Recent changes in how technology-based products are sold have raised the importance of technical communications. Effective technical communications, namely onboarding, training, and documentation, are now crucial to making the sale.
Not that long ago, most IT hardware and software was sold directly by company salespeople or by salespeople working for channel partners. Marketing agencies produced mountains of marketing collateral to help prospects understand offerings, why they should become customers, and the benefits such offerings could deliver. At first, most of this information was printed, and over time, almost all of it became digital thanks to PDF and HTML.
Other than product demonstrations, prospects rarely got access to technology until after they became customers. The sheer logistics of installation, configuration, and testing made pilots or trials impractical. There was a hard line between pre-sales efforts driven by marketing and post-sales efforts driven by product teams. In most cases, technical documentation was only delivered post-sales to users who had already become customers.
Today, the ubiquity of the web and the free trial has turned that model upside down.
Now, prospects get access to just about any new technology the moment it’s available very early in the sales cycle. This applies to almost all hardware and software products that can be provisioned for free, instantly, in the cloud. In many cases, all you need to get access is a valid email address. Technical documentation, once reserved for customers, is now delivered to free trial users way before they’ve decided to become customers.
The illustration above, loosely based on a concept TDA created many years ago, illustrates this point.
Plus, free trial users have a mindset that’s much different than typical customers. They’re evaluating whether the technology delivers value, is worthy of further investment of their time, and ultimately, whether it’s worthy of risking their own reputation by making a positive recommendation to their peers and superiors.
This change has dramatic implications for technical communications, and raises the stakes for having effective product documentation. Now, in addition to explaining how technology works, technical communications must impart understanding of value during the trial because new sales depend upon it.
When prospects decide to give your product a spin and don’t have a great experience the very first time, they don’t buy and rarely come back. Even worse, in today’s social world, they share their bad impressions with all their friends.
So indeed, technical communications are more important now than ever. Clear, easy to understand materials enable new prospects to “get it” right away, accelerate the moment when new prospects begin to visualize and realize value, and in the process, improve free trial conversion rates.
Conversations with innovators at a number of technology companies have already confirmed this line of thinking. Now, the race is on for effective solutions.
If you’re facing these or similar challenges, please do let me know. I’d love to explore how Expert Support can help you use technical communications excellence to improve product experience, heighten free trial conversion rates, improve customer retention, and accelerate revenues.
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