Is Your Product Documentation System Optimized for New Product Releases?
When it comes to driving brand visibility, generating excitement and adding customers, no opportunity offers companies a bigger stage and brighter spotlight than new product releases. And we aren’t just talking about Apple and other B2C brand heroes with their legions of fans and followers. Though they don’t camp out overnight or create un-boxing YouTube videos, buyers in the B2B world get as excited and engaged about a soon-to-be dropping product as anyone.
Given this, it’s not surprising that companies invest heavily in planning and optimizing new product launches, and make everything else a secondary priority. In fact, vacation schedules — considered sacrosanct by some employees! — are typically changed or cancelled by management to ensure that the right people are available in the critical weeks leading up to and after a new product launch.
Yet, while all companies view new product launches as defining events that impact their bottom-line — positively or negatively — many continue to rely on an outdated or dysfunctional product documentation system. This isn’t just a missed opportunity to maximize results, but it’s a major mistake.
That’s because today’s customers are increasingly turning to product documentation to learn about new products. This doesn’t mean that they’re dismissing marketing content, since that piece of the communication puzzle still plays a vital role. Rather, like prospective home buyers who wisely choose to scrutinize inspection reports, structural layouts, municipal plans and other types of technical information, customers want to augment their understanding of what a product does, why it’s unique and how it will benefit them (marketing content), with how and why it works, and what the ownership and support experience will be like (product documentation).
The problem, however, that many customers face — and that the companies who want to impress and inform them unintentionally cause — is that while there’s usually enough good marketing content available to support a new product launch, the same can’t be said for product documentation.
As a result, by the time that companies get around to updating and disseminating their product documentation across all channels, the window capitalize on the momentum of a new product launch has either started closing, or it has essentially closed — and the potential to drive brand visibility, generate excitement and add customers isn’t fully exploited. That’s the bad news. Or for folks whose career aspirations and maybe even their jobs depend successful new product launches, that’s the daunting, terrifying, and lying-in-your-bed-awake-at-3am news.
Fortunately (and mercifully for some!) dialing up product documentation so that it’s enables new product launch success instead of undermines it is practical and cost-effective — provided that it’s rooted in an advanced, technology-led product documentation system that works concurrently on three layers:
Layer 1: Self-Support
A Forrester survey found that 74% of business customers conduct more than half their research online before making an offline purchase, and product documentation is a major part of this information-gathering process. However, if customers can’t quickly, easily and consistently find what they need across all relevant channels — including corporate websites, customer communities, knowledge portals, social and search — then they’re going to exit the buyer’s journey instead of move forward.
Layer 2: Sales Rep and Support Agent Interaction
Speaking of the buyer’s journey: customers often forge their own map based on what makes sense to them, what they prefer, how much time they have, and other variables. Yes, companies should use automation and other tactics usher them in certain desirable directions. But ultimately, customers are in control of how, when and where they go. And when they want to learn about a new product, many of them reach out to a sales rep (if they’ve never bought anything before) or a support agent (if they have).
Companies need to empower both these teams — sales reps and support agents — with tools to help them close the gap and provide rapid, relevant assistance at the first point of contact. For example, reps and agents should have access to intelligent content suggestions that are based on what they uncover organically during a conversation (or web chat). They should also receive push notifications when new product documentation in the ecosystem is available, along with meta information on what it’s about, who it’s designed for, where it fits on the buyer’s journey, and how it’s being successfully used by colleagues.
Layer 3: Capturing Feedback
If product documentation is put in front of the right people, in the right places and at the right time, then customers will have feedback on what they encounter: positive, neutral and negative (and often the same piece of feedback will contain all of the above). Some of this they’ll share with sales reps and support agents, and some of this they’ll share online in the form of questions, suggestions and comments.
Companies need to capture all of this this valuable intelligence — including SME responses to customer inquiries — and use it to improve existing product documentation, as well as inform new product documentation. As part of the same commitment and competence, companies need to rapidly and easily push out updated and new content to all touch points, so that all customers access the same accurate, great content.
The Bottom Line
New product launches aren’t static roll-outs. They’re dynamic, iterative events in which product documentation plays an increasingly influential role. Companies that leverage an advanced technology-led product documentation system that works concurrently on three layers — self-support, sales rep and support agent interaction, and capturing feedback — can be assured that their technical information assets are helping to drive brand visibility, generate excitement and add customers. Conversely, companies without such a system need to implement one now, or else they may be putting their new product launches on-track to fizzle, instead of flourish.
Zoomin’s dynamic knowledge portal extends the reach of product documentation libraries by giving customers easy, personalized access to the answers they need — from any device, whenever they want, and from any location. Zoomin moves your content from a static collection of documents, to a dynamic world of answers. Learn more by schedule your guided demo.