What is a marketer to do? –

Art: Morning Sounds (2015) by Nobuko Sugio

With the rapid growth of podcasting, the rapid emergence of smart speakers and earbuds, and the bursting into the scene of social audio, we can now safely declare that audio has arrived as a digital channel in its own right. But becoming aware of a disruption, a pattern, or something new that does not neatly fit into an existing mix of activities, is nothing more than the first step towards keeping up with a moving world. The next step is taking action and answering humankind’s favorite question: What is to be done?

For Marketing Experts, this two step dance is not an unfamiliar one. Some practicing Marketers — many of them now in senior positions — have seen this movie multiple times over: the arrival of the Web, then that of cell phones and texting, then that of smartphones and mobile apps, followed quickly by tablets, then the emergence of social, and in the last few years, the rapid mainstreaming of voice and audio.

And so, now that audio has passed the No-This-Is-Not-A-Fad test, what concrete actions should a marketer take to begin embracing this powerful medium that has indeed gone mainstream?

Since I’m a big believer in the Minimal Viable Product (MVP) philosophy when it comes to innovation, I would like to propose to Marketing experts out there the following concrete initiatives that they can take, with minimal risk and minimal disruption, to their already overflowing workload plate.

Audio-Enable your Website
According to a recently published study by Polaris Market Research, the global true wireless earbuds market size is expected to reach USD 14.51 billion by 2028 and to register a CAGR of 14.4% from 2021-2028. For the digital marketer, this should signal a very important thing: People are going to listen to a lot more and read a lot less than before.

More specifically, when someone wants to find out about what you do and they are mobile and have their earbuds on, which would they rather do: scroll up and down a tiny screen read tiny text, and click on tiny links to understand what you do , or would they rather listen to a quick sound bite that will cut to the chase and give them the bottom line or, if they can, give a quick listen to what you have to say?

More concretely, imagine this: a prospect is mobile and is in the market for a service that you can fulfill. Your SEO team has done their job and they got you to the first page on Google search. The prospect clicks on the link that was surfaced and is taken to the page that describes the product or service they were searching for. There, they see a button that they can click on to hear what you do and below that button they see the usual thicket of text and images. They do a quick scan, determine that you pass the smell test, and are intrigued by this “Listen!” button. They click on it and they listen to 60 seconds of audio spoken to them by a nice person’s voice telling them exactly what they wanted to hear. The future, I think, will probably be something along those lines.

Publish A Weekly Microcast
Here’s another easy one: You have a blog that you make sure you publish on regularly and whose posts your team crafts carefully to deliver maximum SEO bang for your precious Marketing dollars. Why not repurpose those very blog posts and create an audio version of them that you can publish and make available to millions of people in all of the major podcasting platforms, in addition to the voice assistant platform of Amazon Echo and Google Assistant?

Publish A Monthly Multicast
You have customers, partners, staff, who care about your company and are engaged with it in very interesting ways. Let all these stakeholders be the voice of your company. Engage them. For example, publish on a weekly basis on your social media a “Question of the Week” and give your followers a link to a page where they can answer that question using their own voice. Then collect those audios and publish the best answers once a month as a podcast, distributed on all of the major podcasting platforms, in addition to the voice assistant platform of Amazon Echo and Google Assistant.

Publish Audio Testimonials
You have customers who are fans of your products and services. You have partners who love working with you. Why not give them a chance to tell the world how much they value you? Send them a link to a page where they can record their audio testimonial using their own voice. You can then publish on your website the ones you like best. People visiting your website will be impressed by two things: (1) That there are so many people who are so happy with your products and services that they are willing to put their mouth where their money is and (2) That, by virtue of Using this nifty new thing called “Audio Testimonials,” you are the sort of company that is creative and on top of the latest innovations in technology.

Audio-Enable Your Team Member Bios
Another easy, actionable low hanging fruit is giving voice to the team members that make the trains of your company run on time. Instead of the usual picture and some text that all companies publish for their staff, why not, yes, a picture and some text, but also a short snippet of 30-60 seconds or so of the team members talking about who they are and what they do?

Audio is not video minus sound. Audio is a medium in its own right and needs to be respected and embraced on its own terms. It presents a real opportunity to deliver meaningful value to end users and to the businesses that will take the time to add it to their marketing and communications mix. These are still early days — and early days mean the time to be creative, inventive, and willing to open possibilities that are up to us to open.

Dr. Ahmed Bouzid, is CEO of Witlingo, a McLean, Virginia, based startup that builds products and solutions that enable brands to engage with their clients and prospects using voice, audio, and conversational AI. Prior to Witlingo, Dr. Bouzid was Head of Alexa’s Smart Home Product at Amazon and VP of Product and Innovation at Angel.com. Dr. Bouzid holds 12 patents in the Speech Recognition and Natural Language Processing field and was recognized as a “Speech Luminary” by Speech Technology Magazine and as one of the Top 11 Speech Technologists by Voicebot.ai. He is also an Open Voice Network Ambassador, heading their Social Audio initiative, and author at Opus Research. Some of his articles and media appearances by him can be found here and here. His new book, The Elements of Voice First Style, co-authored with Dr. Weiye Ma, is slated to be released by O’Reilly Media in early 2022.

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