Several years ago, I wrote about writing for the tech and startup industries and got a lot of heat for it. Mostly, people had qualms with my combining the two discrete industries. I would imagine that now, several years later, I’d get similar feedback particularly since the tech bubble appears to have burst and food, wellness, real estate, and other industries have seen a proliferation of startup activity. But I still maintain that, really, all startups—but particularly those dealing with tech—benefit from the same skill: the ability to communicate new and/or complex ideas in an accessible, clear, and interesting manner.
Writing for newbies
All startups are addressing a problem, typically one that a target audience knows all about. For example, think of payment processor Stripe, or challenger bank Revolut. Both companies identified a gap in the market and created a solution. Simple, right? But unless you’re writing for the few who truly understand that particular problem, you’ll likely need to explain, clearly and concisely, what the issue is and how your company solves that challenge. Add in a difficult technological concept (Blockchain, anyone?), and things can go over most people’s heads. That’s why keeping it simple is really important when writing for startups—tech or otherwise. Thinking through who you’re writing for is crucial; if you’re writing general marketing copy, write as if you’re explaining the concept for the first time, to a newbie. Don’t worry about oversimplifying. Simple means good, clear, and clean writing that won’t lose someone halfway through.
Cut out jargon
One way to put people to sleep is to use jargon, difficult to decipher acronyms, and shorthand, unless it is widely recognized. Also beware the analogy—saying that you’re Uber for Cats, for example, is anything but crystal clear. And while writing fun-filled, alliterative sentences might make your internal team chuckle, remember that most people editing and approving your writing already have at least some level of familiarity with your subject matter. Is it more important to write snazzy sentences, or to get the point across in the clearest possible way?
Get to the point
It’s 2020; people are used to getting the point in 140-character tweets or 30-second Instagram profile videos. Waxing long about your product, service, or company might seem like a good way to reel in an audience, but beware: attention spans are short. Furthermore, the longer your copy, the more likely it contains nitty gritty details that, particularly for marketing copy, are best left for technical manuals, case studies, or more in-depth collateral.
Working with new and innovative ideas is exciting. When I wrote about this a few years ago, I used Pinterest as an example and it is still relevant. The idea of Pinterest is very difficult to explain, when you think about it- as is any brand new idea, especially when there’s little common language to define it, or even the need for it. A decade ago, if you’d discussed the idea of an online bulletin board to collect visual inspiration, a la Pinterest, people would have looked at you like you were crazy. Why would a product like that even be necessary? Could it even be visualized in the average person’s mind?
Approach your tech and startup marketing copywriting projects with that Pinterest story in mind. How can you clearly communicate the service or product, without losing the attention span (or worse, comprehension!) of a wide range of readers? Good luck, and happy writing!