Common Mistakes When Targeting Marketing Writing for a Scientific Audience

Marketing to scientists requires a careful balance. Marketing people 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 have significant limitations and can even hurt your brand if you aren’t careful.

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. Some writers come in white-hot with superlatives like “the fastest,” “the best,” and “the most innovative.” Scientists have a strong “prove-it” reflex to anything they read, so if you claim you are offering the “best” product, they expect you to show your work. 

Overly salesy content is often attempting to substitute meaningful analysis with fluff. An experienced digital writer can slap together a few hundred words on almost any topic within a couple of hours. If you are writing for a general audience, that may be acceptable, as the readers are likely not experts on the subject you are writing about. Your fluffy content offers some helpful information, even though it lacks depth.

Scientists see through fluff very quickly. While they may not be experts on the technical details of your specific product, they are likely knowledgeable about the field. A long post filled with obvious background information makes you look uninformed. Not only does this not help you sell your products, but scientists will also feel like you are wasting their time. They will leave your site and never return.

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.

Living Happily Ever After

Of course, this isn’t the end of the story. Marketing and selling are hard work! There is plenty more to do, but at least you have brought your audience into a conversation, which you can now nurture and develop.

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