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B-To-B Copywriting: How It Differs From Copywriting for Internet Marketers

by Marcia Yudkin

If you study most of the copywriting courses promoted online, you'll get the impression that what works - and what copywriting clients want - is weird, shocking headlines, hype upon hype, exaggerated promises and a carnival-barker tone. For example, one course holds up these headlines as models to emulate:

  • Heads Up! Your fate is in the hands of drunks, drug addicts, blackmailers, and imbeciles.

  • Profit With the Insiders Without Breaking a Single Law

  • A Rare Opportunity to Turn $5,000 into $3.52 Million

  • Medically Proven Miracles of Healing - Let me tell you about the stunning, no-side-effects cures that greedy drug companies and FDA bureaucrats don't want you to have.

For business-to-business (b-to-b) copywriting clients, however, this in-your-face style of writing does not succeed. It does not appeal to them, and it is not what they want their copywriters to write for them. You may argue all you like that response numbers prove it's more effective, but most don't care about your numbers in the least.

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Instead, b-to-b clients want something punchy, clear, attention-getting and direct. Most of all, they want you to be able to come at their business with the clear-eyed perception and skill to uncover the true value they offer their clients and to present that effectively and persuasively.

Business-to-business companies are often steeped in jargon, and you'll need to be able to decipher their jargon so you can explain what they're up to, why it matters and how they differ from competitors apart from their jargon. Sometimes they cling to their jargon as if it's a safety blanket, but they rarely object when you keep the jargon in for those in the know and provide wording that clues in those who may not be as hip to the jargon as your client thinks they are.

It's also helpful if you are really skilled in figuring out the benefits of features. B-to-b clients are often stuck in pitching only features and aren't using the power of combining features and benefits. Features, as you probably know, are the "what" of offerings and benefits are the "so what."

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In b-to-b copywriting, tone is crucial. B-to-b clients expect and are most comfortable with a professional tone. If you get really creative in a way that includes a sarcastic, bombastic, hysterical, insulting, scapegoating, accusatory or heavy-handed tone, you'll most likely have an uphill battle getting the client to approve your copy. If you get really creative in a way that's consistent with a business-like tone, they may think you're a genius and most likely will have no problem with it.

For example, here are some email subject lines created for b-to-b clients:

  • Whoever Heard of 7,701 Phone Calls From a Single Jingle?

  • Take Command of Your Email Inbox.

  • Can Your Latest Release Pass the Trampoline Test?

  • Pssst, Your Signage Is Outdated.

Again, tone is crucial. These subject lines are dramatic and unexpected, but they're not outrageous, over-the-top or offensive in any way. They're quite different from the headlines I quoted at the outset. They are not embarrassingly outside the pale of mainstream business culture.

In the b-to-b world, a client's comfort zone is extremely relevant. They need to feel that your copy represents them well, and they may delightedly use your services again and again for the sole reason that they are so pleased with how well you've captured what they're all about. Have that as your aim, and you'll easily attract b-to-b clients and receive repeat assignments from many of them for years.

Copyright 2011 Marcia Yudkin.  All rights reserved.

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