Do Your Customers Understand What You’re Talking About?

Technology marketing and sales materials are typically full of complex terms, buzzwords, acronyms, and other insider vocabulary. Internal subject matter experts are often the driving force behind this, wanting to showcase their expertise and demonstrate the company’s technical competency. Unfortunately, most of your customers are not likely conversant with this jargon, resulting in communications that are less effective than you would like.

We have some thoughts on how to write technical material for different audiences, from consumers to IT departments to corporate executives.

Writing technical collateral that clearly communicates your product’s features and benefits is a big advantage in a crowded marketplace. Customers will have a better grasp of what the product does and doesn’t do, and ask more informed questions. While this may sound threatening, it is better than consuming a lot of sales time re-answering the same questions and concerns, or worse, losing a potential customer because they did not understand how your product worked and could help their business.

When writing about technical products and services, it is helpful to recall the purposes of specialized jargon, leave out as many acronyms as you can, and evaluate whether you are being clear or condescending when explaining things.

The purpose of jargon

Jargon is a common development in any group of people that work or play together.This insider language develops for a variety of reasons. Sometimes specialized words are required to be very precise, as we often see in the medical profession. In other cases, especially with acronyms, they are a useful shorthand that speeds up communications. And in some cases, they convey status or prestige on those who understand them. Most professions have their own jargon, as do most large organizations. To people outside of the core group, the words are confusing or incomprehensible, requiring more work on their part to translate and understand. You do not need that to be an inherent cost of reading your marketing materials.

Skip the acronyms

Even people working in an IT department or the most technical consumer will not know all of the acronyms that your product team uses on a regular basis. In datasheets or reference material, acronyms are often appropriate. However, in the main body of most marketing and sales communications they range from annoying to completely unnecessary. The problem is that people who do not know the meaning may be too embarrassed to ask for a definition, seriously reducing comprehension.

This is not a suggestion to spell out each acronym. Once you have introduced the concept, synonyms are far more readable than acronyms. Consider these two, admittedly exaggerated examples:

1) At ETMG, our experienced B2B and B2C writers can improve your KPIs and increase your ARPU and CAGR. Adhering tightly to the SOW, their services will reduce your SG&A by clearly communicating your USP.

2) At Envision, our experienced business and consumer writers can improve your performance and increase your sales and growth rate. Adhering to the project’s objectives, their services will reduce your expenses by clearly communicating your unique benefits.

It may take a bit more work, and the written material may be slightly longer, but the end result is much clearer.

Clear versus condescending

Speaking of being clear, sometimes technical writing can over-explain, to the point of being condescending. While your audience may not be familiar with the jargon, they are also not stupid. Lengthy descriptions, especially of underlying concepts, can alienate the reader, as do repeated examples. State your case and move on, while providing appropriate links or references for those who want more details. This is especially important for executive-level communications, which need to get to the point quickly, while providing ready access to supporting material.

In other words, … No, you get the point.

Write for your audience, not to them

This is certainly not a new concept, that you should write for the people reading, but it is one that seems to be forgotten more often in the technology industry. Many of us love technology, and it is easy to get carried away when writing about the latest gadget or feature you have to offer. Just remember that your audience has their own jobs to do, full of their own acronyms and specialized language, and they have neither the time nor the interest to learn yours. If you are wondering how technical your marketing material is, ask a non-technical friend or family member to read one and explain it back to you. You may be surprised at what you hear!

Further Reading:

Choosing a Technology Copywriter for Your Marketing Needs

By Douglas Frosst, ETMG Writer

Douglas Frosst
Douglas started out as a programmer, but crossed over to the dark side
(marketing) after 10 years because he happened to be wearing a suit
when they needed someone to present to a customer. An incorrigible
geek, he can often be found helping friends and family with their electronics,
which they find frustrating as all devices appear to be afraid of him and work
properly when he is around. He tries to fit in writing and other work around
his travel and sports, which include scuba diving, skiing, and refereeing soccer.