Most writers like to think that they’re well-rounded enough to produce copy for any audience—but this isn't always the case.
When targeting a specific audience, copywriting requires a new voice and approach. This is something you'll need to consider with a niche like B2B copywriting.
What is B2B copywriting?
B2B copywriting refers to content creation for businesses selling to other business customers—what is known as a business-to-business (B2B) model. This is separate from the business-to-consumer (B2C) model, in which businesses sell products and services directly to consumers.
Popular B2C brands you may be familiar with include Starbucks, Netflix, and Spotify. Examples of B2B companies, on the other hand, include Google, IBM, and Docusign.
See how the clientele between the two types of businesses differ? As a result, so does copywriting for B2B and B2C organizations.
The Difference Between B2C and B2B Copywriting
As with B2B copywriting, B2C organizations have their own style of marketing—and you may be wondering what exactly the difference is between B2C and B2B copywriting.
There's a common misconception that you're writing to a big scary corporation as a B2B copywriter. But with any type of writing, a single person will always be reading your copy, and this is the individual you'll need to engage and convince.
Where things get interesting is how B2B and B2C audiences differ.
Much of B2C copywriting focuses on satisfying consumers' "wants" rather than their "needs." In other words, it appeals to emotion. For example, a customer might shop for a new camera. They don't "need" the $1,500 camera, but effective copywriting convinces them that they "want" the $1,500 camera.
B2B marketing, on the other hand, may involve some emotion, but certainly not as much. A business customer is generally engaged in a much longer sales cycle than a consumer. They base their buying decisions on more logical factors such as:
- Impact on productivity
- Impact on profit
Why Quality B2B Copywriting Matters
Like individual consumers, business customers connect with companies through search, social media, websites, and other online communities. Consequently, any content they come across is a powerful tool for messaging.
While some companies—Amazon, Wayfair, Home Depot, Dell, to name a few—sell to both consumers and other businesses, it would be a mistake to mix the marketing messages. You can't write for both markets at the same time.
As a copywriter, you must identify your audience before scratching out a single word. This will set the course for the direction of your content. And when done right, B2B copywriting can be transformative for an organization’s sales.
8 B2B Copywriting Tips for Beginners
1. Target a specific audience.
It makes no difference whether you're writing a web page that will be seen by thousands or a personal email—at any one time, your reader is a single person. You'll find more success as a B2B writer if you can identify that person and speak to the individual instead of pretending to address a crowd.
Make your B2B content more effective by creating user personas that represent your target audience. A persona serves as a model customer based on your market research, and can help you better visualize who exactly you’re writing for.
Even in B2B marketing, a customer persona represents an individual rather than a business. You’ll want to consider:
- What is the buyer's main goal? How does this connect to their business?
- What problems are your buyers likely experiencing?
- How does your product or service help solve your buyers’ challenges?
Consider using LinkedIn to research B2B customers. You can look at a wide range of employer profiles for background and demographic information.
For example, "Marketing Mary" is a marketing professional between the ages of 25-35 with a professional degree. She reports to the CEO of her company and makes decisions about project management, content, and CRM software. Her goals are increased leads and revenue, and her biggest challenge is project management. She prefers to be contacted by email and phone.
Once you've created a persona like the one above, it becomes easier to create content that will appeal to that person. This is a vital first piece of your puzzle.
2. Establish your goal.
Truly effective web copy has one thing in common—it does what it sets out to do.
Before you begin writing, clarify your purpose. In the context of B2B writing, the "job" of your content might be something like:
- Selling a product
- Attracting visitors from Google
- Giving readers useful information
- Convincing people to download an ebook
- Helping a prospect solve a problem
- Addressing potential objections
- Prompting a reader to call your sales team
Your writing should have one primary goal, but there’s certainly room for secondary ones. However, that singular goal you pick is what should ultimately create the focus for your piece.
3. Become an industry expert.
Regardless of your niche, industry and product knowledge will help you appeal to your target audience.
Ideally, it's best to focus on a single industry in which you have a strong comfort level.
Let's assume you’re familiar with manufacturing. You can begin writing for B2B manufacturing clients and then expand from there. You'll find that there is overlap with other industries, such as supply chain, products, and some technology.
Everything in marketing should begin with research, and this includes content creation.
Hopefully, you've identified your target audience. But what do you know about the industry and specific product or service? It's going to be difficult to appeal to anyone if you don't know what you're talking about.
4. Determine your brand's voice.
As an individual writer, you have your own voice—but when it comes to B2B copywriting, you need to develop and write for your brand’s voice.
Determining your brand voice depends on both your product and your target audience. Consider:
- What brand personality do your competitors have?
- What kind of tone would your target customers be most receptive to?
- What kind of tone would your target customers perceive negatively?
For some inspiration, take a look at your company’s culture, and see if you can incorporate any elements into your copywriting. This can make your copy feel more authentic and sincere.
Want an example of how your brand voice can set your business apart? Take a look at the team and project management software company Monday.
It uses simple and plainspoken copy with a lighthearted spin to communicate its product features. For instance, Monday uses the idiom “playing well with friends” to describe its compatibility with apps it knows businesses often use. This choice of wording gets the point across, but it also makes Monday seem more personable and relaxed.
5. Explain your value, not your process.
“Enough about me; let's talk about me.”
One of the biggest mistakes B2B copywriters make is focusing on the product or service instead of the reader.
Businesses and their customers care about different things. A business may want to provide a quality product or service, but the customer is more concerned with the value they will receive from the business.
In short, most customers don't care about the details of what you do. And, if they do want to know about these technical aspects, this information comes into play further down the sales funnel.
Check out SurveyMonkey for a great example of B2B copy that focuses on the reader.
Process-centered content is often a mistake because it doesn't prioritize the customer's challenges. A better approach is to speak directly to their pain points and show them the value they're going to receive.
Maybe your solution can help cut costs, speed up production, automate a tedious task, or improve safety. Instead of filling up an article with technical details, include things like case studies, customer testimonials, and other examples to boost your credibility.
But sometimes, B2B writers and marketers should toss this advice out the window. There are a few situations where it makes sense to explain your process:
- When targeting technical experts. If your target audience is people with technical expertise, focus on some of the features of your product or service.
- If your process differentiates you. Maybe your process is so unique that it gives you an advantage over the competition. In that case, bring it up but don't get tedious about it.
- To offer exclusive insight. Some companies like to provide a behind-the-scenes look at their operations. Images and video can powerfully complement this type of content.
6. Don’t overcomplicate it—avoid the jargon.
According to a recent McKinsey study, most B2B companies "talk past their customers."
Unless you're a nuclear physicist writing for your peers, keep the jargon to a minimum.
Tech speak and jargon are meaningless to most of the people that will read your content, and it becomes trite when every competitor is tossing out the same buzzwords.
Contrary to popular belief, your mastery of industry jargon isn't impressive to most people. A majority of your audience should be able to read your content and understand it.
Acronyms are fine, but don't assume that everyone understands them. Define it on first use and avoid littering your content with stuffy three and four-letter abbreviations.
Instead, write in simple language the same way you would speak. This isn't "dumbing down" your content, but instead making it more readable.
7. Learn to tell a story involving your brand.
B2B marketing can be incredibly dull, but you can spice things up by learning to tell stories that capture your reader's attention. After all, the best content often contains anecdotes, vignettes, and stories that illustrate the writer’s main point in some clever or interesting way.
How do you create a story for your brand?
Most stories follow a similar formula—what mythologist Joseph Campbell calls "the Hero's Journey."
According to Campbell, in most stories, a protagonist faces a coming-of-age moment, embarks on an adventure, faces obstacles or great threats, overcomes the evildoers, and restores order to the universe.
Think stories are only for television and cinema?
On the contrary, your brand can also tell a story. It doesn’t have to be dramatic or long, but rather, interesting and relevant. Of course, you can make them dramatic—take a look at HP’s short film, “The Wolf,” for an example.
HP’s story addresses the dry topic of printer security in a riveting fashion that would prompt any business not already protected to take action.
But HP isn’t the only brand telling stories. Many businesses use storytelling to convey the importance of their product or service. For instance:
- The software company Salesforce creates stories within its services, communities, and events. As a driving force in the B2B sector, it devotes an entire section of its website and an internal team to telling stories.
- The crowdfunding platform Kickstarter emphasizes the value of brand storytelling with its mission to "help people tell their stories." The most successful users seeking funding on the site share their own stories in campaigns, moving audiences to donate and participate.
8. Format wisely.
Similar to writing for B2C clients, the right formatting can help your reader consume, follow, and engage with your content.
Follow these best practices to make your B2B copywriting clearer.
- Give careful thought to the organization of your information. Make it intuitive—for instance, first describe what exactly your product does before diving into its benefits.
- Always use sub-heads so that scanners can get a feel for what is on the page.
- Keep your paragraphs brief. A good rule of thumb is no more than three sentences to a paragraph.
- Incorporate style elements for emphasis, such as bullet-point lists, bold, italics, and "quotes."
B2B copywriting may be a different ballgame for some writers, but don’t let that shift in perspective interfere with your content marketing strategy.
Remember to identify your audience, establish your content goals, and set the proper tone for your copy. But above all, convey the value of your product—in the end, the readers you’re targeting are the decision-makers who call the shots in whether or not to try your brand out.
This article was written by Compose.ly writer Tricia Abney.