Re-Check: Is Your Product Documentation Really Meeting the Needs of ALL Customers?
Experienced sales professionals know that describing someone as a “customer” is only the starting point towards understanding what the buyer’s journey ahead might look like. That’s why they rely on a range of labels to segment citizens on the customer landscape, such as “Loyal Laura”, “Indecisive Irving”, “Discount Donna”, and of course, how can we overlook good ol’ “Window Shopper Wally”.
In a similar light, companies need to ensure that their product documentation strategy isn’t taking a one-size-fits-all approach to outreach and engagement, because there isn’t just one type of customer out there, but (at least) four: buyers, end users, influencers and purchasers.
In virtually all B2B sales cycles – and in many B2C sales cycles, such as for larger items like electronics, appliances, cars, etc. – there is rarely just a single buyer. Research by Gartner has found that in a typical organization with 100-500 employees, an average of seven people are involved in a single purchase decision. For example, the buying team can be comprised of executives, IT, finance, operations, risk, sales, marketing, HR – and so on. Each stakeholder has their own information requirements, and will determine whether a deal happens or is scuttled.
- End Users
End users are the people who will ultimately use a product – whether it is a piece of equipment, a type of software, and so on. While they’re sometimes tapped to join forces with buyers and influencers (see below) to conduct pre-sales research and make recommendations, end users generally focus on practical facts and specifications; especially if a product is going to be new to the environment. Just as importantly, they seek to discover what kind of self-support content is available, so they can get a sense of what’s in store when they run into challenges and problems down the road.
Influencers are internal customer stakeholders. They’re not formal members of the buying team or end users, but they have the capacity to influence a purchase – or prevent one from taking place. Often, influencers hail from IT, InfoSec and finance, because they highlight issues that end users and buyers may not be aware of, or (allegedly) aren’t giving high enough priority to. For example, the VP of Operations may team up with the HR manager and a recruiter to source a new Human Resource Information System. However, a member of the IT team may learn about the procurement, and raise a red flag about potential integration problems. While this concern may not necessarily kill the deal, it can certainly make the sales cycle longer and more complex.
Purchasers have (as the label suggests) made a purchase – i.e. they are former buyers. However, it’s important not to label this customer group as brand ambassadors, since that’s not necessarily what they are. Even if the relationship is strong and “sticky”, companies still need to lean forward and ensure this highly profitable customer type is getting full value from their investment. Otherwise, they are likely to churn – or even if they stick around, they won’t buy more products (or buy as many as they could).
Using Product Documentation to Target Each Customer Type
Obviously, each company must craft specific pieces of content for each customer type, such as how to guides and walk-thrus for software end users, internal development documentation for buyers and influencers, use cases and marketing assets for purchases, and so on.
However, to get this valuable content in the hands – or more typically these days, on the screens – of buyers, end users, influencers and purchasers, companies need to ensure that their documentation publishing system supports:
- Multi-touchpoint distribution to ensure that content is consistent and updated across the ecosystem: web, knowledge portal, customer community, social, search, etc.
- Full-text and faceted search capabilities, combined with auto-fallback rules so that customers quickly and easily find what they need – even if they aren’t sure where to start or which direction to head.
- Optimized access through any device and at any time, and the ability to create personalized publications that can be accessed online or offline.
- Content recommendations based on tracked behaviors (e.g. watching a video, downloading a specification sheet, referring page or website, etc.).
- SME and peer-to-peer interactions (commenting, social signals, etc.) to drive engagement, share knowledge and generate feedback.
- Automatic push notifications that alert Account Executives when an existing customer (i.e. purchaser) is logged into the knowledge portal, so the former can immediately open a chat.
The Bottom Line
When the above are in place, companies can use product documentation to engage all of their customer types – not just some of them – which is essential for shorter sales cycles, larger deal sizes, higher win rates, and fewer Window Shopper Wally’s. What’s not to love about that?
Zoomin’s multi-touchpoint publishing solution helps companies engage and impress all customers in their environment: end users, buyers, influencers and purchasers. Discover how to optimize ALL customer experiences by launching a guide demo now.