Even a mediocre copywriter knows how to analyze his audience to ensure what he writes is relevant to his readers. But, many mediocre–and even expert–writers forget to take into consideration an even higher-level concern: whether the audience is composed of consumer or business customers. Determine whether you need to do business-to-business (B2B) copywriting or business-to-consumer (B2C) copywriting, as this decision will shape the direction of your marketing piece, and even your entire campaign.
It’s easy to understand why this step is often overlooked. After all, both individuals and those who make purchases on behalf of companies are people, right? Yes, but they are people with very different purchasing challenges, motivations, trust filters, and processes. Use the following tips to ensure you have this critical component covered.
Understand the similarities…
Both consumer and business customers make purchases because they’re trying to solve a problem or fulfill a need. Both are motivated by varying degrees of emotions and logic. Both need to be convinced of your credibility. And, both go through a purchasing process. Let’s take a look at each of these factors….
…and the differences.
Consumers come to the marketplace with individual, household, or community-minded challenges, such as, “I need my teeth to be not only clean, but also white,” “It’s time for a new roof,” or, “It’s my household’s turn to host the annual block party.” Business representatives, on the other hand, have business-related challenges, such as, “We need to hit next quarter’s revenue goals,” “Productivity is low,” or, “Our marketing efforts aren’t generating enough new clients.”
Consumers are motivated by things like comfort, security, status, and convenience. Business customers are motivated by an increase in profit, productivity, exposure, and market share. In decision-making, consumers tend to bring more emotion into the process, while business customers use more of a problem-solving approach.
Individual consumers will trust you if your products or services are used by people they know; your packaging appeals to them; and you provide personalized customer service. Business customers will trust you if you are recommended or referred by others they do business with; you provide the information they need to help them make an informed buying decision; and you indicate you are prepared to do business on a relational, not just transactional basis.
The purchasing process for a consumer may look something like this: Susan is standing in front of the rows of toothpaste at her neighborhood grocery store. She knows she wants something that will whiten as well as clean her teeth. She starts with the brand she already uses and scans the packaging to see if they have a whitening formula. They do, but she checks the other brands to compare prices. Her original brand has the lowest prices, so she grabs a box and adds it to her shopping cart. This process might have taken less than one minute.
For a business, the process may look more like this: The same woman, Susan, in her role as Executive Assistant for a CEO of an electronics manufacturer, at the request of her boss, researches marketing agencies to create a new website for the company. She narrows it down to companies that are local, and that have worked with electronics firms in the past, and carefully reviews their websites, including their portfolios and approaches to make sure they match other important criteria, such as a capacity to eventually become an outsourced marketing department. She presents her findings to her boss, Kelly, who thanks her, and tosses the paperwork into her “to-do” file, where it sits for several months.
Kelly is cleaning out her email in-box one day, finds a message pertaining to the website matter, and rifles through her to-do file to find the paperwork. She asks Susan to set up meetings with each of the marketing agencies identified. With her busy schedule, Kelly has limited time to meet with the agencies, and the meetings are completed several weeks later.
The choices are narrowed down to two candidates. Now the accounting department is consulted to ensure the company can afford these services (based on the return on investment they hope to see), and the executive team is consulted about expectations of the finished website. While the details are being ironed out, one of the agencies goes out of business, and the other one informs Kelly and Susan they are booked solid for several months out. Kelly asks Susan to do some more research, and, after almost a year, the whole process starts over again.
After another several more weeks, a suitable vendor is finally identified and hired.
I hope you caught these key purchasing process differences:
- One decision maker versus many
- Brief versus lengthy buying cycle
- Response to different input: packaging and benefits versus information and “fit”
- Consideration of price versus value
Recognize that you may have several audiences.
The business purchase example above is complex, and could be even more so. In large companies, some purchases have to be approved by several layers of management, each with their own concerns and preferences. With B2B copywriting, your job is to identify them all and provide information that could lead at any point to a sale.
But, here’s the tricky part: Upper levels of management may never look at your materials (website, white paper, data sheet). Instead, others (marketing department, admins, HR) may represent you to those who have the final say. So, you need to provide the right information for others within a company to advocate for you with decision-makers. The key here is to provide information that addresses each audience that might be viewing your materials, and each audience that might need to convince others of your value.
Provide the right types of information.
With B2B copywriting, the focus should be on education. Give readers the opportunity to learn about you with less hype and more facts than you would use when writing for consumers. Consider developing the following types of documents:
- Data sheets with little fluff and lots of straightforward facts and figures about features and benefits.
- Websites and brochures that include specific information about how your product or service addresses your reader’s specific problem or challenge.
- Case studies showcasing how you have helped others.
- White papers describing a superior back-end technology or process used by your company
- Ebooks that demonstrate your company’s expertise
These documents should be written with a professional tone, as opposed to the casual tone you might use with B2C copywriting. They should play on emotion, but rely more on logical ideas. Use simple language to get the point across quickly and directly.
Deliver fresh content.
Because of the lengthy buying cycle for B2B customers, there may be a period in which they are getting to know you. Use this time to strengthen the relationship by regularly updating your blog, interacting through social media, and publishing fresh white papers and case studies.
Did I miss anything about B2B copywriting? What has worked well for you? Let us know in the comments.
About the Author: Karen Marcus, M.A. is a Northern Colorado copywriter who has been helping clients in a wide range of industries to put their best word forward for 13 years.
Need assistance with your B2B copywriting? Karen can help! Click here for contact info.