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Look at any trade magazine, industry e-newsletter or website and you’ll continue to find evidence of dollars being spent in the pursuit of the next sale. Even in economic downturns, (or perhaps exactly because of an economic downturn), it seems manufacturers are still willing to go to just about any length to get the word about their company and extol the virtues of their products.
In today’s world of user-friendly and largely free social media tools, it’s understandable that this trend continues. In relatively little time, with relatively little cost, manufacturers large and small can stake their claim on the web and create a fresh, forward-facing identity to engage potential customers with a whole new strategy. Manufacturers across the country and the world are scrambling to become experts in the brave new world of social media. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube used to be banned during working hours, now they’re almost a requirement.
And let’s not forget the more traditional methods of marketing, including the entirety of various MarComm initiatives, as well as ad buys in the aforementioned trade journals and/or banner space in e-newsletters, trade websites and the like.
However you as a manufacturer define your strategy of getting the word out about your products, it adds up to a significant, concerted series of costs and efforts designed to generate leads, and from leads, sales.
But what happens after the sale? Have you considered that your product documentation is letting the side down? Or even worse, could your product documentation be preventing a sale?
For your consideration:
• Given all the time and effort that go into creating a brand that properly targets and engages your customers, does your product documentation support the perception of your brand? Is the gleam of your world-class marketing effort being dulled by a ratty binder of photocopied sheets that you affectionately refer to as the “operator’s manual”? At a minimum, stop and consider what kind of impression is left on your customer by your documentation after the sale.
• Are you using your product documentation to sell after the sale? If your product requires consumables, service parts, or optional upgrades, you should be. From the correct contact information for service reps to detailed information on the benefits of genuine OEM consumables to instructions on how to get spare parts, it’s always worth your while as a manufacturer to ensure you are taking advantage of this opportunity to make these additional sales. Do you offer product or process-specific training for customers? Why not include this type of information in your product documentation as well?
• Is your product documentation available online? Many people use the availability and quality of product documentation as a factor in their purchase decisions. Is yours available online, and if it isn’t today, would you have any reservations about making it available online as it stands today? Could be one more reason for your customer to decide to buy from you. Even if you deal strictly in custom equipment, it may be worth creating a “generic” sample and make it available to potential customers of an example of your world-class products and support.
• Take a look at your competitors’ product documentation. Is yours comparable? What things do you think they do a better job of, and what things do you feel you do a better job of? Next time your boss asks you to sit in on a marketing strategy session, it would be worth your time to have this list or some examples handy.
Product documentation is often overlooked or dismissed as a necessary evil, yet it should have just as an important role as every other play in your marketing strategy playbook. Don’t make the mistake of allowing it to let your side down.