Why Technical Communicators are the Next Marketing and SEO Rockstars

Ask Dean Onishi at RightScale what their number one sales lead source is for their products and he’ll tell you it’s their technical documentation support site.  That’s right, tech docs.

After reading this article, you’ll not only know how to instantly increase your value as a technical communicator but dramatically increase revenue in your organization while simultaneously teaching your customers about your products/services.

How’s that possible you ask? It’s simple.  Companies like RightScale understand that there is unlocked value in their online technical documentation.

Here’s How:


Social Documentation Tutorial

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There are two primary ways we look for solutions to problems. The first is, you go to Google (maybe Bing) and start searching for a solution.  When you find something in the search results that looks interesting you click on it and are taken to the site.

At the site you search through the text to find the answer.  If it’s not there you go back to Google and search again. Rinse & repeat.

The second method involves asking your social network for the answer.  Maybe it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google Buzz or some other social networking site.  You ask a question in LinkedIn or you post a question in your status on Facebook or Twitter.  Sometimes your network responds with the answer and sometimes they don’t.

Why are our primary search tools for companies’ products/services made from Google and social networks?

Because the expected result is always better than searching your site.  Or, they don’t know about your product and are in search of it.

It’s better than your site because you’ve posted simple product or service manuals online.  A static piece of content that is outdated the day you posted it.  Sure it may get updated by a technical communicator once or twice a month, but it’s only addressing what you believe to be the top use cases and issues.

Why Analytics are Important

But you don’t really know how people are using your products or think about your solution.  You don’t know because you aren’t equipped with the analytics, reports and dashboards to tell you what people are searching for on your site but aren’t finding.  Or what features of your product most confuse people.  Or even if your online product documentation are increasing or decreasing sales lead activity.

In fact our research has shown that your potential customers are going to social networks, rating sites, Youtube, blogs and myriad other places to find information about what your product/service solves.  Anywhere but your site typically.  Why? Because those sites offer a mechanism for the crowd to participate.

These external sites address the long tail of documentation for your product/service simply by allowing them to participate.  Uploading videos, tutorials, how to guides, writing blog entries, rating products, updating status’s are all being done external to your site.  And guess what the crowd sourced long tail is showing up in Google search results.

And the search results are pointing to sites you don’t own.  Which creates a lost sales opportunity because you don’t control the message or offers on these external sites.

Your potential to capitalize on the audience is limited. Worse because of Google Adwords, your competitors can and will show up in the ads on those sites.  Your competitors are taking deals from you that should have been yours.

Your Technical Documentation is Strategic – You just don’t know it yet

Because you’ve never thought of your content and documentation about your products/services as strategic, they are paid little attention.   But our best customers like RightScale understand that their product documentation/content is driving revenue and reducing costs.  Big revenue and huge cost reductions.

In fact, according to a Global 3000 software customer of ours, every customer service call interaction with a customer costs roughly $154.  With a MindTouch crowd sourced solution they spend only $.05!

How does MindTouch deliver these results?

MindTouch provides a powerful collaborative knowledge base for companies to publish their product/service documentation and content.  We also allow your prospects and customers to contribute content, answer questions from other community members, address long tail use cases, and update your company’s documentation to be more accurate.

We make it easy for your community to add relevant content to your site.  Your community is incented to address the long tail problems your customers or prospective customers are having thus making the site much more valuable.  Better, the content is showing up in Google Search results and on your customer’s social networks.

Because once the community contributes content to your MindTouch 2010 technical documentation site, they have the option of posting the contributed content back to their Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc social networks.

If you need to moderate (we call the process curation) the community contributed content, we provide powerful tools to do that as well.

MindTouch then offers powerful contextual search results that display both company documentation and community documentation/content.  Search results are displayed in context so that you can find the answer to your problem through video, discussion forums, wiki’s or FAQ’s – however your customers like to learn.

In summary, our mission is to equip you with the best tools and platform to create and manage a powerful product documentation site. The benefits are numerous but I’ll highlight the following:

  1. The site will most likely will become your top online lead generation source
  2. You’ll see dramatic reductions in support costs
  3. Your documentation will improve and expand
  4. You will build a stronger community around your brand

And that’s why technical communicators or anyone responsible for your product/service documentation will become invaluable.  We’re here to help.  We’re here to support you.

Just ask.

P.S. Anne Gentle’s Advocate for Community Documentation is a must read.

16 Comments

  1. As a contributor, how am I rewarded for especially meritorious content? What happens to the $.05 cost if the content requires expertise beyond that of lay people?

    As an example, I stopped participating in Amazon Vines because it was clear to me that others in the program were providing shoddy, or bogus reviews, and there was no lottery for high-ticket items so those prepared to monitor their inbox for the first possible opportunity to select those products got them to keep no matter how bad their subsequent reviews.

    • Excellent question. That brings up the subject of the curating of content. Either through community ratings (which bubble the best reviews and content to the top of the search results or page) or through a moderation workflow that MindTouch 2010 provides.

      Stay tuned for a post on curation. It's a new field for documentation and we've done a lot of research on the subject.

  2. Great infographic, Mark! And thanks for the link. I especially like the entry point – either customers are using Google as the starting point to their docs, or they're hopping onto Twitter and asking their Twitterverse (or other network) how to solve a particular problem or for suggestions, past experiences, and use cases "what worked well for you when you had to do this?" The web has become such a useful, no-brainer device for many of us.

    Our users and readers bring certain expectations to web content – it's up to us technical communicators to find ways to provide that best-of-class experience whether it's for support, service, sales, education, or even designing software (or writing articles!) by collaborating with customers. I'm ready, willing, and able. Thanks for the tooling to create useful web content with others!

  3. Great summary of how to leverage unstructured content and social networks. Tying this into a CRM tool or some other type of structured database would be (for sales and marketing) money. Understanding what technical documents not only put a spotlight on who your thought leaders are, but also provide insight and feedback regarding market trends and possible enhancements. Some people will probably call this web 3.0, but I call it the first wave in leveraging content in order to create a trusted source, thus the content brand of a company.

    • I agree Mike, tying this to CRM is something we have done and will do for anyone using MindTouch 2010. The ability to show a hard ROI through purchase activity in CRM is powerful. It's fairly easy and can be done quickly within the MindTouch environment.

  4. i really enjoy going through your posts here and i’ve been following from a distance but felt the need to comment to let you know. keep it up. Do you have a RSS feed? I just downloaded bloglines and want to add it in there.

  5. Your point loses credibility due to this article being about technical communicators and you used the word "their" when you should have used "there". I usually don't nitpick things like this, but:
    1) the article is about the value of communicators
    2) the typo is noticeable without having to scroll down the page.
    3) you underlined it for emphasis.

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