"Writing is the painting of the voice" - Voltaire
We all have unique voices: deep and rich, breathy, high-pitched, soft and honeyed. And when we write, we also have unique voices. However, sometimes we stymie our voices, shackling our personalities to produce flat, impersonal writing. We resort to tired templates and worn-out clichés, jargon and meaninglessness.
This is all too easily done in the context of B2B content writing, where much of what is created is dismissed as "boring". After all, if what you're writing about is dull, then why bother to inject some individuality?
The answer is, because it matters. When you're writing for a business, your audience is still made up of real people, with real problems – and you might just be able to solve them. But first, you need to embrace your writing voice.
The importance of voice
Writing for Copyblogger, Sonia Simone talks about the importance of voice in relation to the many great voices we lost in 2016: "Bowie, Prince, Ali, Cohen, Fisher, and so many more. People who went far beyond entertaining us."
All of these artists made such an impact not just because they excelled in their fields, but because they did so without hiding their humanity - they weren't afraid to be vulnerable and "real". They were all performers in some way, but they were just like you and me too.
So, how can we apply these lessons to B2B content writing?
As human beings, we all crave connection, whether through romantic and familial relationships, friendship, or business partnerships. In his book, Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, UCLA professor Matthew Lieberman says: "Being socially connected is our brain's lifelong passion. It's been baked into our operating system for tens of millions of years."
He adds: "Mammals are more socially connected than reptiles, primates more than other mammals, and humans more than other primates. What this suggests is that becoming more socially connected is essential to our survival. In a sense, evolution has made bets at each step that the best way to make us more successful is to make us more social."
When we read something that really speaks to us - where a unique voice shines through and addresses us directly - we satisfy our need for connection.
Finding your writing voice in a B2B context
Writing blog posts and eBooks in a B2B context often involves grappling with complex ideas, employing technical language and using diagrams to add clarity. It can be hard to envision where your voice fits into that. If you're writing about industrial shelving, for instance, where on earth do you add a dash of wit or a spark of ingenuity?
Well how about this? You can showcase your voice through authenticity; through demonstrating to your reader that you genuinely care about their needs and want to help them. If you're a business looking for industrial shelving, you want to know your options; you want to know what to take into consideration; you want the facts without being patronised and without smoke and mirrors.
Creating high-quality, informative content helps your business to form connections with your target audience. But it's very hard to do that if you lock your voice in a box and throw away the key. Whatever product or service your company sells, your interactions are still fundamentally person-to-person; human-to-human.
As Sonia says: "I know there are plenty of people who will think I'm nuts for saying that the content we craft for our businesses can be art.
"I don't care.
"Business matters. Making a living matters. Supporting your family matters. And I am never going to tell you to be complacent about those things.
"But don't do it at the expense of your human voice. It doesn't work, and it's not what the world needs from you. Sing the song only you can sing."
Practical tips for finding your voice
While your voice is your own and can't be learned, there are some more practical ways that B2B content writers can ensure their work really speaks to their audience:
- Cut out the jargon - explain concepts to your reader as if you were talking to them face-to face. This isn't about dumbing down your writing, but rather engaging in a clear and informative way.
- Reference your interests - this may not always be possible, but if you can clarify a concept by comparing it to something else that you are knowledgeable about, this can add personality to your writing.
- Write privately - writing outside of your work commitments can enable you to become more comfortable and familiar with your own voice.
- Reconnect with your audience - we should always keep our audience in mind when writing in a B2B context. However, if you're struggling to create good content, it's always worth spending some time refamiliarising yourself with your buyer personas. The more you know about your readers, the better you will be able to communicate with them.
Your writing voice is integral to the success of you content, providing depth and authenticity to your work. While it can be easy to think that B2B content is impersonal, dry, or just plain "boring", this is simply not the case. Whatever context you are writing in, it is humans that you are addressing. By allowing your voice to call out from the page (or screen), you can form more meaningful connections for your business.