David McGuire from B2B copywriters Radix Communications shares a 15-point checklist you can apply to your own marketing content.
The process engineer’s phone rings.
“Alison? It’s Jason from marketing. There’s a problem on the production floor. The pH of the mixture is wrong.”
“Are you sure? I’m looking at the live data feed, and it’s well within specification.”
“Yeah. I dunked in some litmus paper, and I’m sure it looks more yellow than orange. Sort of mustard, really.”
“You opened the bioprocessor? It’s supposed to be completely aseptic. We’ll have to discard the whole batch. What on earth were you thinking?”
“That’s how we measured pH at school…”
Laughable, isn’t it? A marketer would never interfere with the way an expert validates a technical product. Nobody would expect their GCSE-level understanding to overrule a QA process that’s based upon decades of education and experience.
But – and you know what’s coming next – this is exactly what happens when the situation is reversed.
Everyone’s a writing expert – or so they think
Managers, subject matter experts, salespeople… they all have an opinion on how your B2B marketing content should be written. You can’t start with “but”. Every sentence must have a subject, an object, and a verb. Don’t say “good”; put something clever, like “exemplary”.
They learned it at school, so why didn’t you?
Everyone feels qualified to criticise your writing. And if we’re honest, most of them feel like they
to change something, or it’ll look like they haven’t paid attention.
There’s one very good reason for this. Their bit of the business has a proper QA process, setting out criteria for success. And yours doesn’t.
Do you believe in quality content? Prove it.
Whether your company makes software, medical devices or refrigerant compressors, your technical people have a clear Quality Assurance process. It’s how you know every product meets specifications. It ensures consistency. It keeps your customers happy. It protects your reputation.
But content quality is important too. When your prospect researches their next purchase, they’ll be swamped with suggestions, messages and advice. At best, poorly-written content will fail to cut through, waste your budget and harm your bottom line. At worst, it’ll actively harm your brand.
So isn’t it time your B2B marketing content had a defined QA process of its own?
Yes, you can measure writing quality. (At least, that’s what we’re trialling…)
Whenever I run
B2B copywriting training
, I hear familiar tales of woe: the manager who rewrites everything; the vague, unactionable feedback; the stakeholders who argue among themselves. For copywriters, it’s an everyday challenge.
At its heart, all this behaviour is based on one core belief: that creative work like writing can’t be judged objectively – and that all opinions are therefore equal.
But what if we
define some clear yes/no tests, based on what makes B2B marketing copy work? That might make things less subjective. If the standard is clear, there’s less room for debate.
If it works, that not only safeguards your content quality and improves results. It should also make it faster and easier to get copy approved – so you can get your content to market faster.
That’s the theory, anyway. And at Radix, our copywriting team is three weeks into trialling a process to see if we can make it reality.
You’re very welcome to steal our process for your own content, and tell us what you think.
A 15-point check for any piece of B2B content
The result – we hope – will be clear, consistent, objective feedback which we can use to ensure every piece of content we write hits every one of our clients’ objectives. Less “this reads well”, more “this part is great; let’s tweak that bit, for this reason”.
Test A: Accuracy
- Is the copy free from factual errors?
- Is the copy free from grammatical and spelling mistakes?
- Does the piece meet the client’s template, font, file-naming and word/character limits?
Test B: Clarity
- Does the copy have a logical structure, and a compelling argument?
- Is the point of the piece obvious from the start, and throughout?
- Is every sentence easy to read?
Test C: Authority
- Is the piece’s use of jargon appropriate for the target audience?
- Are the claims supported by evidence and specific details?
- Is the copy free from waffle, hyperbole, clichés, and overly formal language?
Test D: Empathy
- Is there evidence that the writer understands who the target audience is?
- Does the piece avoid making assumptions about the reader?
- Are the content and tone appropriate to the audience’s interests, priorities and knowledge level?
Test E: Wizardry
- Does the piece offer original insight and value to the reader?
- Is it written in the client’s voice?
- Is it engaging and enjoyable to read… and will it incite readers to action?
Short term protection; long term growth
The content checklist has two main uses. The first is immediate: it helps everyone involved in writing or reviewing a piece of content to work to the same, consistent standard.
But there’s a second, more subtle benefit: it drives long-term improvement. Because you can track and average the scores for each question over time – not just for each writer, but for the whole team – to direct research and training.
Crucially, quality content isn’t just about the writer; it’s also about the brief. And if the figures can tell you if an area of the business tends to be light on detail or insight, you can vary the questions you ask, or the way you collect the brief. You get better information, they get better results.
Putting theory into practice
Our own process is still a prototype at this stage. But so far it seems at worst time neutral – people are taking no longer to review and implement feedback, and in many cases they’re actually faster. Having an increased focus means they enjoy it more, too. And the writers with a naturally competitive bent are pushing themselves to write better and better content.
If you trial the process for yourself, we’d really like to hear about your experiences, to see whether this is replicated.
If nothing else, having a list of specific criteria should help you keep your conversations with your stakeholders more focused on the job in hand – and less about the merits of
the Oxford comma
. That has to make life easier for everyone.