Why You Need a Knowledge Base

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Where does your knowledge reside?

When you are small, you can run and grow your business in your head. In the early days, it’s hard to think that you play many different roles because you do different jobs yourself. You can be the salesperson, accountant, marketer, product development manager, HR administrator and many other roles without calling these out as you move from task to task.

But, when your demand grows, you can’t do it all. You need more people to help grow the business and make your customers happy.

If you are under $1M, most of your effort should be on selling. If you are past $1M, you have to make the business work. Either way, your business is about knowledge. How things get done to create a customer and deliver your product or service consistently becomes harder when you scale up.

A knowledge base is a place that organizes the knowledge that’s in your head. It helps everyone on your team understand how to do their job clearly and interact with other people doing their respective jobs.

Furthermore, a knowledge base has the following benefits to growing a business:

1. Facilitates Onboarding and Training

It is a systematic way to help a new person get started and be productive in their hired job. It also provides professionalism, job satisfaction and clarity for new employees that could otherwise be disoriented, overwhelmed and frustrated in a new role.

2. Makes Information Sharing Efficient: 

A place that is structured and searchable makes it easy for your team members to get what they need, when they need it. If you have to keep answering the same question many times, rather than allowing people to find answers for themselves, you are the bottleneck in your business. It’s not a great use of time. Document it once and let it be consumed many times.

3. Increases the Value of Your Business

If you want to sell your business, what will you sell? Having systems that are clear and a methodology for growing easily and rapidly is extreme value to a buyer who wants to know how to operate the business. If you don’t have a knowledge base, then the information required to execute consistently is in your head. You can’t step out. You are the business.

4. Forces Clarity

How you do things now may change later. Having a system that is continually living and updated helps everyone stay clear for their own job. And information that is documented and does not make sense in context of your business goals or handoffs to other jobs can be debated, clarified and updated. You can push on refining your methodology as new realities emerge during business growth.

5. Helps You Lead

A large complaint of employees is that they see dysfunction from management or ineptitude. You can lead with clarity and conviction when your team sees commitment to systems, process and order. Furthermore, you can open up ideas and ways of doing things through continuous improvement to a knowledge base that should welcome better ideas and ways of executing from the people doing the work. Your leadership can center around knowledge rather than charisma. It takes the pressure off you and focuses it on business systems, where it should be.

Growing Your Business

The more people you get involved the more complexity you have to manage in your business. Clarity becomes a bottleneck to growing your business because you have to take time to explain, manage and oversee how things get done.

Furthermore, the jobs that have to get done are continually changing. You want the best ideas and approaches available and clear for everyone in a system that is repeatable and continually improving.

Here’s a resource to help you get started on building your knowledge base. It can help you start a critical piece to effectively growing your business.

Marketing To Attention

Marketers miss the proverbial eight ball when it comes to attention.  Many marketers still believe we watch TV commercials fully when the majority of people skip the ads.  Here are the behaviors most of us do today in a world of too much marketing stimulus:

  • We change channels for radio ads.
  • We tear up and throw out junk mail.
  • We don’t pick up because of caller id
  • We mark email as spam from strangers
  • We skip sites with unwelcome banners
  • We completely ignore billboards and signs
  • We sign up for “Do Not Call” and “Do Not Fax”
  • We walk by the overbearing salesperson
  • We skip the magazine ads
  • We use free Craigslist rather than old school classifieds

While marketers have gotten creative throwing money at more colorful and refined artwork that interrupts us, buyers have built up defenses to block out the noise.  We have gotten quite good at blocking, ignoring and reporting unwelcome marketing.

We do other things that have our attention:

  • We spend over 3 hours a day online
  • We click
  • We search
  • We read valuable email
  • We post to Twitter and Facebook
  • We consume content
  • We educate ourselves
  • We read stories
  • We raise our hands when we are ready
  • We play with our smart phones
  • We ask our friends for advice

So how come there is so much money spent on bad, brainless marketing when our behaviors are pretty obvious and congruent?  Why do businesses sell the way they did 20 years ago rather than how we buy today?

I say go where the attention and focus is.  Build connection each step of the way that makes you desirable.  Then, maybe, you get a chance to have a conversation that matters with someone you desperately want as your customer.  Make it personal.  Study it.  Create immense value.  Then make it repeatable.

You will then have a system and process which automates your marketing approach.  You can be strategic in your marketing automation rather than desperate and hopeful in old strategies that are hit or miss.

What do you think?  Feel free to comment.

Buyers Start By Research

When we want something, we start by research.  Sellers are so eager to sell that they have their sales process set up around a buy now approach.  Unless the pain is high, your ability to sell with this approach will be ineffective.  You might have better luck if you had full attention and were exclusive.  However, buyers use the internet first because of its extreme convenience.  On the internet, you have little attention and are one click among many.

There are more choices with each search a buyer tries.  The very first touches with your brand need to meet the initial need.  The buyer is researching and trying to understand what they are looking for.  They are researching and looking for information which increases their IQ about your industry and solving their problem.  Educate them and solve their problem and you will have a viable connection for a conversation.  You will have permission and access to engage further.

Content Which Educates

Avoid glamour and narcism.  Glitzy images are an obstacle to what a new buyer is looking for.  They will click on and off your landing pages or website if there is not content which helps them think through their issues.  Here are a few ways to design and deliver an experience which helps your buyers in their initial stages.

Articulate The Buyer’s Problem(s)

Assume your buyer does not have their problem fully defined.  They feel pain, but they are looking for further validation and definition.  You think about your solution thousands of hours a year.  There are likely multiple problems that your past customers have approached you with.  Articulate these with empathy and precision.  This helps a complete stranger build trust with your brand.  Your understanding needs to come before your answers.

If you are an attorney, articulate the issues which matter to your potential clients.  If you are a car mechanic, share stories of what you see in vehicle problems with color and candor.

Tell A Story Of Your Customers And Their Success

Your past customers have stories which started with a problem and ended with success and trust.  Tell the story in a way which helps a stranger see themselves in it.  Stories have the power to connect and the opportunity to help buyers identify with your expertise.

The content can be in video, audio or print.  Have your past customers testify clearly about their problems, emotions and decision to move forward.

Talk About Your Industry

Assume your buyers are not familiar with the nuances of how your industry works.  Help them shape how they think about the choices available.  Help them with a framework for thinking through the options.  What should they be looking for between you and your competitors?  What criteria is of highest priority and what is noise?

A buying guide, white papers and primer articles are powerful for helping the buyer research.  If you have multiple pieces of content, these touch points provide familiarity with your brand over time.  There will be repeat visits and familiarity with your company.  This positions you as the thought leader that can be trusted.

Help Don’t Sell

It’s rude to ask a person to get married on the first date.  Strangers don’t know you or trust you.  They are looking for someone to date and trust.  To be that brand, set up your content and your buying experience to meet the need of research and education.  This first step in the buying process is hard work, but it is necessary to create connections with the anonymous buyer.  They are looking for someone who will help and will avoid those that are merely selling.  Be in the help business and watch the magical process of a buyer growing in trust with you.

How have your customers come to trust you through education and research?

Overselling – The Keyboard Vs. The Mouth

Overselling today is a symptom of holding on to what does not work anymore.  Traditional marketing and sales creatively interrupted people.  The message was about talking about how great you and your products or services are.  This is what advertising, direct mail, and sales teams were used for.  Today, it misses the buyer.  They don’t need you to figure out what you do or offer.  They can find it for themselves.

The Mouth

It is expensive to hire a large sales team, much less train them and ensure performance.  This was the norm for the complex sale in the industrial age.  However, their job has become less relevant as information has become widely available.  Buyers can self-serve when it comes to finding what they need to educate themselves.  Google is pretty easy and powerful to hone in on what we are looking for.

They typical salesperson is at their best if they are in person and can read the buyer’s body language.  They have the art of persuasion.  They need close range to use it effectively.  Lots of calls and interruptions create a feeling of busyness.  It’s easier and feels like selling if they pick up the phone and can get you to talk.  It’s also overselling if it is not welcome.

So, if you have salespeople, how many times can they call a prospect in a week?  Once?  Twice?  More?  They would have to make up reasons if they are too frequent (this happens often).  They “are just following up” to check on if the person is ready, right?  The buyer is turned off by this.  They know what the salesperson is trying to do.  We have all been sold.  We don’t like it.

Furthermore, every call is a lost opportunity.  It’s not worth much.  Time goes by in a day and it’s a low probability day.  Perhaps some activities are captured in some emails or a CRM system.  Either way, there is nothing to show of lasting value, but activities which are in a private system.  It’s a one and done.  Overselling the buyer can also risk your credibility and opportunity.

The Keyboard

The customer is not looking for you to sell them something.  They will decide for themselves when they are ready and will pick you or your competition.  What they are looking for is valuable content which helps them understand your market, value proposition and competitors.  They are looking for answers to problems.

Helping them articulate their problem is part of their quest.  If you can help them with such value, you are positioned in the mind of the buyer when they are ready to buy.

What if your sales process was transformed from the mouth to the keyboard?  Instead of the busy work of interrupting and foraging for the hot lead, provide value for everyone and build a digital pipeline.

The tendency of most salespeople is to pick up the phone and waste their one call for the week.  It’s a losing proposition.  You are in the begging position.

Instead, pick up the keyboard and share your knowledge.  Create content which connects for your prospective buyer.  Publish it.  Distribute it.  Position it.  Persist in it.

This is how selling is done today.  Credibility comes from a give and take in value.  You provide knowledge (assuming you know something) and the buyer responds digitally.  Every click, open, share, and page visit can be measured and trigger next steps that make sense.  Follow-up becomes congruent with what the buyer is doing, not what your itchy sales side wants.  It becomes about helping and buying rather than bugging and selling.

The keyboard builds you an asset.  You have content which lives and is a renewable resource and durable asset.  The phone can work a bit, but it is based in getting past caller ID and catching people with attention and desire.  It’s a tough sell without an asset to show for when all is said and done.

Your buyers are ignoring you if you don’t understand the new rules of marketing.  Stop wasting their time and yours with outdated approaches.  There are more cost effective and beneficial ways.

What is holding you back or what have you experienced from changing your strategy and sales approach?


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What If

Many businesses and workers are facing times of uncertainty. The business climate today is a testing ground for ideas. We all ask ourselves the key question which triggers any forward movement or holds us back from opportunities. We ask ourselves, “What if…?” Your thoughts will reveal whether you do business as a cynic or a winner.

You might be asking yourself questions that are focused on problems:

  • What if I can’t find another job?
  • What if I am not good enough?
  • What if my luck in this business I found runs out fast?
  • What if my idea fails?
  • What if I keep losing customers?

It’s easy to think like a cynic. It’s the lazy way to exist. It takes zero creativity. If you believe business will be done the same way as it always has been, then your strategy to doing business relies heavily on hope, which is a poor strategy. The world around you changes fast. The rules keep changing. Your challenge today is far different than what the old economy required.

We need less good boys and girls and more creative trailblazers. You have all the tools and resources you need to be successful. But you must ask the right, “What if?” questions. Take note of the ideas that abound.

Here are the thinking patterns of the winners I enjoy collaborating with in business:

  • What if we can make it easier and simpler?
  • What if I invested in my business further?
  • What if we could find a new market for what we can do?
  • What if younger people have the answers?
  • What if we could stop making chaos an excuse for not executing?

Playing to win requires a fully engaged mind. The exhilaration of creating and problem solving is risky, but rewarding. Asking the right set of “What if” questions and implementing new ideas will put you in the middle of the game of prosperity and opportunity. Align your thinking, yourself,and your company to this habit of creativity and problem solving.

Here’s a parting question, “What if you became a better knowledge worker?” Would this be more valuable for your customers, and in turn, help grow your business? An intentional response to that question may change your reality quickly. Go to my resource on productivity and keeping a ZeroInbox here to take a next step.

When It’s Not Showtime

There was a telling comment made a few years ago by famed NBA basketball star, Allen Iverson. He revealed his perspective about practice, “We’re talking about practice man, we’re not even talking about the game, when it actually matters, we’re talking about practice.”

At that time, Iverson was the MVP of the National Basketball Association. He erred with his comments. He did not see the connection between excellence developed through repetition and showtime. Continue reading

Paying the Brain Bill

We can all remember the tedious task of researching information in the not too distant past. We had to use the card catalog at a library in lieu of a database to find what we were looking for. The newspaper was delivered every day to our doors to feed us information that we accepted as soon enough. It was a different reality that we felt was good enough before the web, on-demand media and RSS feeds to our BlackBerries filled in our mind space and attention. Speed, complexity and convenience took over. Technology has enabled a new reality for us. Continue reading