One of the best things about product marketing is how many of us stumbled into it by chance. PMMs come from all walks of life – myself included. Writing messaging for B2B tech? Never crossed my mind!

About 13 years ago, I was living in the UK writing creative copy that helped humanize packaged goods so people would connect and buy. It was a blast getting to work on iconic British brands like the leading toilet paper, a cheeky sausage newcomer, and even the country's top-selling sex toy – yup, I wrote copy for the Rampant Rabbit!

I was loving that consumer branding life until I had a baby and we decided to move stateside. With a little one at home, I needed a short commute, so I figured “Why not give this B2B marketing gig a try? The office is just a short drive away and, anyway,  marketing's marketing – how different could it be?” Oh, how wrong I was...

I went from waxing poetic about vibrators to drowning in enterprise data management jargon. On day one, I'm staring at this 15-page messaging framework full of inscrutable tech gibberish, thinking “What have I done? I'm in over my head here – this was a huge mistake. These B2B buyers must be robots to understand this stuff!”

That launched me into full-blown imposter syndrome. That is, until the CMO pulled me aside and said, “Emma, our messaging is a disaster. We're different, but can't explain how. Can you help us?” That's when the lightbulb went off – I could humanize their messaging!

The power of human messaging

So why does having a human connection in your messaging even matter for tech? I mean, we're talking software and hardware, not touchy-feely consumer products, right? 

Well, here's why it matters: your product and your customers exist in totally different dimensions. You might know every single product detail and be able to reel off a side-by-side comparison of your product’s features versus your competitors’, but meanwhile your prospect is just going about their life, not thinking about your product at all.

It's messaging's job to bridge that massive divide between technology and the human being. 

This is exactly why so many tech companies struggle with messaging today – they're hyper-focused on articulating their differentiation, but that's not enough to cross the huge chasm to the human on the other side, so the message just falls into the void.

Bridge the gap between tech and human

Human messaging goes beyond just product details. It's about truly connecting with the person you're trying to reach. It’s about making them feel seen and understood, so when they read it, they think, "Yeah, they're speaking to me." If you can nail that, my friend, you’ll have an insane advantage.

I know this because, over the years, I've worked closely with over 100 high-growth B2B tech companies like Outreach, Loom, and Miro. I've seen firsthand the immense impact human messaging can have on growth. 

So, I decided to teach product marketers how to do this and scale the impact. I created a curriculum and have taught over 600 PMs to write more human messaging. 

The good news? You don't need to be a magically talented writer to make this work. There are simple techniques you can use to humanize your messaging in ways that will tremendously benefit your marketing. I'm excited to share three of my favorite techniques today.

The best part is these techniques work for any type of messaging - whether you're writing about your company, a feature, a use case, a solution, you name it. These are the techniques we’ll cover

  1. Translation
  2. Keeping it real
  3. Loosening the tie

Let’s dive in.

Technique #1: Translate it

The first technique is about translating your product so people understand what it can do for them. 

A while back, I was consulting with the leadership team at a really cool developer platform. The head of product kept talking about “carrot-based workflows.” I thought maybe that was some developer lingo I don't get – but also, when has a vegetable ever had such a starring role in messaging?

So I asked, “Hey, what are these carrot-based workflows you keep referencing?” He smiled and said, “Oh, that's just what we call our special style of automation. We came up with it – isn't it great?” I had my doubts.

This is something I come across a lot – teams trying to explain what makes their technology so special. The natural reflex is to dive into explaining the intricate details, but then we risk confusing people by bombarding them with abstract language and obscure analogies. This is one of the biggest hurdles we face when writing about tech products.

Let me give you an example. Picture the phrase “high-performance” in your mind. What do you see?

An athlete?

A race car?

An energy drink?

Chances are that everybody pictures something different. That's the problem with abstract language – it’s open to misinterpretation. 

The opposite of abstract is concrete – using specific language. For instance, if I say “V8 engine,” we're all likely picturing a big powerful engine on a race car. Concrete language doesn't leave much room for interpretation, so people can picture what you're talking about. 

You want to apply this same idea to your messaging. It’s about translating abstract ideas into more concrete terms.

How to translate abstract ideas into concrete messages

Let me show a real-world example from a former client. They were describing how their portal “streamlined communications” – a very common but vague phrase you may have used yourself. It's not terrible, but it’s also not clear what it actually means. Will there be more communication or less?  Is all your communication consolidated into one platform? Who knows? 

If we get concrete and specific about what “streamlining communications” entails, it becomes: “Get the constant calls, emails, and texts under control.” That's much more tangible.

"Streamline communications" vs.  “Get the constant calls, emails, and texts under control”

So, how can you start translating abstract ideas into concrete language? The key is to see the benefits of your product or features through your customers’ eyes. 

For example, let's say we have a platform for finance pros that offers “real-time visibility” – I kind of know what that means, but I don't really care. So, let’s get concrete: “Get an instant view across all your financials.” Now I can picture someone viewing up-to-date graphs and numbers on a screen. Suddenly, I understand why that benefit matters.

Here are three steps to put this technique into practice:

  1. Think about what your customers' lives look like before your product – what challenges are they facing and how do they think about them? 
  2. Brainstorm concrete examples of what life looks like after using your product. 
  3. Contrast the “before” and “after” in your messaging.

Here's an example for a vaguely defined “all-in-one workspace”:

Before

After

Hopping between 1,000 tabs

Everything at your fingertips

Can’t find what you need

The project is contained in one place

Work is slow

No more tab-hopping

 

So, the message becomes:

“Stop bouncing from system to system and feeling bonkers along the way. In your workspace, your team can see everything at once – and handle it with ease.”

See how that shows the transformation?

If you're marketing a new or emerging technology, or your audience isn't highly technical, this translation technique is your best friend. It helps them understand your product without needing a PhD!

Technique #2: Keep it real

Our second technique is about keeping it real. Take a trip down memory lane with me so we can see what this looks like in practice. 

Once upon a time, I was a broke girl in Brooklyn. I’d just graduated with an English degree and I was very much fulfilling the stereotype of not making a single penny with that qualification. I had no cash flow and it was stressful. 

You'd think having no money would make me really good at budgeting, but nope. I was ashamed of my situation, so I developed a terrible habit of never checking my account balance because I was terrified of what I might see. 

A couple of years later, I came across a headline from a new online bank that stopped me in my tracks: “Take the fear out of checking your account balance.”

Photo of a young Emma Stratton playing the drums next to the headline “Take the fear out of checking your account balance.”

It was like they were speaking directly into my soul about my secret money shame. I couldn't believe a company understood and called out my specific fear of looking at my bank balance. I never told anyone about that, but here was this startup showing they got my real, human feelings about finances. 

The headline drew me in, and then the messaging made relatable jokes about English majors being bad with money. I wasn't even looking for a new bank, but they so deeply understood me that I signed up and became a loyal customer for years – all because of a headline that kept it real.

There's not enough realness in B2B tech messaging. If you asked a typical B2B tech company to rewrite that bank's headline, it would be something dry and antiseptic like "Drive success with financial decision-making." Zzzz… I would've breezed right through that because it lacks any real human insight.

Real: Take the fear out of checking your account balance, vs. Sanitized: Drive success in financial decision-making

So much B2B lingo feels sanitized. In an effort to appear polished and inoffensive, we create boring unrelatable messaging. But we're human beings! We’re not sanitized! We're messy, emotional, and prone to making mistakes – that's what it means to be human.

So why do we shy away from acknowledging those messy human realities when we're all in the same boat? The language we see out there often doesn't match how buyers think and feel about their situations. It may sound polished, but it rings hollow.

I know this from years of consulting and interviewing around 1,000 B2B buyers across technical fields like cybersecurity all the way to sales, marketing, and customer experience. They don't talk like those sanitized corporate messages. 

Even C-suite execs are saying things like, “We have this huge cloud migration and I'm scared,” or, “Our processes are a dumpster fire,” or “I just wish I could log into a system that didn't make me feel stupid with all the confusing dropdowns.”

These are real human voices expressing authentic feelings and struggles. If you can infuse some of that refreshing realness into your messaging, you'll build a powerful advantage. 

Why you need to keep it real

Here's why keeping it real works so well:

  • It grabs attention: It makes you stand out from the sea of bland corporate-speak. I was literally stopped in my tracks by that bank headline. It spoke straight to the heart of my situation.
  • It inspires emotion: Reading that headline transported me back to those times when I felt deep shame, embarrassment, and anxiety about having no money. When you trigger those visceral emotional memories in people, it motivates them to want to solve that painful problem. Emotions are real drivers, even in B2B.
  • It builds connection and trust: We're all inherently skeptical these days. No one truly believes marketing hype that some software will be a magical heal-all solution. Our BS meters are too high for that. But if you demonstrate an authentic understanding of your buyer's world, struggles, and feelings, they'll trust you more.

The power of keeping it real: Grabs attention, inspires emotion, builds connection and trust. Photo of Eugene Levy as the dad in American Pie, saying "Keep it real homies"

How to keep it real

Keeping it real is powerful for any type of messaging, but it really shines for headlines. That’s because about 80% of people read the headline and only 20% read further. It's the perfect attention-grabbing device to draw people in.

I love this example from Notion that taps into the pain of searching for random documents with zero context: 

Never ask ‘What’s the context?’ again
“Stale wikis aren't helpful. Neither are floating docs. In Notion, your daily work and knowledge live side by side – so you never lose context.”

That's keeping it powerfully real.

So, here's how to inject more realness: 

  1. Take one of those sanitized pain point statements from your messaging frameworks like "Increase operational efficiencies across stakeholders." 
  2. Think about how your buyer really feels about that challenge. How would they bitch about it to a colleague by the water cooler? Get those raw, candid thoughts down – don't censor yourself. 
  3. Mirror that candid language in a headline.

Here's a great example from a customer data platform company I trained recently. Their sanitized problem statement was: “A need to align departments” for their buyer who led customer experience. Boring!

The product marketer explained: “Every department has their own data, so everyone's running around chasing metrics that don't match up. It's a huge conflicting mess.” That's SO much more visceral and relatable than “A need to align departments”! With a little encouragement, the team worked this customer pain point into a punchy new headline: “Get everyone chasing the same metric.” 

As you can see, you don't have to be over-the-top provocative to keep it real. Just channel how people actually talk.

EXAMPLE. Sanitized problem: A need to align departments. Real problem: Every department has their own data, so everyone's running around chasing metrics that don't match up. New headline: Get everyone chasing the same metric.

What I love about this headline is that it’s aimed at C-suite buyers. A lot of marketers think they have to use corporate-speak when selling to execs – but execs are humans too! You don’t have to talk to them like they’re robots. 

Technique #3: Loosen the tie

Our last technique is about loosening the tie and cutting out the corporate jargon and buzzwords. 

Now, I’m guessing you hate jargon and corporate-speak. No shade, but I’m also guessing you still use it from time to time. Me too – guilty as charged.

Jargon is like refined sugar – addictive and secretly snuck into everything. It feels kind of good to use it sometimes, but ultimately it just bloats your messaging with empty, meaningless calories. So why do we keep doing it?

Often, jargon is baked into an organization's culture. I've had so many marketers tell me, “At my last job, we were expected to speak that way. It's really hard to unlearn.” It comes from this idea that we need to use corporate-speak to appear serious and appeal to business buyers. But really, all that jargon just further distances you from your customer. It's the antithesis of being accessible.

How to cut out the corporate jargon

One of my favorite exercises to strip out corporate jargon is the “barbecue test.” When a draft is feeling stuffy and uptight, imagine how your buyer would say that same thing at a backyard barbecue with friends or colleagues. Rewrite it that way.

Here are some examples of barbecue transformations:

Not BBQ-friendly

BBQ-friendly

Create a frictionless application process

Make it easy to apply

Foster continuous engagement among team members

Keep everyone on your team involved

Eliminate the need for multiple tools

Take away the frustration of having to log into multiple tools every day

A few months ago, I was training a particularly jargon-addicted team. They took this tip to heart and updated all their live digital campaigns with more conversational language. A month or two later, they saw a lift across the board! It was such an easy, high-impact change.

Now, you might be thinking “But I have very technical buyers – they expect formal, industry-specific language.” Here's my counterpoint: tech people go to backyard barbecues too! 

This isn't about stripping out all technical knowledge or important specialized terms you need to establish credibility. It's about making the surrounding language more casual – using shorter, simpler words and a more conversational flow.

Take the example below – I haven’t removed “secure automated environment” because that technical phrase is necessary. However, the words around it are much more relaxed.

Example: Attract the best devs with the freedom to create in a secure, automated environment – without all the mundane tasks to slow them down.

See how that reads like something you might actually say over beers?

So, if your copy is looking a little stuffy, here’s how you apply this technique:

  1. Ask yourself: “How would my customer say this at a barbecue?”
  2. Use natural, conversational phrasing. 
  3. Whenever you see an overly long word, swap it for a shorter, simpler synonym.

Here's a quick before-and-after with marketing software messaging:

Measure what matters and lead strategic growth
Our solution gives marketing teams next-generation data to identify the ideal buying group, find the highest-efficiency engagement strategy, and accelerate marketing-sourced revenue.
Tee up a solid pipeline for your sales team
Identify ideal buying groups, get them engaged, and finally get credit for the revenue your team drives. 

See how the barbecue-friendly version gets right to the point?

Here’s another example:

Accelerate the identification, diagnosis, and resolution of issues across complex IT environments.
See, find, and fix issues quickly across your IT landscape. 

Notice how I only kept the formal words that were strictly necessary (like “revenue”) but made everything else more casual. It makes the message much easier to digest.

That’s a wrap

These days, AI is all the rage. While that’s exciting, it means we risk losing that human touch. In fact, I believe that in the future, human connection will be a massive differentiator for tech brands. 

Applying simple human-focused techniques like making the abstract concrete, keeping it real, and loosening your tie can have an oversized impact. So, whenever you write something, run it through these checks:

  • Did I use concrete terms rather than vague abstractions?
  • Does it reflect authentic, relatable realities or is it sanitized?
  • Could I make the language more casual by using shorter, simpler words?

Human messaging forever!

How to write human messaging: 1. Translate it 2. Keep it real, 3. Loosen the tie

This article is based on Emma Stratton’s talk at the Product Marketing Summit in San Francisco. As a PMA member, you can enjoy the complete recording here. For more exclusive content, head over to your membership dashboard.