We spend a lot of time talking about customer engagement and what it really means in today's connected, digital world. Probably the best way to understand it, is to sit down and look at the use cases. So here's one for you, maybe you don't recognize it, but it's a fairly obvious one none the less: social knowledge bases, or in very simple terms product help.

Going Where Your Customers Are

Help docs and marketing/sales are not two things most people would quickly put together. But think about it. What is one of the most obvious use cases for help/product documentation? Engaging with your customers when they are looking trying to find information out about your products is a perfect way to encourage loyalty, cross-sell/up-sell and promote your brand to others.

The funny thing is, most organizations haven't updated their help documentation technology in a really long time -- think html, think beginning of the internet. Think boring, hard to use, pain in the ....

Now consider this: People come to your website for two really important things:

  1. Because they have a problem
  2. They want to be an expert

So by focusing on the content you make available on your website, you can help people find the information they need and you can slowly move them up the ladder of engagement. What's the ladder of engagement? Here's a glance, but essentially people engage with your brand at different levels. The higher up the engagement ladder, the more they are engaged and the more likely they are to buy and/or promote your brand.

Ladder_Of_engagement.jpg

Ladder of Engagement

(Side note: I did a search for images of a ladder of engagement and found a ton of different interpretations, just ignore the pic of Prince William and his father, that's a different ladder altogether)

Enter Purpose Driven Communities

Aaron Fulkerson, CEO of MindTouch (newssite), understands (and explains) this use case very well. In 2009, he knew that the company couldn't survive by being simply another generic social software solution. They had to differentiate, and they chose to do that by focusing on purpose-driven communities, on Help 2.0.

At first he didn't see the value in focusing on technical documentation. After all, who really pays attention to technical writers and what they do? Well, the organizations who buy your products do. Fulkerson says that the most fertile ground for sales and marketing automation is your help content.

Think that's a bold statement? It's not really when you think about it. Supporting and engaging with communities is an important aspect of any marketing strategy today. Purpose-driven communities like those offering product help are about more than simply offering a place to store product help documentation. Add in some curation analytics and you will find out more information about what your customers want and need, be able to drive the right content to them and encourage/support engagement through social tools like commenting, rating, etc..

The idea of the purpose-driven community and its value to an organization is not something only MindTouch sees. Matt Goddard, CEO is r2integrated, also agrees that peer to peer engagement in communities like this (things like advice giving, advice seeking) are driving new decision making behaviors and brands need to recognize and support the communities that drive that. In Goddard case, he speaks not just about communities owned by the brand, but those not owned by the brand. However, in either case, the opportunity should be obvious.

Communities Owned by the Brand

MindTouch offers solutions that enable the brand to create and support purpose-driven communities. Their latest partnership with Zendesk is a good example of how well this works. Zendesk offers web-based help desk and support ticketing. Integrated with MindTouch TCS (Technical Communications Suite), organizations now have a solution that offers a social knowledge base that includes the information and support provided through the help desk and ticketing system, thus improving overall help documentation for the product(s). TCS also includes social features like rating and commenting. And curation analytics helps organizations understand how users are engaging with their content, which enables them to both improve and grow the right content.

With the help of Zendesk, we are building a social knowledge base that turns costly support conversations into a profit center," said Aaron Fulkerson, Founder and CEO of MindTouch. "Great support interactions are an opportunity to educate and evangelize, but only if the experience is immediate, and in context. This product sets a new standard for businesses committed to developing strong and unique support communities."

This use case was demonstrated to me recently when I spoke with StrongMail regarding their online customer community Spark. The differentiator between what StrongMail implemented and what MindTouch offers is found within the use of curation analytics. Curation analytics are unique to MindTouch (at least that I've seen), giving the organization keen insight into how users interact with content. Curation analytics help manage the accuracy and improve the quality of the content delivered. It's clearly about collaboration in context, pulling together the resources required to create and deliver strategic content that help organizations make money and keep customers happy.

The Use Case for Customer Engagement

Fulkerson sees contextual help in the form of a social knowledge base as a huge market opportunity, especially in high tech markets. When people come to your community, you quickly learn what their pains, wants and needs are. What better place to engage with them?