How To News

New about the new how-to system called Steptap.

Our Instructions White Paper Is Available!

Instructions Should Be Your First Thought. Not An Afterthought.Are your product instructions an afterthought? They shouldn’t be.

Download our new white paper titled “Instructions Should Be Your First Thought. Not An Afterthought.” and learn why your product instructions are critical to your sales success.

Instructions are your first experience with your customer after they have bought your product. It is the first time they are handling your product, whether assembling or using.

This is your chance to make a good first impression.

First impressions are important in today’s online retail marketplace. Good first impressions can result in positive reviews. Positive reviews translate into new sales and great word-of-mouth.

Negative reviews can bring your sales to a screeching halt. Worse, they can erode consumer trust and loyalty.

Our new white paper titled “Instructions Should Be Your First Thought. Not An Afterthought.” is now available.

Click Here to get your copy now!

The Steptap App Is Here!

The Steptap App QR Code ReaderWhen your business uses Steptap to create, manage and share your instructions, we help you get them in to the hands of your employees and customers with advanced sharing tools.

Our advanced sharing tools include custom QR Code generation that gives you the ability to include your instructions on product packaging, labels, and at point-of-use locations.

Now you have an easy, and free, way to scan QR Codes with your mobile device; The Steptap App!

The Steptap App is a free application that scans QR Codes and opens the resulting page in Safari on your mobile Apple device.

The Steptap App is currently available for free in the iTunes App Store.

Download the Steptap App.

How To Create Outstanding How-to Instructions, Quick and Easy

How to create a steplist in steptap.

Steptap is a new content platform that helps you create, manage and share your own how-to instructions. And it makes it easy.

Steptap is perfect for DIY bloggers, YouTubers, and businesses who need to create, manage and share instructions or process documentation for their products.

We have created the ultimate how-to make a how-to, which amounts to a guided tour of the Steptap creation process.

Don’t let the length frighten you; this just goes through all the wonderful features we have built in, and explains each one in brief detail.

Here it is: How To Create A How-to In Steptap

Steplist Spotlight: Outbox Systems Shows How To Effectively Use The Forecast Function In Salesforce

Steptap QR Code for Outbox Systems How ToOutbox Systems has posted a new steplist in Steptap titled How To Effectively Use The Forecast Function In Salesforce.

As with every steplist created on the Steptap platform, this one features a complete array of sharing tools and a QR code for mobile users who want to leverage a scanning application such as Scan.

Take a look at Outbox Systems how-to on Steptap and learn more about how to effectively use the forecast function in

Steptap is a platform that makes it easy to create, share and manage your company’s how-to content; the best kind of content marketing you can do.


Reduce Product Returns With Steptap Product Instructions

Steptap saves customer timeYour Customers Don’t Have Twenty Minutes

In 2006, consumer researcher Elke den Ouden conducted a study which analyzed, among other things, product returns. The study concluded that the average U.S. buyer spends just 20 minutes trying to make a product work before sending it back to the manufacturer or store.

Americans are an impatient lot – we gripe if we have to wait five minutes at the post office. Furthermore, product designers and marketers can do little to control this aspect of human behavior. They can, however, make it easier to order, assemble, set up, or otherwise use and enjoy their products.

Reduce Your Product Return Rate With Better Product How-Tos

Does your company have a high return rate? Have you evaluated your product instructions lately? Asking a non-employee to use the company-issued how-tos to set up your products can be enlightening. You may uncover answers that will help you save money on returns and boost your customer retention rate.

An Epidemic of Lousy How-Tos

Make instructions importantWhy do so many products come with awful instructions? The problems include complex language, poor translations, inaccuracies, missing steps, low-quality pictures, copious legalese, non-waterproof paper for wet projects, and difficulty in saving and re-accessing.

Many users get the general drift of overall set-up and just need to know how to do one simple process. If a user’s manual is poorly organized and hard to navigate, the user can’t find the one thing they are looking for.

Here are some excerpts from actual product instructions:

“Please do not put the one embarrassed because it gets wet under the air conditioner.” (This one in particular won Berkley’s 4th Annual Worst Manual Contest.)

This is for a Penholder and Clock set-up:

“The beginning accounts the hour: At position number that show the “DATA” from 00 change into 59 circulations are gradually decrease, current a minute for setting up the number gradually decrease open to start, the same a number for setting up gradually decrease also start.”  (This one from a commenter on Techlore.)

Have you looked at the comments accompanying your product returns? They contain valuable information that can be used far beyond the customer service department.

Where Can High-Quality How-Tos Have an Impact?

Customers return products for a variety of reasons, some of which cannot be effectively improved in manufacturing processes or marketing campaigns.

  • Buyer ordered the wrong product
  • The company shipped the wrong product
  • The customer decided they didn’t need the product
  • The item didn’t match the image/description provided on a website or in a catalog
  • The product malfunctioned or was defective
  • The buyer was unable to assemble or set up the item (even though the product was not defective)

Reduce the Return Rate for Non-Defective Products

Improving QC is an ongoing effort for most manufacturers, but I believe the best opportunity for reducing the rate of returns lies with the last reason in the list above – the buyer can’t get a non-defective product up and running. This is especially true with electronic and computer-related products.

Content Strategy Consultant Sharon Burton is an authority on consumer behavior. Last February, Ms. Burton presented a webinar entitled, “Product instructions: The missing piece of the customer experience.”

In a poll she conducted, Ms. Burton found that “About 90% are angry or regret the purchase when they can’t use the instructions.”

If They Think It’s Broken, It Might as Well Be

Are your instructions broken when your product is not?A 2008 article titled Most Returned Products Work Fine by Yardena Arar highlighted key findings of a study conducted by the technology consulting firm Accenture:

“Only 5 percent of consumer electronics products returned to retailers are malfunctioning – yet many people who return working products think they are broken. The cost of consumer electronics returns in 2007 was $13.8 billion in the United States alone, with return rates ranging from 11 percent to 20 percent, depending on the type of product. Accenture estimates that 68 percent of returns are products that work properly but do not meet customers’ expectations for some reason.”

Why So Many Customer-Produced Videos on YouTube?

Have you ever perused YouTube for product instructions? Customer “how-to” videos abound. They range from homemade, amateur pieces to fairly professional productions. I would venture to say that many of these DIY videographers know more about the product than the company’s marketing team.

It surprises me that there are so many product how-to videos for mainstream products sold by billion-dollar international companies. Some of these videos have thousands of views and dozens of comments from grateful watchers – a fact that reinforces the argument that many companies, even those with deep pockets, fail to address this critical component of the customer experience.

If vendors created professional, useable instructions and delivered them with the product (or made them easily accessible online) there would be less demand for homemade how-to videos and third-party product forums.

Defective How-Tos, Not Defective Products

A quick internet search for poor instruction experiences turned up the following customer comments:

  • “The ‘instructions’ were hidden away…”
  • “The product came with absolutely no directions at all and I had never heard of this product before, so we had no idea how to use it.”
  • “Misplacing product instruction manuals can be such a headache.”

I found the following example at from a buyer of a weed trimmer who simply wanted to know how to reload the string:

“Nowhere in the manual does it explain the weight (thickness) of nylon string to use when reloading the trimmer, nor does it explain how to install the string into the double-threaded spool so that it feeds correctly. Reloading string is the third most common function a user will need to do, after starting/stopping and refueling. After multiple hair-tearing sessions with incorrectly feeding string, I finally took the trimmer into the dealer, where I got a free lesson on string replacement.”

QC for Product Instructions

At Steptap, we have created a powerful platform for creating effective product and process how-tos. You can open a basic account for free and create your own how-tos or hire our team of writers. We specialize in creating product instructions that can help reduce your rate of product returns and lighten the load for your customer service department.

Steptap allows you to break down complex processes into steps. These self-contained “steplists” appeal to busy customers who don’t have time to read the entire manual, search YouTube, or trial-and-error it until it’s working.

Here is a steplist for GMetrix, a company that provides a web-based administration system that allows instructors to easily manage the distribution and tracking of their tech certification students.

This steplist allows users to complete the desired task quickly.  It can be saved in their own Steptap account or found on the company’s website. It can be easily shared and re-accessed. As a searchable, Google-indexed page, a steplist is an SEO tool. It can be embedded in the company blog or posted to social media sites. It has SEO tags, search engine keywords, and “Buy Now” links to online stores.

See to learn more.

The Steptap Guide To Product How-Tos That Rock

People Really Do Read Product Instructions

Steptap isntructionsHave you ever bought an item that required assembly and found the product instructions woefully inadequate? Perhaps they consisted of a small paper sheet folded eighteen times and hidden in the packaging only to be discovered when you started looking for help after the project went wrong.

Maybe the how-tos contained indecipherable drawings or diagrams that appeared to have been created by someone who had never actually seen the product. Poor translations are notorious for complicating matters. (Though they can provide comic relief in the heat of a difficult project when emotions are running high.)

Does Your Company Overlook How-Tos?

How-tos for assembly, installation, operation, upgrades, compatibility issues, rebates, trade-in promotions, and return procedures often seem to be an afterthought. In some cases, they are absent altogether or buried five links deep in a website. Many large companies spend millions on impressive cross-channel marketing but don’t provide useful product how-tos. Why the disconnect? The attitude, “Nobody reads the instructions, anyway,” is simply not true.

This post contains online comments made by customers who were not happy with furniture assembly product how-tos. Poor instructions, however, are not limited to the ready-to-assemble furniture category. They can be found in all types of markets and industries.

It is not my intention to disparage any product or company, so I have changed or removed the names. These comments were found at

Instructions Are Part of the Product

Here is a comment from a frustrated customer that clearly defines the primary issue with bad instructions; the instructions are expected as part of the product, and are an essential element of the customer experience:

“Part of a product is its instructions. The fancy packaging clearly denotes this as a DIY-oriented product. Therefore, the instructions should be appropriate for DIY types like me who have never done this before.”

Poor How-Tos Are No Better Than None At All

“My first impression was that the desk’s directions were seemingly missing steps, and were written in some ancient alchemical code.”

“Thanks to instruction defects on (Company Name)’s 6′ Dishwasher Connector, the installation was significantly lengthened.”

Consumers tie their product and company experience to the assembly and set-up of your products. Many times we focus on the usage of the product after it is assembled. Poor instructions can color a customer’s experience right from the start, thwarting any positive momentum you might have achieved.

Bad Instructions Create Bad Customer Experiences

steptap-assembly-instructions2“I think the most difficult time I’ve had with something was a barbeque. It took over 6 hours! That one was the instructions’ fault.”

“I also spent about TWO! WEEKS! struggling to figure out how to put together a metal vanity rack that goes around your toilet. The instructions reversed where the long and short screws were to go, AND it was impossible to put together even with revised instructions.”

“Recently my front door knob just came loose and the whole thing fell apart. The instructions were useless! …basically just pictures of putting the knob on the door. It didn’t say what to do with all the little springs and all the other little pieces that went on the handle. I spent hours working on it and went to bed without it.”

What is the chance that these customers will return? Not likely. Worse, however, is that these negative experiences have become part of the discussion on the web regarding these products. Customers are 3 times more likely to share a negative customer experience, emphasizing the importance of good instructions.

Liability: Actual Injuries Associated With Poor How-To Documentation

While gathering examples for this article, I discovered that poor product instructions can cause more harm than customer frustration. Hopefully, these instances are extremely rare, nevertheless, they should serve as a warning. Legal departments take note: here are descriptions of injuries linked to product assembly nightmares:

“I am trying to type this with one hand and a broken hand as a result of my most frustrated recent effort at assembling a piece of furniture.”

“I ended up crushing my foot and having to go to the emergency room. The nurse laughed when I told her it was an (Company Name) injury. She said she’d seen quite a few of those in her time!”

Product How-Tos and Overall Content Strategy

Companies who fail to deliver adequate product how-tos are missing a key marketing opportunity. Well thought-out product instructions help achieve many important marketing objectives:

Create positive customer experiences
Encourage repeat sales
Conserve customer service resources
Reinforce brand identity
Strengthen customer loyalty

How-Tos Used Before The Sale

Thus far, this post has discussed the role of product how-tos after the sale – but why limit their application? Savvy marketers use product how-tos before the sale, as well. Steptap allows companies to capture “How to…” and “How do I…” searches performed by prospects who have not yet purchased the product but are looking for the solution it provides.

The self-serve generation seeks product and company information on their own terms. Product how-tos are a simple, yet powerful tool to secure and convert prospects at the critical time when they are ready to engage.

The Soft Sell and the Upsell

steptap-assembly-instructions3Well-crafted product how-tos highlight and explain product features naturally, without the hard sell that turns off many prospects. What about upselling? When a buyer is reading your product how-tos, they are golden – a captive audience giving your product their full attention. By featuring compatible or related items from your product line, product how-tos drive upsells. There is never a better time to introduce them to all the other cool stuff you carry.

Create Exceptional Product How-Tos With Steptap

Steptap is a platform for creating product how-tos that transcend the historically humble content niche. Steptap product how-tos meet the key criteria:

  1. Easy to find
  2. Accurate
  3. Break long processes into manageable steps
  4. Written at a level that can be easily understood by all of your customers. (If you sell to a highly-educated customer, you should still err on the side of simplification)
  5. Can be downloaded, printed or accessed electronically
  6. Available in multiple places: your online store, resellers’ websites, packaging, social media sites, brick-and-mortar store shelves
  7. Are updated to reflect product changes
  8. Can be saved and quickly re-accessed
  9. Are translated accurately
  10. Can be easily shared or re-posted by the customer
  11. Can be viewed on a mobile device
  12. If necessary, can be used hands-free

Extend the Reach of Your Existing Documentation

Your company probably has a body of product documentation. PDFs, user manuals, customer updates, white papers, live chat transcripts, FAQs, and employee training docs are a rich source of content that can be used to create product how-tos thereby extending the ROI and reach.

See How Product How-Tos Have Evolved at Steptap

To learn how to create product instructions that rock, visit Set up a free account with just a couple clicks and create your first product how-to in minutes. Add images and video for how-tos that create a hassle-free experience for your customers.

Steptap how-tos, (called steplists) can be posted to your online store, embedded in your blog, featured on your company Facebook page, shared on Pinterest, added to your YouTube channel, or downloaded from a self-generated QR code.

Each steplist is a Google-indexed searchable page that links directly to your website (or anywhere you want). If you use the nifty timing feature, customers can play the steplist on their smart phone or iPad and set up your product hands-free. The steps, complete with pictures, diagrams or video, will advance automatically as your customer completes each step in the process.

Instructions Worthy of Your Product

At, you can build your own instructions or hire our team of how-to experts to create compelling step-based directions that complement and blend seamlessly with your existing marketing content.

Check out this Steptap how-to for changing your oil How To Change Your Oil. Hover over the product name under the Required Items section at the beginning of the how-to to see how a prospect can  purchase the product or receive more information. Press Begin under the steplist to see how it advances through the steps.

You can manage your library of product instructions on our site and update each as needed due to changes in product specs, promotions, return procedures, or regulations.

Where Is Your Next Customer?

Human Resources And CrmYour next customer is looking for a solution to a problem right now. Steptap is the way you can show that customer how to solve their problem, with your product.

Your Customers are Searching Right Now

In the vast reaches of cyber world, there is a significant number of people who need your product or service this very second. (Unless, of course, you are Chevron or Starbucks in which case there are probably millions.)

How can you capture this golden slice of the pie? Let’s start with their search bar query. It probably contains the phrases “how do I,” or “how to.”

If you sell digital scrapbooking software, your next customer is probably typing something like: “how do I turn my pictures into a photo book,” or “how to make a digital scrapbook.” These are folks that have never heard of you. They are not yet loyal to a digital scrapbooking provider or scrapbooking product.

If you are an estate planning attorney, your next client may be typing: “how do I write a living will” or “how do I get a healthcare power of attorney.” They aren’t looking for you, necessarily – they just want to solve a problem or fill a need.

You Can Be the Solution

At this moment, the solution is their number one priority. If not, they would be doing something else. The only way a searcher can become your next customer is if you solve their problem. This is most easily done with Steptap.

Steptap creates concise, search engined optimized step-based instructions that can be published everywhere with just a couple clicks. Steptap is a social content marketing platform that helps you present your products as the solution that people are looking for, even when they don’t know who you are.

Here is an example of a steplist that shows how to create an entire nail makeover from a single sample from a Jamberry party – very handy for DIY nail artists:

This is the type of how-to any Pinterest user would be proud to pin and post to all their key sites. We have seen remarkable interest from Pinterest users wanting to add how-to content to their pins so that customers have a better way to create wonderful projects from the images they see on Pinterest.

Steptap helps you create and embed engaging how-to content that shows your prospects how to use your products for a solution they need right now.
Visit right now to create your own free account.

Get ‘Em While They’re Hot With Steptap Product How-Tos

Product How-Tos Attract Prospects Ready to Commit

Here is a tale of two customers. For the sake of example, let’s pick a cool product; a personal drone. Naturally, both shoppers consult the internet for information.

Customer A visits a site with reviews of drones. Following that, she reads some blog entries from current drone owners.

Customer B types the following into a search bar: “How do I shoot videos with a drone and watch them on my phone in realtime?” Man making online shopping purchase on laptop with credit card

Who Is Ready to Buy?

Steptap creates product how-tos that show prospects how to use your products. These product instructions attract customers who are ready to purchase.

Target Every Stage of the Buying Cycle

Smart content strategies include pieces designed for every stage of the buying cycle. Does your plan include product how-tos that target prospects ready to commit?

How To Steptap

steptap-bugWe are working on a new social sharing site that will make it easy to create and share how-to instructions on everything from building a birdhouse to installing a new thermostat.

Create and collect your favorite lists of instructions in your own free account and never spend time looking for them again.

Next time you change the air filter in your heater,  change the battery in your dive watch, or install a new sprinkler head, look to Steptap for get-to-the-point instructions.

With Steptap mobile, you can get the instructions right where you need them in an easy-to-read format. No more running up and down the stairs to review complicated instructions on your desktop.

If you have something to share with the world, whether a craft you posted to Pinterest, or instructions on how to use the new widget your company produces, Steptap makes it easy to create and share with social sharing buttons, embeddable links, short links and even QR Codes that are ready to print on your packaging and promotions.

We’re putting the finishing touches on our first public beta. Watch this space for more information coming soon.