Help me help you: Why all brands need a knowledge base
Did you know that approximately 5.7 million small companies set up shop in the UK last year?
Every year, more ambitious people from across the globe are ditching the 9-to-5 and looking for ways to make their business dreams a reality. The internet, new technology, and an overwhelming entrepreneurial spirit have created an avalanche of new startups. The only problem is, that means more competition for everyone else!
When other companies have bigger budgets and stronger resources than you, how do you stand out from the crowd? Some brands use disruption, like Brewdog, while others try to take a new approach to a pre-existing product. Whatever strategy you choose, you’re going to need a little something extra behind the curtain to keep your customers happy: customer delight.
In a world where your consumer’s prize experience over anything else in the modern marketplace, the right customer service strategy can be the key to leveraging brand loyalty. Fortunately, you don’t need a huge customer support centre or a phone team to see results. All you need is a hub for self-service customer education. Enter the knowledge base.
A knowledge base is a library of useful information intended to showcase your thought leadership strategy and enlighten your customers. It helps clients to solve problems on their own and envision you as the one-stop-shop for the answers to their questions.
Here, we’re going to look at the best practices you can use to build a knowledge base that enriches your customer service strategy, and your brand.
Why customer service is a crucial part of branding
No matter which industry you work in, if you want to stand out, you’re going to need to look beyond lead conversions and customer acquisition.
Branding and customer experience go together like bacon and eggs. After all, you can’t have a fantastic brand unless your consumers can trust you to deliver great support. While a strong USP and some attractive social media marketing can help to boost brand loyalty, it’s the experiences you give your customers that cause them to choose you time after time.
Shifting your business and branding model towards customer support and retention lowers your customer churn, improves your ROI, and attracts happier clients. Remember, it can cost 7 times more to acquire new customers.
For those focusing on customer retention over acquisition, it’s important to let your clients know they can rely on you to answer their most pressing questions fast. As such, a knowledge base forms the foundation of your thought leadership strategy (by demonstrating that you know your stuff), while enhancing your customer experience solution.
A knowledge base is effectively how you communicate with your customers even when no-one in your team is around to answer the phone. It indicates that you understand your customer’s ambitions and their pain points, and guides your clients towards the solutions they need.
Used properly, knowledge base creation can even reduce the pressure on your customer service agents. After all, if your followers can find the answers they need online, then they don’t need to call you for help.
So, how do you start your knowledge base strategy?
How to build a knowledge base: Tips to get you started
As mentioned above, most companies spend a serious amount of time and energy trying to bring new customers towards their brand. However, those organisations don’t always put the same effort into retaining the clients they have.
Learning how to build a knowledge base might not be as exciting as launching a new video marketing campaign, or designing a new logo, but it can go a long way towards showing your customers you care. After all, no matter what kind of brand personality you’re trying to create, your aim should always be to show your clients that they come first. Here are a few knowledge base best practices to help get you started.
1. Define your target audience
Just like any kind of content, a knowledge base article can come in various shapes and sizes. Some knowledge bases are external, providing support and guidance to customers. Others are internal knowledge bases, which help to support your employees. Before you begin designing anything, make sure you know:
- Who will be using the content.
- Why would they come to your knowledge base?
- How can you make the experience as simple as possible?
Once you understand your audience, you can begin to set goals for your knowledge base strategy. Think about how you’re going to define success for your campaign. Will you be looking for better reviews and more customer referrals, or simply fewer customer support tickets?
2. Select your style
With your target audience in mind, you’ll also be able to adapt your writing style to suit their needs. Just like your email newsletter or your logo, your knowledge base also makes up part of your brand identity. Everything you write for your audience should reflect your unique personality. To properly portray your brand:
- Define a unified and consistent style of writing: Think about the language you’re going to use and try to make sure it’s not too dry or boring.
- Get your visual appearance right: Design your knowledge base with care. Remember that formatting and structure can be just as informative as text. Additionally, the designs you use can help to give more credibility to your thought leadership strategy.
- Stay concise and succinct: Concentrate on getting your point across with easy-to-understand language. Bullet points are often a great addition to a knowledge base article.
3. Use a range of media
Remember, your knowledge base isn’t just a great way for you to build your thought leadership strategy. It’s there to educate and inform your audience. Think of it as your own “Brand 101” class to help customers get to know your product and what it can do. Since everyone learns in different ways, it makes sense to offer your knowledge base content in a range of different formats.
Some people will need lists of written articles to help them understand what they need to do next. Other customers will prefer a video that walks them through a process. Pictures can also be a valuable addition to any lesson format. When you’re figuring out how to build a knowledge base, explore various options from podcasts to vlogs, and see what your clients like best.
4. Follow design and formatting best practices
Finally, since your knowledge base should be as informative and educational as possible for your customers, it’s worth noting that design helps with both navigation and comprehension. If you use basic design principles, your customers should find your content much easier to absorb and use. Think about things like:
- Navigation: The search bar should capture your user’s attention, and the content should flow naturally down the page. Make sure that there are plenty of quick links to frequently asked questions on the homepage too.
- White space: White space is a powerful visual element in design. It helps to make information easier to absorb by separating it into segments.
- Colour and branding: Remember that the colours and branding you use should be consistent with the image you’ve already created for your company. Let your customers know that they’re learning with you.
- Fonts: Choose typography that’s easy to read and use different sized fonts to navigate attention around the page.
5. Manage and update your knowledge base
Finally, remember that over time, as you continue to add to your knowledge base, it will start to grow. Unlike your blog, which simply lists new articles as you publish them, your knowledge base content should be organised into sections that support your user.
Consider creating landing pages for each section of your knowledge base and curating all the links for your articles into “FAQ” sections. Additionally, as aspects of your business change, remember to update your knowledge base to reflect everything from changes in design, to adaptations to your product’s functionality.
Using a tool like Intercom to track customer service issues and trending topics that your customers need help with should give you an insight into how to update your knowledgebase. Listening to your audience will allow you to optimize your resources over time.
Knowledge is power: 5 knowledge base examples
As more companies continue to recognise the role that knowledge bases can play in providing their customers with a unique and memorable service, the power of these hub articles is growing. In fact, though knowledge base articles have been around for years, they’ve recently re-emerged in the media as a trending part of the customer service discussion.
If you’re hoping to stay on top of the trends with your knowledge base creation, then the first thing you need is some inspiration. The following knowledge base examples are sure to act as a great marketing muse:
If you take the time to browse through some knowledge base articles today, you’ll notice that many of them start with a big search bar in the middle of a page. While that’s a great way to give your customers some control over their search decisions, some people will prefer more structure. For instance, Asana’s knowledge base gives you a full menu to browse through, complete with helpful advice for common customer problems:
Asana has carefully designed their knowledge base to make sure that they not only offer education to their users but also demonstrate their value simultaneously. All that and the knowledge base also reflects the brand’s unique style and colour schemes.
Another great contender on our list of knowledge base examples, Evernote helps customers to make the most out of their app with a clean and simple knowledge section. Finding out the information you need couldn’t be simpler thanks to Evernote’s clear and concise design.
To make their “Help” section as easy to use as possible, and boost their thought leadership strategy, Evernote has sorted most of their content into four key categories. Customers can either choose the section they feel they need the most help with, or they can type a query into the search bar.
When you’re learning how to build a knowledge base, it’s worth taking some time to envision how and when your customers might need help. For instance, train ticket provider “Loco2” decided that their customers are likely to need help most when they’re at a train station, feeling lost and confused. Because their clients are likely to be anxious, Loco2 decided to make their knowledge base as simple as possible:
The “In this Article” section at the head of each knowledge base piece tells the customer what to expect from the content below. Customers don’t waste time on irrelevant articles, and they end up with a better overall experience.
If you’re creating a knowledge base for a highly technical product or service, then you can expect that some of your customers will know more about the topic you’re covering than others. The easiest way to make sure that everyone feels comfortable is to provide your users with a format they feel comfortable using.
Exacq Technologies helps installers struggling with new equipment. What makes their knowledge base so compelling, is that the look, structure, and feel is designed to replicate the experience of a computer folder system. Exacq has built a knowledge base that’s sure to feel familiar to their audience, supporting their customer service and branding.
Finally, Dropbox is a company that’s all about making life easier for its customers. This brand pulls out all the stops when it comes to addressing common issues, by placing their knowledge base on their home page. One of the things that make the Dropbox knowledge base strategy so compelling is how friendly it is. The content embrace’s Dropbox’s unique style with illustrations, and a kind “How can we help?” introduction.
As well as a search bar that allows customers to browse quickly through frequently asked questions, Dropbox also has a “featured articles” section. There’s also an additional section that promotes Dropbox features and helps users understand how they can get the most out of the file sharing experience.
Knowledge base best practices for your thought leadership branding
A knowledge base can be whatever your brand and your customers need it to be.
In other words, it doesn’t just have to be a reservoir of help centre articles; you can also have an FAQ section, a user forum for your community to come together and talk, and how-to videos. You could even include case studies to demonstrate how you helped certain companies overcome common issues.
Your knowledge base is essentially anything that helps customers to use and understand your services or products. Here are a few tips that could help you to make the most of your knowledge base strategy:
1. Start by responding to trends
If you’ve decided to create knowledge base articles to support your thought leadership strategy and boost your online presence, you may be wondering how you should get started. The best way to launch your new campaign is to look for trends in the questions that your customers ask you and your team. When you get the same question a few times, you can rest assured that it’s a good idea to write a knowledge base article about it.
The main focus of knowledge base content is to improve the core experience for your user and reduce any bottlenecks that might be hindering them when they use your product. Remember that some people will still need to call you for help, but your knowledge base provides the alternative option of self-service too.
2. Write for the average Joe or Josephine
One of the biggest mistakes that companies make with knowledge base articles is forgetting that they’re trying to educate a beginner. Just like your marketing plan, your knowledge base articles should be written with the average user in mind.
While using your distinct tone of voice is fine, make sure that you don’t get carried away with too much industry jargon, or terms that your user wouldn’t understand. If you’re going to have to use certain words that wouldn’t be familiar to your audience, consider including a glossary in your articles.
Imagine that you’re explaining each scenario to someone who’s never interacted with your product before.
3. Be patient
Since your knowledge base can form a powerful part of your brand identity, it’s important to make sure that your tone doesn’t give the wrong impression. For instance, a customer service rep might be the perfect writer for your knowledge base articles. However, if they’re exhausted and frustrated because they’ve had to deal with the same problem countless times, make sure their frustration doesn’t come through in their writing.
If it helps, have a proof-reader or editor go through every article, video, or podcast you produce before it goes out and onto the web. This should help to maintain the relationship you have with your customers and protect your reputation.
4. Get the structure right
Once you’ve written your knowledge base articles, or published the appropriate videos, go through and make sure that everything is connected. Inside each article or website page in your knowledge base should be countless links to other parts of your website. This helps to make the knowledge base more comprehensive, and it also boosts your SEO too.
For example, if you’re publishing a page about billing and product plans, then you might link that article to a piece about payment options too. It’s all about making navigation as easy as possible for your customers. You can also add tags and keywords into the mix to ensure that your article is as searchable as possible.
5. Actively listen and improve
Finally, if you want your knowledge base article to support your customers and improve your thought leadership strategy too, then you’re going to need to measure its performance. Give your customers a chance to comment in a forum where you can see how they respond to your content or ask your customer service reps to keep track of how frequently they get the same questions after a piece is posted.
It’s also worth tracking your customer’s perception of you on social media. After a while, if your articles aren’t helping your customers the way they should be, then you might need to ask yourself why that is. Maybe your knowledge base isn’t as easy to use as it should be, or your links aren’t formatted properly.
All companies need a knowledge base
In the modern digitally connected world, your clients don’t just want easy access to information, they demand it. That doesn’t mean that they want to call you with all their problems either, or just read through your emails. They want a rich, deep knowledge base that they can use to serve themselves.
As surprising as it may seem, Forrester Research indicates that 70% of people prefer to use a company’s website to get answers to questions. It seems that just because we’re more socially connected doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re more social. Companies who invest in the power of an effective knowledge base can save time, money, and effort on serving their customers.
Instead of asking the same basic question on a phone or email over and over again, you can demonstrate your industry expertise, and give your customers a reason to trust you. Eventually, your knowledge base can lead to better brand loyalty and a better position on the search engines. All you need to do is:
- Find the topics you need to cover by listening to customers.
- Structure the articles in an easy-to-consume format.
- Add videos, screenshots and other media when necessary.
- Interlink your articles and make your site easy to navigate.
- Get feedback from your readers and improve as necessary.
If you’re struggling to keep up with an ever-evolving marketplace, or you just want to scale a better customer experience for your audience, now’s the time to build your knowledge base.
Need some help making your knowledge base look and sound right? That’s where we come in…
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