Streamline your product support

If you want to be a bad product manager, create as many different product support materials as possible. If you’re launching a new product or enhancing an existing product, you need to communicate what’s new or improved. To do this, put one set of materials together for your sales staff, another for customer service, another to provide to new customers, a different set for partners, and more versions for other audiences. There might be slightly different needs across the groups, so it’s best just to create each one separately to make sure they are tailored to the audience needs. This might take a bit more effort, but in the long run it will help make sure you are passing along the right information.

If you want to be a good product manager, create a core set of product support materials and reuse them as much as possible. Tailoring your materials to different needs is a good idea, but is it really necessary? Are the different internal and external audience needs really as different as you think?

  • Do you really need to create one FAQ for customer service, a different one to post on the web site, and a different one to send to key customers?
  • Could a presentation that is used to train your internal sales staff also be used to present directly to new customers?
  • Can information included in your brochures also be included in the Help section of your web site?

Keeping that core set of information consistent has many benefits:

  • You gain operational efficiencies by not replicating your efforts.
  • Creating fewer materials allows you to focus more on those you decide to produce, hopefully making them more complete, accurate, and informative.
  • There is increased consistency to the messages being communicated.
  • There is less likelihood you will discover out-of-date or inaccurate information in old materials; the more places where information appears, the easier it is to forget about one of them.
  • When you add new enhancements to your product, or when a new question arises, it is quicker and easier to make changes to your documentation.
  • As you add new staff — to product management, marketing, sales, customer support, and other areas — it will ease training and ensure consistent and complete information sharing.

There may be times when it makes sense to have some information specific to one audience — for example, information that you may not want to advertise but would like customer service to be aware of in case customers ask. Even then, you should still produce a standard set of information and materials that is common to all audiences, but supplement it with something just specific to the particular audience.

Creating a standard set of core materials for product training and support will help you better answer questions about your product and spend less time answering them. Time saved on product support can then be put towards more value-adding activities around product strategy, roadmapping, and new releases.

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