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Much of marketing can be summed up with the word “communication.” It’s communicating about a product or service, about wants and needs, or the past and the future. Good marketeers take this to heart and work hard to understand their market. But, it’s more than just understanding the market; it’s understanding all aspects of the industry language.
I often talk about the language, or dialect, that people use. When I do, I’m not talking about English English vs. American English. I’m talking about the difference between hearing and speaking; or between reading and writing — within the same person. Knowing the difference is often the deciding factor between winning or losing this marketing game.
Many people speak and listen in different dialects. Information comes in one way and goes out another. If you don’t plan your communication with that in mind, your conversation may be useless. The thing is, most people don’t realize that they do this. It’s a perfectly normal, but often not a recognized aspect of
So is it “form over function” or “function over form?”
Case in point, electrical engineers. Material written by a typical engineer is detailed, accurate, comprehensive and often barely readable by anyone but the author. A common phrase heard in the technical world is that the content is what’s important, not the spelling or grammar. An interesting contradiction is that engineers are often the quickest, harshest and most pedantic of the “grammar police” that toss flame around in the social media world when someone chooses the wrong member of the set “there, their or they’re.”
I maintain that both statements: “it’s form over function” and the counterpoint: “it’s function over form” are incorrect. The correct maxim is: “form can’t get in the way of function.”
Form works with engineers. It works with everybody. Good advertising works with engineers. Where marketeers run into trouble is when they consider form to be too important, and they obscure the message. The reverse, putting too much weight on function, and not enough on form will be just as ineffective.
Engineers getting into marketing, either as an entrepreneur, for their own startup, or as one moving from a technical job into one that requires a lot of writing, need to pay special attention to this phenomena. You can’t write for yourself.
Anyone, not just people in the same technical field, should be able to read good writing. They may not understand all of the technical details, but they should be able to comfortably read and feel a sense of organization. Order, structure and simplicity are important, regardless of the intended audience. My recommendation is that you have someone, with a lot less knowledge of your subject than you have, read your material. If they can get through it, you’re at least on the right track.
Duane Benson is the chief technology champion at Screaming Circuits, a prototype PCB assembly electronic manufacturing company in Canby, Oregon.