Recently, a B2B Writing Success member asked the editor a question about catalog copywriting for the B2B market:
“How is B2B catalog copywriting different from consumer catalog writing?”
Having written both kinds of catalog copy — even for one company that sells in both the Business-to-Consumer (B2C) and Business-to-Business (B2B) market — I’m happy to answer this question.
First, there’s always a discussion in the B2B world about having to be “different” in your copywriting approach versus the way you write for B2C prospects. While that’s true due to the B2B sales cycle, the nature of the audience’s mission, the decision process, and so on … it’s not as different as you may think when it comes to making an initial impression.
Here’s how it’s NOT different.
People respond emotionally to copywriting that solves a main goal or mission. Copywriting that solves a problem or meets a need is always going to be powerful in getting the reader’s attention.
I call this starting with the big “B” (the big BENEFIT) — no matter what you’re writing about.
With so little space in a catalog for a description (often just a few short lines of text), your copywriting must instantly answer this question: What’s the main benefit of the product; what makes it a great solution or the absolute best option?
To illustrate my point, let’s look at your catalog copywriting approach for a windproof and waterproof all-weather jacket. Whether you’re writing about this jacket as a great solution for a boating enthusiast (consumer) or a professional boat captain (Business-to-Business prospect), you’ll want to write about the big “B”: the main benefit of this particular jacket.
It could be that this jacket defies the worst weather elements nature can dish out. It …
- Wicks away raindrops and waves to keep you dry.
- Blocks even hurricane-force wind thanks to its impenetrable fleece lining and leak-free adjustable Velcro cuffs.
- Stands up to the elements for YEARS because it’s made of Gore-Tex®, which is famous for durable weather resistance that lasts for decades.
You get the idea.
The “weather defiance” benefit is huge to both the B2C sailing enthusiast and B2B boat captain, right?
So, it pays to start your catalog copy with a big benefit.
Now, here’s where the catalog copy should be DIFFERENT.
It’s all about putting the big benefit in context for the reader.
- Consider the work setting your product supports.
When you’re writing catalog copy for consumer products, you’ll present the big BENEFIT as a lifestyle solution. (“Sink into this comfortable backyard hammock and enjoy ultimate relaxation with a Pina Colada in your hand … “)
When you’re writing catalog copy for B2B products, you’ll present the big BENEFIT as a workplace solution. (“Slash your water-testing time from 24 hours to just 6 minutes and count on 100% accuracy in your results.”)
- Consider your B2B prospect’s “relevant desire or need” when it comes to your product.
When you’re writing catalog copy for consumer products, you’ll present the big BENEFIT as a personal solution. (“You’ll be slimmer, wealthier, smarter, etc., if you buy this.”)
When you’re writing catalog copy for B2B products, you’ll present the big BENEFIT as a professional solution. (“You’ll solve a company problem, you’ll be a company hero, you may even get promoted, etc., if you buy this.”)
- Consider the buying process involved.
When you’re writing catalog copy for consumer products, your reader is usually the only decision maker involved in making a purchase. He reads the copy and then selects the item for purchase (via online shopping cart, toll-free customer support line, etc.).
When you’re writing catalog copy for B2B products, there may be several decision makers involved and the buying cycle may take months. That’s because the initial prospect may need to show the product to her boss or a team within the business. She may need to make a case for choosing this product over other options, looking at the product’s benefits and relevance as well as the price, availability, color options, and more. You may need to recognize that process in your copy and even offer a free consultation to help the prospect “pitch” the product to her team.
Let’s put it all together by looking at some B2B catalog copywriting samples.
Here’s a sample for a product geared to the professional water-testing lab manager:
“Checking samples for E. coli or enterococci is quick and easy with this UV-shielded viewing cabinet. The back holds a UV light while the front curtain provides an easy-access, dark environment for reading samples.”
Here’s another sample for a water-testing lab timer:
“Easily note the time and ambient temperature from a distance while you prepare samples. Large 2″ digital display includes the time, month, date, and day, as well as degrees in Fahrenheit or Celsius. Durable two-tone case. Approx. 9″W x 10″H. Two AAA batteries included.”
The following sample benefits are written about a tote bag a business may use as a promotional item or corporate gift. Notice that the copy is all about saving the prospect money while promoting the prospect’s business.
- “Save up to 20% with volume discounts”
- “A great way to display your logo for maximum visibility”
- “A gift made in USA that will last — and promote your business — for many years”
- “Simply the toughest tote you can put your logo on — and a trusted favorite since the 1940s”
This exact same tote bag is also sold as a consumer product on a different part of the company’s website, with very different copy.
A final note: Some B2B catalog marketers use the big benefit product headline style:
“Slash testing time from 24 hours to 6 minutes with [Product Name].”
Others simply list the product name and then let the product description do all the selling:
Slash your testing time from 24 hours to 6 minutes with 100% accuracy.”
In either case, always start with the big “B” (benefit) for winning catalog copywriting.