|Posted by [email protected] on June 8, 2012 at 7:10 PM|
This week I’ve been working on some product documentation for a client. As usual, the first question I asked when the commission for the work came in was “who is the audience for this document?” As usual, there was a puzzled pause on the end of the line as the client pondered my question. What normally happens at this point is the client says “anyone who wants to know about the product”.
Whilst I understand the logic behind wanting one document to cover as many bases as possible, I believe many companies do themselves a huge dis-service by trying to make a single document appeal to too many different audiences. The danger is you end up appealing to none of them.
Think about it this way – if my best friend asked me to make a speech in her honour at her hen night (that’s a Bachelorette party to my American audience) you would expect a rather more raucous tone and risqué approach than if I was giving a speech in front of her grandparents at the wedding reception a few days later - even though the topic is essentially the same. Why should your business documentation be any different?
Whether you’re writing copy for a product brochure, a userguide, a website or a set of presentation slides you can’t do a really good job unless you focus on addressing the needs of the intended audience. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, Top Tips for Doing Good Demonstrations At Trade Shows, you’re going to want to provide a different level of detail to a CTO than a CFO. And you’ll need a different level of detail again if you’re writing for (or presenting to) engineers, content managers, data-entry staff or whoever will be using your product on a day to day basis.
The same rule of thumb should be applied when putting together sales proposals and responses to a formal tender, RFP (Request forProposal), RFQ (request for a quotation) or RFI (request for information). If you’re submitting to a large corporation or a public body, you will probably be asked to respond to several different sets of questions – technical questions, process questions, financial questions. Chances are, these different sections will be reviewed by different teams. It’s possible no-one person will read all of them, so it’s essential to get all the relevant information (and your key marketing messages) into as many of the sections as possible, but to express it differently each time in order to meet the needs of the audience.
In short, good product documentation is essential, but a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t doing you any favours.
I’d love to hear your suggestions of companies who are doing a really good job of differentiating their product documentation to suit different audiences. If you’d like to talk about how RHJ Media can help you improve your product documentation, please contact us.