The general consensus when looking to fuel growth is to invest time and effort in inbound or outbound marketing. But an often overlooked and crucial part of the customer acquisition process is getting someone from trial to paid, quickly and efficiently, and keeping them long-term.

Your customer can't possibly know your product as well as you do, but it's a common fallacy to think your product is so intuitive, people will "just get it" or worse they'll "figure it out". The harsh reality is that's not the case, and the penalty for not realising or accepting this is that you'll lose to a competitor that does.

But what if you you already had what you needed to turn your conversion and retention rates on their head, you just needed to unlock it?

Enter, Product Knowledge.

What is product knowledge?

When I say product knowledge, I’m not talking about the market being aware of your product, I’m talking about the way in which your customers learn to navigate and use your product effectively to extract maximum value. That's why they're using your product, to get more value back than what they're paying you (in revenue, savings, efficiency, or just looking better to their superiors).

You and your team will have a great deal of product knowledge you’ve built up over the years, you know all the little quirks and tips to get your product to do what you want it to.

Your new customers or leads don’t implicitly understand your product, they’re totally green to your unique offering (you are unique, right?).

This might seem obvious, but it’s so easy to overlook. Perhaps more damaging it’s often easy to think “but out product is so easy to use and intuitive, we’ve invested a lot of time and effort in ensuring that”. It can be a hit to the ego to think that perhaps your product isn’t 100% intuitive to 100% of your customers, but that’s the reality.

If you can put your ego aside and come to accept this you can begin to use that to your advantage, and see that whatever conversion and retention rates you have, can be improved by simply sharing the asset your team has been naturally building up all this time, product knowledge.

Capturing product knowledge

One of the toughest things about product knowledge is that it can actually be hard to identify and document. You can’t simply create a knowledge base and fill it with content you think the customer will need. You’ll be creating that content from the wrong point of view, and with a complete bias since you are too close to the product. You’re not seeing it through the fresh and innocent eyes of a customer.

More importantly, a lot of the more intricate (and most powerful) product knowledge is actually what’s referred to as /tacit knowledge/. Tacit knowledge "is the kind of knowledge that is difficult to transfer to another person by means of writing it down or verbalizing it" [wikipedia], so how do you actively capture it?

The easiest way is to be disciplined in the way you respond to customer queries. It requires creating new habits, but the benefits in the long run hugely outweigh the early cost.

While it does take discipline, the actual activity is really quite simple. When a customer asks your team (support or sales, it doesn’t matter) a question, rather than tapping into tacit knowledge and responding directly to the customer the following steps should be taken:

  • First, look to see if you have an article that answers the customers query
  • If you do, great! Respond to the customer with a link to that article
  • If you don't, but there's an article that's close to answering it, append to that article (don't edit, it was created that way for a reason, just add to it). Then send a link to the customer letting them know you've updated your docs along with a link to that article
  • If there's nothing at all that answers your customers query, now's a time to create an article for this situation. Don't get too carried away, just create some content that answers this customers situation, no more, no less. You can append to this article later when other situations arise.

Notice how we're capturing product knowledge as we go, as a byproduct of supporting your existing customer base, rather than this being an entirely new effort that needs to be planned, managed, and maintained?

Of course, in some cases the person responding to the customer might not have authority to create or update help content, in which case they should flag it for an update and get someone with authority and knowledge in that area to help them out. (This is where something like our team hub offering can help out).

Very quickly, you’ll be building up a strong product knowledge store, with only a small amount of effort and a slight change to your existing workflow.

Sharing product knowledge

By design, if you follow the process of capturing product knowledge as your customers ask questions from you, you’ll already be delivering product knowledge. The key now though, is to share this with your wider audience in a proactive manner.

A good knowledge base provider should be able to provide you with insights into what people are looking for, what they’re finding (and just as importantly, what they’re not finding), and how they’re reacting to it. This helps to show you what areas people are either getting stuck on the most, or what they want to dive deeper on.

If you use an in-app / contextual support platform like elevio, you can take this a level further and actually see where they were in your product when they got stuck or went looking for more help.

Armed with this information, you can start adding contextual help or hotspots to your site to proactively deliver that product knowledge to your existing and future customers.

If you’re able to spoon feed your customers the product knowledge that was once locked up in the hive mind of your team, you start to transfer power to your customers. Making it easier for them to do what they need and squeeze out even more value than they could before.

The net result here, is that the customer will be able to more easily extract greater value from your product, and receive a much higher the return on investment, no matter what your price point.

If you’re prepared to leave your ego at the door and do more to capture and share product knowledge, you’ll be rewarded in conversion and retention rates you couldn’t achieve before.

Your parents were right, it pays to share.

By Chris Duell

Chris is one of the founders of elev.io. He's a lover of 80s music, SaaS, problem solving, and a good whisky.