Content marketing is more than just a knack for putting words on paper or coming up with the right budget and platform. Being a great writer is a valued skill that now goes beyond teaching in a classroom or being an author in today’s market.
Below are some great classes, books, and other resources for B2B content marketers who want to hone their writing skills.
Content Marketing Books
Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content, by Ann Handley
This book was published in 2014 and has quickly become the go-to for marketers and writers who make a living writing in some shape or form, from blogging to white papers.
Handley argues that good writing skills matter more now than ever, and writing talent is needed in almost any industry or profession.
Four Seasons of Creative Writing: 1,000 Prompts to Stop Writer’s Block, by Bryan Cohen
Yes, this is a creative writing book, but hear me out. If you are stuck on a piece of content for your B2B campaign, often taking 5-20 minutes to write something creative can help open you up, warm up your “typing fingers” and make it easier to make the switch to writing in a different vertical.
In addition, reading regularly and writing creatively has also been shown to improve memory and vocabulary.
The Copywriter’s Handbook: A Step-By-Step Guide To Writing Copy That Sells, by Robert W. Bly
There’s a reason why Bly’s book is one of the most recommended of all time when it comes to copywriting: it produces results. He has an easy-to-follow writing style with evergreen tips and tactics that will continue to help you out with your content writing for decades to come.
If you like Bly’s book and do any freelancing, check out his other well-known writing book: Secrets of a Freelance Writer: How to Make $100,000 a Year or More.
Ogilvy on Advertising, by David Ogilvy
This book continues to be included on lists as one of the greatest advertising books of all time, even though it came out in 1985. Ogilvy is known by many as the “father of [modern] advertising,” and the strategies and thoughts he presents in this book can easily cross over to B2B content marketing. This is because both are trying to do the same thing: pull in a potential customer using words and images or design, often in tandem.
On Writing Well, by William Zinsser
This is a great writing book because the author is known for his non-fiction, which, as most content marketers know, still takes a significant amount of perfectly crafted sentences in order to get the message across.
This book is also different from the others recommended above because instead of using a more tactical approach, Zinsser writes a series of essays on the important aspects of writing and how each one can be done better.
Content Marketing Tools
Do you need something as easy as possible to outline content projects, whether it’s the chapters of a white paper or episode ideas of a new podcast? WorkFlowy is the easiest, more minimalistic in-browser tool out there. Within a few seconds, you create a free account and are taken to blank white screen, much like the Google Docs view.
WorkFlowy is laid out and organized by keyboard commands and the clear, white screen turns brainstorming into a less stressful practice.
If you are more of a visual person, using mind maps might be the easiest way to outline a content project before you get started writing. Two of my favorites are bubbl.us, which is in-browser and free for up to 3 mind maps. After that, prices start at $6/month. It’s ridiculously easy to create mind maps using keyboard commands and the retro design works perfectly for mind map creations.
Another option is MindMiester, which can let you create mind maps with several different team members. It also has a free account for up to 3 mind maps, and then pricing starts at $6 per month for a single user account, paid at six months at a time.
Ever since a colleague of mine recommended this, I have shared it with countless writers. Hemingway is a free online tool that allows you to paste in a piece of writing you’ve created. It instantly highlights sentences or passages that are confusing or hard to read. It also calculates the average reading level and suggests other tweaks to make your writing better.
Hemingway is perfect for any type of writing, from novels to blog posts. However, I don’t think it saves any formatting (like bulleted lists) so be cognizant of that when you’ve made your changes in Hemingway and are ready to move it back over to where you originally wrote it.
Are you working on an extensive piece of content that involves thousands of words, lots of research, and chapters? Consider trying Scrivener. While it’s mainly targeted toward novelist, its corkboard feature (shown below) makes it so easy to save research and notes, all in the same program that you’re writing in.
There’s a free trial, but currently full versions are $40 for Windows and $45 for Mac.
Are you in charge of the company B2B blog posts and have completely run out of ideas? Consider trying an online idea generator. I spoke about these magical tools in more detail in an old blog post of mine, but blog idea generators allow you to comb ideas based on keywords or phrases that you enter in.
The free generators I use regularly are:
- HubSpot Blog Post Title Generator
- Portent Content Idea Generator
- RYP Content Topic Ideas Generator
Hopefully the above books and tools will help you strengthen your writing skills, which are crucial as a B2B content marketer. Whether you let Hemingway correct your passive voice or learn how to apply the principles of advertising to content, continuously learning is the best way to get better.
Are there any tools or other resources I missed? Let us know in the comments.
All screenshots taken by author August 2015. Scrivener corkboard photo from their site.