How Advertising in User Guides Could Work

Putting advertising in user guides may seem rather flaky at first, but it could work. Here’s why. One of my ‘pet projects’ is to connect the lines between Sales and Technical Documentation. To me, they both serve the same purpose. Serve the customer. While they both start at different points, the end goal is the same. Unfortunately, these two departments rarely work together. Let’s take a look at how we can fix this.

Japanese made English Bread sold in China

Japanese made English Bread sold in China

For this to work, I need to justify Why and explain How. Otherwise, well, it’s just nuts. Ok, here’s the run-down on how to get your ads into tech docs.

  • Captive Audience – IT professionals read technical docs (user guides, reference guides, system admin guides etc) every day. They have to. You don’t have to go hunting them down; they’re already there. You have your audience and you know what they want to read – relevant, technical information.
  • Longevity – unlike other types of documents, such as business plans, tech docs live long on the network, hard-drive or sit on the shelf. But they don’t get thrown out. People keep them as reference and flick through when needed. Compare this with those useless flyers that clog up your mailbox – you bin them without a thought. But you keep your Canon Powershot User Guide, right? And you keep the Car Manual, I bet.
  • Use Cobranding – if you’re a small IT company, you can get a larger (richer) partner to sponsor an ad in your guides. Let’s say you develop a software security application, you can get Symantec to sponsor an ad in the Sys Admin guide. If they sell/develop complimentary products, then it’s a no-brainer.
  • Location – ads on the cover sheet may seem tacky (and detract from the subject matter) but placing them before/after the Table of Contents could work. Also, you could place them at the end of the document. The place no-one reads but traditionally where most companies take out full page ads.
  • Promotions – as these are time sensitive, you can schedule them with things like Release Notes which get replaced quite often. You can use these to give a quick plug to an upcoming event, show.
  • Special Offers – You can also use it to encourage people to download new product releases, subscribe to newsletters, podcasts – whatever, as long as there is a benefit to the reader.
  • Social Media – we couldn’t leave this one out. Most user guides have chapters, each of which discusses a specific subject. Before each chapter starts, insert a squeeze page with links to your Facebook, LinkedIn or other Social Media channels. You can go one step better and direct them to video downloads so they can ‘see’ how the product works.

The challenge is to see where advertising fits into your documentation – and how you can leverage it. Many will try to run down this idea.

Remember: we already do this online, why not do it offline?

User Guides are not works of art. We’re all in the business on being in business. If advertising keeps us all in jobs, then let’s explore the idea.

What do you think?

If you were asked to include advertising in your documentation, where would you start? What’s the main obstacle to doing this? Do you know someone who is already doing this?

Download these templates to start

Acceptance Test Plan

Contingency Plan

Software Development Templates

Acquisition Plan

Conversion Plan

Software Requirements Specification

Action Plan

Cost Benefit Analysis

Software Testing

API Documentation

Database Design

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

Audience Analysis

Datasheet

Statement of Work

Availability Plan

Deployment Plan

System Administration Guide

Bill of Materials

Design Document

System Boundary

Business Case

Disaster Recovery Plan

System Design Document

Business Continuity

Disposition Plan

System Specifications

Business Plan

Documentation Plan

Technical Writing Templates

Business Process

Employee Handbook

Test Plan

Business Requirements

Error Message Guide

Training Plan

Business Rules

Expression of Interest

Transition Plan

Capacity Plan

Fact Sheet

Troubleshooting Guide

Case Study

Feasibility Study

Use Case

Change Management Plan

Functional Requirements

User Guide

Communication Plan

Grant Proposal

Verification and Validation Plan

Concept of Operations

Implementation Plan

White Papers

Concept Proposal

Installation Plan

Work Instructions

Configuration Management Plan

Interface Control Document

Software Development Templates

Acceptance Test Plan

Maintenance Plan

Software Requirements Specification

Acquisition Plan

Market Research

Software Testing

Action Plan

Marketing Plan

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

API Documentation

Needs Statement

Statement of Work

Audience Analysis

Operations Guide

System Administration Guide

Availability Plan

Policy Manual

System Boundary

Bill of Materials

Project Plan

System Design Document

Business Case

Proposal Manager Templates

System Specifications

Business Continuity

Proposal Template

Technical Writing Templates

Business Plan

Quality Assurance Plan

Test Plan

Business Process

Release Notes

Training Plan

Business Requirements

Request for Proposal

Transition Plan

Business Rules

Risk Management Plan

Troubleshooting Guide

Capacity Plan

Scope of Work

Use Case

Case Study

Security Plan

User Guide

Change Management Plan

Service Level Agreement (SLA)

Verification and Validation Plan

Communication Plan

Setup Guide

White Papers

Concept of Operations

Social Media Policy

Work Instructions

Concept Proposal

Contingency Plan

 

Configuration Management Plan

Conversion Plan