I love the word facilitate; it reminds of a care-free youth where student co-op meetings were “facilitated” (not run or managed) by an equal among equals. Now set that image in your mind next to that of a sales conversation between a professional services provider and a business owner and you have an amusing juxtaposition united by our word of the day, facilitation.
In fact, Blair Enns explicitly defines selling as “facilitating the buying process”. And rejects the notion of selling as persuasion.
Meanwhile, copywriting is essentially sales in print. Which is why B2B copywriting’s purpose is to facilitate the buying process, right?
The purpose of B2B copywriting … depends
Two days ago, I wrote about B2B Brand Messaging, where I argued defined it as the practice of defining your positioning in a way that reflects your personality. Because “Branding”, as its used to today, essentially means personality. Betty Crocker, Colonel Sanders, etc. (That’s why you shouldn’t try to define a “personal brand”. You are who you are, just go with it!).
I followed that up yesterday with a reflection on Soft sell vs Hard Sell B2B marketing copy, also relevant to this topic. In that article, I talked about what corporate-copy calls the “Buyer’s Journey”, an attempt to co-opt the customer stages of awareness concepts laid out 50 years ago by Eugene Schwartz (who also said, “This is the copy writer’s task: not to create this mass desire – but to channel and direct it.”). The key point my article makes are
- Hard sell B2B marketing has its place
- Its place depends on which stage of awareness your customer is at
- You can’t know what that stage of awareness is without doing research
So, should you be facilitating the buying process in your copy? It depends; sometimes, you should be actually persuading your reader to buy, or learn more, or be in touch, whatever action is appropriate to where they are in relation to your products and services.
Here’s what those stages of awareness look like for your customers:
- Your customer is completely unaware that she has a problem (that you or someone like you can solve)
- Your customer is aware she has a problem but doesn’t know how to solve it
- Your customer is aware she has a problem and has learned about ways to solve it
- Your customer is aware she has a problem, has learned about ways to solve it, and has learned that your business provides those ways
- Your customer is strongly considering engaging your business to solve her business’s problems
(Note that there are many ways to express this same concept; many have crafted their own stages – all are some derivation of the concepts laid out by Eugene Schwartz.)
Somewhere between (d) and (e), by the way, it’s appropriate to present hard sell copy; more reasons why, more evidence, more testimonial. And a stronger call to action. In other words, here’s where you really want to focus on “facilitating the buying process”.
Step (b) not so much.
But wherever they are, this much is certain: your copy should facilitate a conversation, if not a sale, between your company and its customer (and the process, forestalling conversations with non-customers).
And if you’re in consulting, also known as the “long-game” or the “50 year” game, because I just made that up, think about your copy as just a few opening remarks in a thousand-page novel.
Postscript: I could have used the annoying buzzword “brand conversation” and I resisted. Your welcome. Brands don’t converse, people do.