Show, Don’t Just Tell: How to Craft Effective B2B SaaS Writing

Are you a SaaS content marketer looking to fuel demand with your writing? Here, I'll show you how to show and not just tell when executing B2B SaaS writing.

Victoria Willie

February 12, 2022

Victoria Willie

February 12, 2022

show don't tell

“Why should I believe all you’ve written..?” 

Ben could feel a lump in his throat.

Yesterday, after much effort, he drank some wine to celebrate publishing (and sharing on LinkedIn) what his marketing team thought would be a demand-generating masterpiece. 

Today, the aftertaste of that wine suddenly tasted bitter as he read further:

“You’ve told me your tool can help organize my life better but why should I believe you? Many tools claim these same things. What makes yours different from others? Show me proof!”

It’s hard to write B2B SaaS content that captures people’s attention.

And holding that attention long enough for them to read and drop comments in today’s content noise is plausible. Regardless, I get devastated when a reader drops a comment that shows we didn’t get them to take a mutually-beneficial action.

But you can’t blame them. 

Like Ben’s team, your SaaS content or copy, no matter how much effort and time went into writing it, will have little to no effect on readers if it doesn’t:

And to do both effectively?

You should aim to show, not just tell in SaaS writing.

Danielle Look, Content Marketing Manager at Team Engine, said it best:

“The biggest problem with a ‘telling’ style of writing is that it’s empty. It doesn’t really say anything or set you apart. For example, if you describe your business as ‘committed to success,’ what are you really saying?

Your customers most likely already assume that you’re not interested in failure. If you didn’t care whether your efforts were successful or not, you wouldn’t be in business for long.

Instead, your content needs to be specific and descriptive. Not only is it more interesting to read, but your readers are also more likely to take action when the content gives them a concrete reason to do so.”

Just telling a reader your product is great isn’t enough to make them jump on your free trial. There’s an inherent trait in us craving to see things for ourselves before signing up. 

You must satisfy this trait when creating content.

So when producing B2B content: 

  • Show your reader how to solve their problems.
  • Show how your tool works in your pieces.
  • And most importantly, show them how your SaaS product solves those problems.

Of course, there are principles to showing in SaaS content writing. Here at VEC, we hold tight to these principles. In short, it informs one of our four core values

Victor Eduoh Consulting (VEC) core values

And holding tightly to these principles comes with perks. 

It’s how we help our lovely customers drive results like this:

Honeycart testimonial for VEC

If you seek similar results like we get for ourselves and clients, stay with me.

I’ll break down and show (not just tell you) how we implement show (don’t tell) when crafting B2B SaaS content.

product-led-storytelling-newsletter.png

What Does it Mean to Show in B2B SaaS Writing?

We have Russian playwright Anton Chekhov to thank for introducing the concept of ‘show, don’t tell.’  

He made it clear in this popular statement:

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

If creative writing is the path you took to become a SaaS content marketer, then you must have heard the advice—show, don’t tell—a million times. It stands true till this moment, transcending beyond the shores of creative writing to the very competitive B2B marketing space.

Wikipedia defines it as:

“A technique used in various kinds of texts to allow the reader to experience the story through action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings rather than through the author’s exposition, summarization, and description.”

Showing, as opposed to just telling, is how non-fiction writers evoke emotions in readers’ minds. It allows you to give life to your characters rather than simply listing their personality traits.

As Chekhov said, don’t say the moon is shining. 

Instead, portray the reflection of light on broken glass at night. It brings that eerie feeling you get when in the dark. Also, rather than saying your character is sad, show it in the way their face fell.

Bestselling author, Jerry Jenkins, couldn’t have explained it any better. 

According to him:

“If your character is tall, your reader can deduce that because you mention others looking up when they talk with him.

Or he has to duck to get through a door. Or when posing for a photo, he has to bend his knees to keep his head in proximity with others.

Rather than telling that your character is angry, show it by describing his face flushing, his throat tightening, his voice rising, his slamming a fist on the table. When you show, you don’t have to tell.”

Outreach Media Group hints at how all these apply to SaaS Marketers like you:

“In marketing (especially content marketing), ‘show don’t tell’ means helping your audience see the value of what you do and the benefits of your product or service through your marketing, rather than simply making a hard sell.”

Just like in creative writing, show, don’t tell in SaaS marketing involves engaging your reader’s imagination while they consume your content. With this technique, readers get to imagine things as they experience your content:

SaaS content reader imagining while reading

Whether it’s a blog post or landing page copy, your writing should invite readers in so they see for themselves how your product will change their lives. Do this and it’s easier to convert readers into pipeline and sales-qualified opportunities. 

But don’t take my word for it. 

Here’s what Maia Morgan Wells, Marketing Director of Clear Pivot, thinks about the concept as it relates to SaaS marketing:

“Software and SasS marketing are unique in that it’s not enough to tell about what your product can do. It is so very important to demonstrate what it’s actually like inside the technology, including detailed walk-throughs, and case studies of the results it can provide. 

Don’t be afraid to crack open the lid, and show your potential audience inside the technology including all of its glorious settings. The idea is to show the functionalities, the experience, the results, and the benefits. Let your prospects see for themselves.”

She added:

“In SaaS marketing, it is all about showing, not telling, so show your solution off!”

Florian Decludt, Growth Marketer at Reddot Growth, made a vital post on this on LinkedIn:

Take a look at this image:

Funny, right? 

But if you were to suffer from insomnia and happened to walk past this woman, wouldn’t you want to read the book?

I bet you would, because the image depicts the book’s effectiveness. While the title tells you what it’s about, the sleeping woman shows you what will happen once you consume the knowledge in the book.

Now, imagine that book was the SaaS product you are marketing.

The question is:

Why should you show (and not just tell) to market your product better and drive qualified sales pipeline? 

Let’s see. 

Why Showing Trumps Telling

If showing enriches a novel and gives more life to characters, think about just how much life it could give your SaaS content or copy. 

Take this copy from Unbounce, for example:

unbounce landing page copy

Source

The company could have stopped at telling us to build landing pages fast. Instead, the headline serves to urge us further into the copy with a call-to-action inviting visitors to ‘explore the platform.’

Then Unbounce showed how it works with relevant product images:

unbounce landing page copy

Source

Showing is how you make customers believe your product can solve their problems. If you stop at telling alone, you’ll miss out on the benefits of showing to transform your B2B content or copy into a demand-gen masterpiece.

Beyond that, taking this approach to your B2B content has other perks. 

It Builds Credibility

In the words of David Dodd, Principal at Point Balance:

Credibility is the single most important attribute of great marketing content. Effective content must also be relevant and valuable, but if potential buyers don’t see your content as credible, they won’t give you credit for relevance or value.”

According to a study by the Content Marketing Institute and SmartBrief, 40% of buyers say the source of a content piece doesn’t matter so long as the content is credible. 

Now, imagine a prospect abandoning your company’s blog, not because they’re not ready to buy. But because they didn’t believe all you wrote. To avoid such, strive to make your content credible by showing how your product works in your SaaS writing. 

I’ll show you how we do this, as we proceed. 

In the meantime, Valerie Tungeon, in her article for Brand Point, mentioned nine ways to establish credibility in content marketing:

  • Whenever possible, include studies, research, and statistics — but sparingly
  •  Use information from sources with established credibility
  • Always try to cite the original source of the information
  • Quote subject matter experts
  • Realize you and/or your client aren’t always the best source on your topic
  • Keep information current
  • Use good grammar, sentence structure, and punctuation
  • Respect the reader’s intelligence
  • Create helpful or entertaining content

These and more are how the showing technique of writing makes your content credible. But why should you bother? 

Mark Hunter, Founder of The Sales Hunter, answered that question in his piece on credibility and sales

In his words:

“The salesperson or company with a high level of credibility always benefits from referrals and repeat business. The company lacking credibility, on the other hand, always finds themselves chasing the next customer.”

So, if customer acquisition is the long-term goal of your content marketing efforts, show, don’t tell, for credibility sake. 

Showing Brings Clarity

Become an adolescent again for a second. 

Your mom sends you on an errand to grab some groceries at the mall. 

She tells you about a new beverage on the market. She says it’s brown in a medium-sized tin with a round seal, and other vague descriptions you struggle to remember.

What’s the assurance you’ll get the exact beverage when you didn’t even grasp her description? 

Hard to tell, right? 

Now, imagine she instead gave you the name of the beverage, described the color of the tin and the aisle you’d find it, and specified you’d find the inscription ‘Made in Nigeria’ boldly written on the tin’s bottom. 

You’d go right to the mall and buy what she wants, right?

Good. 

It’s the same for prospects and customers you’re trying to convert. 

The ‘show, don’t tell’ technique in B2B SaaS writing brings such levels of clarity to your content. It removes confusion, allowing your reader to see exactly what you mean with each word you say.

Clarity is a prerequisite for great marketing. 

In his book, ‘Building a StoryBrand’, Donald Miller mentioned two mistakes brands make. One of them is the fact that:

“They cause their customers to burn too many calories in an effort to understand their offer.”

He went further:

“When having to process too much seemingly random information, people begin to ignore the source of that useless information in an effort to conserve calories. In other words, there’s a survival mechanism within our customers’ brain that is designed to tune us out should we ever start confusing them.”

You guessed it right. 

Donald recommended a solution. 

And that solution is clarity, something you’ll achieve more easily if you craft content to show (and not just tell). 

You’ll Drive Results

Another reason showing trumps telling is the results it fetches. 

I mean, if your content is credible and clear enough to attract, engage, and persuade your reader, why wouldn’t there be results?

There would. 

I know this because taking the show (don’t tell) approach is how our team at VEC transforms regular pieces into demand-generating B2B drafts: 

product-led storytelling draft

Back to our adolescent reminiscence. 

What happened when your mother showed you exactly what she wanted? You didn’t have trouble finding it, right? 

It’s the same when you show readers how exactly your SaaS tools can solve their problems. Being a core part of our Product-led Storytelling Framework, this approach is the tonic behind our clients’ success. 

See for yourself:

Product-Led Storytelling testimonial

You may be wondering: How do you guys use the show, don’t tell technique in crafting all your SaaS content pieces to drive these amazing results?

You’ll learn all about it, as I promised. 

First, let’s address a crucial question.

Should You Show Alone and Forget About Telling?

No, you shouldn’t. 

You can’t take one and leave the other. Combine both showing and telling in your content because they work together to strengthen the effect of your SaaS content marketing.

Henneke Duistermaat, Founder of  Enchanting Marketing opines:

“When business content focuses too much on showing, scanners might miss key messages because they’re buried underneath too many details.”

Just telling is a no-no. 

But focus on showing alone, and you’ll lose readers who can’t connect the dots on what you’re showing. 

Telling is crucial for signaling the cues on what your content is about. But as I’ve stressed up to this point, it comes to life with a proper dose of showing.

It’s why Henneke went on to say:

“Without a dose of showing business content lacks depth. Showing allows readers to imagine experiencing our products and services, and that makes our sales pitch more persuasive.”

In other words, show and tell. 

Don’t abandon one for the other.

effective saas writing

In the words of Dr. Fio, the Editor-in-Chief at Content Folks,

“When you show and tell, the showing reinforces the telling and vice versa, which ultimately makes for stronger content than if you’d just done one of the two things.”

Show, don’t just tell when writing great content for B2B audiences. 

It’s your ticket to crafting problem-solving SaaS content. Miss this, and you’ll not only craft a boring piece, but you’ll end up with one that neither leads to conversions nor solves your reader’s problems.

Now that’s where Product-led Storytelling comes in.

The framework is aimed at showing your ideal customer personas how the SaaS product you’re writing for solves their problems. It involves telling relatable stories to engage readers. At the same time, at strategic points within those stories, you’re weaving in your product to show how your product solves the problems your content addresses. 

It’s how we transform regular B2B content into user-acquiring funnels, irrespective of where our customers’ target readers find our content: 

Sounds like something you’d like to learn more of?

VEC Newsletter

How to Infuse the Showing Technique in Your SaaS Content

If you asked me a few months ago to show you how to go about showing and not just telling in SaaS writing, I’d have been clueless.

And that’s because about eight months ago, I was truly clueless. 

But thanks to the awesome VEC team, I’ve come to learn the ingredients of exceptional B2B SaaS writing. Keep reading to see them. I’ve also included great examples of show, don’t tell in SaaS writing.

Use Relatable Stories

Stories aren’t just an interesting form of escapism. 

They have a stronghold on the human mind. Research shows our brains are not wired to understand logic or retain facts for very long. Instead, they’re wired to understand and retain stories.

According to Cognitive Psychologist Jerome Bruner, we’re 22 times more likely to remember facts when presented as a story. And that’s because stories help us grab the crux of an idea immediately. Furthermore, Stanford University found that stories make it 2,200% easier for prospects to remember the technical aspects of your product. 

That’s enough data to prove the power of storytelling. 

Here’s a quick story to give these data points meaning.

Sometime in 2014, Groove HQ almost went out of business, according to its founder and CEO, Alex Turnbull. Then they went back to the drawing board and decided to give their content marketing a different approach. 

That is, one hinged on storytelling.

The results?

Their blog engagement skyrocketed to a whopping 300%. Meaning, readers not only read but also shared because the content was a joy to read. 

Source

You can tell, as the time readers spent on Groove’s blogs soared over 519%:

Source

Then to top it all, a huge transformation happened.

GrooveHQ went from almost going under to becoming a SaaS company generating $5million/year. All thanks to using relatable stories in their content marketing pieces.  

Want the same for the SaaS company you’re writing for? 

Infuse relatable storytelling into your SaaS content. 

A pro tip is to ensure your story reflects your target reader’s pain point so when they come across it, they follow you up until the end of your piece and take your desired action.

This story-focused form of content marketing isn’t going extinct anytime soon. As Jill Grozalsky Roberson, Product Marketing Director at Sitecore, predicts:

“We will continue to see a focus on storytelling – specifically brand storytelling. Brands will focus on articulating where they fit in with consumer values and beliefs since that is playing a much bigger role in consumer brand selection. 

To connect beyond product, brands need to inspire audiences with authentic stories and thought leadership and by highlighting the people aspect of every company.”

Add Relevant Statistics

Even though people will remember a relatable story over cited statistics, you still need data to back up your claim.  As we earlier established, this helps to boost the credibility and authority of your content.

But if you still won’t take my word for it…

Survey Monkey asked more than 1,000 adults in the U.S if data changes their perceptions of what they read. 

Their findings? 

Over 82% of US adults admitted they preferred reading an article based on and not solely on the writer’s opinion. Similarly, according to Demand Gen Report’s 7th Annual B2B Buyer’s Survey, 76% of respondents recommended using more data and research to improve the quality of B2B content.

I could have just told you data-backed content pieces show authority. You probably would have ignored the statement, disregarding it as baseless.

But I added some relevant research to convince (and show) you that while your opinions are easily discarded, real research is not.  

Future-Pace Your Reader

Imagine after reading this piece, you begin to show, not just tell in all your B2B SaaS writing.

Imagine your SaaS company experiences growth— all thanks to your efforts. Imagine your readers turning into customers and customers becoming raving fans after reading your pieces. And in appreciation, your boss gives you a raise. 

Okay, enough, stop imagining.

You must get to work for those imaginations to come true. And part of that work is using future pacing in your content as I just future-paced you.

Jim Edwards, Founder of Guaranteed Response Marketing, defines future pacing as:

“Getting people to imagine something in their lives that’s possible in the future.”

This persuasion technique paints a mental picture in the mind of your reader of what they stand to gain (or lose) if they grab (or miss) your offer.

It invites your reader to see the promised benefits of using your products. It helps them visualize their struggles and the specific outcome of using your product while reading your copy or content. 

You can either use a negative future pacing or a positive one. 

I used a positive one at the start of this subheading to help you imagine the results of showing, not just telling in SaaS writing. Now, let’s try a negative variation of future pacing so you can visualize what would happen if you don’t take action:

Think about what would happen if you continue telling and never show when writing SaaS content. A reader makes a snide remark about not believing all you’ve written.

Your boss finds the comment and queries you.

He puts you on probation and when he sees no improvement, the dreaded thing happens:

He fires you!

Want that for yourself? I guess not. 

So, show, don’t just tell in SaaS writing and use the future pacing technique for this to be effective.

Never Forget Social Proof

Another way to show and not just tell when writing content for the SaaS industry is to include testimonials and reviews for social proof.

When you infuse social proof into your SaaS content marketing, it enhances B2B brand trust and conversions.

Why am I so sure? 

Well, here at VEC, we never craft content without infusing social proof. It’s part of the Product-Led Storytelling Framework I told you about. And when prospects see how we practice what we preach (and achieve real results doing so), they reach out.

See for yourself:

B2B SaaS demand gen

Clearbit, a B2B SaaS company, also shared the wonders of using social proof.

The company experienced a staggering 84% increase in sign-ups by adding personalized social proof on its demo request forms:

Source

Intercom uses this hack, too:

In his book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” Robert Cialdini describes Social Proof as one of the “potent weapons of influence.” 

According to him:

“One means we use to decide what constitutes correct behavior is to find out what other people think is correct. The greater the number of people who find any idea correct, the more the idea will be correct.”

Remember, 97% of B2B customers mentioned testimonials and peer recommendations as the most reliable type of content. And 72% of consumers will take action only after reading a positive review.

So, don’t just tell customers you’re the best. Don’t just tell them how effective your software is. Instead, leverage social proofs such as testimonials and reviews to show prospects what they can expect when writing B2B marketing content. 

Hear it from our Lead Strategist, Victor Eduoh:

Include Examples

One hack helped me ace arithmetic tests back in high school. 

When the Maths teacher explained each topic with examples, I found it easier to understand. I’m guessing it was the same for you too.

Well, it’s the same for your reader when they come across your SaaS content.

In the words of Constant-Content:

“Making a statement without using examples can make your writing muddy, as well as create more work for the reader. Examples make statements clearer, give readers more information, and decrease the chances that the fact or idea will be wrongly applied to real-life situations.”

Although those words are 14 years old, they stand true till today.

Examples give your reader a clearer picture of what you mean. Rather than simply telling them your SaaS product enhances employee productivity, show it to them with an example. 

For instance, you could create a relatable scenario of how your product boosts productivity during tight schedules, emotional challenges, or a short deadline. This way, they picture how exactly your SaaS product comes in handy.

Look how we executed the usage of relatable examples for one of our clients:

VEC's piece for Showup

So support your claims with examples. 

Use them to illustrate points that may not be obvious to your readers. Use examples to show how best the SaaS product you’re writing for transforms their lives.

Examples are easier to remember, and since some B2B SaaS customers aren’t tech-savvy, using examples helps to break down difficult concepts for them.

Add Relevant Visuals

Seeing is believing.

That axiom holds water even in SaaS marketing.

I’ve stressed it well enough that your reader doesn’t just want to be told things. They also want to see how your product solves their problems. 

Using visuals helps here.

Adding screenshots, images, infographics, or videos is one of the easiest ways to show. According to Brain Rules, people are more likely to retain information if a relevant image is paired with that information.

Furthermore, people who follow directions with text and illustrations do 323% better than people following directions without illustrations. 

Many SaaS companies are aware of the benefits of adding visuals to their content. And to ensure they don’t miss out on it, they not only add visuals to their homepage but also do so in their content pieces.

Take Produck.io for example.

The brand could have stopped at telling you you could see (and execute) important tasks easily with its tool. But it went a step further by showing you how its tool arranges those important tasks so you can start your day with confidence.

produck.io homepage

Source

Similarly, Ahrefs adds relevant visuals to their how-to guides explaining how their tool works to ensure its reader easily implements what they learn.

one of ahrefs guide

Source

And Intercom visualized the testimonials on its homepage so you can see at a glance what people have to say about the SaaS brand:

Source

If you noticed, I’ve been adding relevant visuals to this guide too. 

Do the same when writing your next B2B SaaS content. 

An Easy Route to Show in SaaS Writing

Showing may not be easy to achieve but when you have a framework that comes with a template, it becomes a no-brainer.

Product-led Storytelling is that framework. 

It helps you grab your prospects’ attention with engaging stories. And with it, you teach and show them how to use your product even before they sign up.

Our Lead Strategist, Victor Eduoh, defines it as:

“The art & science of crafting discoverable stories, showing (not just telling) well-targeted prospects how to overcome specific challenges, WITH your product.”

It involves infusing your product into well-crafted stories to attract, engage, and convert your ideal customers into users or fans.  

This framework buttresses Ahrefs’ growth theory that:

“People don’t sign up for your [SaaS product] and then learn how to use it. [It is] that people first learn how to use your [product]. And they sign up because they know how to use your tool.”

Victor and our team at VEC didn’t end at defining Product-Led Storytelling.

We’ve also developed its 9-step execution formula, which includes:

  1.  Write a benefit-driven title for your story that promises prospects your content will show them how to solve a problem.
  2.  Use story-driven introductory paragraphs to hook readers. Then call out the ICP you’re writing for to align your business goals with theirs and filter non-fits. 
  3. Use media to augment your intro paragraphs and show your tool in action, solving the problem addressed in the article for the ICP you wrote it for. 
  4. Follow up with more story-driven paragraphs. Then distinguish yourself (and SaaS product) by adding your point of view (PoV), facts, quotes, stats, social proof, etc.
  5. Insert media of your product solving the problem for an ICP similar to the one your content targets. This is necessary to pique their interest.
  6. Follow [S5] with the first, subtle CTA inviting readers to trial/demo your product. Add more content as necessary. Keep it about them, but don’t deviate from using relevant stories. 
  7.  Include a relevant testimonial (with outcomes) of a client similar to the ICP your product-led story targets.
  8. Don’t end by asking readers a question. Invite them to start solving the problem addressed in the article with your product. Doing this paves the way for S9.
  9. Your SaaS copywriting skills come in here. End each piece with a CTA that asks them to trial/demo your product and start solving the problem addressed in the article.

The nine steps are further grouped into three vital parts: Attract & Filter, Engage & Show, and Persuade & Convert. 

And they all work to transform each B2B content we craft into a high-converting SaaS sales funnel of its own:

product led storytelling formula

As you can see, Product-Led Storytelling comprises all the guidelines I’ve shared with you on how to show, not just tell in B2B SaaS writing.

And to show the result speaks for itself, it gets engaged B2B marketing leaders to invite colleagues to drink from our wine:

Victor Eduoh Consulting (VEC)

It also drives us qualified demand (actually, they became a customer): 

B2B demand generation

It’s now over to you. 

Would you keep writing pieces that simply tell (and not show) how your SaaS product solves problems? Or would you rather adopt a framework working for SaaS companies and crowning the efforts of SaaS content marketers like you?

Choose wisely.

And subscribe to the Product-led Storytelling Newsletter below.

We share vetted insights on how we craft product-led stories that directly earn reads, mindshare, and fuels demand for B2B SaaS products.

Because I want to be one of your best sources for valuable content, I'll keep honing my writing skills until my last breath.

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