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If you’re a business owner, you’re likely to have one of two reactions to this: either (you're thinking):
- "It’s too early to bet any significant portion of my marketing budget on voice," or,
- "Now is the time to double-down on my voice initiatives and win the race for my brand."
I recently attended Vayner Media’s VoiceCon (on the future of voice and digital audio, including AI) with a handful of my leadership team. There was plenty of pomp and circumstance, fluff and encouragement for everyone in attendance.
But me -- I’m a tactical person. Of all the speeches, presentations and rah-rah sessions, the thing that stood out is that there wasn’t a ton of actionable advice regarding what brands can do right now. A lot of the information we’re getting is speculative at this point.
Fear not, however: There arespecific actions entrepreneurs can take right now to be active now, when we're on the frontier of voice. Here’s where to start:
Dive in to sonic branding.
Sonic branding is nothing new. Go back to the early days of radio and television and you’ll find examples of it from Twentieth Century Fox (the music that heralded each new movie from that studio), the NBC chimes and the roar of the Metro Goldwyn Mayer lion.
The thing you’ll notice about all of them is that they aren’t songs, and they aren’t jingles with catchy lyrics -- they’re sounds and tones that are directly and almost universally recognized as a brand. The message is that when you’re looking to make yourself audibly recognizable, you shouldn't concentrate on words or taglines or think about musical composition.
Instead, find something simple yet unique that can accompany every audio advertisement that you plan on inserting into your ads, on Spotify, Pandora or any podcasts your brand deems a good fit for reaching your audience.
Consistency is key.
Today, only 16 percent of Americans own a smart speaker ... around 39 million people. But that number is 128 percent higher than it was in January 2017. Voice is taking over more and more of the search market, and the time to optimize your strategy to leverage it isn’t going to be when it reaches 50 percent in 2020 -- it’s right now.
This isn’t an online search engine I'm talking about. It isn’t a medium where consumers can look at different sources to find information about your brand. It's a channel where the in-home assistant is going to present one result that people are going to listen to, so the AI used by your assistant has to know that the information it presents is 100 percent accurate.
If there’s conflicting information about your hours, address, phone number, email or point of contact between multiple different platforms, you’re going to rank low on the totem pole of results and your brand will be largely ignored by voice-search results.
You need to be utterly thorough and consistent across every social channel, every review-based site and every single online listing; and you need to be updating the information constantly. Every time you change anything in terms of company listing information, every one of those sites and platforms you’re listed on must be immediately changed and updated to ensure everyone can find you the exact way you want to be found.
Companies like Yext already do exactly that. Yext will allow users to update 75 to 100 listings with a couple of keystrokes. This works twofold: It makes it easy to ensure your information is consistent across all channels, and it allows you to consistently update your listings so that the Google algorithm finds you relevant.
Alexa Skills squatting
For those unfamiliar with Alexa Skills, it’s a function that allows users to download skills to their Alexa device, then get updates and tips every day on that specific skill. There’s a huge opportunity here for agencies, brands and business owners.
Let’s say you own a social media marketing agency. If you create a skill called “Facebook marketing advice,” you have the ability to talk straight to that part of your crowd that subscribes to that skill. All they have to do is say “Alexa, give me an update on Facebook marketing advice” and your voice will pour in to their living room. You'll be able to speak directly to those people, humanizing your relationship with and establishing yourself as an authority on the subject.
That's why the time to own key phrases within skills is now. Get out in front of everyone else, and when voice has reached its potential a few years hence, you won’t be scrounging for what’s left of the terms your audience is searching for. You’ll be the authority.
As I said, voice still has a ways to go before it becomes the ubiquitous solution for search. I have five voice assistants in my office and all five of them give me different answers to the same question, so we aren’t there yet. But, we will be, and sooner than you think.
If you take the preparatory steps above, you’ll be in position to bury your competition before the deadline even approaches.