Writing is simple, isn't it? How hard can it be to toss some words onto a screen, give them a whirl, and communicate what you want to tell your audience?
Well, as it turns out, it's pretty damn complicated!
Content marketing is here to stay. Consumers expect companies to address their needs before subjecting themselves to a sales pitch.
A company that tries to push ill-fitting products onto prospects might as well shut shop and call it quits.
Inbound marketing revolves around producing helpful content and words power content.
Evaluating a writer can be a time-consuming task. However, here are 4 traits that every great B2B content writer has. Look for these qualities, and you'll automatically find yourself publishing great content all the time.
Knows How to Question
In an ideal world, your writer will receive a pitch-perfect brief and will know the angle they need to take from the off.
However, as any content strategist worth their salt knows, no one lives in an ideal world. In my experience, a writer is given a loose set of ideas and told to figure the rest out along the way.
Personally, I love this approach since it gives me room to stretch. However, you'll find that a ton of self-proclaimed writers rely on rigid outlines to get the job done.
A great B2B writer knows how to sniff a story out.
Storytelling is at the heart of B2B content, even if it isn't as apparent as it is in B2C. A great writer doesn't just write great words, they ask the right questions that lead prospects and interviewees down paths that bring you engagement.
Conducting interviews is something few writers excel at because many aren't trained journalists. However, a journalistic approach is what works best. It's what allows you to dig deeper into issues of importance and figure out which angle appeals to your audience.
So stop being plain vanilla and ask yourself whether your writer knows how to ask the right questions!
Reading content on a tablet isn't the same as reading it on paper. For instance, when I read a book or a magazine, I read every word. Plonk an e-reader in front of me, and I'm all about efficiency.
I skip every other word, check out the H2s, glance at the conclusion, and immediately click away if I don't get what I'm looking for.
Your consumers have no shortage of choice when it comes to consuming content that answers their questions.
Instead of playing the fool beating around the bush (and using other tired old expressions), give them answers upfront in simple language.
Many writers struggle with this because our first instinct is to expand. Every article to us is a blank canvas that deserves the utmost commitment.
However, a great content writer understands that the objective of creating content isn't to stretch one's legs. It's to help the reader figure stuff out.
A clever idiom might impress a word enthusiast, but the average person consuming content online is simply looking for a quick answer. Can your writer put their ego aside and write in simple language?
Can they communicate complex ideas so that they're easily understood?
More importantly, do you understand why communicating via simple words is essential? If you don't understand this, it's hard for you to screen for writers who get it.
B2B technical content is a challenging field. For starters, most products are black boxes. Next, audiences are a composite of technical users and higher-level, bottom-line-oriented executives.
Your copy needs to speak to multiple audiences in an intelligent voice without coming across as condescending or non-technical.
That's quite a job to pull off.
Look at most B2B fintech sites, and you'll see jargon thrown around like confetti. This practice is a result of businesses throwing everything at the wall and seeing what sticks. A great writer knows which tone belongs where and proceeds accordingly.
Granted, a lot of guidance comes from the content strategist, but in my experience, the writer is the one who needs to figure out what works and what doesn't. To do this, I typically dive into existing content and collateral and work out the product team's approach (assuming a product style guide isn't available).
Voice and tone go beyond mere words on a page. It's hard enough communicating tonality through the written word.
Nailing the voice of your content isn't a one-time job. It's iterative and requires constant refinement. Typically, the first draft is just the beginning of the process.
So don't make the mistake of evaluating a writer's first draft for their final one. Instead, look at the approach they adopted while creating it and get to know the process that produced said draft.
Judging a writer solely by the words in their first draft is a lot like criticizing a 1-year-old kid for not walking well.
Refining the draft is one of writing's most enjoyable processes as far as I'm concerned. Unfortunately, I'm in a minority.
Most writers detest edits to their drafts and wed themselves to their words. This affliction is present in writers who don't understand how digital reading works.
It isn't the same as creative writing!
Editorial feedback helps keep your content in line with your message. It's especially important when publishing long-form content that is greater than 3,000 words long. It's easy for a writer to lose track of the original premise and digress into interesting side-alleys.
Personally, this practice is something of which I'm guilty.
As a curious person, I love diving into interesting subjects and often discover that the side-alleys are where the real stories reside. However, if it isn't in my client's interests to highlight them, I sacrifice them and rework my approach.
An editor helps writers become better. It sounds trite to state this, but many writers forget this fact. In all fairness, some editors forget this too and indulge their Chairman Mao complex.
However, editing and refining the draft are essential practices that have to be present in your content operations.
If you're publishing content without having it pass through rigorous editing, you're not publishing the best possible content. It really is that simple.
Look at how well your writer understands this truth, and you'll screen people out who are too wedded to their words.
So there you have it!
4 simple characteristics that can help you screen in the best writers for your content marketing. Curiosity is what underlies all of these characteristics.
Stop prioritizing nonsense like "knows how to build strategy" or "has prior B2B medical equine intravenous device AI experience" and start hiring curious people. They'll figure it out and will tell you what you need.
Best of all, you'll find it a joy to work with them!