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The Beautiful Intersection of Content and Customer Experience

Have you ever considered the many, many ways content impacts the customer experience? I have. I’ve dwelled on it. And then I read Ann Handley’s book Everybody Writes and realized she was on to this idea, too.

The first person in the world to have the title Chief Content Officer, Ann Handley is a veteran of creating and managing digital content. She is the author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content and co-author of the best-selling Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business (Wiley 2011).

Want a full workup on her? Head here.

That’s why I was so excited when Ann graciously agreed to be a guest on the Crack The Customer Code podcast, which I co-host with Adam Toporek.

I knew it would be fun to discuss the intersection of content and customer experience with Ann. She continues to be a resource for those of us in the trenches, actually creating the content experience. Her book has become a valuable resource for me and lives within arm’s reach when I’m writing.

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But there were themes I didn’t expect to emerge from our conversation. The way Ann so eloquently puts it, content includes “everything the light touches.” This means caring about your product pages and error messages and job postings and every piece of communication on behalf of you or your company.

This is where I get excited.

Understanding what we offer customers is critical to delivering superior customer experiences. So this means understanding that content is a huge part of the experience is half the battle! If smart leaders recognize their true customer journey and how content influences each step of that journey, they will be rewarded with loyalty! (I’m not supposed to use so many exclamation points! But sometimes I get really excited and Ann says this is ok because it’s authentic!)

I learned a lot from our discussion with Ann.

Here are a few highlights:

  • When organizations only consider content as marketing, they ignore the critical pieces of content that aren’t classified that way.
  • One-off or standalone content feels inauthentic if it isn’t tied to the mission of the organization. Content for content’s sake doesn’t serve its purpose.
  • Don’t start with grammar, start with what do you want to say. (I love this one!)
  • The world doesn’t need more content, but we do need better content.

This conversation didn’t leave me after the interview.

I keep thinking about how this intersection between content and customer experience will become a much more important point for marketers, customer experience leaders, and everyone in the C-Suite to understand. Consider what happens when the content delivers the wrong message at the wrong point in the customer journey.


“…the era of the marketing generalist is done.” – @annhandley
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At each milestone in the customer journey, communication should be relevant, personalized AND relate back to the overall mission. For example, customers want to be thanked for their loyalty. This means the words we use to thank them need to match the mission as well as their personal experience.

This sounds deceptively simple.

Communicators, be they marketers or accountants, need to say the right thing, the right way, at the right time. Complex customer journeys make this challenging for any organization.

That’s why I think Ann’s perspective is so critical for business leaders to hear right now. It’s not about posting the perfect Facebook post and “going viral.” It’s about living up to your mission and serving your customers.

Hope you enjoy our discussion as much as I did. Let us know what you think about the future of communication and customer experience!

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