4 strategic differences in writing emails for B2B vs B2C
Before you run off to go write your next series of high-converting emails, there’s one more thing you need to consider: whether you’re writing to a B2B audience or a B2C audience.
This is actually far more important than you think.
Even though smart B2B brands are trending away from complicated, jargon-heavy marketing (as they should) and embracing the persuasive marketing power of imagination, personality, and storytelling, they still operate in a professional context.
This is very important because the way we interact with business email is completely different from the way we engage with personal email. Which means that, if you use all the same techniques and strategies for a B2B email that you would for a B2C email, the results will be… less than stellar.
Here are four key differences between B2B and B2C to keep in mind when you’re writing your next email.
B2B emails are generally shorter than B2C ones, because in a business context, it’s much more important to get to the point. At work, humans in general — and especially senior employees — are less tolerant of non-business related matters.
We all have bosses watching over us and work duties to fulfill during the day, so reading an email that starts with a long, story-type hook, is far more likely to end up in the trash than an email that gets to the point.
That said, you still want to take some time to engage your reader and remind them of the problem they’re facing, but do it in a way that feels relevant to the business reader. Short and concise are a good rule of thumb if you’re in B2B.
The tone of an email will be dictated by many things, including your brand and the subject matter. However, a rule of thumb for most copywriters and email marketers is to write at about a grade 5 reading level on the Flesch-Kincaid grading scale and to avoid jargon as much as possible.
Given the often specialized nature of B2B, avoiding jargon completely is not always possible. The tone of a B2B email should still be conversational and a little casual — like you’re talking to your coworkers around the watercooler.
But the recommended reading level for B2B copy is a Flesch-Kincaid grade 8 instead of a grade 5, to accommodate the sometimes technical terms we need to use at work.
You know what I’m talking about. Think of a Billy Mays style infomercial where a product is touted as the “best ever” with all of these amazing applications — which may or may not be true, but that’s not the point.
The point is that the presentation feels excessive and the super high energy, limited-time super-special-awesome deal is a massive turn off for B2B buyers.
B2B sales cycles move more slowly, often requiring thorough vetting by an employee first, and then a manager, director, or higher level executive to sign off on purchases. And if it’s a technology or SaaS product, the IT department has to get involved as there are security protocols, integrations, and implementations to worry about.
Hype works against you in this context, because it makes B2B reader balk at your offer. “30% off, while supplies last” isn’t enough to convince a B2B reader that the product will fit their needs, and it definitely won’t be enough to convince the boss.
The slower, more thought out sales cycle of B2B also necessitates different calls to action throughout the buying process. Calls to action in a B2B funnel are often more incremental, as there are many layers of support and approval to get through before a purchase is made.
Still follow the rules laid out in ‘How to craft an irresistible Call To Action‘, but, especially if you’re not emailing people at the top of the funnel who are just discovering you, know that a call may be followed by a meeting, followed by reference materials, followed by a demo, followed by another meeting, etc.
Know that CTAs in a B2B context are incremental, and write your emails accordingly.
Just because you’re writing for B2B is no reason for your email to be dull and boring. Is it more difficult to be engaging while keeping things short? Yes. But it’s not impossible, and you need to remember that your B2B readers are human. They have wants and needs just like a B2C reader does.
Do your best to address those needs in an interesting, engaging way while still respecting their time, and the professional workplace they’re operating in, and your emails are guaranteed to stand out in their inboxes.
This article is Part 5 of ‘The Anatomy of a High-Converting Email’, a series on using conversion copywriting techniques to write high-performing emails. Read the previous installments in this series:
Check back next week for the sixth and final part of this series, where we’ll be looking at the key metrics to a successful email.
Katie Callaghan is a Sales Funnel Strategist and Conversion Copywriter helping growth-stage startups turn existing traffic into more customers, users, and revenue. You can find her at www.startupfunnelstrategist.com.