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Moving from tech writer to B2B writer

Have you ever worked as a tech writer?

Then you’ve likely seen B2B content like white papers and slide decks.

You may even have written some yourself.

You already know how to write precisely and explain how things work.

So why not take advantage of the biggest boom in writing that’s come along in years?

It’s called B2B content marketing, and any tech writer is well-positioned to move into it.

writer jumping from books to laptop

What is B2B content?

As you know, B2B content includes blog posts, case studies, e-newsletters, press releases, slide decks. video scripts, white papers…

In fact, B2B content includes any piece of writing that helps a company rise in Google’s search results and attract prospective buyers.

It’s not sales copy. And there are never any “Buy now” buttons in the margins.

B2B content is designed to help business people understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.

And there’s a desperate shortage of good writers who can produce it. That’s where you come in, as an experienced technical writer.

You already have many skills

Let’s review the great skills you already have:

  • Analyzing an audience
  • Interviewing subject matter experts
  • Writing to explain
  • Working in a corporate setting
  • Following house style
  • Mastering software for publishing
  • Working with graphics
  • Formatting documents for quick reference
  • Tactfully handling reviews and comments

All these will be very helpful to you as a B2B content writer.

Some new skills you may need

Here are some skills you may need to develop to succeed in B2B content writing:

  • How B2B complex sales work
  • How to handle quotes and sources
  • How to tell a story
  • How to write to persuade
  • How to meet shorter deadlines

A few things you may need to “unlearn”

When you first start to write content, your past as a technical writer may get in your way.

If you wrote for aerospace, you might have been restricted to a controlled vocabulary of a few hundred words.

For the military, you might have written to a Grade 5 or 6 level.

Wherever you worked, you soon learned that any figures of speech or rhetorical devices were not welcome in any technical manual.

In B2B content, you have to let go of the constraints. You have to be more passionate, more opinionated, and more forceful in your writing.

You’ll need to shift your focus from writing to explain to writing to persuade.

If you can get past the following hurdles, you can have a wonderful future as a B2B content writer.

1. Sales & marketing is not “the dark side”

You’ve probably heard people say that moving from tech writing to marketing is “going to the dark side”?

Well, it’s not. Without sales, there’d be no money for salaries. Without marketing, there’d be fewer sales.

When you worked as a technical writer, your job depended on money brought in by sales and marketing.

And when you write B2B content, no one is going to ask you to lie, cheat, or steal.

You won’t be writing breathless infomercials (“How much would you expect to pay?”) or ditzy sales letters (“Act now! This limited-time offer is available only to the first 250 buyers!!”)

In fact, part of your job as a B2B writer is to resist sticking the same old marketing-speak into your work. To appeal to busy business people, your content must be useful and compelling… not hot air.

2. Take off the tech-writing muzzle

But, B2B content is different from technical writing.

You won’t be slapped down like a misbehaving child for using a striking phrase or a light tone.

As a B2B writer, you’ll need to write about an industry challenge or tell a story about a particular company’s problem.

To write in a compelling way, you must take a reasoned but passionate stand. You must express your position forcefully and eloquently.

You must take off the tech writing muzzle and find your voice.

3. Content alone is not enough

In tech writing, it’s all about the accuracy of the content. Style, schmyle. You have a style guide to tell you how to handle most issues.

In B2B content, you must marry factual evidence with compelling style. You must back up all your assertions with proof.

And, you’ll need to rewrite and polish like never before. One draft or two for technical accuracy won’t be enough. You must labor over your words to craft a message that explains and persuades.

In short, you must let your writer-self take flight in a way you never could in any technical manual.

Need more help getting started?

Not sure how to get into B2B content?

Check out my Crash Course in B2B Content.

This is a quick-start guide to writing the 12 most popular forms of B2B content, from blog posts to white papers.

The crash course describes each format, shows examples including a detailed video walkthrough, tells the going rates you can charge, and gives lots of tips to help you start writing right away.

By the way, before I became That White Paper Guy, I was a technical writer who produced dozens of manuals on hardware and software for 50 different companies. And I won 14 awards from the STC.

About 20 years ago, I started to focus on B2B content, like white papers and case studies, that seemed more interesting than writing “then click OK”.

I still interview subject matter experts all over the world, and I write with precision for business people.

What’s to miss about tech writing?

 

About Gordon Graham

Author of close to 300 white papers on everything from choosing enterprise software to designing virtual worlds for kids, for clients from Silicon Valley to Switzerland, from tiny startups to 3M, Google and Verizon. Also wrote White Papers for Dummies which earned 50 5-star ratings on Amazon. And Gordon was recently named 2019 Copywriter of the Year by AWAI.

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