The start-up economy is in full swing, and more and more ambitious dreamers are stepping away from working for The Man and starting their own business. With new businesses comes the need for new clients, with the need for new clients comes the need for convincing pitches, with the need for convincing pitches comes the need for good content, and with the need for good content comes the need for B2B content writers.
I’ve been in B2B throughout my professional life. I’ve worked as a business development manager for nearly two years, and as a communications consultant, I work almost entirely with B2B clients. So whether you’re a B2C writer planning to test the B2B waters or a new writer who simply wants to understand what the difference is, here are my tried-and-tested tips on how to make a strong start as a B2B writer.
What’s the difference between B2B and B2C?
You’ll be surprised how many people throw these two abbreviations around without knowing what they mean. Ask them and they’ll say that B2B stands for business-to-business while B2C is short for business-to-consumer. Well and good, you’ll say, but aren’t businesses consumers too?
So here’s the difference. Essentially, B2C buyers are your end customers – the individual who is consuming the product/service you sell. A B2C buyer could be a one-time customer or a repeat buyer, depending on how much he/she liked the purchase. On the other hand, B2B buyers are the companies who avail of your product/service. They’re usually looking for a long-term association rather than a one-off buy, and they could be corporate buyers or resellers.
So for instance, if we’re talking about a boutique chocolate manufacturer, their B2C audience would be the customers who come in and buy chocolates for personal consumption. And their B2B audience would be corporate clients who buy chocolates in bulk for gifting purposes.
Some businesses, like the chocolate manufacturer, could have both B2C and B2B audiences. Others, like SaaS companies, could have only B2B clients. It depends on the type of product/service being offered and whether it’s suited for institutional use, individual use or both.
What kind of content would you typically need in B2B?
In B2B, you’re catering to buyers at an institutional level. The people reading your content will likely be senior professionals and/or managers. For such people, content is less about triggering a buying impulse and more about creating the basis for a professional relationship. Think informative content that engages the reader and educates him/her on relevant topics. So for an HR manager, a well-written blog post about remote working trends or how to keep interns engaged could be useful, especially when backed with stats and real-life examples.
Even when it comes to short-form content, it’s less about quirky Facebook/Instagram posts and more about meaningful, business-related content presented in a condensed form. LinkedIn is your best friend when it comes to social media (more on that later). It’s where all the professionals hang out, from junior executives to global CEOs – so it’s where you need to be too if you want to establish that personal connection with clients.
What to keep in mind when writing for B2B clients
By now, you’ve probably understood that B2B content requires a more ‘professional’ approach than B2C since you’re dealing with company people rather than the walk-in buyer. But what does a professional approach involve? And how do you walk the line between professional and pompous? Here’s what you need to keep in mind.
Understand the product/service thoroughly
B2B content absolutely has to be product-centric, and explicitly so. Everything you share needs to showcase what you’re offering and why clients should trust you. Naturally, that doesn’t mean that every single post will be a rehash of your list of offerings, but each post must have some tie-back to what the business does.
So before diving headlong into content creation, take enough time out to understand the product/service. Ask as many questions and talk to as many employees as needed. Unless you do this at the onset, you’ll waste valuable time later on clarifying points and redoing content that doesn’t sufficiently capture what the product is.
Keep your tone formal
Since your audience consists almost entirely of professionals, you need to keep your tone appropriate for professional sharing. No colloquialisms, sarcasm or jokes here – B2B clients could interpret that as you not taking them seriously.
However, this doesn’t mean that your content needs to be dull. You can still keep things informal and catchy – in a classy way. So while in a B2C context you could get away with a “Buy! Buy! Buy!” sort of line, for B2B you could go with something like, “We’re having a sale. Here’s why you should be interested.” It’s conversational without being colloquial and has a clear message for the reader.
Show, don’t tell
It’s all too easy to go from informative to pompous when you’re writing B2B content. The crucial thing to remember is that you can’t shove information down your readers’ throats. Your content should look neither like an overdose of facts nor like you are setting yourself up as a supreme authority. Keep it informative and highlight the benefits you offer, but illustrate each point with examples so that your reader can clearly see why you’ve mentioned each point.
So instead of “There’s no denying that we’re the best when it comes to forensic accounting”, write “With over 20 years of experience in forensic accounting, we’re confident that we can work with you to generate timely and accurate results”. With the latter, you’re giving proof of your competence (20 years of experience), showcasing your collaborative approach (‘work with you’) and also highlighting your skills (‘timely and accurate results’).
Focus on long-form content
B2B clients will be reading your content primarily for information rather than entertainment. So you need to ensure that each piece you publish has interesting and relevant facts that are connected through a smooth narrative.
Blog posts and articles are ideal for this kind of content, as you have enough space to introduce ideas, highlight examples and share tips. You can also create an e-book or whitepaper on topics where you have a lot to share. These are ideal for posting on the business website as downloadable resources. You can also email the files directly to clients who you think will be interested in the content.
Leverage the power of LinkedIn
Pretty much every professional has a LinkedIn account. Which means that LinkedIn should be an absolute priority for you. If the business doesn’t already have a LinkedIn company page, create one and start sharing regular posts.
LinkedIn articles are a great way to get thought leadership out to a wider audience – your content plan should include at least one LinkedIn article every month. Another important aspect of LinkedIn is engaging with other people’s posts, especially those shared by prospective clients. Add thoughtful comments, share viewpoints and sneak in a few lines about your product/service wherever you can do so in a natural, non-pushy manner.
Showcase client testimonials
With B2B, every positive testimonial counts – especially if it’s from a major company or shared by an influential senior professional. And when it comes to sharing testimonials, you can get a little creative. So instead of simply posting the text verbatim, you can log on to Canva and create an attractive post with a picture of the client and the testimonial he/she shared.
Or you could prepare a quick slideshow video highlighting testimonials and share it on the business website and on their official social media pages. These are ideal for sharing on Facebook or Instagram if the business has official accounts on those platforms. They also make for great content to forward directly (through WhatsApp messages, for instance) to clients with whom the business has a moderately close relationship.
Have a consistent content schedule
In B2B, it’s not necessary to post twice or thrice a day – or even every day for that matter. At the same time, you should agree on a schedule with your client and stick to it. For instance, if you decide to share one blog post every Tuesday and one LinkedIn post every Monday and Thursday, make sure you’re following that schedule religiously.
Try and prepare your posts at least two weeks or even a month in advance and use an automation tool to publish them on time. B2B clients don’t need you to share witty tweets every hour, but they do need to know that they can count on you to deliver solid results every time – and a good indicator of that is how consistently you share useful content.
Hopefully, this quick guide gives you an idea of where to start. Practice makes perfect, as with all types of content, and the more B2B clients you work with the better you’ll become. It’s extremely different from B2C content, but equally rewarding if not more so – go for it, and happy writing!