B-to-B Insights: Technical Know-How
The children's books especially will provide clear, easy-to-understand explanations of key terms and concepts. The adult book will likely have descriptive phrases of features and functionality you can paraphrase in your own copy. If I "borrow" from books, I alert the client by adding a footnote and make sure I am not plagiarizing.
Another good purchase for the high-tech copywriter is a dictionary of industry terms. I have owned, at various times, dictionaries for computers, telecom, banking, finance and aerospace.
3. Ask the Client for Copies of PowerPoint Presentations.
Engineers, in particular, are visually oriented. So you should have visuals to accompany your text.
Rather than draw a lot of charts and graphs, I ask the client for copies of PowerPoint presentations given by their technical and sales staff. I then extract and paste into my copy whatever visuals I think would work best, carefully noting the name of the PowerPoint and the page number from the source.
Sometimes, I find an ideal diagram for illustrating my point on a website that is not the client's. If I use it, I add a note explaining to the client that it is for reference only and must be redrawn to avoid copyright infringement.
4. Understand Graphics Have Meaning
Unless you understand what a chart or graph means, don't use it until you do. It is extremely embarrassing to cut and paste a diagram out of a client's PowerPoint into your copy and then, when the client asks you why you used it, to have to answer "I don't know." You should understand each visual so well you can write a clear descriptive caption for it—and then do so.
5. Use Email for Interviews
I often interview subject matter experts (SMEs) over the phone when writing copy. But occasionally, I get an SME who cannot express himself well verbally, making it difficult for me to extract the information I need.
Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter who has written copy for more than 100 clients including IBM, AT&T, Praxair, Intuit, Forbes, and Ingersoll-Rand. McGraw-Hill calls Bob “America’s top copywriter” and he is the author of 90 books, including “The Copywriter's Handbook.” Find him online at www.bly.com or call (973) 263-0562.