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From The Business to Business Marketer
Target a dual audience. For starters, technology advertising must talk to two audiences. The engineer who will be using the product wants technical information. The nontechnical audience—mostly administrative and purchasing people—looks for user advantages instead of facts and figures. Any of these people could have a say in the buy decision. Solution: A benefit oriented product overview followed by technical facts and figures kills both birds with one stone.
Hit the nail on the head. It’s not always easy to boil complex technical concepts down to their essence and express those concepts in plain English. But the more you can do that, the more your technical copy will appeal to both the educated layman and the engineer. Both audiences need to understand why they should buy the product. So be sure everything you write contributes to the main point. If there’s anything that doesn’t, get rid of it. Your final copy will communicate more clearly if nonessential words, phrases and sentences end up where they belong—in the round file.
Do your homework. A fair amount of research is needed to write advertising that appeals to technical audiences. The Internet takes much of the work out of it. Even if your client has supplied you with a stack of notes and existing literature, the Web is a useful resource for boning up on the technology behind the product. The more research you can do, the more productive the client interview and the more effective the resulting literature.
Talk to the “horse’s mouth.” Once the initial research is done, a one-to-one interview with the person closest to marketing the product is the next step. A product marketing manager with an engineering background makes an excellent “horse’s mouth.” Another good bet is a sales rep who knows the product inside out and can tell you the sales points he makes to customers. Both you and the rep can then be sure the sales literature you write will reinforce those sales points.
Record your interview. When you use a tape recorder, you can replay complex technical parts to make sure you haven’t missed anything. That way, you spend less of your client’s time—and your own time—calling back later with questions. An in-person meeting is best, but if you conduct an interview over the telephone you can still record the conversation. Recorder/telephone connection devices are readily available, inexpensive and simple to use. If you ask your interview questions in logical order, you can generate a draft directly from the transcript.
Never underestimate the power of credibility. Credibility means everything to the technical people who make or influence buying decisions. That’s why it’s critical to support claims with specifications, how-to information, charts, and photographs. All are worth their weight in gold when it comes to persuading an engineer to buy. Testimonial quotes are equally impressive credibility tools because the reader can relate instantly to a satisfied user.
Show and tell. A word about the product photo—It’s unlikely your concepts and copy can stand alone without one. If you don’t show the product, a skeptical reader may wonder if it has even been designed yet. A photo lets that reader know the product has indeed been designed and is currently available. Besides, most engineers will want to know exactly what the product looks like. In a highly conceptual ad, the photo can be shown in such a way that it won’t dilute the visual effect of the concept.
Throw out the alphabet soup. Abbreviations have their place in technical manuals, but they are best avoided in advertising and marketing literature. Even the most familiar abbreviations and acronyms will make your copy harder to read. If you must use an abbreviation, make sure you identify it by writing it out the first time it’s used, then abbreviating afterwards. While you’re at it, consider replacing old saws like “state-of-the-art,” “cutting edge,” “optimum” and “user friendly” with more explicit, less overworked terms.
Look for the hot button. Somewhere in your stack of interview notes and research materials is the hot button that will lead to a buy decision. Your job is to find it and hit it hard without being too cute and clever. What problems does the product solve for the reader? How does it solve those problems? What will it do for this individual? Will it give prestige within the company? Make his or her job easier? Allow him or her to save the company money? Zero in on what the product will mean to the potential buyer personally.
Say the magic word. Finally, after you’ve hooked your dual audience with product benefits and technical information, try to include a free offer in the final call to action. The most popular “freebie” is a booklet that gives the reader some helpful guidelines for using the product. In direct mail, of course, the free offer can be the whole purpose of the piece. And just the word “free” is a major hot button. It invokes the universal desire to get something for nothing, but—even more important—this magical mantra appeals to the engineer’s cost-effective nature.
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