Voice marketing

The real challenge of voice is for marketers to actually put the customer first

Get ready, because voice activation is about to change (nearly) everything about how brands connect with audiences.

In the world of marketing, we always talk about being customer-centric, or putting the customer first or designing for the customer experience, etc. A “customer focus” features in every brief clients present to their agencies and in every marketing huddle in every organization all across the world.

And yet, when you look at completed work, it’s very rarely a central focus.

Why? Because the way marketers work isn’t designed to be customer-centric. Customers usually aren’t at the table when we’re making decisions. Instead we get bogged down in reviews and approvals and versions from many different people with competing priorities, egos, pressure and deadlines – none of whom can offer the same insight as the user for whom we’re designing.

Voice is a significant marketing trend because it’s unapologetically about putting the customer’s experience first. If you don’t, you’re excluded from that experience. Full stop.

In a world of growing choice and information overload, the concept behind voice is about simplification. The user asks a question and they get an answer. Unlike with search results on a screen, there’s no selection to sift through, which means only brands that provide the most relevant information will be rewarded. If you want to be the leader in your category and among your target audiences, you have to offer the best answer for your customers.

In other words? You have to nail the customer experience through and through.

Of course, text-based Google isn’t going anywhere. Nor are the rest of the tactics in our marketing toolbox. So it’s certainly not voice or die, but as the quick uptake is already proving, it’s going to be a monumental shift not just in how people search, but in how marketers design their campaigns – from the ground up.

It’s also significant because it’s not just another tactic. Like with social media, it’s a fundamental change in the way people communicate (which, let’s be honest, many brands have still NOT figured out social). That means, when it comes to search at least, it’s time to spend less time on traditional keyword optimization and more time thinking about the actual questions people ask – the sorts of context and phrases that go into their searches.

From a brand perspective, it also puts an interesting twist on the “if your brand was a person, what would he/she be like” question because voice is an opportunity to personify your brand a little more clearly. Some are even taking this a step further and actually developing an avatar to pair with the voice. Think of it this way: Voice is like a personal concierge that acts as the brand’s representative when interacting with the user. It forces you to ask the question: What sorts of experience would my brand provide if it were with someone every step of the day?

If there ever was a bandwagon to jump on, voice is probably it. It’s the answer to information overload and analysis paralysis. And like any trend, the sooner you get into it, the easier it is to succeed. But best of all, it will force your brand to overcome the deeply-held strategies and tactics that prevent it from putting the customer first.

So, what are you waiting for? The time to find your voice is now.

Kelly Rusk is Digital Director and a Partner at Banfield. 

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