The Customer Experience Podcast
The Customer Experience Podcast

Episode · 3 years ago

5. The Holy Grail of Connecting With Customers w/ Ann Handley


Your content IS your customer experience.

So says the queen of content marketing, Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs and author of the best-selling Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content and Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business.

Listen to learn:

  • Measuring your content by your brand message
  • The biggest improvements come from the most basic principles.
  • Who is your inspiration?
  • What brand has inspiring customer service?
  • Putting the content customer experience into practice

Email is vastly undervalued, I think, by most companies out there, and to me it's really the holy girl right. It's the ability to connect directly with a person in a personal space of their inbox. You're listening to the customer experience podcast, a podcast dedicated to helping today's growing businesses restore a personal human touch throughout the customer life cycle. Get ready to hear how sales, marketing and customers success experts surprise and delight and never lose sign of their customers humanity. Here's your host, Ethan Butte. Thank you so much for clicking play on this episode of the Customer Experience Podcast. I'm so excited that you're here, but I'm more excited that Ann Hanley is here, and it's had such a significant impact on my career. When she wrote content rules with CC Chapman, it dramatically changed the way I thought about what I was doing every day. Everybody writes as a such a practical and fun read. I encourage everyone to read it, because everybody writes. And Hanley, welcome to the customer experience podcast. Thank you so much, Ethan. That was very generous, so thank you. I appreciate that. Yeah, I mean you. We were just chatting before we hit record about you know, you use the word gift and so much of what you produce really is and has been for me, I think a lot of people who are doing work or seeing the world like I do. So yeah, thank you so much for anything you produce and share, and and thanks for joining me today. No, I'm I'm delighted we could make this work. So I always like to start because, you know, one of my motivations for starting this podcast. I think customers is one of those words and concepts that everyone says, yes, I know what it means, but everyone has a different understanding. So I part of my own curiosity. How do you regard customer experience when you hear the phrase? How do you think about it? What does it mean? Where some of those characteristics? That is Buzzwordy, isn't it? It is. Yeah, it's one of those words, like authenticity, that everybody is like that. You know, marketers are always oh sure, of course we know what that means, of course we're authentic, of course we're providing a good brand experience, our customer experience. You know, to me it's everything that a customer experiences with us. You know, and I think in marketing we tend to think of the customer experience as only the things that we can control, but to me it's everything. It's the way somebody answers the phone, it's the email that goes out. If you have a store front, it's how they're greeted when somebody comes through the front door. It's the way that that your website functions. You know, it's all of those things. It's so many things. So it involves not just marketing, but it involves, you know, the front lines in retail experience, it involves customer service, hugely, hugely involves customer service and involve sales and it's all across the organization. So it's not just a thing that marketing, I think, can affect, but I think marketing can set the tone as well. Right, do you how deep in the operations? I should have mentioned that. You're the chief content officer marketing props and been involved for many, many years there.

Are you involved in operations enough to speak to customer experience like is that a is that a concept inside the organization? Do Talk and think in those terms or or are you even upstream from that? Both I mean we're not a massive organization, you know, we're not Amazon or apple or right, and I'm very much the face of marketing props. I guess the chief content off is Arem also managing partner, so it's not solely mine, but I also have a sort of, I don't know, outsized role, I guess, compared to to some of my colleagues. So yeah, I think about customer experience all the time, even with the things that are especially with the things that I'm directly responsible for. You know, like, for example, I own the twitter candle. Right, I'm at marketing props on twitter, which is kind of unusual. I don't know very many other business to business brands who actually have a person who's an actual shareholder of the company WHO's representing the company on a major social platform. Right. I mean maybe they exist. I if they do, I'd that I could count them on, you know, two fingers. Right, right, right. And so I'm very aware, like in those situations, that you know, I'm represent setting a brand and that everybody who comes into contact with me there is it is is experiencing something about marketing props. You know, they have some notion of what marketing props is based on just a quick interaction with me, you know. So so, yes, I think about all the time. I think about it in terms of the business, the beauty form that we run every year. This year it's in DC in October. So the experience that we're creating there, that's something we spend an enormous amount of time on, because there are a million marketing conferences that people can spend their dollars out, that you can go to, but we try to create an experience that feels different. Like I want everybody who walks into that hotel in national harbor this October to to sort of you know, I want their shoulders to drop and I want them to go okay, this feels different. This doesn't feel like an event that can be put on by anybody else. So so yes, I think of the things that I touched personally, and then I also think more broadly just across the organization. You know, how are we interacting with people? Our customer service person, for example, a woman by the name was Shelle Ryan. She's fantastic, she's she we call the customer service Ninja because she has a sense of what people need before they even need it, and she's fantastical over there. Let's go, Yah, put some some face of does that? No, she's amazing. And so, yeah, we think a lot about experience because for a company our size it's a differentiator. That's great. Obviously, content, which is your expertise, I would say. I think you might say the same thing. And, by the way, to the twitter handle, I knew you first as marketing props before I knew use anim yeah, I have both. True. Yeah, well, we not. Am just in my experiencing the brand and then coming to understand who you were...

...and your role in and all that as a content expert. What speak a little bit too contents role in that experience. Obviously, you know, you described it from the beginning through the end. You talked about alive experience as part of the brand. You talked about social content obviously plays all the way along there. But can you speak to the role of content in serving and building up, in characterizing the customer experience? Yeah, so content, is it a separate thing from any of those things? Right, it's in reading every experience. So it it mean? Content is the the twitter handle, content is the the programming at be to be, it's all of those things. It's the way that somebody experiences the articles when they come to our website, which is why we have an editor who's actually editing the the articles that are pair of the website. We have a newsletter editor because we care about even things like you know, like typos and headlines. We want to make sure that it's crystal clear what the what the value is. And so all that to say, all of those things I think of as content. I don't think of content just as things that fit in a box, like an ebook or a white paper or a block on post stored info graphic. Right. So that said, you know. So the role that content plays, the way that I think about it, is that it's always in service to the customer in one way or another. And yes, it represents the brand or right, yes, it represents our point of view, but it should be communicating that point of view, that perspective, to the customer in a way that's valuable to them. And so I know that's a lot of sort of words, but when I and I believe that and when I play it out across all the different ways that we are touching customers, all across the customer experience, if you will, you know that's truly what we're trying to do. So we want to make sure that the articles, for example, that we run on our website, in our newsletter, that appeared on newsletter, the Ompographics, the podcast that my friend carry go own hosts, all of that is furthering the brand, but it's also, on the other side, providing value to the person who's reading or listening or coming to our events or interacting on twitter, right. And so there's those two things that I think you need to be aware of as a marketer. You know, what is it doing for your brand, but then what is it also providing for the customer? And when those two things fit and when they actually when actually are in service to both. That's, to me, is really the essence of great content. That's great the you got to there. You said brand a couple times and even used to interchangeably, and that is part of my, you know, part of my discovery process here over the course of, you know, dozens and dozens of episodes. So what's the relationship? There are the interchangeable you talked about perspective and point of view across these various touch points and across area media. What is what's behind that for the marketing props team. Is there a brand mission? Is there a set of stated values? Like how how is everyone, even though you described as a small organization, how is everyone operating from and kind of breathing out in delivering kind of...

...a shared perspective? Like how do you all think about that? Do you have anything formal around that, or is that just something that happens organically because you're a tight group in a smaller group? Yeah, Um, you know, for us it's a little bit of both. We don't have a binder on the shelf behind me here. You know that as our brand attributes. And then, you know, we communicate in this kind of voice and may we have all of these things, but in a way that, I think for us it's a lot more organic. So in terms of, you know, hiring people who we feel like really do fit with us culturally and who really can understand our perspective and our point of view, you know, that's part of it, but in terms of like what's the thing that knits us all together, like as an organization? We relaunched marketing props in September of two thousand and eighteen, so six ish once ago. I guess now that I'm talking to you if I've once. I guess I mean like that, around the idea that learning can change your life. And we don't mean that, as you know, this sort of pie in the sky kind of thing. You know, we are training and education company. We have been educating marketers since two thousand. I joined in two thousand and two, and so we've been on this trajectory for a very long time. But we've kind of codified what we do not around this this notion of learning changes live. So it's not just about a random webinar and it's not just about an article over here that helps you do something. That's not just about, you know, the set of tools that you might be able to access here. It's really like the bigger story that we're telling, if you will, like the bigger ecosystem that I think we all are functioning under in that knits all of those things together is the idea that when you stay curious, you know, when you are leaning forward, when you are looking to constantly be leveling up, it will change your life. And yes, in a marketing cross context, that relates to marketing, but it also relates to almost anything that that we do write in our lives, and so that's really the the I don't know, I guess it the brand story, or what was the word that you used? It was, you know, what's the the thing that that sort of holds all of us together? Our mission, our perspective, that's ours. Yeah, that's great. And you mentioned hiring team members. I I'm going to assume that the better part of your last round of hires. However, however that's paced, probably came out of the community. You can already know who you are and what you're about. Often, yes, that is true. Yeah, it's funny because, you know, we're not a massive organization. I think we're two thousand and twenty four, I don't know, something like that, but yeah, like a good example is is carry your gone right. Carrie hosts our podcast. She is also heavily involved in our training program so she's she's on the training side. Is Only content side. She's sort of embedded throughout the organization. Does a lot of hosting for us, like on Webinars and so on. She's also a good friend of mine and you carry, you know, back when she was teaching at Full Sale...

University in Florida, when she lived in Florida, and so she and I interacted quite a bit on social for example. I got to know her and then ultimately, you know, she came on as the the parttime host, I. Contract host, of the podcast and then eventually, you know, we figured out a way to hire her. So, yeah, that kind of stuff happens. Happens a lot, and even like, but I'm trying to think, like of our last tires. It doesn't happen exclusively, but that's a good example of the kind of person who I think tends to do really well at marketing props. Because, you know, we're a virtual organization and it's not for everybody working out of your Home Office, where I am right now, or sometimes I work out of my tiny house and long walkers. Of course it's too snowy and cold right now, so I'm sticking upstairs in this little attic icy looking looking place. But you know, it's not for everybody, and so I and and it's it's hard to get a feel for culture when you're distributed team like we are, and so the ability to be able to, you know, sort of vet somebody and have a have a relationship with them before they come on board and that's hugely valuable. Yeah, and it's a great way. Again, just the point that we went off on there is to maintain this continuity of brandon experience. And let's switch gears a little bit. You've really helped define content marketing and best practices over the past, you know, you said two thousand and two with marketing props. Yeah, what are some mistakes that use, that you still see being made, that you and other folks your can have been identifying as like let's let's put these practices to the side for years? That are still that are still in a fact, like for someone that's listening, like, what should we stop doing? That happen? You know, you've had your eye on it for eight years now, you've been talking about it openly for six, and yet it's still something that you see out there. In order some practical things someone can take away here. Yeah, you know, even I hate being negative, he can. I hate going negative. So what are some of these people could improve? That's very easy. Loving them fruit. Now I get this question a lot. Speaking event this spring, for example, and they wanted me to talk about future trends in content, which is pretty much the the worst topic for me to talk on, not because I'm not aware of what's going on, because there's so much stuff that's already available, that's out here now, that we're not taking full advantage of, we're not fixing or not doing right or well or well enough, you know. And so the idea of talking about what's coming, whether it's like, you know, voice or Vr or the way that ai is and our what like. Come on, man, let's like the fix your email newsletter, like yes, they're you know, or the other question I get, you know, what's up becoming social channel. What social channel should our brand beyond? Which one should we be all in on? And it's like none to stop, just stop, like fix your email newsletter, right, right, and I'm...

...not saying that has to be just the email news atter, but but email is vastly undervalued, I think, by most companies out there, and to me it's really the holy girl, right. It's the ability to connect directly with a person in a personal space of their inbox. Most brands are using it as a distribution strategy, and I'm using air quoting the I hate using air quotes, but that's how they're using it, right, and so, instead of actually respecting that is a place that's special. You know, they it's email is disrespected because we've made it a disrespected property and so like that, to me is a one thing that people are still getting wrong. That's so frustrating to me. Yeah, I I love your newsletter and when we've talked a lot about marketing props, but I just wanted to everyone who's made it into this point of the episode and Hanleycom subscribe to the newsletter. It's total anarchy. It is fortnightly, which for those of you that don't know what that means, and how do you just how do you land on fortnightly? Obviously it's a fun word to say and probably to type, but why that? Why that cadence? So fortnightly is, for those of you who don't know, it's every other week, and the reason I don't say bi weekly is because Bi weekly has two interpretations. Right, it's either every other week or it's twice a week. So right, I will not overwhelm you with an email twice a week, but every other week is the Caden's fortnightly is, because that's the only word that describes exactly every other week. So I guess I don't think that was your question that what is it? What is you choose? The word fortnightly was more of the CADEN's right. Yeah, either way, I just want it through your newsletter. I've seen you speak, I've heard you on other podcast it's a very consistent experience. It's smart, it's witty without being too Sassy, clever, an expert and I think what you deliver I feel like it's really who you are, whether it's on Instagram, which is more personal and fun, whether it's in the newsletter, which you write very, very personally to people, to anyone that wants to see how to manifest a great, consistent experience across channels and a cross media. Encourage you to follow and in a personal way. Yeah, and in closing, you know bombombing and here on this podcast we significantly value relationship. So I always like to end by giving you a chance to think or mention someone who's had a really important role or valuable role in your life or in your career, and a shout out to a company that's doing customer experience or brand really well. Oh Man, cheese, I don't know how to prep for this. It's feeling right now. What am I feeling right now? Um, and I'll tell you, like the person who has had the from a from a marketing standpoint. It's going to sound a little Cliche, but I love what Seth Goden has done for his entire career. I am consistently impressed with him because he does so many things right, but he also does things wrong, and that's part of who he is. Right. He's...

...always challenging himself and experimenting. That's really what I what I strive to do as well. He also he writes every day and that's incredibly important to him and that alone is is is admirable and it's something that I really admire. I guess I just said that twice. I really high aspired doing. What about right? You know, he values is, he values writing, publishes books, but he also, you know, is is trying new things, you know in terms of training programs, and he's putting any branches out of he's branched out of marketing a little bit. He just launched a business of food kind of training program and so I have a lot of respect for him and, and it does sound a little cliche, I guess to mention, you know, the sort of icon of marketing, but you know, I got it. I have to, because he's truly the person who has inspired me probably the most, and from a marketing standpoint, in terms of what was you think question? Oh, brand, yeah, company or brand? Or, you know, could be a small shop in your town or it could be international brand. MMM, BECA's really inspired me from an experience perspective's doing it really well, who always leaves you with that feeling like man, these people really get I mean it's a small company, but I think there's a lot of lessons that we can learn from it. It's a company called baking steel. They're located in Cohasset, Massachusetts, so just south of Boston, about an hour from me, because I'm north of the city there south. My friend Anders Logston, is the owner and he only became my friend because I got a baking steal, which is a flat piece of metal. I got it for as a gift one year and as a result, I sort of, you know, started looking into Andras. I followed him on Instagram, I started reading his blog, I started watching his videos because it's I love to I love to cook, I love to, you know, Cook for people, but it's like, what can I really do with this thing? How is this different from the from the clay, you know, pizza stone that I already had? It turns out it was massively different. And the only reason why I know that and why I'm such a fan of this company now and why I have bought three other baking steals as gifts for other people, which, by the way, is a very generous gift, because these things are hundred and nineteen dollars. Okay, I've spent, you know, and now I'm I'm into this company for you know what we figures easy will say. Yeah, post of four hundred dollars personally out of my also bought a little mini baking steal. So so yeah. So the reason why is because Andres is authentic. You know that word that I is so tough to to really codify, but I think when you see it, you know it. He also provides a really consistent customer experience across everything. So you know, you mentioned my instagram and my news letter. It's exactly the same way with Andres. You know, you feel him, you feel his personality, you feel like it's him writing, it's him posting on Instagram,...'s him showing you this breakfast pizza that he made on Easter morning for his family, you know, and it's fantastic. He also does in person experience right. He built a test kitchen in his backyard. Jeff, my assistant, and I it went down and we did a pizza making class or the Thursday night with him. He invited us to come in. He assembles, you know, eight or ten people every Thursday and with the objective to just make pizza and he's just he's fantastic. He's just such a great example of how to do it right, combining online and in person and using personality, using voice, which really didn't talk about, but you know it's another big thing of mine, using voice to great effect, not just on his video, but it matches how it reads on Instagram, you know, and it matches the blog and the site and everything else, so that consistent experience is woven through everything. On just does and I think there's a lot that any size brand can can really learn from that. That's excellent. I love both of your answers and agree with you on Seth God in for someone that someone bypassed or like, Oh, everyone says that I'm going to go. I'm gonna go yet. But it's important to recognize what's great. Your Great. I really appreciate your time so much. The folks that want to go deeper on the variety of things. We talked about your website, your newsletter, your social marketing process. Where would you send someone marketing proces and go to marketing profscom. We send out a newsletter twice a week. We also have the training programs about everything from email to content. We've got an in person events in October. This this October, sixteen through eighteen, something like that. I should know that off the top of my head. I'm just blanking on it. We got that clear in Washington DCA. Yes, exactly, natural harbor. But and then, if you want to subscribe to my personal newsletter, which I would really appreciate, it's an an hanleycom newsletter. And and yeah, thank you for having me. You for this was a lot of fun. Yeah, thank you. Learning can change your life. It's a great theme and I feel like you live it and I appreciate your time so much. Ever, we have a great rest of your day and a wonderful week at ahead. Thank you all right, texing. Yeah, thank you. You're listening to the customer experience podcast. No matter your role in delivering value and serving customers, you're interesting. Some of your most important and valuable messages to faceless digital communication. You can do better. rehumanize the experience by getting face to face through simple, personal videos. Learn more and get started free at bomb bombcom. You've been listening to the customer experience podcast. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player or visit bombombcom. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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