The collective knowledge possessed by your team members is what allows your company to function as it does.
“Knowledge”, here, refers to both the informational knowledge and the practical skills and abilities your team members possess and use throughout day-to-day operations. It’s what your team uses to develop new products, create engaging customer experiences, and support your audience members as they work toward their goals.
Without this organizational knowledge, your company just wouldn’t be.
Still, simply possessing this knowledge isn’t enough to enable your team to operate at its highest capacity.
In order to put your team’s collective knowledge to good use, it needs to be accessible to all team members, at all times.
Which is why knowledge base software is an essential part of your team’s tech stack.
A knowledge base is a centralized repository in which organizational knowledge is documented, maintained, and improved upon over time.
As we’ll discuss, your knowledge base can be created for internal use by your team, external use by your customers — and, in some cases, both. In any case, your knowledge base will act as the go-to resource for those looking for specific information about your products, services, processes and your company as a whole.
Knowledge base software, of course, is the tool that allows your team to create your knowledge base as you see fit.
Here, we’ll be discussing:
The key features of high-quality knowledge base software
The nuanced differences between internal and external knowledge bases
The benefits of creating a comprehensive knowledge base (for either use case)
Let’s dig in.
Though each knowledge base tool on the market is unique in its own right, most share a number of common features.
The most important feature of modern knowledge base software is the editor interface. This is where you’ll create the individual pages of your knowledge base, structure your content, and collaborate with team members to improve the knowledge base as a whole.
On the note of collaboration, knowledge base tools also allow managers and team members to assign specific authors to certain pages — and to restrict editing access to non-stakeholders.
To help you get started, many knowledge base tools come with a number of templates for multiple use cases. This allows you to quickly begin linking pages together, and forging the overall structure of your knowledge base.
Many knowledge base tools allow for further customization, whether done internally or with the help of the software provider. This allows teams to optimize the design of their knowledge base for their specific purposes — and also allows for a more branded feel, overall.
Your knowledge base software of choice should also automatically generate usage reports. These reports will help you better understand how your team and/or customers use your knowledge base — and what information they typically look for when using it.
It’s also important to know how well your knowledge base of choice integrates with the other tools in your tech stack. Without these critical connections, it will be impossible for your knowledge base to truly become a central repository of organizational knowledge.
These backend features are vital to create a comprehensive, functional knowledge base.
But it’s also important that your knowledge base tool offers frontend features to optimize the user’s experience, as well.
Enhanced search and navigation features are necessary to ensure your users can find the information they’re looking for with minimal effort. Advanced search features, such as dynamic search suggestions, can supercharge your user’s ability to navigate your knowledge base.
And, as mentioned, the prepackaged templates and brandability offered by many knowledge base tools will give you a head start in creating a well-structured resource for your users.
While most quality knowledge base tools will include some combination of these features, it’s important to look for the one that best fit your team’s needs.
Which brings us to…
As mentioned earlier, knowledge bases can be created mainly for internal use, for use by your customers, or a combination of both.
From a bird’s-eye view, both internal and customer-facing knowledge bases look similar in terms of structure and overall appearance.
The differences lie in the content being presented, the way in which it’s presented, and your overall purpose for presenting it in the first place.
Let’s take a closer look at what we mean, here.
Internal knowledge bases are meant to be used solely by members of an organization.
As such, they’ll include any and all information your various team members may need to know at any given moment in order to do their job to the best of their abilities.
(While this is a pretty broad statement, it shows just how comprehensive your internal knowledge base should eventually become.)
Marketing and sales teams will typically rely on their internal knowledge base for info relating to:
Customer personas and audience segments
Creative content (and overall style guide)
Campaign performance data
Your service and support staff will be able to use your internal knowledge base to better assist your audience as needed. With the entirety of your organizational knowledge available at all times, your support teams will always have the info they need to help customers solve whatever issues they face on their way to success with your products.
Internal knowledge bases are also useful for employee onboarding and training purposes. Whether for structured educational opportunities or more on-the-fly learning, your knowledge base can become the internal resource for employees looking to grow their expertise and improve their abilities.
One last important use case for internal knowledge bases is to house important information about your company. From policies and procedures and codes of conduct, to calendars and contact info, if it’s something your employees need to know about your organization, it should be in your knowledge base.
The main goal of a customer-facing knowledge base is to provide a comprehensive self-service option to your audience.
“Comprehensive”, here, means “any information your customers will need to help them accomplish their goals”.
So, your customer-facing knowledge base should include:
Product guides, best practices, and useful tips and tricks
Step-by-step walkthroughs, product demos, and other multimedia content
Answers to frequently asked questions regarding your brand’s policies (e.g., pricing, payments, delivery, etc.)
If it’s something your customers need to know — whether to move forward with a purchasing decision, get the most use out of your products, or anything in-between — it needs to be in your knowledge base.
Though many are likely clear by now, let’s take the time to unpack the main benefits of creating a comprehensive knowledge base for either internal or customer-facing use.
While there are many ways an internal knowledge base will benefit your company, we’re going to take a look at the three most impactful.
Firstly, a comprehensive internal knowledge base allows your team to maximize productivity across the board.
For one thing, your teams will be more effective: With the most accurate and dependable information always on-hand, they’ll always know the best course of action to take. Your teams will also become more efficient, as they’ll be able to access this information with ease — then immediately put it to good use.
Effectiveness + Efficiency = Productivity
This increased productivity will do wonders for your bottom line. You’ll be spending less, and producing more — period.
Creating an internal knowledge base also protects your organization from knowledge loss should your employees retire or otherwise resign.
As your team becomes more acclimated with the processes of knowledge management, you’ll be better able to capture this knowledge in its most accurate and comprehensible form. Moreover, as you continually improve your organizational knowledge over time, your team will become even more empowered to put their best foot forward.
Finally, an internal knowledge base will help your team maintain alignment across the board. On the whole, having documentation regarding policies, procedures, and other such info readily accessible ensures your employees know what’s expected of them when on the job. As far as day-to-day operations go, keeping your knowledge base up-to-date ensures your team always has the correct information needed to proceed in a given task.
Again, while there are many benefits of implementing an external knowledge base, they all revolve around three main points worth mentioning here.
Above all else, your customer-facing knowledge base will allow your customer to make progress at all stages of their journey with your brand:
Before converting, they can uncover vital information about your products to help nurture them forward.
Once they’ve just about decided to make a purchase, they can use your knowledge base to learn more about your transactional policies — as well as what your brand is “all about”
After they have your product in their possession, they can use your knowledge base for further reference as they begin using it
All in all, this serves to keep your potential and current customers engaged — and allows for further engagement to take place in the near future.
The self-service nature of your external knowledge base is also beneficial to your business, as it minimizes the need for hands-on assistance unless absolutely necessary.
Since your audience will be able to find the answers to most of the questions they have, they’ll only need to reach out during the most extenuating circumstances. This also frees up your support staff to focus on matters that do require hands-on assistance.
A comprehensive, customer-facing knowledge base can lead to major opportunities for growth in terms of search engine optimization.
Think about it:
By creating content that’s laser-focused on specific topics (e.g., products, brand policies, troubleshooting issues, etc.), you’ll own first position, ensuring your customers come to you for answers related to your products as opposed to going to a site where you don’t have control of the information being presented.
The user data gathered from your knowledge base software’s reporting and analytics function will provide insight into your audience’s needs, challenges, and goals for engaging with your brand.
You can then use this information to make laser-specific improvements to your products and services, as well as your overall customer experience.
Your prospective customers, for one, will have all the information they need to make a purchasing decision — from product specs to returns policies, to your brand’s commitment to ethical operations, and more.
(Conversely, not providing the necessary information keeps prospective customers in the dark — meaning they probably won’t end up doing business with your company.)
Furthermore, providing effective solutions to your customer’s questions and problems will serve to keep them engaged and moving forward with your brand.
(Again, not providing this support is a surefire way to completely lose your at-risk customers.)
Whether implementing an internal or customer-facing knowledge base, you’ll be putting structures in place that all but guarantee a competitive advantage for your company.
Your best bet, though, is to develop both.
An ever-growing external knowledge base enables your audience to supercharge their efforts — and an ever-growing internal knowledge base allows your team to supercharge theirs.
If you’re always able to efficiently provide for your target audience whenever they’re in need, they’ll have every reason to come onboard, stay onboard — and bring others along with them.
Which is what we’re pretty much always trying to make happen, right?