ChatGPT and B2B copywriters: mortal enemies or better together?

Can AI really write like a B2B copywriter? We sent our Head of Copy into the uncanny valley to find out.

two lego heroes figures face to face, one with a shield.

Plenty of people think ChatGPT will turn the copywriting world upside down. But is that really the case in the rarefied world of B2B tech marketing, or a hype-driven misconception?

When ChatGPT hit the headlines, regular people began using it for all kinds of things, from cheating on college essays to writing poetry. It wasn’t designed to do these things (more on that later), but then the internet wasn’t designed for watching videos of cats on skateboards, and here we are.

Very quickly, the hype machine roared into action, leading to rumours that generative AI tools – and especially ChatGPT – would soon be writing everything. All the writing. In the whole world. Forever.

For a business that sells, um… writing, that could be slightly worrying. So we conducted an experiment to compare the AI against our human writers and get to know its strengths and weaknesses.

An (entirely unscientific) experiment: human copywriters v ChatGPT

My colleagues created various pieces of writing that responded to the brief: “Write 200 words on why copywriting is important in B2B technology marketing.” Then they challenged me to review the results and decide if each piece was:

  • Written by a human from scratch
  • Written by a human based on an AI-generated outline
  • Written by ChatGPT and then briefly edited by a human
  • Written by ChatGPT with no human involvement

So, I set out to brave the dangers of the uncanny valley and see if I could spot the bot…

Version 1: Human writer with AI help?

Copywriting is a critical tool for getting your message across and helping you stand out in a sea of jargon. It can turn even the most complicated tech products into something easy to understand. And without it, much of B2B tech marketing would be a bunch of tech experts talking in code nobody else understands.

It’s not just about getting through to your customers – copywriting is also crucial for building trust and credibility. When it comes to B2B tech, businesses are making some serious investments and need to feel confident they’re making the right choice. High-quality copywriting can help you earn your customers’ trust by presenting the right information in a clear, concise, and compelling way.

And let’s not forget about differentiation. In the crowded B2B tech space, it can be challenging to differentiate your business from others. That’s where persuasive copywriting techniques come in: highlighting your unique features and benefits, detailing the value you can deliver – and setting your business apart from the rest.

My initial comments:

This has echoes of another version I reviewed, but with added personality. Specifically, my personality, with the classic, Matt Godfrey-certified “clear, concise, and compelling”. You love to see it. The paragraph openers “It’s not just about…” and “And let’s not forget about…” make me think this is a writer working from somebody else’s outline. In a hurry.

My guess: AI outline, human writer

Actual author: AI copy, human editor

Version 2: AI-generated copy?

In the world of B2B technology marketing, the importance of good quality copywriting cannot be understated. At its core, copywriting is the art of persuading your audience to take a specific action through the use of words. In the technology industry, where products and services can be complex and difficult to understand, this is especially important.

Having well-written copy can help your company stand out from the competition by clearly communicating the benefits and features of your products or services. It can also help build trust with potential customers, as it shows that you are willing to take the time to carefully craft your messaging.

In addition to persuading and building trust, good copywriting can also help with SEO. Well-written, keyword-rich copy can improve your search engine rankings, making it easier for potential customers to find your company online.

Overall, good quality copywriting is essential for any B2B technology company looking to effectively market their products and services. It helps to clearly communicate the value of your offerings, build trust with potential customers, and improve your online visibility. Investing in strong copywriting can pay off in a big way for your business.

My initial comments:

It’s easy to see how an AI would come up with this, as it’s very formulaic and uses some basic rhetorical techniques without a hint of irony, making it read like a high school book report. (“In The Return of the Native, the importance of the heath as a character cannot be overstated…”) It’s readable, but bland and repetitive, and with no sense of who its audience is.

The repeated phrases are a bit of a giveaway, too (“build trust”, “potential customers”, “products and services”). And it uses “their” instead of “its” when referring to an organisation, which every Radix writer knows is VERY WRONG and punishable by the removal of cake privileges.

Eagle-eyed readers will also have noticed that it confuses “cannot be understated” with “cannot be overstated”, which destroys the logic of the opening sentence.

My guess: AI. No human would ever use the phrase “keyword-rich”.

Actual author: AI

Version 3: Human writer?

Marketing to B2B decision makers? Without good copywriting, you might as well not bother.

Picture your ideal customer. Why should they buy your product or service? Great. Now try to explain that again, without words.

The truth is, every piece of marketing stands or falls by the message it delivers. You can build the world’s best B2B campaign – you can bullseye the targeting, the positioning, the execution, and the design – but ultimately, you need to tell your audience something.

Usually, that means copy.

Of the dozen most-used content types in B2B marketing, at least eight are copywriting-based. And not just blog posts, case studies, and thought leadership articles, either; every infographic needs a narrative. Videos need scripts.

That’s a lot of words. And behind each one, there’s thought. Structure. Empathy. Storytelling. Finding the angle – and explaining it the right way – to capture your audience’s attention. Honing your message so it lands. Sticks. Resonates.

Your marketing can deliver your message to the perfect person, at the perfect moment, in the most appropriate way. But when they unwrap that box, all you have to convince them is copy.

And that is why copywriting’s important.

Of course, you could always try expressionist dance…

My initial comments:

I’m not sure AI would opt for quite so many single-word sentences without being explicitly trained to hit this tone of voice. It is exactly 200 words, though (kudos), and it’s engaging, even while suffering from an excess of personality.

The main thing that stands out here is it chooses a single message and hammers it home; the writer knows they only have 200 words to work with, and they want to create maximum impact with them. It also clearly draws on a deep understanding of the topic and the audience, and uses a voice that confidently takes calculated risks to elicit an emotional response from the reader.

One final observation: the writer has linked out to a credible source to substantiate their claims, which is not something an AI would think to do.

My guess: Human

Actual author: Human

A useful tool, but not a replacement for high-quality copywriting

As it turned out, spotting the bot was pretty easy, and the copy it produced was passable but flawed. One of the key reasons for this is that the researchers at OpenAI didn’t initially develop ChatGPT to write, they developed it to chatto answer questions in a conversational way.

The AI is fine at providing readable definitions and summarising key points on a given topic (though its responses may sometimes lack logical rigour and factual accuracy). But it doesn’t have the empathy and audience understanding to write marketing copy that makes readers think, feel, and act in certain ways.

There’s also an absence of critical thought. The AI takes its training data at face value, and can’t judge the relative importance of different points, or assess the authority and relevance of its sources. It can’t connect apparently unrelated concepts, or draw on insights based on lived experience or shared in conversations between peers.

And, like all AI models, biases in the training data and small variations in the input phrasing will affect ChatGPT’s outputs, so it can’t be left to operate without extensive human oversight.

However, as future iterations emerge, there will almost certainly be commercial applications of the technology in writing some basic B2B content and communications, while professional copywriters oversee its work and handle more complex, high-value projects themselves. Like many other industries that have embraced AI, a “better together” approach, with humans and AI working side by side, is the most likely outcome.

For now, ChatGPT is all set to give the world more versatile and capable chatbots for customer service and sales. It’s likely to find a home helping busy professionals write day-to-day communications. And it certainly has a place in software engineering, helping developers to quickly write and debug code.

But, for high-quality B2B copywriting that has an impact on readers and delivers the results marketers need, an expert human writer is still essential.

Still want more? No problem.

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Matt

Matt heads up our writing team, helping ensure all our copy is of the very highest standard and delivers the results our clients need. He also advises our clients on how to make the best use of copy in their campaigns and works on high-profile projects for some for the world’s largest B2B technology brands.

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