You’ve built a great product, but your users don’t know the full potential of your work. The product is deep and wide, but your users have no idea. It’s underwater. Only the tip is showing and these are the most obvious and easiest features to understand. By definition these are most likely your commodity features. In short, you’ve got an iceberg and there’s no way for your customers to understand the depth and breadth of what you’ve built without your help. Perhaps it because you’re in an emerging space or it’s because your user base is broad and diverse. No matter, you’ve got to lower the water level and you need to move fast because renewal is only a year away.
No problem, here are four ways to expose the potential of your product in days or weeks, not months.
Feedback and Collaboration
First of all, you need a new kind of authoring tool. If you’re not engaging subject matter experts for feedback and driving collaboration across your departments you’re doing your customers a disservice. Companies have the following product knowledge silos, all of which are completely disconnected:
- User manuals and docs. Authored in some antiquated desktop publishing tool intended for publishing books. The output is PDF or HTML. The authors are technical writers that do not even connect with the customer directly. Customers rarely even access this information. This is often great content, but no one is accessing it. Why are your tech writers using obsolete desktop publishing tools like Madcap, Adobe Framemaker and Robohelp? Is it because they like the end-notes feature? Or is for job security and control?
- Support knowledge base. It’s organized in a flat structure and contains break-fix content. This can be helpful to the support agents, but it lacks a decent search and it’s too ugly to share with your customers. Also, the KB lacks advanced authoring features for content reuse, global variables and conditional knowledge.
- In-product help. This is the help system inside your application. This really hard to update and is written in-product completely separate from support or marketing. It’s probably out of date and is hard-coded into the application. Why isn’t this dynamic? Shouldn’t it have analytics? Why can’t this include knowledge from other silos?
- Training / eLearning content – how-tos, solution guides, videos and other rich media. This is in it’s own silo! Guaranteed there is great knowledge here, but only a few know where to find this.
- Technical sales tools. These are priceless to your sales engineers. So is a lot of the knowledge from all the other silos, but sales does not know about that other stuff. Also, you customers love technical sales tools because they typically provide simple recipes for solving common problems.
- Technical marketing information and spec sheets.
- Release notes from engineering.
- Best practices and configuration documentation from client services.
- Partner best practices knowledge.
I could go on, but by now you get the idea.
It is time you find a new way to allow these varied constituents to edit, request, create and provide feedback on product knowledge. And it can’t take them 12 months to take their content live either.
Customer Success Center
Create a Customer Success Center. This is a center of excellence that takes the best knowledge from all your experts and organizes it in an effective way for your customers to learn your products. The goal of this center is to accelerate your users to being experts with your products in the shortest time possible. When your customers are experts they will renew more, buy more and genuinely love you for your products.
- Organize it to be topic based and hierarchical to drive discovery and learning.
- Design your hierarchy to mimic a decision tree.
- Include a search tool that works.
- Make it web native.
- Expose your Customer Success Center as a service so it’s easy to extend into every single customer interaction point and make these higher quality channels that are more consistent.
- Pay attention to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices. This can, and will, drive more prospective buyers to your products.
Keep your customers in your product. Don’t force customers to leave your product to understand how it works. Layer your Customer Success Center into the very product you make and deliver the knowledge on a contextually relevant basis. Just in time knowledge. Don’t make them think!
Make knowledge conditional to the user’s group so you can deliver more signal and less noise.
Analytics and Intelligence
Here are three powerful tools that you will be wise to layer into your Customer Success Center:
- Web analytics. This warrants it’s own book, but I’ll list a few key benefits. Patterns will emerge that will inform your marketing messaging. Search keywords will inform marketing and SEO. Easy pickings for product intelligence that should inform your roadmap.
- Marketing automation. Layering marketing automation on a knowledge based Customer Success Center offers huge advantages over communities. It’s easy to be smarter and better at lead scoring, retention campaigns, up-sell programs and capturing prospects into campaigns that are more effective in closing them quicker.
- Knowledge / Curation Analytics. This will allow you to focus your limited resources on articles that need to be created, edited and retired.
Icebergs will sink you. Your product knowledge experience is the fastest and easiest way to solve the problem of the product iceberg. Sure, you can re-engineer the user experience, but this is not a guarantee and it can take years to get it right. If you want your product to be valued for it’s true capabilities then the best course of action is to invest in delivering an exceptional product knowledge experience that helps your users quickly become experts with your products.
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