Your content is embedded into your customer experience. When done well, content acts “always in service to the customer” while it simultaneously works in service to our brand, our perspective, and our point of view.
That’s according to Ann Handley …
- The world’s first Chief Content Officer
- Author of the WSJ bestseller Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content
- Co-author of the bestselling Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business
- A LinkedIn Influencer (their definition, not hers)
- A prolific Twitter user as both @AnnHandley and @MarketingProfs (my judgment, not hers)
- A person whose work has very much informed and inspired my own
In this podcast conversation, we talk content marketing, email newsletters, customer experience, and more.
Before recording, Ann shared her view of the resurgence of one-to-one email and direct customer relationships. In addition to being a writer, speaker, and CCO at MarketingProfs, Ann also runs her own email newsletter Total ANNARCHY. She wanted something that was completely her own again – and that personal connection with her subscribers.
That theme comes through in the episode. I hope you enjoy it!
“The Holy Grail” of Connecting with Your Customers
Hear the entire conversation with Ann Handley right here …
Content’s Role in The Customer Experience
To talk about the relationship between content and customer experience, we start with Ann’s definition of the latter.
“In marketing, we tend to think of the customer experience as only the thing that we can control,” says Handley. “But to me, it’s every sentence, the way somebody answers the phone, it’s the email that goes out. If you have a storefront, it’s how they’re greeted when somebody comes through the front door. It’s the way that your website functions. So it involves not just marketing but the front lines, and it’s all across the organization.”
For the context of this definition of customer experience, watch this short video clip …
So what is the relationship between the content your marketing team produces and the holism of your customer’s experience? It’s a both/and balance between customer value and brand consistency that Ann defines in this video clip …
Brand Consistency in The Customer Exprience
MarketingProfs re-launched their entire website in September 2018 around the idea that “learning can change your life.” All of their free and paid content, including webinars, training, conferences, and more, is produced and delivered in a way that’s consistent with this concept.
They’re building brand and community around the shared belief that when we learn more we can be more.
“It’s really the bigger story that we’re telling,” says Ann. “The idea that when you stay curious, when you are leaning forward, when you are looking to constantly be leveling up, it will change your life.”
When you attend the MarketingProfs B2B Forum, October 16-18, 2019 in Washington DC, expect the experience to be consistent with this brand.
“I want everybody who walks into that hotel to say ‘this feels different. This doesn’t feel like an event that can be put on by anybody else.’”
Email: “The Holy Grail” That’s “Vastly Undervalued”
Everyone seems to be looking for the latest and greatest tech or tactic to improve performance, but Ann prefers not to look that far down the road when most companies are wasting an easy and important opportunity that’s right in front of them.
“Another question I get is, ‘What’s the up and coming social channel? What social channels should our brand be on? Which one should we be all on?’ None. Stop. Just fix your email newsletter!” says Ann. “Email is vastly undervalued by most companies out there, but to me it’s the Holy Grail. It’s the ability to connect directly with a person in the personal space of their inbox.”
Email newsletters aren’t simply another “distribution strategy.” Email is a channel that allows us to connect directly with our customers in a still-personal space … their inboxes.
“Email is disrespected because we’ve made it a disrespected property. That to me is one thing that people are still getting wrong. It’s so frustrating to me,” says Ann.
If you want to see an email newsletter that’s personal and valuable – one that works in service of the customer and of her brand – subscribe to her fortnightly newsletter Total ANNARCHY. And watch this video clip to hear her explain this situation of the undervalued and disrespected communication channel …
Who’s Had a Positive Impact on Your Life and Career?
If you’ve listened to The Customer Experience Podcast, you know that we conclude every episode the same way: thank or mention a person who’s had a positive impact on your life or your career – and a company that’s doing customer experience exceptionally well.
For the person, Ann went with someone I’d call an occasionally overlooked icon …
“It’s going to sound a little cliche, but I love what Seth Godin has done for his entire career. I am consistently impressed with him because he does so many things right,” says Handley.
“He’s always challenging himself and experimenting. That’s really what I strive to do as well. He writes every day and that’s incredibly important to him and that alone is admirable.”
Here’s her take on one of marketing’s best minds …
Which Company or Brand Delivers An Excellent Customer Experience?
For the company that’s delivering a great customer experience, Ann went with a small company with a great strength.
“It’s a small company, but I think there are a lot of lessons that we can learn from it,” she says. “It’s a company called Baking Steel.”
When she got a $119 slab of steel which is used for making pizzas and other items, she started to follow the social content produced by the company’s owner Andris Lagsdin.
“I started looking into Andris and followed him on Instagram. I started reading his blog, I started watching his videos because what do I do with this flat piece of metal? I love to cook for people, but what can I really do with this thing? How was this different from the clay pizza stone that I already had? It turns out it was massively different.”
Once she joined the Baking Steel community, she started giving them to friends as gifts. She credits Baking Steel for providing a consistent customer experience across all mediums.
“You feel him. You feel his personality. You feel like it’s him writing. It’s him posting on Instagram. It’s him showing you this breakfast pizza that he made on Easter morning for his family,” says Handley. “He’s a great example of how to do it right, combining online and in person using personality and voice. I think there’s a lot that brands of any size can learn from.”
Ann recognizes this strength of his at least in part because she demonstrates it herself. In this clip, she talks Baking Steel, brand, personality, and voice …
This post is based on an interview with Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs and author of the highly recommended Everybody Writes, the most fun and useful book on writing that I’ve ever read.
To hear this episode, and many more like it, please subscribe to The Customer Experience Podcast.
If you don’t use iTunes or Apple Podcasts, you can listen to episodes here:
Coming Soon To The Customer Experience Podcast
- Customer experience expert Joey Coleman (Never Lose a Customer Again)
- Marketing leader Samantha Stone (Unleash Possible)
- Branding experts like Kurt Bartolich and David Brier
- Sales leaders like Jeremy Donovan (SalesLoft) and Charles Green (Trusted Advisor)
- Customer Success professionals like Nick Hart (Outreach.io) and Rachel Ostrander (Brooks Running)
Questions or guest recommendations? Email: Ethan at BombBomb dot com
Please Subscribe, Rate, and Review – It Really Helps!
The early days in Apple Podcasts are critical to a podcast’s success. If you enjoyed this conversation with Ann and look forward to our upcoming guests, please take a minute to:
1. Visit The Customer Experience Podcast in Apple Podcasts
2. Subscribe to the podcast
3. Rate the podcast
4. Write a short review
Your small effort makes a big difference!
Make email even more personal with a simple video.
Personal videos get you face to face in emails, text messages, and social messages with the people who matter most to your business. And they’re easy to create and send, if you know how to do it.
Your definitive guide better business communication is available right now. See the video, read advance praise from experts, and learn what awaits you inside the book by visiting BombBomb.com/Book.