Product Documentation as Strategic Content

When you think of technical documentation, do you think of images of the ’90s, “when software shipped on CDs, in boxes, with thousand-page user manuals that were costly to create and bordered on useless to the end user?” Well, think again. So advises Aaron Fulkerson, CEO of MindTouch, in a recent Forbes article.

Describing the evolution of the user manual, Fulkerson recalls ten years ago, when documentation was considered a cost center. In contrast, today’s product and services documentation is a core business asset that can drive revenues.

According to Fulkerson, here are ways technical documentation is critical to your business:

Documentation as a Sales Tool and Revenue Generator. Fulkerson reports that for some companies, documentation is bringing in over 50% of qualified leads, through organic search results. At MindTouch, 70% plus of site traffic comes from organic sources, with the documentation generating more than half of overall site traffic. More impressive, MindTouch documentation drives over half of all lead generation.

Documentation as Customer Experience. Good documentation drives down support costs and drastically improves your customer experience, Fulkerson asserts.  According to Forrester research, the average call center call can cost a business as little as $5.50 on average, or as much as $50 per call. For technical issues, support costs can go as high as $150 per call. If a customer consults a piece of documentation or a forum instead, the average cost is usually less than a dollar. “In fact,” Fulkerson explains, “Forrester’s research indicates that the average is about 10 cents.”

In the complete article, Fulkerson goes on to explain how product documentation, especially API documentation, also helps build relationships.

In summary, today’s documentation isn’t “just about the bottom line–it’s about “business strategy and outmaneuvering competitors in your market.” Fulkerson’s key points apply to the enterprise, all the way down to the least technical businesses in the country. 

Content Strategy Takeaway: “If you’re not paying attention [to your product and services documentation], you’re going to lose, and lose hard,” Fulkerson predicts.

Source: Forbes. Read the full article: The Evolution of User Manuals.

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