Do you have readers — or customers? Think about it for a second. You always keep a close eye on your sales, but that anxiety can creep in at any time. What if your ads don’t pay off and you end up in the black? How can you turn that slow drip of new buyers into a steady flow?
The answer might be simple: you could be targeting the wrong market to begin with. Even with a thoughtful marketing strategy, things can feel... off. You’re not sure if the average person will understand you, much less take you up on your offer.
That can be stressful. If you’re not reaching the right people, your business will suffer in the long run. If this goes on, you’ll find yourself more and getting less in return. That’s never an ideal situation.
This article will explain the differences between Business to Business (B2B) and E-commerce copywriting so you can avoid those pitfalls. You’ll learn the best ways to write to each market, so you can reach readers in a way they’ll care about.
Here’s how to convert people in either market.
First, let’s talk about e-commerce. E-commerce is also known as “Business to Customer” (B2C). As the name implies, it’s a business selling to a customer, usually just the average Joe. E-Commerce might be the type of sales and copywriting you’re most familiar with. It’s the one most people think of when they think of sales.
Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify are all examples of businesses that only do e-commerce. Although most businesses have an e-commerce presence now. For instance, walmart.com or ordering and paying for pizza online instead of calling the store.
E-commerce can be beneficial to your business. The problem is that you need to reach a lot more customers to see results. It’s like trying to find a thousand pennies instead of picking up a single hundred dollar bill on the street. So what about B2B, then?
B2B is a business selling to another business. For example, let’s say I was opening a banana stand. I could set up my banana stand on a corner in Los Angeles. I could set up signs and an Instagram account and hire a monkey to be my mascot. I could form a lifelong rivalry with Larry, the hot dog stand man next to me on the street. Then, I could wait for people to pass by and decide they wanted a banana instead of a hot dog.
Or, I could call up my local gym or health food store. I could sell them my bananas in bulk. Then, they could sell them to people who are there. And here’s the kicker — people who are inclined to pick a banana over a hot dog would already be at a gym or health food store. I wouldn’t even need to train a monkey.
B2B marketing can take longer to get going with. A business has more moving parts to work around. The time pays off because you get a steadier income over a longer period. The icing on the cake is that you can even befriend Larry.
E-commerce and B2B have different needs. An ordinary consumer is only looking for a tasty banana. A business is looking for a vendor. Someone who can increase their customers’ satisfaction. And who ticks the boxes they already have laid out. This means each requires a different approach. Let’s go through 7 of the most important differences between B2B and e-commerce and how you can address them in your writing.
The first main difference is your target audience. Like I mentioned above, you’re selling to an Average Joe in e-commerce. In other words, e-commerce writing only needs to convince one person you’re worthwhile.
Then, that individual will decide “yes” or “no” and you know if your sale is closed. E-commerce writing will use the desires of your target demographic. Those desires will reflect how you can reach that one person.
In B2B, you’re selling to a business. In other words, B2B writing needs to convince a team of people you’re worthwhile. If your B2B writing catches one person’s eye, but the next person on their team says no, your sale won’t go anywhere.
B2B businesses need to convince the initial reader as well as their boss, marketing team, financial advisors, and so on. B2B will be focused on the business goals of your target audience.
It’s important to know the needs of your audience, B2B, or e-commerce. The two have very different pain points. You can relate to this yourself. As an entrepreneur, your worries can feel like they’re on a different planet from friends who work a 9-to-5.
Your 9-to-5 friends are thinking about when to schedule their vacation days, or whether they’ll get a big bonus. They’re wondering if their neighbors are impressed with their new car or whether Karen from the next block over will invite them to the Christmas party.
You’re worried about your business. You’re thinking about conversion rates and whether you need to hire new employees. You’re wondering if you’ll ever be able to afford the time for a vacation or what aspects of your business you need to invest in more.
In short, totally different things keep you and your 9-to-5 friends up at night. This needs to translate to your copy, too. Remember those pain points when you’re writing B2B copy to that team of people. They’re all looking for those business problems to be solved.
In e-commerce, your writing should appeal more to emotion. You’re trying to convince someone who may not “need” something that they “want” it. So, keep it light on the statistics. E-commerce customers want to know that your product works. But more importantly, you’re trying to convince them what you’re selling will make them happy.
B2B writing should appeal more to statistics. In B2B, you’re convincing a team of people that they “need” your help. So stay away from big claims of how happy or successful you can make them. Instead, your focus should stay on how. You’re trying to convince another business that you’re worth your salt.
Don’t take this to mean that B2B doesn’t have an emotional side. Buying is an emotional act, regardless of who you are or where you work. B2B will be a little more focused on stats than e-commerce, but both need heart and passion.
Striking a good balance will help you hook a consumer without boring them. Your e-commerce reader won’t read your copy thinking, “ew, math.” Instead, they’ll see your product as something vibrant and exciting.
That same balance on the other side means a business won’t dismiss you as fluff. Your B2B reader won’t think, “that’s quite a story, but I don’t see why it matters.” Instead, they’ll read your copy and find a compelling story with plenty of proof backing it up.
That compelling story is important for either audience. You need to draw them in, and there’s no better way to do that than with a good story. Think of your own experience. The most interesting and engaging copy is immersive and interesting. In B2B vs e-commerce writing, the key is to remember what it is that each audience will find most interesting.
The focus of your e-commerce writing should be the product benefits. A single consumer is interested in themselves. They want to know how your product can benefit their own lives. Your e-commerce audience wants to know what they’re buying and why the different aspects of it are good.
Your B2B copy should focus on results. A business is interested in achieving its goals or fulfilling its mission statement. Businesses want to be sure you can help them with that. Your B2B audience wants to know what results your product will bring them. They don’t need to read a step-by-step breakdown of your process, as long as you can show them it works.
This isn’t to say that e-commerce customers aren’t interested in results. After all, you probably read the reviews last time you bought something new. Probably even before making your decision. However, going too heavy on the results will make your e-commerce writing forgettable.
A list of “so-and-so said this, someone else said that a third person said another thing” doesn’t speak to e-commerce readers. Remember, they’re mostly thinking about themselves. For them, positive reviews are the deciding factor for something they already want.
B2B customers care about benefits, too. If you can achieve their goals and do it in a way they enjoy, that’s something to help you stand out from the competition. Think about hiring an employee for your business. If their resume only said things like “friendly” and “responsible”, would you hire them based only on that? Of course not.
On the other hand, what if their resume only had their name and work experience? You might be more likely to hire them, but they wouldn’t stand out. The candidate whose resume would be noticeable would have a mix of both. They might say “directed a school play” so you know they enjoy working with people and they can put that to good use.
The same goes for your B2B writing. A dry list of “we did this, we did that” is ok, but won’t make you stand apart. You’d lose to someone who used a combination of results and benefits every time.
Only the primary focus is different between B2B and e-commerce writing. Remember that balance we talked about? It applies here, too. Ensure you have the correct combination of benefits and results for your audience. That way your copy will be as persuasive as possible.
E-commerce copy should be creative and eye-catching. Remember, you’re trying to make a sale without having common ground. You’re trying to sell to their desires, whether they’re aware of it or not.
An individual will follow something they find interesting or funny. I’m sure you can remember ads that are so engaging, you want to try what they’re selling right away. That’s good e-commerce copy.
Creative copy will connect with an e-commerce audience because it makes your business feel relatable. They won’t feel that you’re just trying to grab their money, but instead that you have something to offer them. They want more of what it was they found interesting, which will lead them to your website and then on to your product.
B2B copy can be more intimate and direct. In this case, you already have something in common — you’re both business owners. You probably already understand some or all of their goals. Maybe you even have similar goals for yourself.
A business will follow something they find to be a worthwhile lead. Being direct and not wasting time will make your B2B audience feel understood. Making them feel understood will show them you’re that worthwhile lead they’ve been looking for.
Knowing what each audience is going to follow will keep your copy engaging to both. Your e-commerce audience won’t get bored before reaching a call to action. Meanwhile, your B2B audience won’t assume you’re someone who can’t be taken seriously.
Your e-commerce audience will respond to something short and punchy. Remember, this kind of copy’s most important job is to catch attention. So things like puns, jokes, snarky headlines, or witty wordplay will be a better fit in e-commerce copy. Not every e-commerce audience wants or needs jokes, but this audience is more likely to be receptive to them.
In B2B, you can be longer and more technical. A B2B reader wants to be sure you know what you’re talking about. Business jargon, lengthier explanations, or more in-depth analysis fit well in B2B copy.
You can (and often should) use a little humor in B2B copy. The same goes for lengthier e-commerce copy — sometimes a little length is called for. The main thing is to keep your focus on why your reader is looking at your copy.
Keeping that focus means you can captivate your e-commerce audience. That captivation leads them into a sale. Using that focus also means you can reassure your B2B audience that you’re an expert professional. That reassurance leads to trust and that means a sale there, too.
In e-commerce, you’re angling to get one person to make a purchase quickly. You shouldn’t write your copy with the thought, “Well, they’ll come around sometime.” You need to convince your customer that they want what you’re selling right now.
After that, the proof is in the pudding. Your e-commerce customer will keep coming back after a single good experience. You’ll still have a long-term relationship with them, but it’s founded on a quick decision followed by good experiences.
B2B is playing the long game. You’re trying to build a long-term relationship with a whole group of people. You should expect not to land the sale right away. It takes time for everything to go through the right channels.
You’re opening a dialogue and building rapport. You need to convince your B2B customer that you’re an invaluable member of the team. Your long-term relationship with your B2B customers is built on a deeper foundation of trust and value.
You need to have the right expectations for the length of your relationship with both customers. This will keep you from writing e-commerce copy that’s forgettable and lacks urgency. On the B2B side, it’ll keep you from getting frustrated when a sale is taking longer to close.
The audience of your e-commerce copy has personal goals. They’re looking to avoid pain, find pleasure, increase their social status, and so on.
B2B audiences have professional goals. They’re looking for higher customer conversion and retention rates. They want to improve efficiency and cut costs.
Knowing your e-commerce and B2B readers’ goals means you know their pain points, too. You can’t leverage goals or pain points effectively if you don’t have the right ones.
Say you tried to approach a B2B copy by telling them that not buying from you will make them look bad to their friends. A business owner doesn’t work with another business to look good in their personal life. That means your copy trying to use that pain point won’t make your audience feel understood.
Instead, you could approach that same B2B audience by telling them that not buying from you will make them look bad to their customers. A business owner will care what their customers think of them. Presenting pain points differently in your copy makes your writing relevant.
Or what if you were approaching an e-commerce customer? If you tried to say, “this will make your free time more efficient”, you aren’t likely to get far. Efficiency isn’t something most consumers are looking for in their free time or personal lives. Trying to use that pain point for your e-commerce audience will make them feel like you don’t understand them, either.
You might try telling an e-commerce reader how they can get their housework done more efficiently. That’s something that’ll interest an average consumer because they want more time to themselves. Again, you’re using a similar pain point, but in a way that makes your writing relatable to this specific audience.
Your audience not feeling understood means they won’t trust you with their business. That goes for both B2B and e-commerce audiences.
Whether you’re writing e-commerce or B2B copy, it’s important to remember one big thing they have in common. You’ll always be writing to a person.
It’s easier to remember that e-commerce copy is going to a person. After all, you probably spent time researching your target demographic. That means you know all about the person your e-commerce copy is going to.
It can feel like you’re writing B2B copy to some strange and faceless entity called a “business”. That can be overwhelming. B2B copy is going to a person, too, just like you.
Even though you’re working with a business, your writing is going to a person. That person is going to hand it off to their boss, another person. That person will share it with another person, all around their office. Much less scary, right?
Keeping this in mind does more than boost your morale. Writing with a person in mind ensures your B2B copy stays personable. If you write like you’re trying to connect with another person who has similar goals, it will show. Your reader will feel understood and will want to connect with you, too.
Let’s go over all that again. This time, I’ll summarize everything in a word.
Now that you know the differences between B2B and E-Commerce copywriting, you can apply either to your business. Knowing how to position your business with copywriting helps you reap the benefits. What are those benefits? More consistent sales and stable long-term growth.
Those B2B connections take time to develop, but they also build a reliable foundation. After all, a B2B client is likely to stick around for a long time. They’ll also be able to recommend you to other businesses. You can’t do much better than that.
Improving your B2B copywriting will hone your e-commerce game, too. Your e-commerce writing will stop trying to be something it’s not. It won’t bear the weight of your whole business anymore. Use the right type of writing at the right time and your conversions will go through the roof.
After all, I could open a banana stand on a corner, or I could contract with a gym. Or, if I really wanted to see my business grow (and rekindle my rivalry with Larry), I could do both. I’d have the tools to leverage e-commerce skills and B2B skills and meet their different needs.
Meeting those different needs will also cause two different kinds of growth. That gives you the potential to strategize. If your B2B sales slow down, you still have e-commerce sales coming in. If your e-commerce sales slow, you still have B2B sales going for you.
That flexibility allows you the chance to get back on track. With those stable sales and flexibility, you’ll be enjoying the fruits of your labor in no time.
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High-converting direct-response copy for growing B2B companies and disruptive digital brands.