Open documentation generates sales
Jeff Veen has a great post today about some real-world consequences of openness. He reminds us that being an Open Company is not just good for your current customers, but it's good business because it leads to more sales.
While the macromedia.com web site was filled with marketing content extolling the features of each product, most people just downloaded a demo version. So in the course of about 3 minutes, potential customers became users. And all the users we talked to explained that their decision to buy was made … in the support forums.
And you don't just have to believe me any longer. Jeff does actual user research. Hard numbers, people.
Jeff also mentions that Crutchfield (a company with whom I've had good experiences) provides PDF versions of the owner's manuals for the products that they sell. People download those manuals as part of making their purchasing decision because "if they could understand the manual, they'd be able to use the camera."
Contrast that with my experiences last week trying to find software documentation. You want to make potential customers comfortable enough with your product that are willing to buy. Providing demos, accessible documentation and access to support histories are great ways to get them to that point.