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How to be a good tech writer

The other day a marketing colleague asked me to write him an email which he’d pass along to his CEO, about why I should be hired to write technical copy. Feel free to use these selling points in your own self-marketing, assuming of course they apply.

The first thing I believe about tech writing is that you need to understand the product—-not necessarily on a programmatic level, but the problem it solves, and why it does this better than other options. I’m not a scientist but I love to learn how things work.

Secondly, I believe that technology buyers are people with the same personal motivations as those buying consumer products. They want to be secure, avoid conflict and achieve recognition and in an indirect way technical products help them do this. They get promoted because they’ve contributed to the bottom line. They get to go home on time instead of staying to placate angry users.

Finally, I always ask to interview the sales team so I can understand the objections that are typically raised and the hot buttons that get prospects excited about the product. I go to CES most every year (and attended Comdex before that) and spend most of my time hanging back near kiosks to watch sales engineers do technical presentations.

I believe these steps are missing in a lot of the copy I read for technical companies which reads like a laundry list of specs. I spent most of my career working in the Bay Area, and my work was typically lead generating direct response that was tested against other messages and I usually won.

To my fellow copywriters, I’ll add that I won consistently not so much because I was a dramatically better writer, but because I was diligent in my preparation. As Yogi Berra may have said, half of success is showing up.

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