Knowledge bases are a critical part of your customer support. So you have to make sure they’re supporting your customers in the right way. Part of this involves creating the right content for them – but that’s a lot easier said than done.
First, you need a steady stream of articles to keep educating and helping your customers. When creating a knowledge base from scratch, you’ll have to develop a lot of articles in a short time frame. Maintaining your knowledge base will need posting regular content and refreshing existing articles. Coming up with knowledge base article ideas, therefore, is practically a full-time job. Luckily, there is plenty of inspiration available. Ideas for new articles can come from many different corners.
To begin with, it’s worth considering what objectives you want your knowledge base to achieve. Most business leaders would agree that they want their knowledge base to educate and help customers. Whilst also taking the strain off of their customer support teams.
That means that customer support should be your first port of call. As discussed in our guide to knowledge base articles, customer support can offer a wealth of information and insights for your knowledge base. For example, they can tell you what questions crop up time and time again. Creating knowledge base articles to answer these questions can free up a lot of your customer support team’s time to help customers in other ways.
You should also look through any other customer communications to see what’s bothering users the most. Frustrated customers may post about their issues on social media, for instance. Incorporate these insights into a new article. Or feed them back to your product team for iterative improvements.
Google Analytics (and similar web analytics software) can identify popular areas of your website. For existing knowledge bases, it will tell you what articles your customers are engaging with the most. Expand these popular articles and turn them into a series for your knowledge base.
Alternatively, if you have an FAQ section on your existing website then analytics from those pages could give inspiration for future articles.
Competitors’ knowledge bases can be helpful to visit too. Or you can visit similar companies in your industry. These may provide a springboard for new topic ideas. You might come across other features that you think will work well for your own knowledge base. There might even be some areas of improvement that will make your articles better than the competition.
Easy readability of articles and tone of voice are crucial to the success of a knowledge base. Your competitors’ knowledge bases may have some useful pointers for your own writing. Even your competitors’ visual assets (such as video) can be a source of ideas.
You want your customers to be well-served by your knowledge base. So it goes without saying that you should consult them about its development. Ask them what they want to see on it and the pain-points that they want addressed. The only way to really understand what stuff is working and what’s failing is through customer feedback. With both your product and your knowledge base.
That’s why Document360 automatically incorporates feedback in its knowledge base software. That way, you’re always up-to-date on how your articles are performing. You can use this for future article development and reviews.
But what if you don’t have an existing knowledge base? Then you can rely on general product feedback. Collect this through in-store surveys (if applicable), email newsletters, social media and other marketing channels. You’ll find that most customers are keen to offer feedback. However, if you want to encourage more participation then you can always offer a discount or exclusive offer.
Ideas don’t have to flow from only your knowledge base creators and customer support. Employees throughout your organisation may see customer pain-points that you haven’t yet identified. Your social media manager, for instance, may see many requests for help using a particular plug-in. Therefore, it’s worth double-checking that no stone has been left unturned by your knowledge base.
Conversely, it’s also a good idea to get any technical content reviewed by the technical people in your company (like your developers or IT team). These employees may have a very similar knowledge level to your customers, so can provide another sense-check for your content. To make this easier, Document360 offers an inbuilt collaboration function. This will help you connect with other people in your organisation to provide feedback on your knowledge base articles.
Emerging developments in your industry may change the way that customers use your product. Also, any new product development will require knowledge base articles to support it.
Advances in smartphone technology, for instance, have led a lot of people to browse the Internet on their mobiles. A similar change may occur with your products, where people suddenly begin using their tablets, phones, or an app a lot more. This new use case will require an article or two to help people make the most of it and to troubleshoot potential issues.
Coming up with knowledge base article ideas is one thing, but there are some best practices that you must also bear in mind when producing content. These change over time, so remaining updated is another task that you must do when searching for ideas.
For knowledge-base-specific content, there are plenty of blogs that offer handy tips on length, imagery, video and tone. Knowledge base software companies like Document360 will often help customers keep up with best practice through blogs and newsletters.
You might also want more general writing advice, especially because knowledge base articles can be tricky to write. They have to bridge the best of two worlds: technical writing and blog creation. The best knowledge base articles are educational and technical enough to help customers… but also engaging and SEO friendly.
So, getting some blog writing tips is a good idea. A guide to designing clear blogs using the right headings and sub-headings is incredibly useful for knowledge base creators. Knowledge bases can be dry if you don’t break them up with the right headings.
Tone of voice is also important. MailChimp has published its own style guide as a tool for business owners looking for a fun tone of voice that’s also educational. Of course, it is geared towards internal use at MailChimp, but many of its tips (such as writing technical content and the different types of content needed) can be used as a starting point by other businesses.
SEO can be very complex, so we’ve covered it in greater detail in another article. However, when coming up with new knowledge base ideas, it’s worth checking for any changes to how the major search engines rank web pages. This is because any algorithm changes will impact the words you use in your articles, your headings and even the way you describe your images and videos.
Templates can vastly speed-up your knowledge base content creation and make it more consistent. Depending on what you need, template ideas can be found for short (blog-style) knowledge base articles, through to heavy technical and legal documents. Certain tools such as RoboHelp may also provide templates to help you create articles.
If you plan to produce a lot of imagery, then pre-designed templates will come in handy. Canva provides some great free and paid-for templates that allow you to create infographics (and other images) without hiring a designer. Or if you have the luxury of a dedicated graphic designer, point them in the direction of Creative Bloq and Information is Beautiful for more advanced infographic food-for-thought. Remember, adding images and video to your articles can stop them becoming dry and assist people who learn visually.
Your knowledge base is always a work-in-progress. So, you always have a chance to refine, improve and expand your articles. Coming up with knowledge base article ideas is a critical task that is never finished.But you don’t have to do it alone. Ideas can come thick and fast from many different places. Such as from within your own organisation, from the wider industry, via your customers and even from competitors. Never stop searching for your next knowledge base idea, because you never know when it will help someone at the exact moment they need it.Even when you think you’ve exhausted all angles, there will be a new idea somewhere. You just have to look around to find it.