Thursday, September 30, 2010

What's the Right Reading Level for B-to-B Marketing Copy?

Marketing copy should be easy to read.  Business-to-business copy is no exception.

Who has time for fluffy, convoluted sales materials?

I cringe when I come across sentences like the following (which appear on a software provider's Web site):  

"The PanSoft Analytics Suite’s powerful visual reporting and ad-hoc query applications make it easy to understand and gain insight from operational data.  Operational Dashboards provide everyone—from executives to operations and business managers—with pre-defined interactive visual models and charts that give a point-in-time view of line-of-business activity."

With a little care, this could have been said more clearly:

"By presenting data in charts, PanSoft Analytics Suite makes it easy for managers at every level to understand business activities."

A critic might say my streamlined rewrite sacrificed the credibility of the original version. 

I wouldn't buy it.  

Expressions like "ad-hoc query applications," "interactive visual models" and "point-in-time view of line-of-business activity" are gobbledygook.

What's the right reading level for B-to-B copy?  I recommend 10th grade, the reading level of The New York Times

It can't hurt to aim lower, but you should never aim higher.  Unless, at your topline's expense, you want immortality or a prize for literature.

And aiming higher won't guarantee those things anyway. 

Yes, Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address at the 15th grade reading level.  But Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird at the 5th grade level.
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