High-tech companies are often created in the proverbial garage and are controlled by engineers who have quite different mindsets than marketing professionals. Regardless of the engineering-marketing power struggles that may be going on in the management of particular companies, marketing copywriters require information about the type of customer the company is targeting. In my next series of posts I will discuss about a dozen types of information a copywriter needs in order to have a clear idea of the audience they are addressing.
Should You Stay?
Start-ups generally begin with an idea that they go on to develop. Such fledgling companies may have a business plan, which is not exactly the same thing as a detailed marketing plan. Sometimes start-ups acquire marketing expertise when they are sold to a more mature company, or when an experienced CEO takes over. Some never have solid marketing at all, and eventually fail because of it.
If you sense that marketing is weak in the company you are working for and suddenly the marketing budget is not cut but shredded, it is time to move on. Without the financing to strategize, and then to use a variety of tactics to grow, a company needs a miracle to survive in the long run.
Customer Information: Who Has It?
But if you feel the company you are working for is solid but is not providing you with enough perspective on the audience you are addressing, you may be able to find a lot of the information you need in sales materials, such as “selling guides” and “fighting guides.” Sales management may have mandated these, or individual salespeople may have developed their own versions. These are invaluable to providing perspective on customers, that is, the audience you are trying to influence.
High-tech companies that have “product marketing” may also have individuals who can provide you with important information. Since product marketing managers often have an engineering background and need a lot of technical knowledge to understand the products the company is selling, they may not think to pass this information on you, possibly because they consider the material too difficult for you to understand or simply because you didn’t ask for it. They may even have helped produce “fighting guides” for sales and can provide them to you.
Do Marketing Copywriters Need a Technical Degree?
Most of the material I will be discussing in the next few posts is easily understandable as you will see. However, how much technical detail you need to know depends on the products and the level of information you are expected to include in what you write. You need to decide what level of technical information you are comfortable with, and choose a company where you can thrive and not be miserable. Writing for a high-tech company that sells applications or even systems software to large corporations is relatively easy; writing for hardware companies that sell arcane network equipment is likely to be considerably more difficult.
I began as a technical writer with a degree in English, and I decided to pursue a technical degree because I wanted to understand what I was writing about. I have never regretted the work I put in on the degree for several reasons, one of which was that, as an engineering friend of mine said to me as he helped me with my assignments, I was learning “how the other side thinks.” The degree was perhaps one reason why I was writing promotional materials very quickly along with doing technical writing, even though the company where I started did not have a formal marketing department until long after I left.