Re; Technical marketing: starting up and finding info?

Subject: Re; Technical marketing: starting up and finding info?
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: techwr-l digest recipients <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 27 Sep 2000 11:53:53 -0700

"Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA> wrote:

>The main difference is in the style of rhetoric you'll adopt, though there's
>considerable overlap at times: technical communication emphasizes teaching
>people how to use products or communicating complex concepts to an audience,
>whereas technical marketing involves effecting a mind change in the
>audience. That change may be "I want to buy that techie product" or "I now
>understand this issue and can make an informed decision", but the main tool
>is persuasion rather than education.

Good summary, Geoff. Thanks.

I only wanted to add that, so far as I'm concerned, the goal of
giving the audience the information to make an informed decision
is the only ethical one in marketing. It's also the most

If you keep to this goal, it saves your company from having to
deliver on exaggerated hype. That reduces the damage control, and
makes your life much more placid.

Moreover, somewhere along the line, your claims are likely to be
examined by an audience with some expertise. The more
sophisticated the technology you are selling, the more likely
that an expert will scrutinize your claims. Not only will
misleading claims be caught and publicized, but an unhyped claim
will more likely get a hearing from the experts.

Of course, to take this approach requires that you also have a
reasonably good technical understanding of the product. You don't
have to know all that an expert does (although that wouldn't be a
bad idea), but you do need to know enough to follow a discussion
by the experts. That takes some effort, but it's why tech writers
can add make a contribution to marketing.

For the alternative all-hype approach, all you need is the
pretense of enthusiasm. This approach is basically hypocritical,
and it's common enough that many people use it to dismiss
marketing altogether. But it's false and it's embarrassing, and
it can cause all sorts of problems.

For example, a company I used to work for has started using hype
since I left, and the amount of trouble it has had using the
approach is amazing. The marketing staff knows almost nothing
about the product, so it is constantly making the most ludicrous
claims. They claim a "phenomonal demand" for their product, but
everyone knows that it's not selling. They say that it's "easy to
use" although it lags behind several competitors in ease of use.
Out of ignorance, they've distorted legitimate claims that I
originated to the point that they're false. In their desperation
for sales, they recently issued a new release in which they
boasted about their "booth babes" (they meant themselves), and
the result is that the company is now scorned in the industry as
the "booth babe company." While there's a certain fascination
and amusement in watching people self-destruct (and I haven't
even mentioned half their blunders), observing the phenomenon has
given me an object lesson in the limits of hype.

Personally, when I venture into marketing, I stay on the side of
presenting true information in the best light possible. The
practice lets me sleep better and makes my working life less of a
hassle. I don't feel much temptation to fall into hype because
everything is much easier if I don't.

Bruce Byfield, Outlaw Communications
Contributing Editor, Maximum Linux
bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com | Tel: 604.421.7189

"They told me to think and forget what I'd heard
They taught me to lie and then questioned my word
They taught me to fail, better sink than sail,
Just play the game."
-Richard Thompson, "Can't Win"

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