“Technical writing.” As a blanket term, what does this make you think of? Giant walls of text, filled with vaguely scientific-sounding words and phrases? Footnotes? References? Zzzz?
This is something AKHIA kicks back against every day. B2B marketing makes up a big part of what we do—speaking to niche markets on complex topics, and part of our job is to add that spark, something that makes a reader think, “Interesting, I better keep reading,” rather than, “I’ll get to this later…”
A lot of this has to do with what AKHIA Content Architect Lukas Treu wrote about earlier in the week—empathizing with the consumer and treating them like a real live person.
Easy, right? Not so much as it sounds.
One of the most intriguing concepts I’ve come across, and one that applies just about every day in the work I do, is the “curse of knowledge.” It accounts for how difficult it is for you, the “expert,” to put yourself in the shoes of the non-expert.
This is where empathizing with your potential reader gets tricky, and why the curse of knowledge has big implications for content marketing. Let’s say I’m an expert on green energy. In writing an educational piece on that subject, in order to properly put myself in the shoes of someone who might be reading this piece with the goal of learning about green energy, I have to try and forget what I know about green energy.
Developed by economists Colin Camerer, George Loewenstein and Martin Weber, I came across the curse of knowledge while reading “Made to Stick” by Chip and Dan Heath last year. Camerer, Loewenstein and Weber in their original paper on the concept found specifically that a sales person with more knowledge about their product may in fact be disadvantaged compared with another, less-informed sales person in selling that same product. The brothers Heath discussed the concept in their book, and used it as an example of what makes “concreteness” so important in conveying ideas.
In order to thwart the curse of knowledge, you need to speak or write in terms anyone can understand. Leave the technical jargon out of that first paragraph—get your readers’ attention.
For B2B marketers, with all of our knowledge in specific industries, it’s an important concept to remember. The Content Marketing Institute’s 2015 B2B Content Marketing Report, which surveyed more than 5,000 marketers from around the globe, found that the production of engaging content was one of the top challenges B2B marketers report facing—more so than producing content consistently, measuring effectiveness, and others. (Or to translate “engaging content” into concrete terms: “things people want to read.”) Keeping in mind the curse of knowledge and how to thwart it is an important part of facing this challenge.
Bill Delaney is Associate Content Architect at AKHIA.