Joe Roberson

@workingwithjoe

What the Creator of Sherlock Holmes Can Teach Us About Building a Tech for Good Product

What Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Can Teach Us About Building a Tech for Good Product

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is best known as creator of the world’s first super-sleuth — Sherlock Holmes. But what’s less well known is that he was also an incredibly versatile writer who could turn his hand to many types of writing.

Arthur, in 1914, 100 years BTG (Before Tech for Good)

Plays and poetry. Romance and non-fiction. Even historical novels. Though he could deliver a killer detective story, Arthur could also craft love poetry.

Which was rather fortunate, because when he killed off Sherlock in 1893 he had to write in other styles and for other audiences just to make ends meet. He relied on writing to survive.

Funnily enough, if he was alive today he’d be just the guy you’d need on your tech for good team.

But he isn’t. So it’s up to you to be like Arthur.

Why you need to be like Arthur

Don’t worry. You don’t need to invent a detective, or tell Mary Celeste’s story. But if you’re serious about success, then you’d do well to beef up your copywriting skills. It’s a guaranteed way to make your tech for good product more successful.

Maybe you can already write a little. But are you able to write in different styles, for different audiences? If not then like Arthur you’ll need to blend both the killer and the poet in your writing.

Do this and you’ll make gains at every stage of your project. Let’s investigate these.

Applying for funding

If it’s to be more than just a pipedream, then your tech for good project needs money. Unless you’ve a rich benefactor (Arthur didn’t have one either) you need to find funding.

Maybe you’ll write a funding application or script a video pitch. Maybe you’ll be applying to Nominet Trust, Comic Relief or a traditional trust or foundation.

Either way get your best bid writing shoes on and write a passionate, well-researched and persuasively crafted bid. Find a pain-free writing process. And write with a bang.

Done this? Congratulations, you’ve been awarded the case! (Now you can buy that deerstalker you always wanted).

Building your audience

You’ve got funding. Woo-hoo. Now you need to find your first fans.

You need to build an audience of people who care about what you’re doing. They could be your first research subjects, your beta testers, or just people concerned about the problem you hope to solve. Gather them under your flag and they’ll become your first users, your best advocates, and maybe even paying customers.

Here’s what to do:
* Blog — create a simple website, show up with interesting content, let people subscribe, send them your updates. Let them share your journey.
* Learn basic SEO — learn how Google uses keywords to rank pages. You needn’t be an expert, but you do need to make your site visible to people searching for your subject matter
* Do social media — Twitter is great for raising awareness of what you’re doing. It doesn’t run deep but if you craft your tweets well, you’ll gain a good reputation and draw people to your blog.
* Pitch your idea — sometimes the only way to reach your audience is to go to them. Find the project partners, internal managers and external stakeholders who need to be onside. Use sharp words to script your pitches and a knock-dead style to deliver them.

If you get your fanbase growing early then all the while you’re building your product your fans will be spreading the word. They’ll be the best advertising that money can’t buy.

Well done. You’ve found your John Watsons and kick started the investigation!

Building your tech for good product

Every product needs copy.

Good copy makes it look professional. Bad copy looks amateurish and repels your users.

Unfortunately the copy benchmark is set by Facebook, Snapchat and co. And they’ve got whole teams of multi-skilled copywriters to call upon…

You don’t. But that’s ok.

It really is ok. Because what you do have is support to understand the problem and a process to design insightful, user-centred solutions. The resources for doing these things exist. And when you do them well, it makes choosing the right words much easier.

Here’s the two most important types of product copy:

  1. User stories — these help your development team understand what to build. If you have solid user research and a creative design process focused on the user’s experience, you’ll be ready to articulate your product’s needs in precise, well informed and powerful user stories. Your dev team will love you for these. In return they’ll build a better product.
  2. Product copy. From user interfaces to explainer videos you’re going to be busy. Learn the basics of front loaded micro copy. Learn to write in natural, super-simple language. Your users will love the fluid experience it gives them.

Well done. You’ve combined your powers of Holmes-like logical deduction and Watsonish creativity to solve the case!

Pitching, selling and growing your product

Did you think the writing was over?

Sorry.

At this point, you’ll have launched a product (only an MVP). But you’ll still be building your audience (sorry, it doesn’t end) and iterating your product (that never ends either).

Only now, you won’t have any money left to do it!

Hopefully you began pitching, selling and looking for other means of income generation before product launch. Hopefully you will have articulated your USP and tried at least one of these:
* Written more funding bids
* Created an investment proposal (maybe for social investment)
* Identified a product or value you can sell to other services and written persuasive sales copy

If you have then not only will your writing be better but you’ll also be better at verbally articulating your product’s value. When people hear you describe it, they’ll be more inspired. Your fan-base will grow and money will become easier to find.

Now you’ve built a reputation for solving complex cases. Congratulations!

It takes practice. And you won’t get it right first time.

Yay, you made it this far! It wasn’t elementary to get here, and you may not have caught Moriarty (yet). But you’re on your way!

Arthur didn’t get it right to begin with. And you don’t need to either. You can even cheat and hire a copywriter or bid writer. But if you do, study how they work. Ask questions. Learn from them.

And study the competition. Next time you’re on Facebook look at the way its interface copy is constructed. Why does the app use the words it does? The same goes for bid writing, building an audience, and writing persuasive copy.

Make a start on your tech for good writing journey. Arthur will be cheering you on, wishing he was alive to share the adventure.

Like this? Read more tips about building your tech for good project here.

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