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Where Content, Community, and Customer Experience Meet (Thinks Out Loud Episode 346)

Group of co-workers sharing information on their phones to illustrate where content, community, and customer experience meet

I’ve long said that "Content is King; Customer Experience is Queen; and Data is the Crown Jewels." But a number of people I respect take different approaches, suggesting that "user generated content is king," or "the customer is king," or even "community is king." And, whenever I run across something that challenges my experiences and assumptions, the first question I try to ask is "Are they right? Am I missing something?"

And, after 11 years of running my own business, I think the answer to the question is somewhat more complicated than a t-shirt-sized slogan. (Oh, don’t worry, it still needs to fit on a t-shirt.)

But the reality is that the point where content, community, and customer experience meet is the axis on which your entire business turns. It’s at the center of everything you do in your business every day. And it’s the subject of this episode of Thinks Out Loud.

Where do content, community, and customer experience meet? What attributes do they share? Where are they different? And what does all this mean for your business? Let’s take a look… as one community.

Want to know more? Here are the show notes for you.

Thinks Out Loud Episode 346: "Where Content, Community, and Customer Experience Meet" Headlines and Show Notes

Show Notes and Links

Here are this week’s show notes for Thinks Out Loud with links and news related to this week’s episode. Be sure to check out all the links that matter for your business once you’ve given the episode a listen.

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Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Technical Details for Thinks Out Loud

Recorded using a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Mic and a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface into Logic Pro X for the Mac.

Running time: 22m 38s

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Transcript: Where Content, Community, and Customer Experience Meet

Well, hello again, everyone, and welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter. This is episode 346 of the big show, and I think we’ve got a really good one for you today.

It’s funny. I think I say that every time, but I hope we really do have a good one for you every time we do this, every time I do this. I have said many, many times, I wouldn’t do this show without you. I wouldn’t do it if you didn’t listen. And I hope you always have something worth listening to.

What I’ve Learned in 11 Years as an Entrepreneur

And if it seems that I’m particularly contemplative about that fact and about the role of this show, well, it’s because I am. We just recently celebrated the 11th anniversary of Tim Peter & Associates. The company has been around for 11 years as of a couple of weeks ago.

And I’ve been reflecting a bit on, "How’s that going? How has that worked? What have I learned over that period?"

And as I did last year, I thought it might be worthwhile to take a look at those lessons and share some of them with you. And in particular, I want to focus on one. Not because it’s the only one and not because it’s something that you haven’t heard before, but because I’ve been thinking about what it really means in a deeper way. And so I wanted to share that with you today.

Is Content Still King?

I have talked many, many times. You have heard many, many people talk about the fact that content is king. And people push back on this. And I think it’s a little weird that people push back on this. Now, in fairness to those people, they push back for a number of reasons. One is because they will say, "Well, the customer really is king." And other people will say, "No, the community is king," or, "User-generated content that comes from the community is king." And they’re not wrong. I want to be really clear. Not one part of that is wrong.

Why Is This "Either/Or?" Can’t It Be "Both/And?"

What I do think is true, though, is if you tilt your head and look at them just the right way, they all enable one another. They all feed off one another. They are the axis around which your business revolves. In fact, I’d argue that they’re almost—not quite, but almost—the same thing. And that’s what I want to talk about today, because the relationship between content, community, and customer experience is deep and it’s meaningful. And I see it again and again and again every day, not just for my own business, but for my clients as well.

Let’s Define Content, Community, and Customer Experience

So, I want to talk about how I define these terms. You may have a slightly different definition, and that slightly different definition may be part of the place where we don’t necessarily agree or where people who push back on this, in fact, push back. So, I want to talk a bit about my definition and what those mean to me and what I think they probably should mean to you. And then most importantly, what you do with them.

How I Define "Content"

So, when I talk about content, content is what you say about yourself. It’s what you say about your brand. It’s what you say about your business. It’s what you say about your company. And it’s also all of the messages that your customers hear about you. It’s all the ways you engage with your customers when they help themselves. It is your 24 by 7 by 365 salesperson and your 24 by 7 by 365 customer service representative. You’ve heard me say repeatedly that without content, you have no search. You cannot show up in the search results. You cannot be found in search results if you don’t have content. You’ve also heard me say that without content you have no social media. And I don’t just mean the messages you post. I mean your overarching story.

The Modern Marketing Team is a Media Company

I like to say that the modern marketing team is a media company. And so I thought it might be worthwhile to talk about this through the lens of a media company. I’m a big fan of Marvel movies and television. I love Marvel. Marvel has produced so far 27 films, 18 television shows, and lots of other supplementary content like video games, short films, and the like. And just referring to some of those as supplementary, I’m not giving them their due. The video games are enormous business for them. Each of these movies and shows and games have different writers and directors and teams who execute the individual project. For instance, at the moment, I’m loving the new Moon Knight series that is led by a guy named Jeremy Slater and stars Oscar Isaac. But the overall Marvel cinematic universe is overseen by Kevin Feige. Now, Feige leads the team that thinks about the overarching storylines, the look, the feel. In marketing terms, the brand. His title is president but I think of him as the editor-in-chief of all Marvel video productions, regardless of the release format.

Who is the Editor in Chief For Your Brand?

And I’m the editor-in-chief for my company. It’s really one of the most important roles I play. I set the tone of the message and the overarching experience customers have with my company’s brand and our content. And in a way that also includes user-generated content. I don’t control what people say to me or to my business or about me or about my business, but I make sure that I engage with that content and make sure that "me" personally, and especially "we as a company," remain human and approachable. Now, some of that’s easy because of the size of the company. There isn’t really anyone who speaks on behalf of the company besides me. But another part of it is because it’s literally my name on the company. There’s not as much distinction between "Tim Peter & Associates," a company, and me, "Tim," as an individual. But that could change over time.

Somewhere down the road, we may shift the emphasis more toward the associates side of the business. And that’s a bridge we’ll build before we’re ready to cross it. The point is though, my job is to be thinking about that and that all of the content, company generated and user-generated, comes attached to a single voice.

Larger Companies Need a Defined Voice—and Voices

Now, in larger companies, many of my clients, we broaden "voice" to "voices." Even though those voices adhere to certain guardrails and guidelines, we are helping to set the tone. We’re helping to set the idea of what we want people to hear when they hear from "us," however you define "us." Even user-generated content has to fit into that because you have to say, if people are saying things on behalf of your brand or your business, it doesn’t mean you can control them, but it means you can kind of set the tone that what they’re saying is acceptable or not acceptable within the context of your community.

Defining "Community"

And your community is the second pillar here. It’s what your customers say to each other. It’s how they interact with each other. You’ve heard me say any number of times that your community are your secret sales force. They’re your secret service reps. They’re working together to make your brand a shared experience for everybody who connects with it. And as you collaborate with customers on creating a great community, they help promote your brand. They help attract and retain additional customers. They help other customers feel like they’re part of something bigger. I have to be really honest.

You Can Have Multiple Communities

It’s probably the single biggest area for improvement for my company. I have roughly a dozen clients at any given time, and they tend to range across a diverse set of industries. Hospitality, travel, financial services, technology, education, healthcare. I haven’t really figured out a way to bring them all into the same room, physical or virtual, in a way that lets them grow and learn from one another as well as I would like to do. For those of you who are members of that community who are listening, I welcome any ideas you have.

I do have a separate community that does interact with one another, which is, of course, the set of social media connections that today numbers in the single digit thousands. There’s roughly 3,600 folks on LinkedIn and there’s about 6,000 on Twitter. There’s a couple hundred on Instagram and Facebook. And yet I also have to acknowledge that I could do a better job getting them to connect and to spark conversation and spark connection. I think my friend Mark Schaefer is spot on when he talks about the revolutionary role of community in your company’s marketing. And since I’m talking about what I’ve learned over the last 11 years, I still think I have lots to learn here. I think this is an area where we can improve, where I can improve, where the company can improve. And I’m going to be very honest. I’m going to share anything I learn with you here or on the blog or in any of the other places.

Again, I welcome anything you can share with me. Feel free to send me some advice and to send me some additional things. Or come on the show. We’ll have a conversation about it.

Defining "Customer Experience"

Now, the last of these is customer experience. And for me, I always say customer experience is queen. And in my world, the king and the queen are equals. They are equally powerful. They are equally important. But customer experience is the sum of all the interactions customers have with your company and with your content and with your community. Customer service is what they remember after each interaction, whether that interaction was physical, whether that interaction was digital, whether that interaction was with content or community or a customer experience professional on your team. Customer experience is what encourages customers to buy. Customer experiences is what encourages them to stay. It’s what encourages them to want to bring others to the brand, to the community, to—dare I say it—the family over time. It’s what brings the entire essence of your brand to life for them.

Why Customer Experience is Queen

And the reason that this is the third pillar, and the reason it’s so important, and the reason that I say "customer experience is queen" is because you can have the best content in the world, but if you don’t deliver on customer experience, they’re going to think that your content is lying to them. And if you don’t have a great customer experience, however it’s defined for the customer, you can’t build a meaningful community.

How Content, Community, and Customer Experience Work Together

These three play a key role in working together. They play a key role in terms of how you support your customers’ needs at wherever they are in their buyer’s journey, wherever they are in their customer life cycle. So, that they can say, "Yes, this is a business that I want to do business with. This is a brand that I trust and respect and want to share with people. This is a community that I wish I were part of and I want to be part of." And it’s okay if their level of commitment to the community, their level of commitment to your brand, changes at different times.

Building Relationships With Customers Can Take Time

I didn’t get married after my first date… and neither did my wife, right? We got to know each other over time, and the relationship deepened. You very rarely hire an employee after the first time you talk with them, and you very rarely value a brand deeply after the very first time you interact with it.

Does it ever happen? Is there the thunderbolt? Is there love at first sight? Sure. Of course there is. Is that what normally happens for most people most of the time? No.

Now, for some brands you can try to be one of those brands. And I think it’s a great thing to aspire to. It’s also completely reasonable to say, "Hey, you know what? This first time we’re just going to go out for coffee. We’re just going to get to know each other a little bit. And over time we might want to deepen this relationship and go a little further and go a little further before we decide to buy a house and have a whole bunch of kids."

There’s nothing wrong with that, right? And lots and lots of successful businesses have done that. What they’ve also done is made sure that they weren’t a dick when they went out to get coffee for the first time, right? They were decent human beings. They treated the other person with respect. They treated the other person with kindness. They looked out for the best interests of the other person, which made that other person say, "Hey, you know what? I’d like to go for coffee again, or maybe dinner this time, or maybe dancing, or maybe take the relationship further." And that is entirely fair.

Key Questions Around Content, Community, and Customer Experience

So, all this is fun, when we talk about content and we talk about community and we talk about customer experience as these three pillars that you use to build your brand, but they lead to the big question of, what do you with this? What do you do for your brand, for your business, so that you can do the right things to connect with your customers over time?

And I think there’s a series of questions you need to ask:

  • And the first is, who is the editor-in-chief for your brand? Who sets the tone for what you’re all about? Who guides the messages and determines what is part of your brand’s story? It’s probably the CMO, but you need to think about, is the CMO fulfilling that role? And it doesn’t mean that they have to do it. They can have someone on their team do it, but somebody has to step up to that role.
  • You also want to think about, who’s in your community? Who is helping you nurture that community to drive success, not only for your business, but for the members of the community? Because that’s what’s going to make them want to come back, that they have a stake in this as well. They have skin in the game.
  • And of course, how effective is your customer service? Does your content support your customer at every stage of his or her journey? Does your community welcome and nurture new members? Do each of those touch points make customers feel welcome and heard and understood? Do they make customers want to come back to join the community, to participate actively and to contribute to something bigger? Do your actions as a company offer something larger that people want to invest some of themselves into?

Conclusion: Where Content, Community, and Customer Experience Meet

I will tell you, there’s parts of this where I feel like we’re doing a really good job, and there’s parts of it where I feel like we have work to do. It’s always a work in progress. That’s undoubtedly something else I’ve learned. You’re never done. It’s never over. You want to keep building and improving over time. And when you do that, you’ll probably have a really good story to tell 10 years down the road or 11 years down the road about what you’ve learned and how it sets you up for the next 10 years—or 11 years still.

Show Outro

Now, looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week. I, as ever, want to remind you that you can find the show notes for today’s episode, as well as an archive of all past episodes, by going to timpeter.com/podcast. Again, that’s timpeter.com/podcast. Just look for episode 346.

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Sponsor Message: SoloSegment

I’d like to take a moment to thank our sponsor. Thinks Out Loud is brought to you by SoloSegment. SoloSegment provides search as a service to help customers of large enterprises find the content they need. Use SoloSegment to power your search result with a product that focuses on business results and helps your customer find the content that matters to them. SoloSegment does this using artificial intelligence, machine learning, and a host of other really cool tech while protecting customer privacy and improving your business results. You can learn more about SoloSegment and all of the fantastic work that they do by going to solosegment.com. Again, that’s solosegment.com.

Show Outro

Finally, as I said at the beginning of the show, I really want to let you know how much I appreciate you listening every single week. Time is the most valuable asset you have. That’s a lesson that we all need to learn again and again, and gosh knows I do all the time. So, it means so very much to me that you take a little bit of time out of your very, very valuable week and your very, very valuable day to listen to Thinks Out Loud. It means more to me than I could possibly say, and I just wouldn’t do the show if it wasn’t for you. So, with that said, I hope you have a great rest of the week. I hope you have an amazing weekend. And I’ll look forward to speaking with you here on Thinks Out Loud next time. Until then, please be well, be safe and as always, take care, everybody.

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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