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There are compelling reasons why you should expose your product and service documentation to prospective buyers before they own the product. Surprisingly, this is not common practice for many companies, in part because there may have been a fear that exposing complexity or full functionality may scare away some prospects. These days, those fears are largely misplaced because a buyer or researcher is going to find these resources; or get irritated when they cannot. There are a number of reasons why this is true.

Let’s look at six scenarios demonstrating why documentation has high value for buyers:

  1. Validity and Authority. Your docs tell how to install, configure, operate, repair, troubleshoot, and resolve issues with your products. They don’t make claims or mislead, intentionally or not. They are largely seen as being valid and authoritative because they were created to help actual users use the product.
  2. Previews User Experience. Reading documentation, even when you don’t have a trial version of a product, gives some insight into the actual experience of using the product. All marketing claims things like ease of use, speed, transformative functionality, etc. Documentation shows whether these claims are legitimate or exaggerations. Obviously they can’t duplicate hands-on experience, but they can provide some insight into the experience of setting up and using the product.
  3. Reinforces Claims for Use Cases. Can the product actually do the things it says it can do? Unfortunately many product and service websites and other marketing materials don’t actually show what the product does and how it does it. If our marketing trumpets ‘improved workflows for translation management’, our documentation should show exactly how that works, reinforcing those claims.
  4. Perceived Accuracy. Simply put, documentation is assumed to be factual and accurate, in part because it is written for people who have already committed to the product. In this role, it is part of a customer retention strategy since good documentation allows the user to self-serve support, a strongly desired situation for many users. The last thing most users want to do is call customer service. And when they can access quality documentation, they will be better prepared when they do contact customer support.
  5. Discovery. Discovery is the process of researching the available solutions, creating product comparisons, and making purchasing recommendations. Buyers’ ability to use documentation in the discovery process makes this process much more ‘real world’, especially if one company offers access to the docs and others do not.
  6. Leverage Existing Assets. Simply put, this is high value content that can be repurposed in easily valued ways. You’re going to create and distribute it, so why not get the full value out of your technical content?

With complex, costly, or technologically sophisticated buying cycles, especially in a B2B buying process, it is increasingly unlikely that you will know a buyer is out there until after they have done extensive discovery on their own. Giving them this access, without requiring logins or email forms, is a way of saying “we are being open here and we are dedicated to helping you with your buying process”.

In the marketing of our DITA CCMS, our documentation site is easily accessed by anyone wishing to read through it. As we’ve mentioned before, our marketing automation software, once a prospect is in our system, can follow their process through our sites, including our documentation site. Because of this, we know that serious buyers often visit page after page of this information as they do their homework, before the buying or contact process begins. Making your documentation freely available and ensuring that it is technically accessible to a new user can drive sales, and customer and prospect retention.

Martin Edic

Martin is a writer and marketer who specializes in creating content for delivery online via the web and mobile. Former Jorsek Employee.
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