Content: A Banquet Best Served Warm

The Content Banquet

Imagine you’re invited to a lavish banquet, promised delicacies by a persuasive friend. You protest that you have other plans, but he won’t take “no” for an answer. Once you arrive, you are seated at an elegant table. You wait patiently for hours, but no one comes. Finally, you get up and wander toward an inviting but elusive aroma. As you approach the kitchen, you hear laughter through the door. Breathless, you grasp the doorknob and turn, to find, to your frustration, that the lock is bolted. No amount of pounding grants you access. Exasperated, you stomp toward the exit, furious at the “bait and switch.”

This is exactly how I can feel during the transition from “prospect” to “customer.” Very recently, I found myself tantalized by an effective marketing campaign. The promise was delicious. The salesman was as dapper as Lumiere, the singing candle from “Beauty and the Beast.” He sang to me, “Be Our Guest”. Sounded good to me. I signed up for the service, paid, and took my comfortable seat. The trouble started when I began to look for the FOOD. In my case, the food was content: answers to questions about how to use the product. There would be no food for me. It wasn’t that they’d misplaced it: they were deliberately hiding it. My host had locked the answers away, just beyond my reach.

You see companies spend millions on marketing campaigns to inspire prospects to make initial contact. They pay out millions more in post-sale commissions for a job well done closing the deal before quarter-end. Why is it, then, that once the customer signs the PO and completes licensing and installation, they find that the company now deliberately avoids them? The same companies that court prospects are hiding from customers. Why else would customer service bury their 800 number in fine print in the capillaries of their site map? Why else would support agents hide behind a Minotaur’s labyrinth of IVRU choices?

If it’s intentional, it’s ridiculous. But if it’s an accident, then it’s preventable. And we content strategists and technical writers can do something about it. I say we take some action and bring the content right to the customers. I aim to get the food from the kitchen directly to the table. That’s why I’m making it my mission to take my technical documentation and optimize it for self-service support. As a content creator, I’ve worked too hard cooking this meal to watch it go to waste. There’s a hungry customer out there and I’ve got the food.

If any of you have success stories around how you got the content out of the kitchen and onto the plates, I welcome them with a hearty cheer. For more thoughts on the matter, please take a look at Content Strategy for Foodies from Sarah O’Keefe. You’ll leave well-fed!

5 Responses to “Content: A Banquet Best Served Warm”

  1. Some good points in that post, Tristan. One way i have been serving up warm content is via Robohelp AIRHelp. My team is very happy to have an upto date Knowledge Base. Issues that one must confront stem in part from Corp “gate keepers” who hoard info, even help info, lol


    • Interesting. Over the years, I’ve definitely encountered skilled workers who elect not to share their expertise formally, in order to remain “indispensable”. This was a short-sighted strategy, however, that seldom served anyone well. Knowledge that can help customers is meant to be shared, not shrouded in secrecy. Glad to see your customers are getting fed!

  2. Nice blog Tristan.

    I had a similar experience with an SEO strategy course. I was actually sold and was attempting to sign up before the “deadline” after listening to a very convincing webinar full of good information from a female that came across as not hyping which I liked. But I couldn’t find the price of the course without being forced to wade through pages of video pitches. An email sent me to a help center for existing customers. Three open tweets were ignored. I finally chucked the whole thing.

    I visited your blog to check what the KM in your twitter bio stood for. Must be Knowledge Management.
    Thanks for the RT!


    • Amazing, isn’t it? Classic bait and switch. It won’t work on today’s empowered and vocal customers. I’m happy to be part of an organization that cares deeply about the people we serve.

      It’s great to be connected to you. Hope to see you at a #custserv chat soon.


  1. Systems Documentation, Inc. - December 20, 2010

    What I learned in 2010…

%d bloggers like this: