Web Copywriting and Content Marketing for Technically-Oriented Companies
After my recent work with a startup software company, I’ve come to realize that, despite the abundance of marketing information available online and in book stores, most technically-oriented people are relatively clueless about marketing.
Plus, I’m finding that even the marketers within these companies may have forgotten their roots. That’s quite understandable, and it’s a reason that many companies seek outside freelance writers and marketers to help “freshen up” their marketing campaigns.
However, I’ve realized that the problem is far worse than I’d previously understood.
The Psychology of Tribes
Much of the challenge lies in the psychology of “tribes” or groups. Every group, whether it’s five people or 5,000 people, will have certain rules, laws, and accepted behavior that’s been established over weeks, months, and in some cases decades. We call it the “corporate culture,” but in fact it is something that’s applicable to any group of any size… including and especially your closest group of colleagues and friends.
Say, for example, that the group “rule” states that it is impolite to question a manager’s authority. The culture may be seen from the outside as overly polite and nice, while inside people are generally upset about the way things are run.
A new person entering this organization may initially question the way things are, but will be quickly put in his or her place. This keeps the group intact and, like a virus, the intruder is either converted or spit out.
This makes it difficult, if not impossible to change a well-established culture. A bad apple wouldn’t last a month in a well-run company, just as a high performer would sooner quit a new job than conform to the general mediocrity of the group.
Similarly, a group that’s bound to each other through mutual complaints and negative feelings will eat up and spit out anyone who dares come in with a positive approach or attitude.
It’s just the way things are, and there’s nothing we can do about it without rooting out and naming the underlying beliefs, starting with the top of the organization.
This is why you’ll sometimes see a dramatic shift in an organization within a year of their hiring a new CEO. It’s one of the reasons Hewlett-Packard went from one of the most admired and respected companies (and one of the best to work for) to a company beset with problem after problem, many of them ethical dilemmas. It all started at the top.
How This Applies to Technology Companies
The “way things are” in marketing for technology companies can be seen by pulling out and reading any random assortment of white papers, case studies, and website home or product pages.
First, there is the culture of the organization. It’s typically been run by technically-oriented people, so the culture is one in which the technology holds a higher stature than the customer. The general attitude is that “if we create a better widget, everyone will realize it’s better and will buy it over our competitors.”
Thus, they focus on the technology instead of what impact the technology has on real people.
The marketing literature reflects this fact, emphasizing the product name in the headline and leading with the product features.
Secondly, there is also the culture of “technology companies.” This overriding culture dictates the format of marketing pieces such as white papers, case studies and web copy. The bigger culture also decides on the best approach to talk with each other. That is, “we shall henceforth talk to each other as if we are androids devoid of emotion and focused only on the merits of the technology.”
And…. What I’m Going to Do About it
Starting today, I am creating a new series of articles that I’m calling “Technical Alchemy: Transforming Technical Gobbledygook into Sales and Profits.”
At this time I’m uncertain of the length of the series, or how often I’ll post updates. What I do know is that the series will look at the Philosophy, the Structure, and the Language of technical marketing.
A part of the philosophy, for example, requires that technical marketers come to terms with the fact that their reader won’t know what they (the author) knows. How this understand impacts what we write as technical marketers can be significant.
I also believe that we should begin to question the “structure” of technical marketing collateral. For example, is the standard structure of a technical white paper really the most effective for marketing and selling a product or service?
And, finally, we need to address the language of technical marketing. The human mind understands emotion and sees life in terms of metaphor. And, yet, we ignore this fact when writing technical marketing pieces, choosing instead to use words that have no emotional undertones and leave the reader gasping for air.
We’ll start with the philosophy and slowly work our way down through the structure and language of technical marketing. The result, I hope, will be an alchemical transformation of technical marketing into something that will help you sell more of your products and services.Written by Sid Smith Written by Sid Smith