How to write for a technical — dare I say nerdy — market

A few of years ago I had a project that required me to listen to probably more than 10 hours of recordings of interviews with actuaries. I started the project the way you’d think. I googled, “What does an actuary do?” The first response that popped up was very interesting, but… it didn’t sound super exciting. I strapped myself and started to listen to the interviews, fully expecting to be sleeping in less than 10 minutes…

What I wasn’t expecting was that actuaries really get excited about what they do. And, not only that, but because of where we’re sitting right now in terms of massive amounts available data, a lot of them were stoked about what the future held for their profession.

To my amazement, I wanted to learn all I could about actuaries.

More than that, though, it got me thinking about one of my favourite things to do: write for highly technical niches. Yeah, I know. I’m the weirdo, right? I mean, I was that kid who read the encyclopedias for fun. I was in the computer club AND chess club. I took calculus even though I wanted to be a writer.

But hear me out… There is a challenge built in to these markets, which is not only making them interesting, but also making them accessible to your audience.

Most people make the mistake of producing content that is hard to understand and full of language that is only accessible to people in the industry (in other words, jargon).

Not only does this put people to sleep, but you risk alienating potential customers. And you also end up creating content that’s about as interesting as the DOS 3.1 user’s manual I used to read when I was a kid (which was actually very interesting, it just wasn’t exactly compelling).

Neither of these things are going to going to get you leads and nurture the ones you have..

Fortunately, I’ve put together a list of things you can do when creating content for a highly technical market.

1. Show Your Enthusiasm

I almost feel like it should be the big reveal down towards the bottom of this post, but it’s such an important piece of the puzzle I wanted to put it front and centre.

Here’s the thing, people are coming to your site because you have a service that interests them. Even if they do want to know all the little technical details, they don’t want to be bored learning about them. No one does.

You have to be enthusiastic about your business or people aren’t going to care. The more you show people how much you love what you do, the more likely they are to want to use your services.

Why, you ask?

Well, it’s simple. Enthusiasm shows passion and passionate people tend to do excellent work. If I’m buying a custom made guitar and the guy who’s making it for me can’t stop talking about all the different kinds of wood he uses, where he gets it from, and even what’s in his secret stash (of wood), I’m going to start getting excited about wood.

It’s the same thing in almost any industry. No matter how technical, dense or seemingly uninteresting it may be. Passion and enthusiasm goes and to long way. It certainly helped when I listened to those actuaries.

2. Write about what your audience likes, not what you like

One step beyond talking about what you find interesting is talking about the things your audience finds interesting.

I talk about this a lot, but the more time you spend getting to know your audience or customers find interesting, the better.

Seriously. You really can’t spend enough time doing this.

Simple surveys, in-depth interviews and things like that can lead you to a wealth of topics you might never have thought about covering otherwise. If you’ve never done a survey before, but are thinking it might be helpful, the folks over at Vertical Response have some great tips in this post..

Everything from what your audience actually cares about to the language they use. All of this can shape your content into something perfectly suited to their needs. There’s a reason so many conversion copywriters use them.

This one is important for a variety of reasons. The big one is it helps you connect to your audience immediately. If someone finds their way to your site and you have all kinds of content that speaks directly to them, they’re going toy want to stick around.

Asking your audience and customers about this stuff (even simple questions, how did you find your way here? Or why did you choose us?) can save you a lot of time and energy in the long run.

Another really interesting thing about talking to your customers is that you might stumble on to a segment you hadn’t previously considered. Say, for instance, your note taking software is used by a surprisingly high number of virtual assistants. All of a sudden you can a content series aimed directly at that group. You might not have thought to speak to them before, but once you know they’re there, you’d be foolish not to.

3. Create skimmable content

If you’re working in a market that has a lot of information that can be hard to say succinctly it can be hard to do anything about how dense your content is. But, you can help your readers along by making your content as skimmable as possible.

Shorter paragraphs are always better than a wall of text. It’s easier on the eyes and easier to read.

Use informative headlines. This gives your reader a way to jump down to the parts that are most relevant. Just look at what the headlines for this post. They’re like a little outline.

  • How to write for a technical — dare I say nerdy — market
  • Show Your Enthusiasm
  • Write about what your audience likes, not what you like
  • Create skimmable content
  • Use highly visual content
  • Don’t take it so seriously

Bold important statements. Your reader’s eyes will be drawn to these statements and this will help you get your point across when people are skimming.

Use other formatting tricks like:

  • Bullet points
  • Italics
  • Numbered lists
  • And more

These all make your content more skimmable and can help people dip their toes into highly technical content.

4. Use highly visual content

The more technical the subject, the stronger the case you can make for visual content such as infographics or even videos.

This is a great way to do content if you’re in a technical industry. It lets you put information together in a way that is interesting to the eye and, ideally, helps people process it better.

In fact, in some markets, like IT, infographics are one of the most preferred ways to consume content. Infographics can put a lot of information in front of a person in a way that makes it exciting.

What is an Infographic?

Created by Customer Magnetism.

Videos are also a great way to do this. Short, well done videos can save your audience from having to slog through a less-than-interesting blog post about the same topic.

Not that blog posts are a bad idea, but again, they need to have visual appeal. Lots of images can go a long way in keeping readers interested.

5. Don’t take it so seriously

I’m guilty of this myself. When I write about myself, I tend to be very serious and businesslike. I can’t really help it.

You probably can’t either.

It’s very natural to take what you do seriously because you want to be taken seriously. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun when you talk about what you do.

Remember what I said earlier about showing your passion? People respond just as well to content that is fun.

Even in very technical markets, there’s room for humour, silliness or just enough informality that your content is fun to read.

This can be really hard to do (even harder to do well), but if you manage pull it off people will stumble over themselves to not only read your content, but share the heck out of it.

People want to be entertained, especially if they’re involved with something technical. Just look at shows like Bill Nye the Science Guy or even Sesame Street. Both of these shows excelled at explaining technical things to children.

One last thought

There is one last thing you can do if you’ve been trying to figure out how to make your technical content exciting: hire someone who finds what you do interesting.

People who find what you do interesting, like me for instance, can do just what I suggested you do at the beginning: take that enthusiasm and pump your content full if it.

This leaves you free to do the things you’re better at, like running your business.

As it just so happens, I know a guy who finds highly technical niches very interesting (it’s me) and would love a chance to talk about it via great content (call me, especially if you’re an actuary). You can reach him here (Hi. I’m Doug. How can I help you today?).

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