A guide for creating a helpful knowledge base for your SaaS product

This is guide for creating a helpful knowledge base for your SaaS product
    On this blog post, you'll learn:
  • What are the information sources for your knowledge base;
  • A step-by-step guide to creating a useful knowledge base;
  • How to bring your product's Knowledge Base to life.

There comes a moment in the life of every CEO or manager, when they realize they need to give information to users. I'm not talking about blog post or ebooks, but actual information to allow him or her to the best service out of your SaaS product.

That's not easy, since most people don't want to admit their product is not that simple and, at the same time, they don't want the competition to know it.

The solution for that comes in the form of a knowledge base. If you are reading this content, I assume you know what that is, what are the benefits and that it's time for your company to have one.

If you don't, let's recap quickly: a knowledge base is like a library in a single website, with lots of topics, sections and articles to organize all the content and make it easy for clients to find the answers to their questions.

A knowledge base will unburden your customer success team, allowing them to focus on actual success instead of routine and repetitive questions. Plus, it will also improve customer satisfaction since they'll be able to solve their problems faster, if they are simple ones.

There isn't much information available on how to create a knowledge base from scratch, but no worries, I'm here to help you. On this content, we'll tell you where can you get information about what content need to be created (sources), a practical step-by-step for it, and what kind of tools you'll need.

Information sources for your knowledge base

First of all, if you want your knowledge base to be truly effective, you need to involve and listen to your customer success team.

They are the ones who know and understand both your SaaS product and your client. They can give you valuable information on what is not working, what are the main questions that come through and much more.

See the complete list of information sources below:

  • Technical content created by your team: whatever you already have can be used and adapted to your knowledge base. Sometimes, the customer success team will already have certain documents where they have common procedures and step-by-steps ready to send directly to the client. Use that to create your new KB.
  • Ask your team for feedback: they use your solution everyday, and help others do the same. For sure they have opinions and can help you create this mind-opening knowledge base.
  • Listen to what your clients have to say: other than the feedback your CS team will give you about your clients' difficulties, you should go straight to the source and ask them what they thing. A simple 5-question survey might give you an insight on what people actually think of your SaaS product.
  • Search online forums: when lacking information, people tend to ask other people for help, and forums are an excellent place for that. Do a search using your product's name as a keyword and see what is being asked around.
  • Your competitor's knowledge base: if your main competitor (or competitors) has a knowledge base, then look at what they're doing, what are the most rated content and requests. This will give you an opportunity to do it even better!

Creating a useful knowledge base: a step-by-step guide

1. Who's going to read your content?

For every person that is going to read your articles, there's the need for a specific language, a different tone and angle to use. Before you start writing your knowledge base, you'll need to determine who is going to read it. Will it be a developer to install the program? Or will it be your consumer or a specialized agency?

Establishing that is essential, since will help with objectivity and content optimization. Even the title of an article can change according to the persona!

Also, organizing all of this information in a spreadsheet might be really helpful just to keep track of everything. Don't forget to use data validation to create a drop down "urgency" section.

Content Demand Spreadsheet - Pipz Knowledge Base

Something else to think about: your company has clients from five different countries. Will you create one single knowledge base in english or is it best to have a few, each one in the official country's language?

2. Determine a train of thought

This is how your personas will consume your content. Will you use a "order of implementation" organization or a first steps system? Is it best to list your features or use a question/problem topics list? The main thing here is to use the same logic throughout the whole knowledge base, keeping it constant.

Also, remember to link your topics and articles between themselves. It will create your storytelling and make it easier for your users to find what they are looking for, and even go to the next steps more intuitively.

3. Establish content hierarchy

I hinted about this on the previous item, but this is the part where you'll decide exactly how the information will be organized. It is intimately connected to the train of thought and your persona, but is the more practical part of "how they'll search and consume your content".

Decide what topics and categories you'll need to create, what resources you'll use to help your users and don't be afraid of trying different formats - images, GIFs and videos are totally welcome!

4. Establish a workflow

Of course you'll need to organize the production of your knowledge base articles. Once you identify what articles you'll actually need to produce, after planning and collecting information from your sources, it will be time to prioritize which ones must be created first.

Depending on the complexity of the product, you'll need to create different documentations, troubleshooting, FAQ and such. Define what's more important so that the KB gets done, and then improve it with time, in case you need too many articles.

A great ti is to use a workflow management tool, such as kanban, to keep up with your team's work. With it, you can assign the production tasks to team members and overview the entire process.

Here's a workflow suggestion:

  • Identify demands/themes
  • Production
  • Technical Validation
  • Markdown/Formatting
  • Implementation

The "markdown" step above refers to the Pipz Knowledge Base, that can import documents with markdown for uploading individual articles and whole KBs with a single click. We'll talk more about it below.

5. Choose your authors and proofreaders

When too many people put their hands on a single project, things tend to not go as well as expected.

That's because, most of the time, each person will do things as they think it's best. To avoid this problem, choose only a handful of authors. It will be easier to manage the production and unify the language.

Our tip here to avoid this problem is to create a text style guide. This way, no matter who is writing for you, they will follow the sabe tone, voice and persona so the reader doesn't get confused. Check out the Missouri State University's Experts style guide of knowledge base contributions for a little light.

Also choose your proofreaders. You wouldn't believe how it helps to have someone dedicated to reading everything, correcting and improving things.

If you're putting out some technical content, it's also important to have a specific revision to validate terms and coding. In some cases, it's even possible that your IT team creates these articles, to have even more precise information.

6. Determine the order of production

Once you decide to make a knowledge base, it might be overwhelming to realise the amount of work you have to do, and the number of articles your need to produce, to make it come to live and be functional. But don't worry, it is possible.

Just identify, from what you have on your content demand board, what are the most urgent ones. You can refer back to the spreadsheet we mentioned before, and put things on the production board as you move forward.

A few tips to determine priority:

  • Very high/Immediate production: a lot of clients are requesting this information.
  • High: quite a few clients are requesting this information.
  • Medium: a moderate amount of clients are requesting this information.
  • Low: only a few clients are requesting this information.

But you need to be careful about something: when new requests for content come through, don't forget about the low priority ones from the previous content list or people will end up without their answers. Organize demands in a way so you can balance out seniority and urgency.

7. Production (YEY!) and validation

After all the planning, it's time to write!

Your articles need to be objective, educational and practical. If something is too complicated, use images and videos to make things easier to understand.

If a specific technical content need a code reference, add examples of different codes, such as Javascript, Python and HTML, to the article. This type of support content makes it easier for the reader to see if they are doing everything right.

8. Apply markdown to your text

This is a simple markup language used to formatting plain text. It can then be converted to HTML and other languages. The advantage of using markdown is that it make things easier and faster, saving a lot of time of production, implementations and upload to your knowledge base system.

Furthermore, markdown allows other teams, including CS, to create content for the knowledge base without needing a developer. Usually, that's the biggest bottleneck a KB (text conversion and upload), but a simple system avoids that.

Besides, markdown creates a pattern that unifies all your contents. And you must know how important is padronization.

9. Publish contents

There are two ways to publish your knowledge base:

  • use the system to create topics and articles, organizing everything "by hand", or
  • generate a markdown following the structure of the base and upload it all at once.

Both of them are valid options, but our suggestion is to create all the topics and articles at once, through markdown, and upload it, but feed and edit each one directly onto the platform.

This will avoid problems like synchronization, if more than one person are editing the knowledge base at the same time, and make it easier overall, since you won't be working with a massive archive/code.

Also, when you upload something to you knowledge base, you'll only need to check if your links (also called slugs) are with the right name.

Lastly, once you publish your knowledge base, you'll need to determine what country it will be from. That's particularly helpful if you have a global SaaS with many customers around the globe that could use information about your product. See an example below:

Country Selection - Pipz Knowledge Base

10. Ask for feedback

It's also important to implement a feedback system so you can know if customers are reading and finding what you created for them useful.

That way users can rate articles using stars, emojis or thumbs up and down. The main reason to have a feedback system into your knowledge base is that you can identify the most read articles and topics, which ones are the top rated and which ones needs to be improved to be even more helpful.

Bringing your product's Knowledge Base to life

A good and efficient Knowledge Base is crucial for the success of SaaS companies that intend on growing and have successful customer cases.

Other than actually creating it, it's necessary to keep it updated and proactively improved. Your customer acquisition rate will also dictate how fast your CS area will grow. New clients will use your product in different ways and might have troubles with features that you never detected before. Pay attention to that!

A knowledge base is a big time saver: it doesn't matter if its focus is a developer or the final client that doesn't know anything about programming. The first won't need to create a complete structure of a new website, and the second will be able to use your product more independently. A plus: it will help free up your support team and allow them to focus on other demands.

That's exactly what Pipz Knowledge Base does, with the added bonus of being integrated with our workflow management boards, CRM, CSM and BI. That allows you to have all your data, actionable metrics and KPIs in just one place.

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