B2B v B2C copywriting: What’s the difference?

plastic cupOn my copywriting training courses, I sometimes ask delegates to write a headline to sell a plastic cup. Usually, they focus on the drinking experience of the end user – a business-to-consumer approach (B2C).

However, the purchaser of the cup is likely to be the procurement manager of an office block, who buys the cups in bulk. They don’t really care about the user experience; they care more about the price and speed of delivery – a business-to-business message (B2B).

It’s not really a trick question. I do it so the trainees remember to always ask themselves who the real customer is and write their copy accordingly.

The similarities

I had a client who insisted that B2B copywriting is different from B2C copywriting.

“Good B2B copywriters are hard to find,” he said.

I disagree.

A good copywriter can write both. In fact, it’s easy. Why? Because they are the same.

We’re all human beings. So it makes sense to write human-to-human (H2H) rather than business-to-business or business-to-consumer.

It’s clients who think there’s a difference. We copywriters know that’s not true.

Your copy still needs to follow the traditional AIDA formula:

  • Attention
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action

Because people buy on emotion, it still needs to trigger an emotional response in the reader.

To avoid drifting into marketing drivel, it still needs to support any claims with facts (usually numbers).

The differences

Some copywriters find it easier to write B2C copy because we are all consumers. We know what it feels like to buy things for ourselves.

Consumers are spending their own money while businesses are spending company money.

It can initially be harder to get into the mindset of a ‘business’ because a business is made up of lots of people. For example, you might need to include different messages for the budget-holder and the decision-maker.

Some copywriters argue that B2C copy can be shorter, because consumers are more likely to buy on impulse. B2B copy is usually longer, because the decision-making process is longer so they need more detail.

Admittedly, B2B copywriting might contain more jargon, when it’s appropriate to show that kind of insider knowledge.

Apart from that, good copy is good copy. And that means copy that works.

Top tip: Don’t imagine you’re writing to millions of people. That’s the surest way to writer’s block. Instead, write with a specific reader in mind. You could create an avatar / pen portrait of your ideal client. Give them a name if that helps. Then start your draft with “Dear X” (you can delete the salutation later).

Another top tip: Your tone of voice can vary across different media. A more formal corporate voice might suit your website when the ‘company’ is talking, but it’s OK to be more colloquial and conversational on your blog and social platforms that are obviously written by an individual.

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