The strategy for creating text for documents that relate to B2B technical products and services is changing. Here are 3 reasons why:
1. The Proliferation of Mobile Devices
It’s not true that mobile device users have a shorter attention span, or that they are less willing to read long copy than laptop and desktop readers. In fact, the opposite can be true. Most people bring either a phone or tablet into meetings and seminars. Not only is this a time saver, but it’s a sanity saver as well. Stuck in a boring meeting with nothing else to do, people will read long emails and attachments that they would otherwise delete. The only real consideration for creating mobile-friendly content is to eliminate as much white space as possible. Remember that mobile content isn’t just content created specifically for mobile devices, it’s any content that’s destined to go online (just about everything).
2. The Lack of Time
Technology is replacing people—and in most regards it’s doing a good job (whether this is a good thing is another topic). But everything that technology cannot do—i.e. read marketing material—creates a greater burden on the people that remain. This means material needs to be easily accessible, easy to read, well-organized, fact-driven, and logical. The reader’s credibility test is whether the statement is capable of proof (i.e. 3 terabytes of memory vs. an astonishing amount of memory).
3. An Increasingly International Audience.
There a fine line between adjusting copy to accommodate an international audience and ensuring that the copy is interesting to a U.S. audience. A good strategy is to remove unnecessary (not all) clichés and idioms---there are still some instances where nothing conveys a thought as precisely and economically as a cliché. Also, don’t overuse contractions; international audiences have trouble deciphering them. Finally, while the advice for vigorous writing has always been to use one precise adjective or adverb in place of two weak ones, better to go with 2 weak adjectives than a single one that’s precise, but obscure. Many international businesspeople learn a version of English called Basic English. It’s a shortcut that involves a list of simple words and modifiers. For a writer, it’s good to be aware of the list and, everything else being equal, opt for those words.
But there are also 2 aspects of content strategy for technical products and services that have not changed:
1. It needs to make a convincing case to buy—no matter how many words it takes.
A 6,000-word white paper is not too long if that’s what it takes to lay out a logical, fact-based case to buy. Making that case for technical products and services, especially expensive technical products and services, is going to take a lot of words. The length is not the issue, it’s the content.
2. It needs to be precise and succinct.
The goal is to keep the reader… reading—meaning avoid anything that’s going to make the reader lose interest and stop. Don’t include any information that the reader already knows. For example, don’t start a sentence with “It goes without saying…” Keep copy as crisp, concise, and fact-based as possible. Don’t make any thin claims or promote overblown benefits. Don’t write anything that will adversely affect the document’s credibility. Successful retail stores have floor plans designed to lead the shopper in a profitable direction. Smart, strategic marketing text will do the same.
Eliminate as much white space as possible in anything that’s destined for digital (just about everything); be respectful of other people’s time by making the copy easy to access and read; make minor adjustments for an international audience (if there is one); and don’t worry about length; worry about interesting, valuable content instead.