Frager Factor

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Why marketing should make the user manuals: A Tribute To Head Rush

Photo via HeadRush

Kathy Sierra ran the Head Rush blog until its demise, like most blogs that suck time and generate more criticism and pain than revenue. What follows is one of her best posts from 2006, that is more relevant today then ever and desires to be seen.

Seth Godin said it best: all marketers are liars.
Marketers are trained to obfuscate, exaggerate, denigrate and spin. Those are useful talents, but not when you’re trying to explain how things work.

Why do so many companies treat potential users so much better than existing users? Think about it. The brochure is a thing of beauty, while the user manual is a thing of boredom. The brochure gets the big budget while the manual gets the big index. What if we stopped making the docs we give away for free SO much nicer than the ones the user paid for? What if instead of seducing potential users to buy, we seduced existing users to learn?

Let's take the whole damn ad/marketing budget and move it over to product manuals and support. Let's put our money where our users are. If we're in it for the short term, then sure--it makes sense to do everything to get a new user, while doing as little as possible once we've got them. But if we're really in it for the long haul--for customer retention and loyal users--then shouldn't we be using all that graphic design and pro writing talent for the people we care about the most? Our users?

Most of you know our philosophy here on Creating Passionate Users:

  • Truly passionate users will evangelize to others.
  • The better users get at something, the better (higher res) the user experience.
  • The better the user experience, the more likely they are to keep trying to get better.
  • Nobody is passionate about something they completely suck at.
  • Helping your users learn and (ultimately) kick ass is the best way to up the odds they'll become passionate.

Creating fabulous learning materials might be a far better use of the budget than creating fabulous ads and brochures. If traditional advertising and marketing is becoming less and less effective, why not move all that talent (designers, artists, copywriters, other "creatives") from before the sale to after the sale? We keep wondering why users won't RTFM, but just look at our FMs! Nice brochures are printed on that coated silky paper that begs to be touched, while the manual is printed on scratchy office-grade paper. Even just that one change--making the user manual as touchable as the marketing material would be a good start.

And if your company insists on having fancy, slick, colorful brochures... why not take the new fancy, slick, colorful product manuals and use THEM as your promotional material? As a potential customer, I'll find your attention to user learning a lot more convincing than your attention to new sales. Rather than using your brochure to show how much YOU kick ass, I'd much rather see no-marketing-spin hard evidence of how you're going to help ME kick ass.

If the best way to help create passionate users is by helping users learn and get better, then we should put our power to entice, motivate, and inspire someone to buy more, and use it to entice, motivate, and inspire someone to learn more. In the end, those passionate users will evangelize our product or service far more credibly and honestly than we can.

So, are you as sexy after the sale as you are before? Do you know anyone who is?

Check out Kathy's full body of work HERE

** Kathy has been interested in the brain and artificial intelligence since her days as a game developer (Virgin, Amblin', MGM). She is the co-creator of the bestselling Head First series (finalist for a Jolt Software Development award in 2003, and named to the Amazon Top Ten Editors Choice Computer Books for 2003 and 2004). She is also the founder of one of the largest community web sites in the world, Kathy's passions are skiing, running, her Icelandic horse, gravity, and her latest favorite thing--Dance Dance. 

About The Author: Owen Frager is an Internet marketing expert ready to help take your company to the next level.

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