The difference between B2C and B2B copywriting

The first advertising agency I worked for as a copywriter had a pretty even mix of consumer and business-to-business accounts. Did this mean that the creative teams had to put on a different hat depending on which sector they were working on?

Well, of course not.

There was no reason that an ad directed at a solicitor or engineer couldn’t be as engaging, witty and aspirational as the ads that were designed to appeal to them as consumers of cars, chocolate or watches.

We had a saying at the agency that business people were human beings too!

But creating effective consumer advertising and business advertising does involve understanding that the individual has a very different relationship to the products and services used at work compared to those enjoyed at home.

An obvious example is IT. In the workplace a computer is primarily a business assistant, something that helps you become more efficient. In the home it is almost the reverse – something that fills your leisure time with entertainment, friendly communication and fun games. One is primarily active, the other primarily passive.

So you could have exactly the same laptop or tablet, yet sell it in two very different ways. However the mistake you’ll often seen made in business advertising is the crushing tedium of the concept and copy.

Business itself isn’t boring – it’s the most competitive and exciting activity in the wonderful world of capitalism – so why is it that if you leaf through a typical trade mag a good percentage of the advertising falls back on tired formulas and bullet-pointed lists of me-too features.

Business people get excited about lots of things. They get excited about trying something new before their competitors. They are always looking for ways to make their employees more productive. They want their customers to think of them as progressive and continually improving their service.

There are very few B2B products or services that can’t be sold on the basis of real, motivational benefits. The trick is to identify precisely what that benefit is and then use art direction and copywriting to communicate it in a way that grabs attention and sells it seductively to both the business head and the business heart.