The Importance of Clarity in B2B Marketing Copywriting

Today’s blog post is inspired by one of my favorite Far Side cartoons.

Copywriting Clarity

I can’t help smiling when I see this cartoon and I think it contains a great deal of wisdom. After all, how many of us believe we are practicing great communication when in fact, the object of such communication (prospects, employees, boss, kids, spouse) doesn’t hear what we think we are expressing, or hears an entirely different message than what we intended.

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I once had a copywriter on my staff who stated “If the people who read my copy aren’t smart enough to understand it, that is their problem, not mine.”  Mind you this was a very smart writer – he could turn a phrase better than almost anyone.  But I reminded him that his job wasn’t to show off his copywriting cleverness or command of the English language. Rather it was to educate, persuade and generate action.  Unfortunately this copywriter didn’t last at our company because he failed to meet the objectives for response rates, leads, revenue, and so forth. When it comes to direct marketing, all the brilliance in the world won’t save you if you can’t produce good results.

Here are some simple tips you can use to make sure you get solid results with your writing.

  1. Focus on the reader, not yourself – It doesn’t matter that you are very fond of your copywriting, the only opinion that really counts is that of the reader.  You will be way more successful if you always keep the reader in mind.  Also keep in mind that the goal is not to sell the individual with your copywriting but rather to allow them to make their own decision to buy.
  2. Write in understandable language – Unless your target audience is comprised only of those who are highly educated, you are generally better off aiming your promotional copy at the 8th through 10th grade level.  One way to accomplish this is to run your text through a readability calculator like the ones you can find at And if you use WordPress for your blog, it has a plug-in that calculates readability (as well as a SEO score). For example, the WordPress calculator rates the text of this blog post at the 9th grade level.
  3. Remember that persuasion is your goal, not creativity.  As advertising great David Ogilvy observed, “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”  Mr. Ogilvy was notoriously tough on copywriters who violated this principle. Nuff said…
  4. Say as few words as it takes to get the job done and no more.  Studies show that when it comes to lead generation, fewer words produce better.  Note that this is not necessarily true if you are selling online – where long copy usually out-produces short copy.
  5. Lead with emotion. Writers who approach the copy process by attempting to logically prove the merits of their product or service are making a big mistake. The fact is, most individuals make the buying decision for emotional reasons first, and then look for logical arguments to justify the decision they have already made. So always look for ways to “Lead with the heart, and follow with the brain.”  This is as important in B2B marketing as it is for B2C.

Whether you are a copywriter or B2B marketing generalist, make sure your goal is to always write your promotional copy to serve the reader, not yourself. This is one of those areas where doing the right thing leads to more revenue and profits.

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