What can B2B copywriters learn from novelists?

4th November 2019

At The Marketing Pod, we’re a team of book lovers, so the Cheltenham Literature Festival is a key event in all of our diaries. As a copywriter, I get particularly excited about the festival - because who better to learn how to write compelling content from than a whole host of bestselling authors?

On the surface, there might not seem to be many similarities between a novel and a B2B brochure - there’s around 70,000 words separating the two, for starters. But a limited word count only makes it even more important that every one of those words works hard. Maybe it’s because there’s some truth in the cliché that all copywriters are aspiring writers (and many make it – F. Scott Fitzgerald and Don DeLillo to name a few!) but in my eyes, this makes crafting copy for businesses just as much of an art form as novel writing.

So when I went to Cheltenham Literature Festival, I was looking for any copywriting tips I could get from professional writers - yes, even in the session entitled ‘Killer Women’. I found that there are some best-practice writing guidelines that always apply, whether you’re writing a flyer for an upcoming trade show or penning War and Peace.

Here’s what B2B copywriters can learn from novelists:


1. Develop a distinctive voice

The content of the sessions we attended varied hugely - in one session, we were talking about how to train your dragon with Cressida Cowell, then we were hearing about how to clean up after your serial killer sister with Oyinkan Braithwaite. But one thing that all of the authors we listened to emphasised was the importance of creating characters with clear voices and personalities of their own, to enable the reader to really connect with them.

When you’re writing for a business, it’s just as important to ensure that you develop a distinctive voice that’s derived from your brand personality. Hero brands should have the confidence to make bold statements, for example, while Carer brands need to take a more compassionate tone. Developing a consistent voice for your brand across all of your content will help your customers to engage with your business and understand your values.


2. Gain insight from the experts

Many of the speakers at the festival aren’t well-known for being authors - MP Jess Phillips, singer Andrew Ridgeley, and naturalist Steve Backshall to name a few - but this hasn’t stopped their books from flying off the shelves. That’s because people want to read about their experiences and insights as leading figures in their respective fields.  

Similarly, your audience will want to read content that contains valuable insights from your subject matter experts. While the experts themselves might not have the time or the inclination to write content, interviewing your subject matter experts before you start writing will help you to create content that provides real value for the reader. Check your copy with them before it’s published too, to ensure everything you’re saying is accurate. 


3. Talk about the things that others aren’t

Some of the most interesting talks we attended were from authors that were addressing issues and highlighting stories that have been neglected by other writers. Celeste Ng, for instance, spoke about how as a child, she had struggled to find stories that reflected her experience as a Chinese-American woman. This drove her to write two best-selling books that focus on Chinese-American families and the unique issues they face.

In the B2B arena, it can be tempting to stick to well-worn topics, and it’s certainly advisable to join the conversation when it comes to adding your voice to popular or topical issues. But if you really want to stand out from your competitors, and cut through the noise, seek out the issues that aren’t being talked about. If you can get ahead of the curve and start the discussion around the opportunities and challenges your customers are likely to be facing in the future, you’ll be developing the kind of content that will establish your brand as a thought leader in your industry.

At The Marketing Pod, we’re word nerds - so when you come to us for copy, we’ll craft it as carefully as we would if we were writing a sequel to the Harry Potter series. If your business could use the support of our content team, give us a call on 01564 742848 or email team@themarketingpod.co.uk.