – and simply type out their words. It really helps etch their voice in your head. Language, rhythm, vocabularies, sentence construction – all of that.

“This approach also works for brands where the guidelines are complete bollocks. Just find a few decent examples from any existing material (their website, or some emails maybe), and start typing.

“If tone and voice is a pair of shoes, this approach lets you take them off the rack, put them on and stroll around in them, rather than guess what they’re like to wear from afar.”

Matt Turner, Owner, Writers Ltd

32: Break it up.

“Even a wall-to-wall text block is read with the eyes: it is visual content. That’s why subheads and dashes and stuff are so important.”

David McGuire, Creative Director, Radix Communications

31: Just one thing.

“When you write, make just one point. Make one argument throughout your communication. A spine that runs from start to finish.

“Establish this key dynamic before you start, and craft everything you write in-line with it. Any message that doesn’t align? Lose it. If it’s not contributing to the main point, then it’s getting in the way. Just send one message.”

 Jeremy Renals, The Oxford Word Barber

30: Make it scannable.

“For most things that you write, you want to be writing three ways. You want to give a version that makes sense if somebody just glances down the page. A version that makes sense if somebody scans, and does a sort of twenty second read. And the version that makes sense if they read in full. All those things need to be happening at once.

“The way to do that is to make sure that all your headings, all your subheads, and callout boxes – wherever they look, they summarise the content that’s around them. Rather than just describing it. So don’t say ‘features’, make your subhead say what the feature mean.”

David McGuire, Creative Director, Radix Communications

29: Do as I say, not as I do…

“Use semi-colons in your copy.

“The semicolon grants you the power of nuanced expression. It lets you keep two ideas separate, while signalling that a strong link exists between the two.

“It also grants you the power of overt erudition – which, if you’re writing for the scholarly brand, might be exactly what you want.”

Kieran Haynes: In defence of the semicolon – probably B2B’s least favourite punctuation mark

28: We loved Orange Juice too.

“Just remember: you’re never writing for yourself, or the brand that’s paying you. You’re writing for the reader. A living, breathing, human being. If you think what you’ve written is distinctly boring and average, they sure as hell will. So rip it up and start again.”

 Paul Hewerdine, Partner & Planning Director, Earnest

27: Everybody hurts.

“Clients will often push back against the “good stuff” and you’ll have to learn to not be hurt by this.”

 Emily King, Content Marketing Manager, Radix Communications

26: Don’t skimp on the call.

“When writing case studies, be thorough during customer interviews. The material you gather from the customer will dictate how much – or little – you can achieve at your keyboard later on.”

Kieran Haynes: Everything you need to know about writing a B2B case study

25: It’s about time.

“Put yourself in the reader’s shoes – what do they have time for? Will they really sit and do a 48-question self-assessment? You need to find the right balance between the value you’re offering and the time it takes the reader to get the value from the piece.”

Fiona Campbell-Howes, Managing Director, Radix Communications

24: Spoken word is different.

“When writing for the spoken word, forget about standard punctuation, and whole sentences. (Remember to tell clients you’re doing that on purpose.) Make it easy to read – visually, as well as physically. Use lots of punctuation marks: anything that makes it easy to get the sense first time it’s read.”

David McGuire, Creative Director, Radix Communications

23: No melting.

“If you’re facing an impending deadline, DON’T melt into a puddle of self-pity. Groaning and facepalming may seem cathartic, but it won’t change the fact that time waits for no one. Take a second to take stock of the resources, time and knowledge you do have – and prepare to write by getting an outline done. Then get to it.”

Ben Philpott: Beat-down the deadline: how to write more stuff in less time

22: Take a deep breath.

“My biggest recommendation for writing great copy, is to remember that a lot of these topics are quite difficult to convey and quite obtuse. Always be willing to take one more risk than you immediately think of. The brands that will take the most, and cut through the most noise, are the ones that are the boldest and the bravest.

“And particularly the ones who have the most conviction, and confidence in what they’re talking about. Don’t be afraid to move a little bit outside your comfort zone and just go for it.”

 Adam Harper, Relationship Marketing Manager, B2B Marketing

21: We don’t need another hero…

“The product or service you’re selling is not the hero of your story. Your customer is the hero of your story. And the product or service they use, is simply a tool to overcome their challenges and therefore become the hero of your story – your customer, not your product.”

Laura Sutton, Content Writer, Yellowfin Analytics

20: Reading > writing.

“Don’t get so hung up on the actual act of writing, that you forget about the act of reading. I always think that the best writing is writing that is effortless to read: it doesn’t feel like reading, when you’re reading it.

“And as a writer that means using the right rhythm. It means using the right cadence. It means packing it full of interesting things, to keep people interested in reading. And it means once you’ve written it, read it through as a reader and make sure it’s as easy and effortless to read as possible.”

Fiona Campbell-Howes, Managing Director, Radix Communications

19: Twenty is plenty (thirty is dirty?)

“Watch your sentence length. Shorter sentences are easier to read and absorb. Try not to go above twenty-five words, and start worrying if you go over thirty. But if you really need a longer sentence to make your point – go for it.”

 Mark Nicholson, Mark Nicholson Copywriting

18: Jargon, not guff.

“Jargon has its place, [but it] shouldn’t be ‘marketing guff’ and [should] not sound ‘woolly’.”

Celia Anderson, Partner & Copywriter, Siblinc, and Fiona Campbell-Howes, Managing Director, Radix Communications

17: Everything is interesting.

“There’s that copywriting adage – the product isn’t boring to the person whose problem it’s solving.”

Anna Gunning, Freelance Copywriter and Content Strategist

16: Get into character. Literally.

“If you are writing in someone else’s voice – whether it’s dialogue, or even just writing in a character’s voice – don’t be afraid to talk aloud, using that person’s rhythm and speech.

“And just say something in that person’s voice, even if it’s complete nonsense. Because then it goes back into your brain through your ear, and the rhythms and the tone sink in much better.

“It’s a really weird thing, because it goes out of the brain and then back into the brain, and then you can write with that voice in mind.”

 James Henry, Television Scriptwriter

15: Ask five questions.

How do you know if your copy is any good? You need to ask yourself these five questions:

“Is it free from obvious mistakes?”

“Did I have to read anything twice?”

“Does this ring true?”

“Who cares about this, really?”

“Is this extraordinary?”

David McGuire: Does your B2B tech copy pass these five tests?

14: It’s not about you.

“My tip for writers out there is to write from your audience’s perspective. Too many times we, as writers, get caught up in trying to share our great ideas. What we think is interesting. What we want to sell. What we want to promote. And in reality what we need to do is be writing with our audience in mind. What is interesting to them? What is important to them? What do they need to hear? What information do they want to receive?

“And if we can do that, we’ll be better writers, we’ll have better engagement, and we’ll really please our audience with our writing.”

Carlos Hidalgo, CEO, VisumCx

13: Start strong.

“The most important most important part of a good landing page is a bold, clear headline that confirms to visitor they are (or aren’t) in the right place for what they want.”

 Victoria Cawthorne, Digital Content Manager, Silverbean

12: An oldie but a goodie…

“My favourite writing tip is something my old cadet counsellor use to say when I was first starting out as a journalist in Australia. He would get up in front of us all and say, ‘Never assume, it makes an ass of you and me.’”

 Lauren McMenemy, Founder & CCO, The Content Type

11: You’ve got to be joking.

“I found humour can be a great way to connect with readers. To find the funny side in even the driest topics, look for common misunderstandings or mistakes. Those are the kinds of things that readers will relate to, especially if you can use characters to tell that story. Readers might not laugh out loud, they’ll be smiling with you, and they’ll feel like you’re on their side.”

 Sean McManus, Freelance Copywriter

10: Who are you?

“My number one, B2B marketing copy tip would be to have the final buyer, or the reader, in mind when pulling the copy together. That can be anything from buyer stage in the journey, or industry they work in, or experience level. And to make the call-to-action really clear throughout the copy, as to what you want them to do.”

 Jason Stockwell, Digital Marketing Manager, Modern

9: You’re trying too hard.

“The lesson I had to learn is to stop trying to write well. Good copy is not an end in itself, it’s a by-product of good intentions. Forget the cunning puns, and satisfying one-liners, just do what it takes to connect with the audience. Tell a story, be persuasive, evocative, make them laugh, make them think. Focus on the writing and you won’t do the job. Focus on the job and great copy happens.”

 Pete James, B2B Creative Head, Bray Leino

8: There are no stupid questions.

“One thing I think is really important for any copywriter is curiosity. Especially when you’re talking to a client when you’re learning about their product, and their audiences – it’s essential that you ask lots of questions. All the questions. Even the questions that seem stupid.

“The most interesting and useful bits of information are often hiding behind these stupid questions. Sometimes we fear looking stupid in front of clients; we want to look like we know what we’re talking about, we want to look like we know their business. But really it’s not your job to the expert. It’s your job to be curious.”

Leif Kendall, Freelance Copywriter, and Director of The Professional Copywriters’ Network

7: Go to bed.

“Always allow what you think is your final version at least one night to marinade. Because however delighted we are with our first draft, when re-read the following day, errors and improvements magically appear where previously there seemed to be none. That’s my advice: before you can feel really comfortable with your latest pillow of perfect prose, you must sleep on it.”

Andy Lynam, Content Manager, Kuehne + Nagel AG

6: Damn right!

“The quality of copy is generally inversely proportional to the quantity of exclamation marks used. Or, to put it another way: we ain’t got time to be shouted at.”

Richard Collett, Managing Director, Differnet Digital Ltd

5: Know where the bodies are buried.

“I use a lot of facts, figures and quotes to spice up inbound marketing content for my clients, and it give it some authority. Some of that stuff is so good, it can be used again, and again. So my B2B copywriting tip is this: set yourself up some kind of searchable database to keep track of these useful facts and where you found them. If you can tag each link with a subject? That’s even better.”

Ben Lloyd, Senior Copywriter and Owner, Tech Write UK

4: Get stalky.

“Get as close to your audience as possible. Go where they hang out, research their passions, and understand their language. And if you honestly give a s**t about whether they live or die? Even better.”

Honor Clement-Hayes, Head of Copy, ingenie

3: The gut is right.

“The thing I find myself saying to copywriters more and more is: trust your scepticism. Trust the part of your gut that doesn’t quite buy what your client is selling. And follow that gut. If something feels like it’s untrue, or if something feels like it’s not really believable? That’s valuable information. That’s the job: is to have a sense for those kinds of things and to trust them.

“Use that influence whatever the content is front of you. Whatever the story is in front of you, because chances are if you’re feeling sceptical about something – your reader is too.”

Harry (Harendra) Kapur, Senior Writer, Velocity Partners

2: Short, sweet and simple.

“The more complicated your subject matter, the simpler your language needs to be.”

Louis M Fernandes, Vice President & Country Manager, Basware

1: JFDI.

“Just get your butt in the seat. Just make the time to [write]. And it’s all about the crappy first draft. Do not wordsmith, don’t try too hard in the first draft. Just get it out there and then revise.”

Maureen Blandford, Chief Marketing Officer, Software Improvement Group (SIG)

…And there you have it.

Fifty B2B copywriting tips. From us, to you, with love.

Thanks once again to all our wonderful contributors. You are fabulous and wise. May your copywriting muse never leave you.

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