More personal, more persuasive

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Language that's succinct, authentic and in the moment—all hallmarks of social media—plays particularly well in business-to-business copywriting. Perhaps anticipating the explosive growth of social media, the Chasers long ago suggested that the best way to talk to a b-to-b audience is to make it sound like one friend telling another friend about a good thing.

That's often how it's done in the intensely personal space of social media, and we believe that's the most persuasive way to market even the most complex industrial products and services—by speaking to the reader, viewer, visitor or listener as an individual.

Short words, short sentences and short paragraphs; active rather than passive voice; frequent use of the personal pronoun “you”; and the advertiser referring to itself as “we” rather than the company name are at the heart of the Chasers' formula for communicating with audiences on a person-to-person basis.

Cisco makes routers, switches and other Internet innards, but it speaks to its audiences on a profoundly human scale. In fact, its tagline is “Welcome to the human network.” Cisco lives up to this tagline with a testimonial ad featuring a man named Davis, the CEO and co-founder of Fresh Direct Produce. Here's an example of the copy that accompanies the snapshot of him in his warehouse:

“In my small business we have to make the right moves fast. Cisco Unified Communications helps by keeping my team better connected and informed.

“Now, whether in the office, warehouse or on the road, my team knows what my customers want.

“Decisions are made faster, and the right produce can be stocked and delivered.

“In my small business we move faster thanks to Cisco's approach to technology.”

The brightly written copy has a conversational tone that encourages readers to follow it through to the call to action in which Cisco invites readers to its website for small businesses where they can encounter more testimonials of businesspeople who credit some of their success to Cisco's technology.

CDW Government, which serves the government and education markets, uses the person-to-person approach in an ad that makes ample use of personal pronouns like “you” and “yours.” Here's some of the copy that speaks well to specifiers and buyers of technology on campus:

“Whether you are refreshing computer labs, upgrading wireless access, virtualizing your data centers or updating your classrooms with 21st century campus technologies, our dedicated account team understands the needs of today's higher education institutions.

“Our trained technology specialists, working with products from top names in the industry, can custom configure systems that will meet your campus' needs. So no matter what you need or when you need it, we're there.”

The copy has an authentic ring to it, which readers find more engaging than when they are spoken to in an overly authoritative manner.

We're back to the warehouse, this time with Bob Taylor, president of Taylor Guitars, who's pictured strumming along with Deb Barker of GE Capital. For an industrial behemoth like GE, it's important to communicate with its audiences in the same tone in which it talks to them in social media or in the same vein as one its salespeople speaks to a customer. The case history sounds credible thanks to the friendly tone of the copy:

“GE Capital has been partners with Taylor Guitars for over 8 years, financing their inventory and customers' sales, and helping them build a strong dealer network. Bob started making guitars when he was 18. They've made over a million since then. So together, we're helping to bring music to people. What's better than that?”

In an ad for Microsoft Office 2010, we meet Aaress, the editor of a website for women's tennis, who grips a tennis racket with both hands and speaks from the heart about how much she loves her job. “If my job was a person I'd marry it.” While it's hard to imagine such passion for a job, we were impressed with the genuine-sounding pitch she makes for Microsoft's OneNote, a document-sharing application.

“My partners and I are constantly updating the site and use new OneNote 2010 to share ideas, photos, articles—everything. It's a digital notebook we can all access over the Web.”

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