Imagine talking to a friend about your previous job and why you left it. And now, imagine speaking about the same thing but in front of your new employer. Are there any changes in your way of speaking?
We change the way we talk depending on the person we’re talking to. But we don't always make those same adjustments when we write to different audiences.
People are different. Writing that resonates with some people doesn't with others.
Before you begin writing, you need to know who you’re going to be writing for and decide on the voice that you need to tap into to connect with this audience. Easier said than done. But don't worry, even though people are all different, they can be classified!
In this blog post, we'll talk about five types of reader personalities in B2B that you can tailor your content and your message to.
Before we go any further, I'll just remind you to check out my book From Reads To Leads. It provides a roadmap to succeeding with content. The first part of this book called Content Is For The Reader is talking about different strategies for understanding your readers and writing content that appeals to them. This blog post you are reading now is unwrapping one of those strategies – writing content based on your reader's personalities.
Let's dive in!
Here is truth about content writers:
We often make the mistake of focusing too much on the content itself and not enough on how we deliver it. Lots of content ends up nowhere because we fail to communicate information in a way that persuades our readers to take action.
The thing is, different audiences are interested in different things. Content that works with some people won’t work with others. But you can be much more persuasive in writing if you determine the personality types of your readers and then tailor your arguments to their decision-making styles.
If you work in the B2B industry, most likely you want to target executives with your content. Gary A. Williams and Robert B. Miller conducted interesting research on the decision-making styles of more than 1,600 executives across a range of industries. They focused on how those executives made purchasing decisions. While their findings are most applicable to sales, knowing the general characteristics of people with different decision-making styles can help you better tailor your content and messaging to your audience.
According to Williams and Miller, people fall into one of five decision-making categories: charismatics, thinkers, skeptics, followers, or controllers. Let’s look at these categories from the point of view of a content writer so you can better understand how to adapt your writing to each personality type.
Charismatic readers are enthralled by new ideas. They’re go-getters, emotional, competitive, and goal-oriented. They’re impatient and want to get to the point fast. If you don’t, they’ll quickly lose attention and switch to something else. Charismatics process the world visually and tend to understand a topic better if it’s presented using tables, images, and infographics.
When writing to a charismatic, cut to the chase:
Words to use when writing to a charismatic: results, proven, actions, show, watch, look, bright, easy, clear, focus
Here’s an example of a text that may appeal to a charismatic from an article on Cio.com:
Great things happen when business and IT define and solve problems together. Here’s how to make the shift — and deliver results.
The toughest type of reader, the thinker is difficult to persuade unless you sound intelligent, logical, and even academic. If new ideas are the key to the charismatic’s heart, data is the key to the thinker’s. Thinkers are cynical and won’t trust unsubstantiated arguments. To make a decision, they need lots of market research, customer surveys, and case studies that help them explore the situation from all angles and calculate all the risks. They seek security through data.
When writing to thinkers, you need to use data to grab their attention.
Thinkers don’t like risks, so if you want to persuade them to try a new solution, your arguments need to prove that it’s a low-risk opportunity. Saving time and money is in their best interest.
Words that will capture a thinker’s attention: quality, academic, think, numbers, makes sense, intelligent, plan, expert, competition, proof
This sentence may appeal to a thinker:
According to Grand View Research, by 2025, the IoT healthcare market could generate $534.3 billion globally.
Highly suspicious of everyone and everything, skeptics question all information they receive. Like thinkers, skeptics believe things that come from reputable sources, but earning their trust is hard. They’re self-absorbed and have big egos. To earn the trust of skeptics, you need to make them think they already know whatever you have to say and that you’re not helping them figure it out.
When writing to skeptics, start with establishing credibility. You can do that by presenting data, facts, and figures (like you did when writing to the thinker), by referring to people similar to them or companies similar to theirs, by showing that you’ve been endorsed by somebody they trust, or by demonstrating that you have specific experience with the topic you’re writing about. When writing to a skeptic, don’t be abstract. Make your arguments as concrete as possible and ground them in the real world.
Words to use when writing to a skeptic: feel, grasp, power, action, suspect, trust, agreeable, demand, disrupt
Let’s look at how you can earn a skeptic’s trust by talking about your experience:
There’s a ton of advice on how to sell online. Some of this advice comes from people who have never sold a thing. I started selling online back in 2000. At that time, e-commerce was only starting to grow. I dove in headfirst, and within a couple of years I was selling hundreds of products on eBay every day.
Followers want to be innovative but they also need to feel safe. They can never be early adopters because they’re afraid of making mistakes and want to feel confident about their decisions. This type of reader is a common representative of large enterprises where executives don’t make rushed decisions and only agree to something if they’ve seen it done somewhere else.
When writing to a follower, start with examples of big brands and popular corporations that have already moved in a given direction and succeeded. Focus on proven methods. Case studies, references, and testimonials are your weapons of persuasion. While you need to show that your solutions are proven, safe, and trusted, you should also make followers feel like these solutions are new and leading-edge. This will help you appeal to their desire to be innovative.
Words to use when writing to a follower: innovate, swift, bright, just like before, expertise, similar to, previous, what works, old way
Because followers like to “follow” big brands, content like this excerpt from an article on Cio.com might appeal to them:
To keep ahead of the digital curve, Shell, S&P Global and BMW are embracing MOOCs to train staff in emerging technologies.
The controller is the last type of reader. The way you write to them is similar to the way you write to thinkers and skeptics. Controllers are insecure and uncertain, so you need to focus on pure facts and analysis in your arguments to help them overcome their fears.
Phrases you can use to appeal to controllers: details, facts, reason, logic, power, handle, physical, grab, keep them honest, make them pay, just do it
Unless you know exactly what type of personality you need to target with your writing, adopting your persuasion tactics to only one decision-making style might alienate some of your readers. So how can you create content that resonates with the majority of readers?
Your reader is the one you’re creating content for.
To connect with them, you need to be able to code-switch your style and voice.
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