Marketing and Existing Users

Since I stumbled into it, I periodically check Kathy Sierra’s blog “Creating Passionate Users“. She always has excelent posts with very interesting points of view.

The post I’ve read today (“Why marketing should make the user manuals!“) is what brought me in front of my old good laptop to write this post.

In brief, Kathy suggests putting the marketing resources (designers, etc…) to work in the user manuals and revert the usual tendency (fancy ads and brochures and nasty less-than-useful manuals).

Like most people, I certainly like the idea. Where I work, we don’t even give printed manuals (we give a PDF version on CD) and they are extremely focussed on what our software can do, but not how it will help the user (or why would them use any feature).

However, I find that it will be quite hard to change the situation… at the end of the day, every one on the firm works more or less the same way: doing what the Sales Department requests.

Think of it… Marketing prepares excelent documents for Sales. Sales does its job… sellling licences and/or projects. Engeenering develops the projects and Technology develops and enhances the product (for which licences are sold)… in both cases, the features and deadlines are defined by Sales. And who gets a bonus on their salaries? You guessed it, Sales. But that’s a different story.

I still have to see how sales cares about existing customers. By now, they are left in the hands of Engineering (we not only develop, we are also Customer Support).

So, I don’t think like starting a revolution and turning the enterprise upside down.

What I really found interesting, is the idea of turning manuals into marketing elements usable by Sales. Bring in new users by showing the tools we’ll be giving them.

I like to think of the manuals as something more than printed books. Nowadays, the manuals should include screencasts, videos… and that can be integrated in the product. You know you can press F1 at any time for getting relevant help for what you’re doing. Right? Anyway, that’s a feature that comes for free in Eclipse, using integrated help and cheatsheets.

Some more comments on new approachs for manuals I’ve found this week, is on “Participatory Documentation“, posted by Bjorn Freeman-Benson in his blog (this is another non-technical blog I check). The idea here is… let the user fix what is wrong with the manuals (it is not theory, there is at least one company doing that).

It’s funny that both posts came out almost at the same time. Or maybe it is not a coincidence?



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