Marketing to Scientific Audience - Science Writing and Marketing - Jesse Harris

Marketing to a Scientific Audience – Balanced Tone

The Most Common Mistake When Marketing to a Scientific Audience

Marketing to a scientific audience requires a careful balance. Marketers tend to come in too hot, thinking that clever graphics and sales pitches will bring in sales, while scientists believe that cold data is enough to win business. Both of these extremes are mistakes when targeting a scientific audience.

How do you find the “Goldilocks” middle of these two approaches?

Not Too Hot – Overly Salesy and Fluffy

No one likes to be sold to, and that is particularly true of scientists. Marketers love to use attention-grabbing superlatives like “the fastest,” “the best,” and “the most innovative.” This type of copy is only moderately effective at the best of times, but scientists are particularly resistant.

Scientists have a strong “prove-it” reflex to anything they read. You say your product is “the best”? What do you mean by that? What proof do you have? Scientists expect white papers, case studies, and hard data to back up these claims. They are going to notice if you don’t have this foundation.

Don’t substitute meaningful analysis with fluff. An experienced digital writer can slap together a few hundred words on almost any topic in a couple of hours. That may be acceptable if you are writing for a general audience since the readers are likely not experts on the subject. Fluffy content offers some helpful information, even though if it lacks depth.

Scientists see through fluff very quickly. If they are looking at your product they are likely knowledgeable about the field. They are expecting concrete and technical answers to their questions. Posts loaded with filler content makes you look uninformed.

Not only does filler content not help you sell your products, but scientists will also feel like you are wasting their time. This compromises the trust and goodwill they may of had for your company. They will leave your site and never return.

Scientific data - Common Writing Mistakes When Targeting a Scientific Audience
Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

Not Too Cold – Wall of Stats and Specs

Scientists are taught terrible lessons about writing during their academic careers. Research articles are absolute horror shows when it comes to readability and grammar. Hyper-accurate writing is used to disguise a weak understanding of composition and structure. There are a lot of habits that scientists need to unlearn if they want to try their hand at marketing.

One flawed approach to writing is the “data dump” or the “wall of stats” approach. This involves marketing a product by grabbing technical specifications and dropping it in a list or table at the top of a webpage or flyer. Just layout every conceivable detail, and it will prove your product is the best! 

This isn’t effective. Your audience is intelligent, but they also don’t want to piece everything out themselves. When you are selling, you want to make the customer’s job as easy as possible. This effort is a turn-off to potential customers. 

“But if the reader were a good fit for our product, they would have put in the work to read the specifications! They would have understood the data and decided to buy!” This reaction is common among people who don’t understand how marketing work. Products rarely sell themselves. Yes, self-selection happens, but there are plenty of customers who don’t understand your product. A wall of stats is going to push them away.

Over-sharing data is also distracting. You want to focus attention on a couple of key themes. Let’s say you were selling a temperature sensor that was the most accurate on the market. That’s your story – it’s the most accurate, and that accuracy will help you in countless ways. Introducing a bunch of data about durability, weight, and size will pull attention from your focus.

That’s not to say you should hide technical information. There will be a customer who needs to know detailed specifications, but you should place that information such that it isn’t in your face.

Just Right – Story, Proof, and Audience

So how do you navigate between these extremes? There are three questions to consider for each piece of writing.

Did I tell a coherent story? People are hard-wired to understand stories. Use this pre-disposition to your advantage. Every piece of writing should have a clear “moral of the story” or logical focus. It should have an introduction, a body, and a satisfying conclusion. Telling a story isn’t challenging to do, but content that misses this foundational concept feels disorganized and incomplete. 

Did I prove my point? As mentioned above, scientists have a strong “prove it” reflex, so you should provide evidence for any claim that you make. This is where your data and technical specifications come in – they are the backbone that makes your story concrete and believable. 

Did I write at the level of my audience’s understanding? You must identify what your target audience knows and what they don’t know and adjust your messaging accordingly. By taking your reader’s knowledge as a foundation, you don’t need to start your conversation from scratch. This can only be accomplished through knowing your reader intimately.

Marketing to a Scientific Audience Effectively

Of course, this isn’t the end of the story. Marketing to a scientific audience is hard work! There is plenty more to do, but at least you have avoided one of the most common mistakes when targeting a scientific audience. That’s the first step of developing a relationship with your future customer.

Want to learn more about effective science writing? Learn about the fundamentals here. Also be sure to subscribe to the newsletter so you never miss an update.

Jesse Harris, M.Sc., M.A.Sc.
Jesse Harris, M.Sc., M.A.Sc.

Jesse is a Marketing and Communications Specialist at ACD/Labs. He has graduate degrees in Chemistry and an MASc in Chemical engineering. Jesse has been writing on the internet since 2015, and is passionate about science writing and marketing.

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