Why you should be writing for an intelligent goldfish

Does this sound like one of your company’s straplines?

“Backed by our track record in multi-layer MPLS networking, our NFV/SDN-driven end-to-end solutions enable service innovation from the network edge right to its core.”

If so, you’re clearly in an industry that needs to speak to technical experts.

Whether you’re in IT, telecoms, engineering or finance, your content needs to show potential customers that you know your stuff. If someone Googles ‘multi-layer MPLS networking’ or ‘NFV/SDN’ – or whatever your keywords may be – you want your site to come top of the list.

So, we’re all good with that strapline then? Not quite.

Hook, line and sinker

The problem is, your audience is not just experts Googling your keywords.

While experts are often your first foot in the door with a new client, they are unlikely to be the only influencers and are rarely the final decision-makers.

Whether it’s on the web, via social channels or at events, you need to get your message across to a lot of people who don’t understand your ‘lingo’: marketers, operational staff, procurement professionals, CFOs and even CEOs.

So, in designing your content, your first concern should be to make it appeal to a broad spectrum of readers.

Reel them in

Next, you need to pull those readers in right from the get go.  

In this multi-channel world, our attention span is shorter than ever. Since the year 2000, it has fallen from 12 to eight seconds. That’s an attention span roughly equivalent to that of a goldfish.   

So, the best way of grabbing people’s attention? Keep it simple – no matter how complex your technology. That does not mean that you should dumb down your messages. It’s just a case of delivering them in a way that makes them more accessible to a wider audience.

Will this turn off more technically-minded audience members? Not if it’s done well. Who doesn’t prefer an easy read over a hard one? What’s more, having accessible content doesn’t preclude you from also creating ‘deep dives’ for expert audiences later in the sales cycle. But before you dive, paddle.

What to think about

So how you go about attracting and reeling in those readers? Here are a few tips:

Drop the jargon

When you’ve been in an industry for a long time, using jargon becomes second nature. For many of your audiences, you might as well be speaking a different language. To avoid descending into technobabble, get someone outside your department or even outside the organisation to vet your corporate content – or use an external writer from the outset.  

Take a big picture view

It’s easy to get bogged down in detail, especially if you work with a lot of experts. To show how important a particular technology or concept is, you need to step back and look at the bigger picture.    

For example, a campaign I ran a few years back for a telecom company talked about helping small businesses grow faster by enabling them to punch above their weight and challenge much bigger competitors. We never mentioned the technology which made it all happen.   

What does it mean to Joe Bloggs?

Even if your business is B2B, your customers will ultimately sell to end-users – whether it’s consumers or businesses. Ask yourself what benefits these people will get?

Instead of talking about your marvellous call centre technology you could focus on how it reduces waiting time for callers – the biggest gripe people have with customer service lines – and how it pushes down costs.

It’s like…

I recently wrote a series of articles on a system for managing, orchestrating and automating telecom networks. Unless this is your ‘patch’, these terms will mean very little. But what if I said that it’s like Windows for telephone networks? All of a sudden, a complex technology becomes something that most readers can relate to.

It brings it closer to home – after all, nearly 300 million people in the world use Windows at work and at home.

Bring facts and figures to life

Facts and figures are important. But use too many and they can be off-putting. It’s important to bring them to life. The global food price index sounds dull, but how about the following intro:

“For those with a sweet tooth, there’s bad news in the latest global food price index. Over the last year, the price of sugar has risen and dropped like the stiff peaks of a perfect meringue.”

Along the same lines, percentages may sound very authoritative, but using ‘a third’, ‘more than half’ or ‘6 in 10’ makes your figures easier for readers to visualise.

Use examples

When you are trying to make something complex easier to understand, examples are worth their weight in gold. What will your product or technology do, in practical terms?

Going back to our original example, what are ‘NFV/SDN-driven end-to-end solutions’ good for? For example, the technology might let more people live-stream a popular concert or football match. This means that everyone trying access the live feed can do so without delays and disruptions, contributing to that all-important customer experience.   

What they need to hear is what it means for their business and to the bottom line.

What do you need to catch a ‘goldfish’? Make it interesting and make it accessible. Whether it’s the CEO or a software developer, they are more likely to relate to your content if you give them an interesting hook.

If you’d like to hear how we can help your business produce journalistic content, get in touch today.

Email: enquiries@formativecontent.com or call our team on 01494 672 122

Andrea Willige is an Account Director at Formative Content, leading campaigns and creating compelling content for our technology clients, amongst others.

Formative Content is a UK based content marketing agency producing high quality content, live event coverage and strategic communications support for clients around the world.