Posted by Kristine Jacobson

When you have a highly technical product, service, or passion, it can be easy to forget that the language you use to describe it is unfamiliar or difficult to comprehend for others. 

And if your audience doesn’t understand what you are trying to convey, what’s the point? 

You need to translate your “tech talk” for your target audience. 

Aim small, miss small — narrow and know your audience 

The first step in deciding the direction of your messaging is to know your audience. As much as we want everyone in the world to know about our offerings or story, it’s just not practical. The people who are going to buy it need more. 

 Narrow down and target specific end-users for your content. Are you reaching out to investors? Or trying to influence change-makers? Perhaps a niche media publication? OR a niche buyer persona? 

 Once you know who you are targeting you need to decide the best way to send the message. Would this audience be more likely to find and read your message in an email? A social media ad? An article, a guide, through public relations? Really put yourself in their shoes and think about how they would consume information about your product or service—and if you don’t know, do some research. 

 Before you move on to writing, you need to ask, “Why are we writing this?” The answer should not be, “Because we want people to know.” 

 "We want [this group] to know that our [topic] does [this] to help solve [that] and it’s important because [of this].” 

Gather information without going into the weeds 

Knowing who you are specifically communicating with helps direct the next step in conveying your message: deciding what to say. 

Let’s say you have a diagnostic medical tool that you want oncologists and geneticists to learn about at a medical convention.  

You can’t just say, “This tool saves lives.”  
Their response, “Ok.” 

 “This tool detects cancer” is still not enough.  
Their response, “Hm.” 

 “This tool detects the gene that causes a specific cancer.” Close—but still not what they need to know.  
Their response, “That sounds promising.” 

 “This tool allows doctors to diagnose this specific cancer up to 7 years before symptoms arise.” DING DING DING! 

Their response, “You’ve got my attention, tell me more! How … ?” 

The problem can be that you simply have too much to say and can overwhelm the audience with technical speak and word fatigue. When jargon becomes natural in your daily speak, it can be difficult to remember that not everyone speaks that language. You need to translate! 

 So how do you drill down into the technicalities without going into the weeds? 

 This is where the power of a good interview and research comes in. You know who you are speaking to, so what do they need to know? What can you tell them that will spark them to seek more information organically? 

The “KiSS” Method: Keep it Simple, Smarty!  

Writers can start by asking a few questions to get things rolling, for example: 

  • What are three different ways we can describe the properties of the product? 
  • Why are you passionate about it?
  • Who does this impact the most? 

If the person asking the question begins to look confused, you may be using too many acronyms, technical jargon or going too in-depth. If you are writing this yourself, your word processor may look like a red-squiggle-lined piece of artwork. In either case, retrace your steps and try to remove anything that wouldn’t be in a fourth-grader’s vocabulary. Readability software, like Readable, Datayze, The Hemingway App, or Ginger Writing Assistant, can give you an idea of how technical your content is trending. 

 Consider having a non-subject matter expert write for you if it is still a struggle to keep things simple. They often see patterns or nuggets of information that stand out to someone not as close to the subject.  

 Practice your elevator pitch until it becomes second nature. Use a role-play scenario to help keep things easy to comprehend. 

Example: You are at a hotel and wearing a shirt with your brand’s logo on it. You step onto an elevator with a person and a small child holding their hand. As the door closes, the child reads your shirt and asks, “Do you work there? What do you do?” How would answer the child (specifically about the work on this particular product/service) in the time it takes to go two floors on the elevator? 

Putting it all together 

Now you know whom you are talking to. How you are going to give them information? What you want to say. It’s time to put it all together in a way that conveys the technical capabilities of your product without losing your audience to tech-talk fatigue. 

 Design your content and writing style with the end user in mind. What will grab their attention, keep it, and nurture future engagement? 

  • Consider your target audience and choose an ideal attention-grabber, such as stats, human elements, or directly with a solution to their pain point.
  •   Go easy on the eyes—be concise and clear without a jumble of acronyms and jargon.  
  •  Paint a picture with words and with visual graphics. 
  •  If content is heavy, break it down into digestible pieces. Consider a series with part 1, part 2; or link out to other sources of explainer content. 

Advice from the pros 

Translating tech talk into business action is not an easy task. It takes practice and time to learn how to speak a specific language and convey it to a target audience.  

Here are five extra tips for becoming a successful tech translator: 

  • Keep inspired by reading and noting what others are doing in the industry.  
  • Form relationships with marketers and publishers and ask about trends and styles. 
  • Stay open to feedback and learn from analytics. 
  • Write with empathy and with the end-reader in mind. 
  • Pretend you are having a conversation and answer the questions you imagine the audience asking. 

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Kristine Jacobson

Kristine Jacobson

Kristine Jacobson has more than 25 years of marketing and communications experience with notable corporate leaders as well as emerging market contenders. She offers expert marketing strategy with a touch of creative flair. Her extensive knowledge of strategic marketing, marketing plan execution, and branding illuminate the big picture without losing sight of the details.