Product documentation is often considered dull, something you only fall back on when there’s a problem. However, in software development, it’s slightly more exciting, as developers will use their internal documentation to share knowledge and collaborate.
Nevertheless, in many cases, product documentation tends to be filed away and forgotten about.
And that’s a shame, since well-composed documentation can prove beneficial in many situations. For example, while selling your product.
Strange as it may sound, product documentation can significantly assist in selling your SaaS product. Read the article below to discover how—and don’t forget to forward it to your sales team!
Acts as a Product Demo
Imagine this—your potential customer’s business is scaling, and they need a project management tool to help keep pace. They are considering your product, but they have some reservations.
For one, they can’t find visuals of what the software actually looks like. Furthermore, although all the features sound impressive, there are no clear instructions on how to implement and use them.
The answer to both of these problems—and the secret to retaining more interested customers— is simple: product documentation. With product documentation, all potential users have a crystal-clear picture of how your software works; the documentation essentially serves as a product demo.
It’s easy to understand why. Below is a snapshot of what can be found in product documentation:
As you can see, product documentation essentially provides a sneak peek into what the software will do for you. You can expect all of the above—it’s almost as if you’re watching a demo.
In fact, the images and videos probably represent the most beneficial aspect of the documentation, as potential customers get to see the product in action. That’s why it’s a good idea to invest in a documentation platform, as they make embedding videos and images incredibly easy.
Take a look at how embedding images and video works with Archbee:
The Archbee editor makes it incredibly easy to add media, effortlessly taking your documentation content to the next level. With images and video, readers will know exactly what your software looks like, which is a huge asset.
For example, take a look at Microsoft’s documentation for Windows 11:
The first page hosts a video that walks you through the new product’s essential features, providing potential customers with detailed insight into what the software has to offer.
As a result, there’s no need for your sales representatives to get on a call and explain the software to the prospects. The product documentation does the demonstrating and selling for them, saving time for both your team and the potential customers themselves.
Warms up Leads
Leads rarely visit your website with the specific intention of buying your product. In fact, more often than not, they’re not sure what your software can even do.
For example, let’s say a lead is interested in time-tracking software. Their easiest route is to simply google “best time-tracking tools”.
They will click on the first option without knowing the product’s full features, only vaguely aware that it tracks time.
However, if there’s product documentation, they can easily read about its more complex features, e.g., that the software registers absentees, overtime, and time spent in meetings. Suddenly, the lead has turned into a prospect, all because of product documentation.
Product documentation plays a considerable role in the second and third steps. By educating your leads via documentation content, they slowly warm up to your software and are much more likely to purchase.
By focusing on factual, instructive, and informative material, you’re proving to leads that your product is secure and reliable, and that you know what you’re talking about. There’s no baseless boasting. Instead, the leads see for themselves that they’re dealing with solid, helpful software.
For this reason, when composing product documentation, it’s a good idea to imagine yourself as the user. Put yourself in their shoes, and write the text as if you’ve just come across the software for the first time.
Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter, emphasized the importance of user-centric products:
By focusing primarily on your potential customers and writing documentation from their point of view, you’re guaranteed to warm up leads and entice them to purchase your product.
Skype’s documentation is a good example:
All of the articles are written in the first person—from the user’s point of view. As a result, your lead will automatically connect to the content. There’s a human element to the text, a feeling that the document was written for them.
Furthermore, the actual content provides information that the leads are bound to find useful. For example, they might not have realized that Skype is optimized for screen readers or that it can be used to contact Microsoft Teams users.
Similarly, maybe they have a visually impaired individual on their team or if their main clients use Microsoft Teams.
With documentation that shows the benefits we’ve described, they’re much more likely to convert from a lead into a prospect.
Aids Sales Reps in Their Work
The use of product documentation isn’t limited to leads and prospects; it also greatly benefits sales representatives.
Before prospects can even think about buying, your sales team needs to explain your product to them, to demonstrate its functionalities.
In other words, the sales representatives need to teach prospects about your products.
This is part of a process called sales enablement, defined below:
Essentially, sales enablement strives to reduce the sales team’s workload by providing additional content to the customers.
An easy way to accomplish this is to equip your sales representatives with product documentation.
If your sales team can distribute product documentation, those prospects have a verified, comprehensive guide to your software.
They won’t have to blindly trust the sales representative—instead, they can read the documentation and see for themselves.
Because of this quality, product documentation has been hailed as a secret weapon of the sales department:
With product documentation, your sales representative has a comprehensive arsenal of product knowledge at their disposal, which they can offer to their prospects.
This factual, data-driven document complements the selling process as it allows salespeople to focus where they excel—their prospects’ feelings and needs.
The selling process comprises two aspects. First is the functional aspect, the tangible features that the customer wants. Second is the emotional aspect, the thought process explaining why the customer wants that product.
For a better understanding, take a look at the graph below:
This image incorporates the jobs-to-be-done framework, an approach that paints customers’ goals (needs) as jobs. As you can see, the ‘job’ the customer wants to be done depends on both functional and emotional aspects.
For example, let’s say a prospect wants a robust communication tool to keep in touch with their remote team. The functional aspects include instant messaging, video calls, call transcripts, etc.
These features would be listed in the product documentation, categorized, and described at length so the prospect can learn about them at a glance.
While the product documentation covers the functional aspects, the sales representative can then focus on the prospect’s emotions.
They can empathize with the challenges of distributed teams, provide emotional support, and appeal to the prospect’s core need—easier team communication.
Let’s look at a real-life example of good functional documentation:
This excerpt is from Stripe’s documentation and teaches developers how to use a subscription product.
When speaking to prospects, the sales representatives won’t have to lose time explaining how to create subscription products with Stripe.
Instead, they can direct all their attention to their needs, examining why they need a subscription product, explaining its benefits, and highlighting its risks.
Helps Onboard New Users
Did you know that you could automatically add new employees to specific Slack channels?
What about Grammarly settings being changed to reflect American, British, Australian, or Canadian English conventions?
It’s not surprising if you didn’t, as these features aren’t well-known. However, imagine if this was more common knowledge; the newfound insights would likely boost those companies’ sales.
Parth Shrivastava, a SaaS marketing expert, has commented on this phenomenon:
However, with extensive product documentation, users can understand the full capabilities of the product and therefore use the product much more effectively.
Here’s a fantastic example of how product documentation can be leveraged for onboarding:
This type of text is an invaluable resource when using new software, as users will feel secure that they’ve accomplished everything they need to do.
Furthermore, if they notice they’ve missed out on anything, they can just click on the links and immediately be redirected to a document that details whatever step they’ve forgotten.
Although not every company will have these checklists, even the more basic product documentation is also helpful. For example, take a look at Amazon’s FAQ section:
If a new AWS CodeCommit user glanced at this FAQ, they would immediately find out everything the software was capable and incapable of doing.
They’d learn the service limits, which Git operations are supported, the maximum file size, and more—everything a new user would want to know when being onboarded.
Because FAQs are, well, frequent inquiries, they often reflect the most common issues and concerns that the users face.
As a result, reading these FAQs is a handy gateway to learning about everything that perplexes users, ensuring they have a smooth initial experience with the software.
A responsive logo slider for scrolling images in WordPress, the product was tricky, and documentation was lacking.
Once the team finally got around to compiling some product documentation, they saw the following results:
In three months, sales numbers soared after including the product documentation. It isn’t difficult to understand why. With extensive documentation, customers become more familiar with the product, they are able to set it up quickly, and generally have a pleasant onboarding experience.
Supports User Retention
As any experienced salesperson will tell you, it’s not enough to sell your product once—the real secret to a successful business is to retain your current customers. Product documentation is a surprisingly effective tool for this purpose.
Considering user retention’s importance, you want your users to have a positive experience with your software. The statistics prove this:
Users who become frustrated with your software or can’t solve a problem will likely abandon the product for good. To avoid this, capitalize on your product documentation as much as possible.
The secret is to shape your product documentation into a self-help center, a knowledge base full of information that can help the customer in a tight spot.
In fact, Canva provides documentation precisely for this purpose:
With this resource, Canva users will probably be able to resolve errors in a few moments. Instead of waiting several hours (or days) for a representative, they’ll fix their issue in under 15 minutes.
This fast, accessible support is a huge plus for customers and is a powerful motivation for sticking with your software.
However, when publishing these help center documents, make sure to enable customers to give feedback. It’s not enough to just publish articles and leave them at that—you want to double-check that the documentation benefits your users.
Continuing with Canva, this is how the design behemoth guarantees their users receive the help they need:
Readers can send in a customer support ticket if they don’t find a particular article helpful, and they can receive additional assistance.
Furthermore, clicking on the x in the above screenshot opens up this screen:
There, users can further elaborate on why the article wasn’t helpful.
These interactive elements prove to your users that you care about them and are committed to their success. Your users will appreciate your attentiveness, as they’ll understand that you’re doing your best to solve their problem.
When building your documentation, you’d do well to invest in a documentation platform. Such solutions provide countless features that users are sure to appreciate, thus increasing retention.
For example, take a look at Archbee’s contextual documentation widget:
This widget helps readers explore the product documentation without opening another window. Instead, the feature keeps users engaged by serving them the information they need in the same portal.
Although only a minor feature, this widget facilitates documentation browsing and speaks to your users’ needs. In other words, the smoother experience a documentation platform allows for, the higher retention you’ll have.
Product documentation isn’t reserved for only technical writers and developers. Salespeople also greatly benefit from these documents.
First of all, the product documentation often acts as a product demo, walking the prospect through all the software’s features.
As a result, the document greatly assists sales representatives and helps them warm up new leads.
Once you’ve turned your prospect into a paying customer, the documentation can help onboard new users and support user retention afterward.
Try it out yourself! Distribute your product documentation to your sales team, educate them on its contents, and you just might get a revenue boost.