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Knowing when to use "How To"​ versus "Why To"​ content

Shareil Nariman

5 min read
Knowing when to use "How To"​ versus "Why To"​ content

If you work in customer success, marketing, sales, or support, odds are you spend a lot of time answering questions from your customers. That’s a core part of the job. You are expected to know the value of your product or service and be able to convey it, time and time again.

This is especially true if you’re working on customer onboarding.

And the more you interact with customers, the more of their needs and questions you uncover. The smaller your company is, the more likely you are to be writing some of these answers out for the first time. This is great, but it can also quickly take over your day.

Recently, a customer of our own asked me…

What’s the best way to proactively answer questions from our customers? I find myself spending a lot of time searching for and typing up answers each time a new email comes through. Can we scale this?

I chuckled because I’ve done this myself many a times. I’ve spent way too much time digging through old emails to find an answer I once wrote. I’ve taken the same screen shot multiple times to show a customer how to access a feature. I’ve spent hours digging through wiki pages and help-centers to find the right answer for a customer. All while the customer waits and waits and waits…

I shared a rule of thumb with this particular customer that I’ve implemented in my own approach:

If you have to explain an answer, a process, or a feature more than ONE time, it should likely be a piece of content you need to create to use for future customers.

If you take the time to do that, congrats, you have officially created a piece of “scalable content.” This is something you can do today, especially if you are the only customer success manager at your company. It might take a little bit more time than just quickly replying to the email, but you’ll save A LOT of time next time that question comes up.

Great, you’re convinced just like this customer was. And you’re probably asking, just like they did… “Where do I start? What does this content look like? How should it be written?”

Whether you use simple word documents, a wiki page, or establish a robust help-center, there are 3 categories of content worth focusing on…

1. Training tutorials

As you continue to onboard these new customers, take note of the questions that keep coming up. From there, create written guides or video tutorials (2-3 minutes) that capture your answers.

These will prove especially valuable when your new customer volumes increase and you don’t have the bandwidth to reach everyone right away. PLUS, some customers like to learn on their own and providing these tutorials will get them started.

2. Best-practice posts

Each customer is unique and came to you for help solving THEIR particular needs. That said, there are best practices for using your product or service that you are the expert on. These are behaviors that you see working well for other customers and are worth sharing.

Creating blogs or short write-ups to capture these tips gives you a chance to help customers continue to see the value you provide beyond those early onboarding moments.

3. Help-center articles

Regardless of where customers are in their lifecycle, they’ll eventually need some product or technical support.

Pay attention to where some of your earliest customers keep getting stuck, they are likely sending in support tickets or questions about said moments. It’s those questions or tickets that can help you prioritize where to start.

Having clear and concise help-center articles to help customers through these frustrating moments can prevent their frustrations from festering and turning into churn.

To go a bit further, you can look at these 3 categories from the lens of 2 themes…

“How to” content

Customers need to know how to do things, ideally sooner than later. They need to know how to log into your product, how to set up their account, or how to leverage your service.

Check-lists, step-by-step instructions, and tutorials are a great way to capture “how to” content so you set customers up for success

Here’s an example of a “how to” piece I recently wrote: Plan Security & Sharing Permissions

“Why to” content

Once customers know how to do something, you’ll want to continuously teach them “why to” keep doing it. Why should a customer log into your product daily? Why should they use feature A over feature B today? Why should they avoid a certain behavior or action?

Best-practice blogs, case studies, or strategic webinars are a great way to capture “why to” content so your customers put into practice what your “how to” content teaches them.

Here’s an example of a best-practice piece I recently wrote to show our customers “why to” use a feature a certain way: Using Arrows to create and improve your onboarding journey

The more of this content you create, the faster you can support future customers towards achieving their desired outcomes. As you create more of this content, you can begin to answer questions customers might have before they even send you that email, saving you both time and frustration.

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