By Shawneda Crout
The practice of separating technical writers from the marketing team outside science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) industries and the business-to-business sector is over. Product development teams outside of STEM industries are calling for writers with the specialized capacity to inform customers of daily problems they’ve solved with complex products in language that is simple. Marketing copy for new products, upgrades, and improvements is no longer about “emotional engagement.” Business customers and private consumers are not easily fooled by slick presentations or manipulative cues. They’re armed with facts, high performing devices, and a limitless library at their fingertips.
Technical writing evolved from microwave instructions and employee support documentation to technical communication over the last few decades. Technical communicators are involved in writing, video creation, script creation, coding, in-app documentation, wireframing, and delivering better user experiences across all industries. Surgeons and rocket scientists are as reliant on technical communication as fitness enthusiasts learning to use their new wearables to improve their endurance.
Content marketing positions are posted as “technical marketing” in many industries previously driven by emotion marketing. Consumer products rely on operating systems, application programming interface (API) connections, and digital devices are involved in everything from ordering food to dyeing hair. Breaking down complex instructions, concepts, and product uses are no longer reserved for companies in STEM industries. Technical specifications, device capacities, and the ability to make the computerized parts of a product work has infiltrated every corner of the nonprofit world, side hustling, and international commerce.
Meeting the Needs of Intelligent Consumers
Today’s customers are smart. They’re amused or annoyed but not attracted by “clever marketing” tactics. You’ll hear how much they’re amused or annoyed by attempts at manipulation if you listen. What they’re not tired of is shopping. In fact, online shopping for everything from technical products to consumer solutions has increased for several reasons. These converging factors present a challenge to some and an opportunity to others.
Good marketing takes effort and looks less like the marketing of the past. Manipulative marketing tactics and false claims are easily debunked thanks to social media and review sites. Overreaching claims, altered images, and “clever editing” is unearthed and mocked, much to the chagrin of those business owners more interested in sales than providing solutions.
Intelligent shoppers provide unlimited opportunities for future thinking organizations. Instead of trying to ride out the pixel-driven privacy-piercing ads that dominated the last 10 years, they’re investing in solution driven personalized content marketing. From skincare to ERP resources, the importance of presenting solutions to problems is at the forefront of companies who recognize the shift in consumer behaviors regardless of the industry.
Technical communicators involved in the process of creating knowledge base resources, documentation, wikis, and product use videos can consider this a challenge or an opportunity. While some technical products have involved technical writers or technical communicators in the product development phase of a product’s lifecycle this is not a “standard practice” across most industries. Using “technical jargon” was frowned upon and making complex things easy to understand was considered part of customer support not promotions. But technical content has become increasingly integrated into the sales cycle.
Embracing the Intersection Between Tech Comm and Marketing
As our daily lives are immersed with more technology, the need to make the complexities of solutions clear in promotional materials is increasing. Whether a company is business-to-consumer, business-to-government, or business-to-business, the need for input from technical communicators in marketing is increasing. For some tech writers this is an affront to the role and responsibilities of product support, for others this is an opportunity to serve customers from discovery to implementation.
Successful companies acknowledge that shoppers have become smarter; embracing the intersection of marketing and technical communication is becoming less of an “opportunity” and more of a requirement. Experienced and emerging technical communication professionals must be open to the value of social media, social search, and “digestible” content that delivers complex information in simple messaging.
As technical communicators recognize and adapt to the changes in communication it creates a sustainable win. Customers win when they feel respected and valued as early as the discovery phase of the marketing journey with a product. Brands win when they can begin earning a customer’s trust earlier in their engagement. Consumer trust can increase brand awareness and profit. Individual technical writers win because participating in the content creation earlier in its production in a way that increases revenue will improve their professional reputation and may increase their value to an organization. Embrace marketing intersecting with technical communication for the win.
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SHAWNEDA CROUT (email@example.com) is a social media manager for Women Who Code and published author. Intersections will explore how technical communication intersects with other disciplines, mediums, and practices