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Why 'YOU' Isn't a Dirty Word in B2B Marketing

Published: February 3, 2017       Updated: July 13, 2024

5 min read

Let’s face it. A lot of B2B content can be a bit formal and stuffy. It’s full of long words, sentences and paragraphs rattling on forever without a break. It talks at its audience—or worse, down to it. And while it’s full of technical specs and details and business cases, it rarely addresses the individual reader. No wonder it comes across as boring to the reader—which means it’s less ineffective than it could be.

Such loftiness might be intentional, for companies wanting to cultivate and maintain a certain image. More often, though, it’s stuffy because that’s what prospects and customers expect from B2B copy. Well, isn’t it?

Too much formality and stodginess doesn’t work these days. Your copy has to be readable and relevant, but it has to address more than corporate needs and problems.

To be effective, your reader also needs to see themselves in the picture. Why? Because companies don’t make buying decisions. People do.

Here are some ways to inject your reader back into an otherwise technical read.

It’s all about you again

Many B2B copywriters think their copy has to speak to business managers and committees. That’s why they focus only on topics like technology, profitability, productivity and cost containment.

When we try to relate to those roles and titles, though, we forget to talk to “you”—to the reader as an individual. Our copy may be factual and accurate, but it’s also impersonal.

B2C copywriters use you as a key ingredient, because you creates a personal connection with the reader. But isn’t it just as important to establish a connection with your business prospects?

Sadly, B2B writers seem to avoid you, almost like it’s a dirty word. But it isn’t dirty, if it helps connect the reader with our message. You needn’t go overboard with the second person, but sprinkling it through your copy can add a crucial personal tone.

If you talk to the reader as just one of “them,” their attention can waiver. Instead, talk to them as “you,” and connect the reader directly to your message.

What will your reader get out of it?

By speaking directly to you, you’ve made a connection with a potential decision maker. It’s time to talk about the technology and specs and cool features of your products, right? After all, that’s what a B2B buyer is looking for, isn’t it?

At some point in the decision process, yes. But before you do, remember that regardless of their business roles, decision makers are still people. That person has motivations, wants and needs separate from the business concerns. They want to know: What’s in it for me?

Besides solving the company’s problems, decision makers can’t help wanting to know…

  • Will this purchase make me a hero?
  • Will I get a bonus or a promotion out of it?
  • Will this gizmo save so much time and money I can finally take a vacation?
  • Will this service help me get rid of this time-consuming paperwork?

Don’t get me wrong. Learning about the features and specifications of a technology product is important to the buyer’s journey. Just make sure the reader learns how these things can make his or her own life easier, too.

Relevant, personal and an occasional break from the norm

Beside using “you” and touting a few personal benefits to your reader, the copy should be relevant. For example, say data breaches are a major pain point for your audience. You’ll want to write timely articles about the latest techniques in corporate security—especially if you’re marketing a security solution.

But relevance is about more than a business or technology issue. It’s also about people, places and events, many having only a tangential relationship to the goods you’re trying to sell. Your reader has a life, and she’s got more than business on her mind. Current events, politics, economic news, even pop culture.

What’s pop culture got to do with selling a network security solution or a cloud CIS application? Little more than the fact your reader is interested in it. Touch on what’s happening in the world around them, and they’ll be more receptive when it’s time to talk shop.

Some of the most fun I’ve had blogging was for a client that sells Content Management Systems. The whole month of December 2015, the blog heralded the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s surprising how effective it can be to weave such a pop theme into technology articles. The blog showed a marked increase in readership that month, not because the actual content was whimsical, but because it hooked the readers with something they knew and loved.

From posts on Star Wars and The Big Bang Theory to interactive Zombie Apocalypse games, sometimes you should let your hair down. Let your readers enjoy the content—so they keep coming back for more.

Keeping “you” appropriate and balanced

Engaging the reader as a person, rather than a nameless group, is a must for consumer copywriters. Putting your reader first and foremost is just as important in B2B copy, if you want to keep the prospect engaged.

Use these techniques with appropriate caution, of course. You shouldn’t use pop culture references all the time, or readers may tire of your whimsy. Nor should your content use “you” in every sentence or focus solely on personal benefits. Some content—like white papers—should rarely use “you.”

A balanced approach is best. You’re marketing a business product or service, after all. You want your industry and thought leadership to shine through, not to mention your excellent technology.

Avoid stuffy and downright boring content, simply by remembering who you’re talking to. YOU.

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