Last Updated: April 8, 2019 7:24AM
This post was originally published on Mar Tech Advisor and is republished here with permission.
These days, you can’t hop on the subway or walk down the street without seeing someone talking to their phone. No, I don’t mean talking on it, I mean to it.
Voice-activated devices are the new browser. More than a quarter of U.S. adults have access to a smart speaker, plus voice activation is available in smartphones, TVs, cars and more.
And people aren’t just asking about the weather or telling a device to play music. About half of the people who use voice search are looking for product information. This opens the door to make voice search — and conversational marketing along with it — a key part of your company’s marketing platform.
Fueling the voice search revolution
Voice search and conversational marketing are driven by tech change, consumer change and behavior change.
- Tech change: Voice-activated devices are the fastest growing type of device in history. With voice being integrated in everything from TV remotes to cars, we no longer are buying voice-activated devices, instead, we’re buying devices that come with voice capabilities already embedded.
- Consumer change: There’s a strong disposition among younger people that think of all interactions with technology as a conversation. Half the current U.S. workforce only knows of an adult life where Google exists, and a conversation with a search engine is the primary way they get information.
- Behavior change: Add to those two trends, the fact that customer’s expectations for instantaneous, high quality branded experiences have never been higher. And with B2B buyers increasingly behaving like B2C customers, everyone expects responses from brands that are as fast and thorough as the answers they get from Siri or Alexa.
Yet, information dearth and information overload are both bad for decision making. As consumers, we have more possible content engagement moments than any of us can possibly make sense of. Conversational marketing and voice search can help us cut through that overload.
Capitalizing on the voice search revolution
Companies shouldn’t fear this conversational revolution. After all, when done well, marketing and sales have always been a conversation. The pace has just accelerated. When email entered the scene, expected customer service response time went from weeks to hours. Now, voice search and conversational marketing will help move response time from hours to near time or real time.
When a buyer is in inquiry mode, you have a window into a receptive part of their brain. The company that can give that buyer the quickest personalized response has an advantage. The challenge is being able to do that at scale.
Conversational marketing tools are one way to reach the masses. The sales cycle for a large B2B purchase can now take weeks instead of months thanks to the ability to engage the right people at the right time.
Tools like these aren’t the beginning, though. As with everything in marketing, it’s the strategy, not the tools, that set you apart. I see two key steps in preparing for a voice-search world.
Step 1: Lay the foundation.
Web text search should already be driving your company’s web strategy – what you say and when, where and how you say it. You need to consider, “What do people ask about and how do they ask it?” and then create content and interactions to match what they are seeking. Your data and materials need to be structured correctly to play their role in the conversation. If you haven’t accomplished that, you aren’t ready for voice search.
Step 2: Acknowledge the differences between text and voice search.
For example, you might type “Boston weather” but say “Is it going to rain in Boston today?” Although these have the same search intent, they are different experiences that require different answers. Similarly, marketers must understand how people will ask things about their businesses via voice and how they want to be responded to. You can analyze your Search Console data to find phrases that look more like speech than text to spot areas where people are already arriving to you via voice search and primed for further conversation. And don’t forget language – many people speak more than one language, but never formally study their formal structures. That means they might only make English queries when they are typing, for example, but use another spoken language when using voice devices.
When you’re in conversational engagement mode, whether it’s via a chatbot or voice-activated device or some other tools, think about how you can respond in a way that is fluid. How can you interact with people in your marketplace a real-time or near-real-time conversation? How can you set yourself up for that conversation to be successful?
By considering the above, embracing conversational engagement and voice search will enable your marketing operation to evolve along with your customers.