The use case for voice technology in B2B marketing is a bit of a grey area. Molly Raycraft discusses her recent findings on the topic, and provides four key points to take note of. (Plus, she reveals all in a brand new podcast)
A few weeks ago I wrote
about voice technology in B2B. And to be honest, I didn’t expect it to be a big hit – for a lot of B2B marketers voice isn’t exactly a priority beyond launching a branded podcast series.
But I was wrong.
Like us here at B2B Marketing, marketers have intrigue and perhaps confusion around how voice tech could work in B2B. One of these inquisitive minds was Tech Demand Weekly, who invited me to chat on its podcast about how we can translate voice tech in B2C into B2B, and the future role it plays for marketing.
You can listen to the full discussion here:
4 takeaways from the discussion on voice tech
1. Most businesses should focus on software, not hardware
The infrastructure of voice tech is already here in the form of Amazon’s Echo, Google’s Google Home, and Apple’s HomePod. So you only need to consider developing voice tech hardware if you’re a company looking to compete. As it happens, a company that has decided to take on these brands is
. The telecoms company announced its ‘Galaxy Home’ smart speaker last year, and it’s set to arrive on shelves this fall.
For the majority of B2B businesses, the focus is very much going to be on the software side of things. That means creating content that can be accessed via a smart speaker. At this stage, that most likely means translating your product into an audio format.
SAP has done this with its
Business ByDesign skill on Alexa
; SAP users can vocally instruct its smart speaker to pull customer stats from their system, and then schedule engagement with that customer – essentially the speaker acts as a PA.
Salesforce is also doing something similar
, with the launch of its voice CRM anticipated this year.
2. The difference between B2B and B2C is BIG
Smart speakers have first and foremost been targeted at the consumer. This has contributed to the confusion of voice technology’s place in B2B. The role of smart speakers in B2C is a lot easier to see. The B2C market has also had more time to develop their voice tech marketing, with a justifiable demand from the audience.
One major difference in the maturity levels between B2B and B2C is creativity. B2C brands have got to a stage where they’re creating specific Alexa skills with the aim of adding extra value as well as just reiterating their manual product.
One of these is Hippo Insurance, a home insurance company that gives customers the option to play long conversations out loud while out the house. The fun part of this is that you can choose the conversations your neighbours and any thieves assessing the area hear. These options range from relationship arguments to emergency PTA meetings.
American detergent company, Tide, also provides advice for 200 stains, so you can listen to verbal instructions as you’re trying to wipe off the red wine you’ve spilt on your cream rug. These don’t necessarily lead to direct sales but definitely put the brand front of mind.
We’ve seen a few B2B brands start to break through on this more creative front with voice technology. Most of these brands have B2C arms, which doesn’t seem like a coincidence. Vistaprint – whose target audience predominantly consists of small business owners – is one of them. The printing company created a flash briefing for Alexa where small business owners can listen to a marketing tip every morning.
Vodafone has also just launched a skill for Alexa with the help of B2B agency of the year, Earnest
. The capability also allows for flash briefings, this time giving updates on the developments of 5G.
3. Your products should be voice tech accessible anyway
There is a massive problem with
accessibility in marketing
. Content is just not accessible, and most brands don’t even realise it. Unquestionably the standard should be that you have either vocalised your product, or at least designed your website content to work with text-to-speech systems. So while you may have aspirations of doing something futuristic and ground-breaking with voice tech, make sure you’ve got the basics covered. This could even be as simple as filling in a proper description in the ‘alt text’ box on website images.
Robin Christopherson, head of digital inclusion at AbilityNet uses a text-to-speech system to access content. During
he told me he currently couldn’t access nine out of 10 websites because text-to-speech voice technology hadn’t been taken into consideration in the development process.
B2B tech copywriting agency Radix Communications
gives a great example of how effective it can be to simply repurpose what you have into audio in order to increase its accessibility. As part of
its podcast ‘Good Copy, Bad Copy’
, the agency has been experimenting with reading its blogs aloud. This makes the content more accessible to those who potentially have a visual impairment, as well as those who are on the go and can’t sit down to read.
4. Voice tech is not about to take over marketing as we know it
So the big question: Do we need to prepare our marketing teams for a voice tech transformation?
No, absolutely not. It’s unlikely to develop at the speed the vendors say it will. Siri is a prime example; we use it from time-to-time, but it has not killed off text. Similarly, I think audio and voice tech will be seen as an added channel rather than making the written word obsolete. It will simply seep into what we already do.
And remember – the demand from your target audience has to be there for voice tech to work for you. If you’re targeting hip progressive agencies, then yes voice tech might be worth experimenting with. But if you’re targeting lawyers – who do not have smart speakers for
– it’s probably best to stick to creating the legal podcasts for the commute home.
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