How to plan your external knowledge base content

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Listen up colonels. I’m Mustafa, the brigadier general, and I have an order from major general Emil to brief you on how to make a perfect knowledge base plan of attack!

Your mission- listen to my briefing and then go apply it to your soldiers in a combat situation. Mission starts in ~ 5 minutes after this brief …

It’s not all about the hard work. You know the story. If you want to drop down a tree and you have two hours to do it, spend the first hour and a half sharpening the saw!

This is planning and it IS that important. So, today we’re going to give you actionable advice on how to plan the content for your knowledge base.

What is an external  knowledge base content plan?

It’s an internal document that saves A LOT of time for the guys and gals that add content to your knowledge base and in the process helps your every employee to understand the customer better…

It’s a plan about the content that your actual customers will read and that will be useful for them. This way you save yourself of a lot of angry emails.

We’ve hidden a freebie inside this blog post for you. It’s our own way of doing one of the steps in the planning process. I’m sure you’re going to find this useful as hell.

Usually, I outline a post with what you will get so that you can skim the parts that might not be useful for you. Today, you’ll read a post in which every sentence is important so read it carefully.

This process is not so easy, but I promise you that you’ll get a lot of value from it. Let’s get into it right away…

1. Identify customers

Considering all the money being poured into research & tools, identifying your customer(s) can still be tricky.  

This is a crucial part of writing content for an external knowledge base. You’re writing all of the content for customers.

I strongly recommend the following process of customer persona creation, since it solves a whole bunch of problems in the usual way of making a customer persona.

This is a video with a breakthrough concepts on making lean customer personas. A thing that every company should do. This will be of HUGE value for your planning the content for your external knowledge base.

Watch the video now, but if you cannot do it at the moment, here are a few key takeaways:

  • The real customer persona is in the researcher’s head – meaning that half of the crucial things don’t get transferred from researcher to decision makers.
  • Define the customer persona – Do this in a team meeting or google hangouts so that everybody can get every bit of insights to you. I recommend that you bring somebody from the sales team, from PM team, and from customer support team. Basically, bring in everybody that has any contact with customers.
  • Scale it up – Now it’s time to organize it in a meaningful way. Put all those bits of wisdom on notes and put it on the Scale of truth(team’s opinion on a scale of 1-10 for every note).
  • Add structure – this is an ongoing process of developing your customer persona, you can organize your notes in a meaningful way, put it on a document, put it in a bucket etc…
  • Define rules on when do you move up a hypothesis on the scale of truth. Ask yourself: “How do I know if some fact is worthy of getting into your customer persona?”

CRITICAL POINTS WHEN YOU’RE DOING THIS FOR KNOWLEDGE BASES PURPOSES

We invite you to make customer personas in regards of their knowledge about your company. Here are three customer persona types every knowledge base needs to pay attention to.

Customer persona “noob” – this is the type of person for which you have to explain EVERYTHING in detail. Don’t worry it’s fine, they are not a pain in the ass at all if you do your job right. 

Customer persona “The know-it-all” – type of customer that will be a pain in the ass if you don’t approach them correctly. They are not tech savvy and they like to think they are. You have to make content that’s in-depth like the content for “noobs” and content that seems it’s for an advanced user. This type of customer generally responds the best to instructional videos. 

Customer persona “Your best friend” – this is a type of customer that really wishes you the best and is willing to give you honest and useful feedback. This one is tech savvy most of the time and will go huge distances to help you out, they like concise content and a content that will resolve their issue the quickest. 

Make your knowledge base categories around these three topics. This will also help you in making your knowledge base appealing and well organized. It will be so easy to use.

2. Identify their pain points

This is a part of making the customer persona, but you should put it in a context of finding out what bugs people about your UX. 

Here is an article from our own blog on how to get the real opinion of your customers.

You need to be absolutely honest with getting the feedback even if it’s negative, especially if it’s negative.

First thing is to USE the customer persona the best way. Put yourself in the shoes of your customers and land on your home page for the first time.What do you find difficult to do, if you need more than 5 seconds to find a way to do, then it should be in your knowledge base.

After you do it, take it to your team. Especially customer service, product management, and sales teams. They will have so much feedback because they are interacting with customers EVERY DAY. You can use simple tools like slack and google docs in assisting you. We use them all the time and we have no problems even though we are team consisted of remote workers from all over the world.

And lastly you should pay attention to what your customers/users are complaining about and reasons for having a hard time grasping things about your company.

Look at your customer support inbox and do this:

“Define the most common problems your customers are faced with. Often, the 80% of your support inbox might be the same 20% questions, that just keep repeating themselves“.

Understand that you have X types of users, not all will want to use the KB. It’s important to optimize for the 80% of the folks that are creating the support requests.

If the 80% are tech type that “HATE” KBs, you want to ‘trick’ them with content & design.

In fact, we made a blog post that will make that easier for you.

After you’ve done all this research, make a document that outlines all of these that will be helpful in the next steps. Use tools that I mentioned earlier, google docs and slack and you will be set on your way to a perfect knowledge base.

3. Understand how your customers communicate

Your task in this part of the process is to find out what your customers respond to the best. Are those videos, text articles, images, infographics etc. But how do you do this?

First of all, you should have some insights into this by doing a great job at steps 1 & 2. But a great trick to find this out is to look at your competition’s knowledge bases. What are they doing? Are they making instructional videos, or loooong guides or even infographics and gifs? This way you’ll get a nice feel for the people in your particular industry.

If you don’t have a competitor with a knowledge base I have one bad and one good news. Which one do you want first? OK, here is the bad news, you’re going to have to get to your perfect knowledge base content through trial and error.

But here is the good news, now you have a great competitive advantage in your industry. Customers won’t be frustrated when they’re in need of your help since they will have their questions answered so much quickly and efficiently.

4. Create an external KB content strategy document

It’s basically a document that will allow the person which writes and inputs the knowledge base content into the knowledge base to do this in a fashion that will be PERFECT.

In knowledge base content strategy you should basically put all the research, that you’ve done in the previous steps, into one place and do it in great detail.

This document should be written in a way that if a new person comes to your company and is assigned to write the knowledge base content, the person should first read the document and be ready to make the KB content right away.

Few tips, if your customers ask a lot of questions, base it around questions. In fact, you should organize it in a way where it collides with #1 & #2, where advanced users can easily sector into their part & find their solution, and other users can section into their part.

Be careful here, even the best researches have been in vain because of this step. People miss this step too often or do it like it’s not important. The consequence is an incomplete document that will do more harm than good. All the deep understanding that goes into research simply does not get through to the strategy document because you’re cheap on words.

Don’t do this to your company, stay at this for as long as it’s needed but really NAIL this part down. You’ll be grateful for it when you don’t have to lose time on explaining yourself to the content creators.

It’s starting to get a nice shape, right? Ok, final steps…

5. Develop a detailed outline and bullet points of questions

This is where we’ve hidden our awesome freebie for you. We’ll give you our own outline and bullet points that are ready for the intake to our knowledge base.

outline

The important thing here is to include all of the team members that have participated in previous steps. That way you’ll make sure that not a single point is missed and that you have a completely perfect KB the first time thus making all of this planning worth it.

There can be a problem here, though, if all of the team members write it at the same time it can be very confusing and time wasting.

We invite you to solve this problem in the following way…(UPDATED)

  1. Communicate with all of your team members on a platform that enables you that. We use Slack.

As you’ve seen the outlined document is in the google docs format. So, you make a new document and then invite all your team members to participate. Here is how our general major, Emil, did it.

sharing the doc in the slack

This is on our #general conversation where we talk about different topics. Then, the major proceeded to call us all in the private messages.

sharing the doc in the slack1

2. Make a trello card where your team members will add the questions that are missed.

Trello is a great way to keep things organized within the company. I’ll include some basic resources about trello and slack in the end of this part of briefing.

Anyways, you make a trello card and invite all the team members to it. Bonus tip, make it in the “urgent” card, since this, what we’re doing is really that, urgent!

trellocard

3. Start making the actual outline in google docs and invite your team members to watch.

This is where you use all the previous steps that you did. This is the part where you’ll show that you understood and applied this briefing. In short sentences put all the categories that will need to get broader later.  Like this…

outline knowledge base

After this start writing subquestions with the help of your team. We suggest that only two people write at the same time. You decide who’s that. For us it’s the general major, Emil, and our sales superstar, Eldin.

4. When they see you missed a point, invite them to write it on the trello card.

trello comment

5. Get feedback from the trello card and update the document.

Now it’s time to use these questions from the trello card and go apply it to the actual document. Write them in there. The final product, go to the beginning of this part.

And as I promised, here additional resources on setting up trello and slack for business:

 

6. Assign individuals to input content into the KB

The only thing that’s left for you to do is to assign the actual articles to individuals that are knowledgeable about the subject they are assigned to.

You’ve outlined categories in the previous steps and assign this task in regards to that part. Choose team members that are busy, as they are the best when it comes to doing something difficult with a tight deadline.

Make a google spreadsheet with the actual task, who’s assigned the task, deadlines, and additional tips.

Additional tips can be something like a blog post about how to write the perfect knowledge base article if your customers respond to articles, some youtube videos on how to create videos for this purpose, etc. You get the point.

Last but not least, award and praise your team members that shine through doing this task and finally, award yourself – YOU’VE DONE AN AWESOME JOB.

In the process of planning the external knowledge base content this way, you’ve done a lot of great things for the well-being of your company.

  • You’ve developed quality customer persona
  • You’ve subconsciously educated your team about your customers (and we know that every employee should know the customer deeply)
  • You’ve saved your customer support guys and gals of a lot of unnecessary work
  • You’ve made a document that will be useful to every new team member that comes along

OK, the final thing before you go off on your mission! Comment in the section below, tell us your opinion of the article, and finally subscribe to our weekly newsletter where you’ll get more awesome briefings like this.

 

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