Good storytelling is an art form. As a B2B content marketer, you may think that best practices for writing a fiction novel don’t exactly translate to your post about SaaS solutions. But, there are a few techniques we can apply to create content that engages our audience and leaves a lasting impression.
So – let’s dig into how to refine your writing with classic storytelling techniques:
1. Show, Don’t Tell
Successful creative writers and novelists are all too familiar with this technique. Instead of plainly stating, “it’s sunny”, they’ll paint a more vivid picture for the reader – say, the protagonist tilting their head up to the sky, soaking in the warmth of a mid-summer sun. For B2B marketers, this means bringing your product to life with specific applications, examples, and client stories.
- SHOW: Our solution will help your business.
- TELL: After implementing our solution, one client’s year-over-year incremental revenue contribution grew to $56M. They also recouped their investment in less than one year.
Support your product with a more tangible concept, like revenue numbers, to give your reader something to hold onto after they finish reading. In the same vein, provide your readers with statistics and data points that set the stage and illustrate why you’re writing about this topic and/or why they should care.
The “show don’t tell” best practice also applies when we take a step back and talk about concept ideation. Though your readers deeper in the sales funnel can benefit from in-depth, product-centric content like a whitepaper, most of your audience probably isn’t ready for that. You need to show them why they need the product or solution through top-of-the-funnel blog content.
Try writing content that addresses industry changes, pain points, or common questions, and gently tie those “big picture” concepts back to your product or offering.
2. Get to the Point
Did you know that only 50% of the U.S. population can read at an 8th grade level? And, only 12% can read at a 12th grade reading level? In fact, most best-selling fiction authors (even Leo Tolstoy and Ernest Hemmingway) didn’t write above a 9th grade reading level.
More than likely, you’re writing content that’s too complex for your audience.
To be successful, you need to get your point across as simply and efficiently as possible. This applies across tactics, from blog posts to Twitter updates – despite the change to 140 characters, studies have shown Tweets with less than 100 characters perform 17% better than a longer update.
For blog content, make it clear in the introduction what you’ll be covering and why readers should pay attention. In the body of the post, use clear and concise language, avoiding unnecessary jargon and details that muddle your point. You’ll also want to keep your sentences around 15-20 words. Longer than that, and you run the risk that readers will forget what the sentence started with.
“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that he make every word tell.”
-William Strunk Jr. (The Elements of Style)
Lastly, consider adding a reading time or a TL;DR summary at the top of your post. That way, you’re not luring readers in under false pretenses. They know how long it will take and what your post is about, so if they do read it means they’re genuinely interested.
3. Keep Them Engaged
We’ve all heard about the 8-second attention span. Whether or not it’s still accurate, there’s no denying your audience is busy and there’s a lot of content out there to consume. So, what can content marketers do to make sure their readers stick it out past the introduction?
- Visuals: Relevant imagery will add interest to your content, and, as the saying goes “a picture says a thousand words”. If you’re referencing a study, grab a chart and add that in. If you’re talking about a product, use a screenshot of the interface.
- Short Paragraphs: Use short paragraphs to keep your readers flowing through the content. Ditch the old 5-sentence rule and focus on what makes the most sense for the information you’re presenting.
- Active Voice: This makes your writing stronger and more direct. If you can add “by zombies” after the verb and it still makes sense, that’s passive voice. (Or, just use this tool).
- Action Words: Good writing focuses on well-chosen nouns and verbs, instead of adjectives and adverbs. Choose strong verbs like amplify, discover, and transform to keep your readers engaged. Check out a whole list of ~250 power verbs here.
Some of these you may not catch until the editing process, and that’s okay! All writers, including content marketers, need to have a self-editing process. Without it, you run the risk of publishing content that’s wordy, disorganized, or just plain boring.
What other storytelling techniques do you integrate into your content marketing strategy? Connect with us on Twitter, we’d love to hear them!