How to Write a B2B Blog Intro That Isn’t Boring AF
The only thing more fun than electrocuting college students? Making them so bored that they electrocute themselves.
In one of those experiments that make you wonder if the professors were just getting payback for student reviews, researchers from the University of Virginia put their freshmen in a room for 15 minutes to be “alone with their thoughts.” They also left them hooked up to a cable that would administer a mild electric shock if they pushed a button. Sure enough, more than half of the men, and a quarter of the women, went ahead and zapped themselves. It turns out, most people would literally prefer being electrocuted to being bored.
So why do B2B writers persist in trotting out the same tired old intros again and again?
You know the ones. The dry stats. The “business casual” language. The corporate speak.
It’s painful. And yet we’ve all been guilty of it.
So: in this article, I’ll explore how we can stop boring our readers to tears with tedious intros, and start making them sit up and start taking notice. Here are 6 steps to follow if you want to write intros with a bit of spark. No electrocution required.
Step #1: Jump right in.
It’s journalism 101, right? Don’t bury the lede. When it comes to writing your intro, don’t make your audience wade through 400 words of guff. Just jump right in there and get to the good stuff.
This can feel a little counterintuitive. As content marketers, we have a tendency to want to set the scene. We may feel inclined to include some context. We’re in the business of persuasion, right? And nobody wants you to just walk up to them and start the hard sell.
So, we meander. We state generalities. We share a few of those juicy stats we found after spending hours digging through research papers (or, if we're being honest, reading articles from the first page of Google).
Unfortunately, this means that we’ve also probably lost our readers before they’ve even made it to paragraph 2. People don’t go reading blog posts looking for ponderous thought pieces.
In fact, the good people of Hubspot can tell you exactly why people read blog posts. Of the 60% of the people they surveyed who still read blog posts, one in three were looking to learn, one in five wanted to be entertained, and just over one in 10 wanted news.
To grab your reader from the get go, you need to show them that they’re in the right place to learn—or at least to laugh.
So, how do we stop the waffling and get to the point?
1. Remember what you’re trying to do.
Ask yourself: who is this blog for, and why are they here? If you’re aiming to educate your readers, tell them in the first two lines what they’ll learn by reading your blog. That way, they know if they’re in the right place or not.
If you’re aiming for an entertaining tone, kick things off with an unexpected story or an unusual comparison (more on that later).
Just don’t make them spend a minute wondering if they’re in the right place—because they will use that time to wander off.
2. Clear your throat—but clear it up afterwards.
Tommy Walker calls the first 300-500 words of most blog posts “throat clearing.” It can be hard to just leap into the fray—for many of us, we need a few paragraphs to just find our voice.
And that’s fine—go ahead and write your usual lengthy intro if it gets you off the starting line. Just remember to go back and delete it afterwards. Your readers will thank you for it.
3. Keep your writing muscles warmed up.
If you find that it can be a struggle to sit down and actually say something, it might just be that you aren’t keeping yourself limbered up.
Some writers swear by Julia Cameron’s practice of morning pages. This is the habit of writing three pages, long-hand, first thing in the morning. The idea is that it gets your creative juices flowing, and clears out the pipes a bit. You may find that it helps you jump feet first into your blog posts when the time comes.
Personally, I’m too lazy for that ish. However, I do find I spend a lot of time writing in my head—in the shower, walking the dog, cooking dinner. For instance, this blog intro came out onto the page ready-baked, as I’d spent this morning’s dog walk playing around with the sentences mentally.
(Warning—if you do fall into this habit, be aware that it may make you mutter to yourself like a crazy person.)
4. Start from the middle.
“I had a great English teacher who always said that there's no correct ‘order’ in writing. You can start from the end. You can start writing the ‘meat’ of the post, and then circle back to write the intro in the end. I find this really helps cut down on fluffy intros because you already know the point you want to make.”
Step #1 in Action: Ahrefs
I couldn’t write an article on blogging best practices without mentioning Ahrefs. Their articles are universally helpful, well-written, and tight as a drum. Here’s a great example of Ahref content marketer Mateusz Makosiewicz getting right to the meat in the first paragraph:
Boom. This intro answers the question you were Googling in the first paragraph—and with a nifty little flowchart, no less. However, if you were looking for more detail, then you’re invited to “read on to learn more” after the flowchart.
In other words, Makosiewicz:
- acknowledges who his readers are (marketers considering whether or not to invest in SEO),
- lets them know that they’re in the right place to find a quick, straightforward answer,
- (get this) answers the question, and
- invites them to read on if they were looking for the bigger picture.
No muss, no fuss.
Step #2: Be curious.
“The best writers are crazy curious people. They’re the people who turn the cereal box round and read the back.” - Gail Marie, Head of Content, Sphere
Writing an original intro requires mental resources. You need a wellspring of inspiration, quirky facts, fun anecdotes, odd metaphors, surprising comparisons.
“When it comes to writing, the answer to all of the ‘hows’ is “READ.” Read read read read. It’s the thing that works. The best writers are crazy curious people. They’re the people who turn the cereal box round and read the back. Ask yourself questions. Give your brain some time to marinate. Now you have a reservoir of information, examples, analogies, and stories to pull from. I don’t know if you can get that from Netflix.”
Some suggestions on how to keep your brain full of ideas and your intros full of surprises:
1. Keep a journal.
Many writers find it helpful to keep jottings of passing thoughts, funny stories, thought-provoking conversations, painful memories. You never know when one of them will end up providing you with the perfect intro. Sure, we’re content marketers—but please remember we’re writers, too.
Author David Sedaris calls his writing “theft by finding.” He writes:
“In order to record your life, you sort of need to live it. Not at your desk, but beyond it. Out in the world where it's so beautiful and complex and painful that sometimes you just need to sit down and write about it.”
2. Read widely.
You may not end up reading the cereal box, but certainly don’t limit yourself to researching your niche or studying content writing guides. If you don’t want to sound like everyone else, don’t read the same things they read. Read widely. Read weirdly. Follow your curiosity where it leads you—and look for opportunities to incorporate what you’ve read into your introductions. It’ll keep things fresh.
“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”- Dorothy Parker
3. Get a little freaky.
Many of the best B2b blog introductions come from unexpected juxtapositions. Gail’s top tip: “Make two very different things similar, both of which your reader is familiar with, and you’ll get your reader’s attention.”
Quick side note here: This only works if you commit to it. For instance, if you kick things off with a surprising metaphor, refer back to it throughout the blog. Otherwise it may just come off as gimmicky.
Step #2 in Action: Gail Marie, Do512
Here’s Gail, showing how to use her trick of combining two familiar concepts to grab our attention from the off:
This one nearly made me spit out my coffee. Enough said.
Step #3: Tell us a story.
If in doubt, open with a great story. Keep it short, sweet and to the point. An anecdote can be the perfect way to get your readers to sit up and take notice.
Katie Norris, the Team Lead of Comms and Content for Adyen, knows a thing or two about writing share-worthy content about potentially dry B2B topics. Adyen is a payments software, meaning that Katie is often writing on subjects like compliance, legislation, and internet fraud.
Not necessarily a fun read.
Her suggestion? Find the human angle.
“Can you tell a human story? Can you find a fun or random fact that links to the topic in some way?”
Step #3 in Action: Katie Norris, Adyen
Here’s Katie on customer authentication, which she calls “possibly the driest subject in the world.” To find a hook for the reader, Katie simply started by Googling “early examples of internet fraud” to see if she could find a nice little story to explain why strong customer authentication regulations exist.
Here’s the result:
Step #4: Write for humans, not algorithms.
Yes, SEO is important. Yes, you need to remember your keywords. But Google is not your target market. Truly impactful content comes from original insights, critical thought, and unique perspectives.
Remember that you are a human being, writing for other human beings.
Many B2B writers these days are wringing their hands over AI software. After all, if AI can produce original content, how can we compete?
At Beam, we believe that the answer is, “By writing like people.” We believe great content stems from creativity, conversations, and expertise.
However, if you write intros the way a software program would write intros, then AI might actually be close to stealing your job.
To quote Gail Marie again:
“AI right now is pretty damn good—and that’s too damn bad, because it means we’ve lost something there. Writing is a creative pursuit and people are inherently creative. We’ve sucked the creativity out of writing for the internet, just to fill pages with content. It’s getting hard to tell the difference between poor writing and AI writing—and that’s not the writer's fault. We’ve created a world where that’s not just acceptable but praised.”
B2B content writers, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains—and boring, repetitive, jargon-filled SEO pap. It’s time to be writers again.
Tell human stories. Show your empathy for your readers’ pain points. Showcase your unique insights into their situation. Illustrate how you—a human being—can help them.
Luke O’Neill writes about fintech. So far, so corporate. But this is how he does it:
“The best intros speak directly to a reader, as if speaking to only one person, while looking them in the eyes. They forgo boring statistics and build immediate rapport, to encourage a reader to nod in agreement.”
Step #4 in Action: Matthew Klassen, Front Page
Here’s an example of Matthew Klassen (at Front) bringing unexpected humanity to an article on (of all things) customer experience:
I defy anyone over the age of 30 (at least, anyone raised in the US) to read that without nodding along.
The wealth of detail.
The Darkwing Duck fanny pack!
AI software can’t write like that. (At least, not yet.)
That's the power of a good intro—if you are able to nail it, people will remember it and remember your brand.” - Yael Miller, Content Group Manager, monday.com
Step #5: By all means, use statistics. But make them count.
Sometimes, you just want to share a really juicy statistic. And sometimes, you absolutely should. Stats in your intro can be a great way to establish authority or validate your point.
But don’t just throw a number up there and assume it will do all the work for you. Instead, try this:
1. Give the reader some context.
We’re not always very good at visualizing large numbers. Even a really strong statistic can lose impact if it doesn’t really mean much to the reader. Instead, try illustrating your statistics with examples, to help put them into context.
Fio remembers, “At some point, a customer emailed me a lovely comment about it and how it was fun to see a large number quantified like that.”
2. Punch up the tone.
Rapid fire delivery and a punchy tone can help make your stats jump off the page.
Instead of: “Research by Dooly.ai has found that 25% of sales reps are considering a change of role,” try “1 in 4 sales reps plan on quitting.”
Both sentences say the same thing, but one is dull, and the other is attention-grabbing. Use hyperlinks to reference material, rather than providing unnecessary wordy detail about your source material.
3. Only use stats that are genuinely interesting.
This should perhaps go without saying, but if you want to write an interesting intro, don’t use a boring stat. We know that a lot of people want to work remotely—so please don’t tell us so again. Instead, tell us that 40% of Americans would rather clean their toilet than go back to the office.
Step #5 in Action: Kris Hartvigsen, Dooly.Ai
What sets this intro apart from standard fare is the tone. The stats are used to make an argument, not just to establish authority. They’re worked into the story, not just left floating around on their own. The numbers themselves are likely to be a surprise to the reader.
And, finally, the author has kept the intro brisk and to the point, to keep the reader’s eye moving down the page.
Step #6: Give yourself permission.
Sometimes, we end up writing boring B2B blog intros—and boring B2B content—because we feel like we should. After all, B2B writing is for grown ups. Surely, we’re supposed to sound professional, buttoned up, and sensible?
Sure, you might not want to use a meme in an introduction aimed at CEOs of Fortune 500 companies (although, if the brand you’re writing for is up for it, by all means go for it.)
But B2B is not a synonym for boring. People buy from other people—yes, even B2B software buyers—and they’re far more likely to listen to, trust, and hand over cash to people who entertain, instruct and delight them.
In other words, within the bounds of your brand’s guidelines, feel free to be yourself. Be funny, if that’s what comes naturally to you. Be clear—always. Be bold!
And when it comes to the introduction, give yourself permission to have a little fun—not just for your readers, but for yourself. A journalist for The Atlantic once asked Stephen King why he spent months, or even years, on his opening sentences. His answer:
“Because [the introduction] is not just the reader's way in, it's the writer's way in also, and you've got to find a doorway that fits us both.”
Your introduction is your way into your blog. You’re allowed to enjoy yourself too.
Step #6 in Action: Maria West, Cord
Maria West told me she loves it when clients let her exercise her funny side for B2B SaaS. Here’s an example of Maria indulging herself at the expense of Mailchimp for her client, B2B collaboration software Cord:
Do you really need to bother to write a great blog intro?
OK, let’s be real. We aren’t trying to be Shakespeare. We aren’t even trying to be Stephen King. We’re talking about writing B2B blog posts, not masterpieces or mass paperbacks.
So, is it worth taking the trouble to polish your blog intro into something special?
We think so, and here’s why.
1. It’s crowded out there.
But those 16 seconds represent an opportunity. They indicate the incredible speed with which bored readers are bouncing on to the next blog post. Your introduction is your best chance to keep them reading yours right to the end.
Yael Miller agrees.
“Is a gripping intro even important? This is a good question. Oftentimes it isn't -- because all of us skim blog posts and read things so fast that in fact the intro doesn't stand out. But that's the power of a good intro -- if you are able to nail it, people will remember it and remember your brand.”
2. It makes your top-tier content work harder for you.
Not every piece of content needs a polished introduction. If you’re quickly sharing a product update, you don’t need to craft a master work—your readers just want the facts, ma’am.
But if you’re writing a longer blog post, designed to connect with readers, establish your brand’s authority, and make yourselves the industry go-to for subject matter expertise–don’t skimp on the introduction.
Ryan Carruthers, a Content Marketing Specialist at Together Software, told me he’d just had a heated argument with a fellow writer on exactly this topic. His conclusion was that, for “listicles”, the intro probably doesn’t matter. But for everything else, the intro is key for drawing the reader in:
“On blogs that are case studies, of course I'm going to try and draw the reader into a story. I want the customer to be the hero and inspire the prospect to empathize with them.
For thought leadership, no question, you should use narrative and persuasive writing.
For product-led content, you should bake story into your product. As marketers, we sell benefits, not features. So presenting the new dashboard, automation, widget, SaaS — isn't going to cut it without some sort of story.”
3. You stand to benefit.
Every used car salesman could tell you about the Reciprocity Principle: You give something to get something. You give the customer a free coffee when they come in, and they somehow feel more obliged to listen to you pitch them an overpriced second-hand Mazda.
Writing a great blog intro is a bit like that—but a lot less sleazy. You didn’t need to give your reader something fun, or interesting, or shocking to read—you could have just told them what they came to find out and left it at that. But you did. And there’s a good chance that they may think, “I am so grateful that you made me laugh/made me think/gave me something to tweet about/gave me a zinger to pass off as my own that I will now go ahead and read your blog to the end.”
4. Your readers deserve it.
Surely life is boring enough? Don’t we all have to spend more time than we want doing tedious tasks and reading dull-as-ditchwater documentation and talking about mortgages and tax deductibles and, I don’t know, cryptocurrency?
Don’t we all deserve content that is actually content, not just content marketing? Don’t we deserve writing that’s worth reading? And, as writers, don’t we deserve to spend a bit of time doing work we’re proud of?
“Great content happens when you’re thinking about your reader—and you give a sh*t. If you don’t give a sh*t, do something else.” - Gail Marie, Head of Content, Sphere
At Beam, we believe that it’s time to create truly high-quality, impactful B2B SaaS content. Content that starts with conversations and finishes with conversions.
If you’re a B2B SaaS company looking to outsource your thought leadership content, we’d love to help.