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The Curse of Knowledge

Anyone who markets a technology solution probably suffers from the “curse of knowledge.”  Wikipedia defines it as “a cognitive bias that leads better-informed parties to find it extremely difficult to think about problems from the perspective of lesser-informed parties.”   Ok, and a cognitive bias is a tendency to think in a certain way.

In other words, we can’t remember what it’s like to not know something.

For instance, I bet most of us would be hard pressed to explain a computer to someone who’d never seen one.  That knowledge is so ingrained in our lives, that it’s hard to imagine that anyone could not understand it.

But I think anyone with specialized knowledge – engineer, software developer, insurance or financial specialist – gets very deeply immersed in their specific knowledge.  And in the IT industry, we also get immersed in jargon and acronyms.

I see a lot of web sites that discuss their product or solution in very technical terms, even on their home page.  Some people say that’s ok – as long as your target market understands what you’re saying, it doesn’t matter if there’s no simple interpretation for the rest of us.

But isn’t it often the point in the early days of a sales cycle that prospects are researching because of a problem they’re experiencing?  They might not know what the solution should be.  And if there’s nothing on your home page that identifies what their problem is, they may not be able to extract the solution value from the technical “stuff”.

Here’s what I recommend:

  • Revisit your customer profiles (or personas), and make sure that you know how much each persona will understand about your solution, then craft messaging to suit each persona.  Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath has lots of great information about overcoming the curse of knowledge.  (And if “persona” is jargon you’re not familiar with, Hubspot has a good definition.)
  • Ensure that your home page has a description of your key value in a language suited for the least technical visitor.  If it’s targeted for people with little or no technical knowledge (i.e. business decision makers), then everyone up the technical food chain should be ok.
  • Make sure that you spend time explaining your solution value in terms targeted to both IT professionals and business decision makers:  most technical solution decisions are made by teams that contain both.  Many companies will have technical datasheets that work in tandem with a more business oriented solution brochure.


Need help in crafting marketing messages without the curse of knowledge?  I can help – I’ve been doing it for more than 20 years, helping technology organizations articulate the business value of their products and solutions.  Feel free to call me at 905-439-9340, or email me at



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