RE: Great piece on marketing collateral

Subject: RE: Great piece on marketing collateral
From: Mailing List <mlist -at- ca -dot- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 30 Apr 2004 13:14:55 -0400

Mark Baker went on to say:
> More than this, how could technical writers, who presumably
> know that they
> are supposed to be creating task-oriented documentation, and therefore
> focusing specifically on how the product enables the user's
> tasks, possibly
> do their jobs at all without thoroughly understanding the
> benefits of the
> product?

> Technical Communication is nothing more or less than
> after-sales marketing
> literature whose sole commercial purpose is to ensure that
> the customer
> realizes and enjoys the full benefit of the product they have
> purchased so
> that they buy more in the future and tell their friends about it.

All very fine, but the sub-thread started when somebody
mentioned stuff like "Increases your sales!" "Moves data
three times faster!" (i'm paraphrasing, cuz I'm too lazy
to go back for the originals).

The point that I'd like you to get is that "Increases sales"
does NOT belong in a technical document, unless the product
is a sales-generator machine, that when you press the button
spits out sales.

The docs should also not make any relative claims unless
those claims are specific and detailed, including details
like: "Relative to what, exactly??"

Naturally, Sales and Marketing want to give the impression
of "better, stronger, faster, nicer-smelling... compared
to the competition". But if you *don't* mention the
competition by name, then the claims and adjectives are
hollow bumpf that stands between the reader and the
information for which s/he came. If you *do* mention the
competition by name, you need independent figures on both
your numbers and theirs. If the product is new -- the time
when most techy docs get released -- the independent
testing labs and industry-press reviewers have yet to
receive your product for review.

Even words like "superior" or "excellent" are empty
and silly unless quantified. If you quantify in a vacuum,
that's just a table of performance figures, and has
every right to be in a user doc or reference guide (in
an appendix, in the back). But as soon as you trot out
adjectives, the bread and butter of marcomm, you have
to compare with something meaningful to the potential
customer. So don't use empty words.

Even if your adjectives are correct and are backed up
by real-world data, that only applies when they are
published. But the reader sees those claims when he or
she reads the document. The truth of your claims may
have expired last year (when the competition unveiled
their upgraded product, two months after you did), but
those claims are still there in black'n'white in the
manuals that you ship. Now the discerning customer
wonders what else is incorrect in the document.

Tech docs are a part of the product. The best argument
that any part of the product makes is that it works
well. Techy docs work well when they are accurate,
complete and accessible/usable enough that the user
can get value out of the main product items, for which
they've paid.

If those same docs can be waved at potential customers
to *show* them how those docs will clearly and succinctly
help them use the product, then they've fulfilled their
marketing/sales function.

Everything that you put into a tech document that isn't
helping me to get the best use out of your product is
in my way, and I resent you for making me wade through it.



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