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How the curse of knowledge is holding back your marketing

If we met at a local networking event,  how would you describe what you do in your business?

When I see articles and interviews that use jargon and technical terms that apply to the person’s own field of expertise,  my heart sinks.   If you are trying to attract your ideal client to your business,  what do you think is going to work?   Using terms that anyone can understand,  or use the ‘expert’ terms that show you are the go-to person in your industry?

This is one of the classic mistakes I see in online marketing. I call it the curse of knowledge.  (Well,  obviously I did not come up with that term, as you can see if you Google it, and find articles such as this one in the Harvard Business Review discussing it.)

The curse of knowledge is when someone assumes that the person they are talking to, or who is reading their article, has the same background knowledge of the subject you are writing about.

For example – imagine your ideal client is someone who is starting out in online business and you are the perfect person to teach them about email marketing.  If you start talking about list building,  opt-in forms and leadpages,  you are likely to lose your ideal client straight away.

Why not approach this differently.   If I said to you that the best way to sell products and services online is by building a connection with your audience through sending them weekly emails – does that make more sense?

Then you can go on to explain how email marketing works – people want to know what you have to say, so they join your email list.  Next step is to send the people on your email list a regular email.  Maybe you will write to them once a week.

I know that having an email list who open and read your emails on a regular basis is one of the keys to building a business online.   But my responsibility to you is to explain why this is important.  If I focus on tech jargon,  I think you will move on swiftly to someone else!

Once I explain that you need to get more people on your email list,  I would talk to you about how to do this.    I would give you ideas and suggestions about how you could offer your reader something in exchange for their email address in order to start building up your email list.

It is very easy to get into the trap of writing articles that your peers might read.  I speak to clients who admit that they know their main readers are others within their own industry and they want to show that they are knowledgeable about the industry.

However, you need to think about the purpose of the article.  Are you writing it in order to market your business?  Or are you writing it to show your peers you know your stuff?

When you are marketing your business or your skills,  write for your audience.  Put yourself in their shoes.  What questions are they asking you about most?  Answer those questions in a clear and straightforward way,  and you will start to build up a library of content that attracts your ideal clients.

A good test to avoid the curse of knowledge is to give your article to someone who doesn’t work in your field.  Maybe a partner or a relative.  Ask them to read through it and see if it makes sense.  Ask for honest feedback.  Best not to ask your mum, as she might just say everything you do is wonderful.

When you are looking for help or training in a particular subject,  look for someone who is aware of the curse of knowledge.

Would you rather be taught something by someone who assumes you know what they are talking about, or would you be better off with someone who can explain things in a simple straightforward way?

When I worked as a Project Manager in the health service,  part of my role was to implement IT projects including training health service staff on how to use computers in their daily work.  I never assumed that my students knew what to do.   I started from the start.  This meant that no one in the room felt foolish.   No one would want to highlight the fact that they didn’t know how to open up an internet browser for example, and it wasn’t my remit to embarrass anyone.

Working with that mindset for nearly 11 years has shaped the way I teach now.  I might start a Facebook workshop explaining the difference between a Facebook personal profile and a business page for example.   I always tell my audience that there is no such thing as a stupid question.   In fact, if you ask a question during training, its quite likely someone else wanted to know that too but was too afraid to ask.

So when you start creating content for your marketing – by which I mean, for example,  blog posts,  articles, videos for YouTube, Facebook lives,   think about who you are trying to connect with.   Would they understand the language you are using – can you simplify it a little so that someone who hasn’t got your years of experience, still gets the message?

If you would like to know more about reaching your audience through online marketing,  contact me on for 1-2-1 training  to find out how I can help you with your business.

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