Marketing caution signGuest blog from Rachel Williams, professional copywriter.

I am not a technical writer. Anything technical pretty much turns me off, something in my brain just can’t cope with special names, terms and phrases. But recently I’ve had to get over my aversion and my experience got me thinking about this particular area of writing.

Back in the summer I was busy watching The Commonwealth Games, cheering on our athletes from the comforts of my sofa. I was totally caught up in the whole atmosphere and in awe of just how far, how high, how fast athletes can push themselves. I was also quietly reproaching myself for not doing much exercise. And then out of the blue I received a text from a friend inviting me to step into someone else’s shoes (saddle?!) and take part in a charity cycle ride.

Her teammate had developed a medical condition and could no longer take part, and I was wishing myself fitter. The timing was perfect: I said yes. I downloaded the official training schedule and discovered I should have started a month earlier, so my new fitness regime started in earnest – cycling 4-5 times a week (or as often as a working mum can manage) and eventually clocking up some big numbers in terms of mileage. I totally embraced the challenge and was hooked. I had discovered road cycling. Big time!

I trawled cycling websites for useful information, be it on nutrition, exercise or equipment. But the biggest thing for me was the bike. After years of riding a mountain bike, I now lusted after a sleek road bike built for speed and endurance. I entered a world of Shimano gears, groupsets, stiffness of frame, female-specific geometry, carbon forks and SPD pedals. I went through an enormous learning curve, learning the lingo so that I could brave entering male-dominated cycle chops and be just about competent when discussing the relative merits of Sora, Tiagra and 105 gear systems. It took so long to choose a bike, that I completed the 45-mile event on my trusty mountain bike.

And the moral of this story? Technical detail is essential, even I got annoyed if I couldn’t compare models on a like-for-like basis when checking components and assessing value for money. But it’s easy to forget that consumers need to understand what all the information actually means – why will bike X, with its carbon seatpost and forks, be a more comfortable ride than a bike that costs several hundred pounds less and looks pretty much the same. It all comes down to selling the benefits.

If you’re selling a product that has a technical aspect to it, don’t forget to convey, within the overall message, why it makes that product so good and how consumers will benefit from it. I wanted to buy a bike, but I didn’t have a clear understanding of what was available for my budget. It had to be suitable for training and weekend rides, ideal for sportives but not designed for the Tour de France. Even within the world of technical writing, there is a strong argument for looking at a product through a consumer’s eyes and really understanding what they will want to know in order to motivate them to buy.

Deciding which bike to buy has probably been more arduous than the physical challenge I set out to accomplish, but the finish line is now in sight! 🙂