The conventional sales funnel with its top-down approach has given way to a flatter customer journey continuum: one where instead of being tactically targeted by sales collateral, customers are more organically informed, impressed and influenced into becoming buyers, and then inspired into becoming partners (a.k.a. “brand ambassadors”).

However, while the evolution from sales funnel to customer journey is a major win for customers – who as we all know enjoy buying, but hate “being sold” -- it’s nevertheless posing some new challenges for businesses that they need to address and resolve now, not later.

Specifically, unlike the sales funnel that is characterized by various tactics, the buyer’s journey is characterized by numerous touchpoints. These touchpoints are like power lines, in the sense that they either energize the relationship, or they weaken it – or in some cases, terminate it altogether. In response, many businesses have re-configured their marketing and sales approach, so that they’re effectively supporting touchpoints and tracking them accordingly. The shift towards inbound marketing is a clear example of this new paradigm.

Yet, there is another business-to-customer (B2C) communication area that is often being overlooked, simply because it is not being recognized and categorized as a touchpoint – even though it most certainly qualifies: product documentation.

Indeed, today’s customers are routinely and repeatedly accessing product documentation as part of their customer journey, both before and after they make a purchase. What’s more, they aren’t limiting themselves to visiting a business’s website. Rather, they’re also scouring Google, community forums, knowledge bases, and other sources to get the on-demand product documentation they want.

However, unfortunately for both customers and the businesses that want (and need) to reach them, this experience is typically not rewarding. In fact, it’s more likely to be somewhere between frustrating and futile.

The root problem here is not so much a matter of quality, but an issue of consistency. Customers expect the product information they access – whenever they want, and however they wish –to be consistent. As McKinsey & Company note: “The 3 C’s of customer satisfaction are: consistency, consistency and consistency”.

Yet in today’s customer-centric business landscape, product documentation consistency across all touchpoints is the exception rather than the norm. Even established enterprises with a well-earned reputation for producing exceptional product documentation, are finding that their content isn’t working for them; it’s working against them. Again, the core issue here is not quality, but consistency; or rather, lack of consistency.

Obviously, frustrating customers through inconsistent product documentation is NOT what any business aims to do. But solving the problem is proving to be surprisingly difficult. There are simply too many content touchpoints to manage, and too much content overall to update. Trying to keep all of these “balls in the air” is proving to be a logistical nightmare. It’s also creating an immense amount of accountability confusion and friction between techpubs and sales/marketing teams, which manifests variously as underlying aggression and open conflict.

The good news is that there is a practical and efficient way for businesses to get their product documentation up-to-speed, so that it is aligned with the customer journey paradigm: multi-touchpoint publishing.

As the term suggests, multi-touchpoint publishing enables businesses to automatically update product documentation across all of their touchpoints, so the content that customers access is consistent, accurate and complete. It also allows multiple collaborators to provide input, but in a streamlined and efficient way – which effectively ends the battle between techpubs and sales/marketing, and puts them on the same page and facing the same direction.

Simply put, multi-touchpoint publishing enables a consistent, singular customer journey – which, frankly speaking, is the ONLY kind of experience that today’s customers want and expect. It’s also a valuable, vital way for businesses to demonstrate that they care about customers, and want to make their journey from new prospect to inspired brand ambassador efficient, enjoyable and very rewarding.

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