Technical Documentation as a Marketing Tool for Software Products

Dragos
Dragos
Founder, robot with feelings. From planet Aiur.

In this article, we'll show you how technical documentation can be a valuable marketing tool for software products.

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Technical documentation and marketing are two separate areas that don’t have much in common.

Or are they?

The separation may seem logical at first—after all, technical documentation is here to provide information, teach, and solve problems, while marketing tools are for selling.

However, when it comes to software products, technical documentation can be a valuable marketing tool that can bring new customers, help retain the existing ones and build up your brand.

How? Let’s start and see.

Promoting Product Awareness

As you probably already know, the benefits of excellent technical documentation shouldn’t be underestimated—it can show off the features of your product and be an immensely helpful tool for the users.

However, before all that, it can do something equally important—make your potential customers aware that your product exists.

Put yourself in the shoes of one of the potential users of your product. For most of them, the process is similar—identify a need or a problem they have and turn to Google for help.

Here’s what that process could look like:

Source: Gartner

If you want potential customers to consider your product an answer to their needs, they should notice it during the first two steps—when they identify the problem and explore solutions.

And that’s when technical documentation can ensure they become aware of your product.

How? Let’s look at how Asana, a work management platform, draws in new customers.

Let’s say you lead a team and want to find an efficient way to communicate with them, so you go to Google and type something like this:

Source: Google

As you can see, a link to an article from Asana’s blog is right at the top.

When you open the article, you can read about various strategies and tips on team communication, but you can also find a solution to your need—Asana software.

Source: Asana

Therefore, you became aware of the product thanks to reading its resources section.

But that wouldn’t happen if the team behind it didn’t make the resource easy to find.

Making your technical documentation SEO-friendly can significantly boost your product awareness.

With the help of the right keywords, you can climb to Google’s first page and attract more customers.

One of the ways to explore what works and what doesn’t is by using tools like Google Keyword Planner.

Source: ads.google

It can show you average monthly searches for your keywords and their alternatives, how competitive they are, and other useful metrics which you can use to make your documentation more visible online.

And regarding visibility, all your efforts to make customers aware of your product can go to waste if you don’t make your technical documentation public.

Most documentation platforms have features that allow you to set who can read it. For instance, in our own product Archbee, you can set that everyone can access your documentation.

Source: Archbee

That way, your documentation can attract new customers and bring more revenue.

It’s a convenient way to market your software product and do it with high-quality content.

Educating Potential Customers

If you have comprehensive, user-friendly, and high-quality technical documentation, it can be an excellent educational resource for anyone interested in your product.

After all, educating users about your software is one of the technical documentation’s most important purposes.

Brayn Wills, a knowledge management expert, concurs with that and puts it like this:

Source: Archbee

In other words, software products can be complex and packed with features that a user can’t intuitively understand.

That, of course, depends on many factors like the product itself or the users’ expertise—however, ensuring that your documentation has educational value can also have great marketing potential.

How so? Well, most people—and if we dare say it, all of them—don’t like wasting time.

When they look for a software solution, they want to be able to quickly and efficiently learn how to use at least the most important features.

Therefore, creating top-notch documentation like tutorials, user manuals, guides, and other user-focused documentation can significantly improve the chances of potential customers becoming actual customers.

For example, Slack is a company that understands that very well. They have a rich library of various help documentation, from basic to advanced.

Source: Slack

So, if someone is interested in Slack and what’s it all about, they can get answers to virtually any questions they might have about the product.

Furthermore, at Slack, they also know how convenient it can be when you can just watch a video instead of reading about something.

That’s why they built a separate section for video tutorials.

Thanks to that, when a potential customer who only has a couple of minutes of his time wants to learn the basics about Slack, they can watch their quick video guide.

Source: Slack

With simple and accessible technical documentation like that, you can educate your potential customers about the basics of using your product, which can often be enough for them to keep using it.

There is more good news if you put a lot of effort into educating with technical documentation—people love it.

According to Zendesk’s survey, 91% of customers would educate themselves if the materials met their needs.

Source: Archbee

To sum up, when you attract people to your product, it’s time to show them how to use it and what it can do.

Having quality documentation can be an excellent aid in that, convincing potential customers to stick with your product.

Affirming Your Expertise

As we mentioned, by creating quality technical documentation, you educate your customers about your product and help them see that it can fill their needs.

But that comes hand in hand with another marketing benefit of great documentation—you position yourself as an expert.

Let’s put it this way—you’ll be hard-pressed to find a customer who will give their money to a business they don’t trust.

After all, with the amount of competition in today’s market of software products, why would they?

Affirming your expertise through high-quality and carefully crafted technical documentation that offers customers a solution to their every need is an excellent way to show them that you’re an authority in your field.

Bradley Nice, content manager and technical writer influencer, points out that the purpose of technical documentation isn’t to promise and convince—it’s to establish authority and trust.

Source: Archbee

And you shouldn’t underestimate the impact of trust in your brand or product when it comes to marketing.

If the customers can consistently find solutions to their problems in your documentation, and if you can provide them with quality information and show that you’re experts, they will gladly keep bringing you more revenue.

For example, according to Adobe’s report on UK consumers, 71% of them make more purchases from brands they trust.

Source: Archbee

In other words, you can establish your expertise by creating technical documentation that provides your customers with the answers they need, and they’ll repay you with their trust.

One great example is Twilio, a company that offers programmable communication tools.

Their technical documentation is clear and detailed, and they provide use cases in their tutorials.

In addition to that, they feature code on the same page that shows developers what they need to do, like in the tutorial about recording phone calls in Python.

Source: Twilio

Their documentation covers topics of varying difficulty levels, so it speaks to both beginners and software developers, and shows that they are experts in their field.

For a customer, that means they’re in safe hands and don’t have to look for other solutions.

Supporting Your Sales Team

With the amount of information available on any software product, potential customers rarely come to the sales team without any knowledge of it.

Within a few minutes, any interested customer can find at least the basic information about your product, not to mention the experiences of other customers, information about the competition and what their products provide, etc.

And this is supported by data; according to one survey by Demand Gen Report cited on Sword and the Script, 72% of B2B buyers consume three or more pieces of content before getting in touch with a salesperson.

Source: Archbee

That’s why it’s essential that your sales team is prepared and educated about the product so the potential buyer can’t catch them off-guard.

Technical documentation can undoubtedly help them with that. In addition to being a quality resource to learn from, certain types of documentation offer value when dealing with customers.

For example, FAQ pages can give your potential buyers answers to many questions in addition to being an excellent resource for your sales team, as they contain a wealth of concise and usable information.

Below, you can see a FAQ page from WhatsApp.

Source: faq.whatsapp

On the left-hand side, you can see that questions are broken down into specific topics.

So, suppose your sales team needs to quickly find some information about, for instance, the security and privacy of WhatsApp Business for Android.

In that case, they have dozens of answers to the most frequent questions about that topic.

Below, you can see a small sample of them.

Source: faq.whatsapp

Demo videos are an even quicker way to support your sales team with information about your product.

They’re great for conveying the most important information in just a few minutes, and your sales team can share those videos with interested clients.

For example, take a look at the demo video for Airtable below.

Source: Airtable on YouTube

In less than two minutes, the video explains:

  • What Airtable is
  • What you can use it for
  • Its basic functions
  • What sets it apart from other collaboration tools

That is an excellent way to educate your sales team while at the same time giving them a quick way to refresh their knowledge about the product.

Supporting them with quality and straightforward technical documentation allows them to convert customers’ interest into sales.

Encouraging Customer Retention

Using technical documentation to attract new customers isn’t the only way to use it as a marketing tool.

Your existing customers aren’t any less important, and documentation can help you retain them.

Of course, the importance of that isn’t hard to comprehend—if you don’t work on retaining your customers, they’ll leave, which means less revenue for your company.

Remember the importance of trust in your brand we mentioned earlier?

According to a report by Emplifi, cited on Business Wire, that trust could quickly crumble if you don’t provide your customers with good experiences.

Source: Archbee

And making sure that your customers have continual support in the form of relevant and up-to-date technical documentation can go a long way in increasing retention.

As Matt Hacket, an investor and advisor in many tech companies, explains, it’s crucial for him that his teams don’t struggle using a product.

Source: Archbee

And users might struggle if you aren’t informing them about the new features your development team is implementing.

Why? Because your customers won’t get the full value out of your software.

The last thing you want is a situation where a customer goes to a competitor because of a particular feature, completely unaware that your product has it too.

So, how to prevent that? You can take Hackett’s advice and make your documentation well-organized and easy to navigate.

For example, Archbee has a powerful search function in its documentation, allowing you to find what you’re looking for quickly.

Want to know if you can control the SEO meta attributes in Archbee? Search the term “SEO”, and you’ll find the documentation about it.

Source: docs.archbee

In addition to letting your users navigate on their own, you can also keep them updated by a changelog.

Archbee has one, and it’s refreshed regularly with announcements about new features and improvements.

Source: changelog.archbee

All that care and attention to retaining your customers won’t remain unnoticed.

They’ll feel that you care both for them and for your product, so they won’t feel the need to check out your competition.

Creating a User Community

If your writing team gives their all to creating excellent technical documentation, that won’t go unnoticed.

Customers will appreciate the effort, which can lead to another positive effect for marketing your product—forming a user community.

Happy customers often tell others about their delight with a product, especially now that there are so many channels to do so.

It isn’t any different with technical documentation.

For example, Stripe is known for its top-notch documentation, and you can find dozens of praises by its users on social media.

Source: Twitter

Those happy customers have the potential to become brand evangelists and share the good word about your product whenever and wherever they can.

And word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing tool.

Data from Semrush indicates that 90% of people are likely to trust a recommended brand—even if that recommendation comes from a stranger.

That’s why creating a user community around your technical documentation can be such a valuable marketing tool.

That community would bring your customers together, and they can contribute to increasing the quality of your documentation even more with their engagement.

For instance, Salesforce has a community called the Trailblazers, consisting of users who collaborate and try to get the most out of that cloud-based software.

Source: trailhead.salesforce

An active community helps existing users, making them more satisfied with the software and more likely to share positive impressions about it.

And if they get recognition for their loyalty from the company itself, they can generate more positivity around it.

For example, GitLab rewarded this Twitter user below for contributing to their documentation.

Source: Twitter

With a simple sign of gratitude, GitLab ensured the customer’s loyalty and encouraged others to become a part of their community.

To sum up, having a user community is a powerful tool for marketing your software because you can’t force people to participate—they choose to do it.

You can only provide them with the means to do it. If you manage to do that successfully, your user community will grow, and the good word about your product will spread.

Conclusion

The potential of technical documentation for software products is much greater than only assisting customers with their needs and issues.

In this article, we’ve shown you how you can use it as a marketing tool.

When you have technical documentation of the highest quality, that can be a perfect ad for your product.

It can attract potential customers, educate them about your product, show them your expertise, help your sales department and create a loyal customer base that will spread the word about your software product.

Clearly, that's a chance you shouldn't pass up.

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