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The secret to writing effective B2B copy

There’s a myth that effective B2B copy is pretty much the same as effective B2C copy. Well it just isn’t true. And there’s a very good reason why. As with all good copywriting, it starts with knowing who your client is writing for and all about their target audience’s needs. And with B2B, these differ. Here’s an Oxygen guide to getting this tricky form of copywriting right.

How a B2B client’s needs differ – They’re talking to many different audiences at once

In many cases organisations need their B2B copy to work for a wide range of target audiences simultaneously. So they may be talking to employees, executives, stakeholders, fundraisers, managers, techies and suppliers as well as prospective customers. Sometimes, it’s useful to get them to narrow down exactly which audience a specific piece of B2B copy is targeted at. At others, they need you to construct copy with enough levels to make it accessible to all these groups.

How B2B target audiences’ needs differ – The person at the other end has to justify their purchase to someone else

You might get away with ‘fluff’ that makes an emotional appeal to an ordinary customer, but it won’t work when your customer is a business. That’s because, although they may have bigger budgets and can make bigger-ticket purchases, they have to justify the cost to someone further up. This means that your B2B copy has to be free from hyperbole and full of solid facts that convince them that your product (or service) is the best one for them. And that brings us to another problem…

The B2B target audience probably knows more about the product than the copywriter does

You’re speaking to an educated audience. They know their stuff, and all the technical terms and processes that go with it. You’re just the copywriter. You’ve never seen the fabulous ‘x-widget’ being made and fitted, so you don’t know what it’s made of and which parameters are an indication of real quality and durability or ease of installation etc. This is where the background that the client provides is really crucial. But it shouldn’t stop there. Ideally you’ll also have the time to do some research of your own on the competition and what the target audience really want from the product. It has to be much more thorough than research for B2C copywriting because you won’t convince experts unless your B2B copy is full of the kind of hard facts and convincing arguments that fill them with confidence. B2B copy needs to be concrete and specific if it’s to impress. And there’s no getting round the fact that sharp, concise, fact filled copy takes longer to construct.

B2B copy target audiences are people too

It’s always tempting to try to gain credibility by using pompous language, jargon, long words and long sentences. But this always backfires. Never forget that you’re talking to people. People who get bored the same way you do. Where appropriate, humour, puns, a conversational style, a little emotion, a little flair – all of these make a huge difference. You still have to be able to convey huge amounts of information – some of it very technical quickly and simply. That’s actually all you need to convey authority. It’s harder than it sounds though. Sometimes a diagram or graphic will do this more effectively than copy, and it can make your copy look more appealing as well as helping with SEO.

B2B copy audiences are time-poor

The employee who’s reviewing your client’s brochure or website has got to make a good decision fast, and then justify it to their boss. So this is no time to be mysterious or coy. Spell out the benefits first. In fact benefit based headlines are the most effective ones for B2B copy. Then make a summary of the most important benefits just below this. Add more details further on. This is known as the ‘funnel’ or ‘inverted pyramid’ style of writing and you’ll most often see it in newspapers. It means that the reader gets the essence of what you’re trying to say in the first paragraph, and can skim the rest if they need to, referring back to the first paragraph when talking to their boss.

The B2B copy takeaway…

Do:

  • use a benefit orientated headline
  • summarise benefits near the top of the copy in the ‘inverted pyramid’ style
  • structure copy logically
  • keep sentences short
  • understand that your audience is intelligent and sceptical – so make every word count
  • use the correct technical terms (both brand and generic together to help SEO)
  • make your copy keyword-rich with generic terms if it’s going to be searched for online
  • keep your copy well layered enough to appeal to multiple audiences where required
  • include graphics or diagrams
  • remember your call to action – not just to purchase, but to share, retweet, sign up to your mailing list, enquire further or visit you.

 

Don’t:

  • use hyperbole, trite phrases such as ‘win-win’, unnecessary jargon or the hard sell
  • sound pompous
  • make your copy emotional and fluffy
  • stint on research
  • leave too little time to construct sharp, pithy sentences.

 

B2B copy is often poorly executed because it’s trickier than it looks. If you’d like Oxygen to make your B2B communications more effective, give us a call today on 0845 2606 255. We can show you how it’s done.

 

Steve Lodge: Steve trained as a NCTJ journalist and is an experienced copywriter. He has over 15 years in agency, and started Oxygen in 2002.