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The Importance of Having a Knowledge Base

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Let me just start by saying that the term Knowledge Base was not created by a marketing company like ours. If it had been, it would probably be called something more along the lines of:

  • Mind Dump
  • How-To Thingy
  • iFile Cabinet

I don’t know, Knowledge Base sounds so egg-heady. Maybe “Egg-Heady” would be a good name! Eh … never mind. We’ll go with the same term everyone else is using. Knowledge Base. With that rant out of the way, a quick primer on what a Knowledge Base is for.

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Do you have company processes, policies, routines, research and other such matter of content that’s constantly being referenced, re-asked about, re-learned, updated, acted upon, etc.?

Do you have company processesColossal time-wasting activities (and costly, too) if these things aren’t documented. It’s potential misinformation running amok – like a game of phone tag where an oft repeated piece of information keeps changing a little bit as it gets passed along orally; twisted into a new truth of its former self.

I’d love to show you our Marketing In Color Knowledge Base, but it’s under wraps (password-protected). We have all the trade secrets known to mankind in there including a cure for the common cold, the recipe for Coca-Cola, and the eventual outcome of Hillary’s email investigation. So, we’re just not comfortable releasing it to the hungry masses. But if you’d like to take a quick look at the Knowledge Base platform we use, check out this demo.


Think of a Knowledge Base as a reference desk.

A Knowledge Base is where non-time-sensitive things go to rest in the warmth of Caribbean tradewinds, until someone thinks, “I forget what our company policy is if we’re ravaged by a sudden locust storm in the office.”

Here are some examples of things we store in our electronic filing cabinet:

  • Web Development Processes
  • Online Platform Login Pages
  • Basic Instructions on how to use our online collaboration tool Basecamp
  • Marketing In Color Brand Guidelines
  • Client Brand Guidelines
  • Employee and Client Onboarding and Offboarding Processes
  • Blogging Best Practices
  • Website Maintenance Processes
  • Digital Marketing Practices
  • WordPress Video Tutorials
  • Time-Keeping Policy
  • IT Service Processes

There’s a lot more we could tell you about, but then we’d have to kill you. And we think that’s too much to ask of our employees.

Google the phrase “Knowledge Base.”

You’ll find a huge spectrum of choices to consider. In our own efforts to land a Knowledge Base platform, we found systems out there to be very public-facing (customer support) solutions such as Zendesk – more a help desk solution aimed at customers to find answers for themselves without having to bother talking with anyone at a store or company.

Zendesk Overview of Ticket Stats

Speaking of support, check out these examples of Knowledge Bases in the wild:
Retail Support
Corporate Support
And i’m not really sure what these guys do.

Some might confuse FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) with Knowledge Bases.

Some might confuse FAQsFAQs are just that – Frequently Asked Questions – usually involving a handful of topics that are relegated to one page on a website. Knowledge Bases go much deeper, are always growing, and often require the user to perform a search to find what they’re looking for. Knowledge Bases are all about documenting standards and practices and making them easily findable by whomever needs the information (or perhaps a refresher) at the time.


What size Knowledge Base is right for you?

What size Knowledge Base is right for youIn the case of Marketing In Color, a public-facing, customer service ticketing solution (like ZenDesk) was just absolute overkill. We just needed something to use internally so if employees handle something incorrectly we can reference Knowledge Base documentation to show them their transgressions and then whack their knuckles with a ruler like Sister Mary Katherine from Catholic Grade School days. (I didn’t go to a Catholic school. I’m just channeling all those stories you hear about from other kids.)

But seriously, they call it a Knowledge Base because all employees have access at their fingertips to this information at any time. If they have any questions about processes or get refreshed on any of the other practices or policies we document in our Knowledge Base, they can just login and check it out. A few of our team members have access to create these documents and anyone in the company can comment on any of the pages, just like they were commenting on a blog. And what’s really convenient and cost-saving is that if someone asks a question we know is covered in the Knowledge Base, we can simply send a link to that article and save all the time and effort to explain something that’s been talked about and explained ad nauseum before. Maybe we should call our Knowledge Base “Ad Nauseum.” Just a thought.

If you’re thinking about starting a Knowledge Base for your company, organization, religious cult, foot fetish club, or whatever strange brew of mortals you may be considering aligning with, prepare to get bleary-eyed reviewing all these options.

Another option you may want to consider is any of these WordPress themes, that would require some setup by a web developer.

While you’re making a decision on a Knowledge Base platform, consider having some or all of these features play a part in your system:

Metrics and reporting – How many people are looking at which articles the most? This could point you to some areas that need some attention.
Voting – These are usually thumbs-up/thumbs-down or star rating systems to let you know how helpful a page is to users. Low ratings mean you’ll want to refine the information on that page.
Commenting – Blog-style commenting on articles is a great way to get specific feedback and can lead to better learning. Be sure to include email notifications to those participating to keep them engaged.
Password Protection – This can come in all varieties and flavors. Password protect the whole site or maybe just certain pages.
Users – Signing up users lets the system know who should have access and participate in your Knowledge Base.
Time-Stamping – Time and date stamp when a page is originally published and also re-time-stamp when a page is updated (and by whom).

There you have it. All the knowledge in the world ready to be cleaned and tidied up in your Knowledge Base, without you having to add on extra office space to store all those pesky file cabinets.

Seriously, “Ad Nauseum” is kind of growing on me.

About The Author

John Parrish
John Parrish is Vice President, Creative Services for Marketing In Color and has worked on brands such as Outback Steakhouse, Madico Window Films, Pitney Bowes, Progressive Auto Insurance, Edwards (United Technologies), Kash n’ Karry Food Stores, Home Shopping Network, The Villages of Florida, CareCredit, Dollar Rent A Car, Super Kmart, and dozens more.
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