As 360i CEO Jared Belsky likes to say, "This revolution won't be televised ... it will be voiced."
But as seriously as his agency thinks marketers should take voice, Belsky says a lot of brands are biding their time to navigate the tricky landscape until the terrain is a little more established.
That's probably not smart.
"A lot of marketers are actually sitting on the sidelines because it's not yet so obvious how to monetize it," he says. "If marketers sit on the sidelines until it has matured, it will have passed them by … CMOs cannot afford to sit on the sidelines … We're trying to encourage brands to get into voice and start playing and experimenting."
To help brands and their partners know how how to wade through a voice strategy, 360i this week released a voice playbook, which it deems "The Definitive Marketer's Guide to Voice." We picked out a few things you might not know about getting started with voice.
The 360i folks say the first iteration of voice skills or apps get rejected by Apple and Amazon every time. And it can be tough to figure out why.
"Submitting updates to Google/Amazon early and often will save you headaches deeper in the process," the guide says. "When your app is rejected—and your app will be rejected—you can't rely on the app reviewer to tell you why."
"Be iterative," Belsky says, submitting in small chunks so it's easier to tell which part needs to be revised. Also, marketers shouldn't wait until the last minute to submit an app. 360i says feedback on a first submission may take weeks, but re-submissions tend to come back more quickly.
Navigating the world of voice is a little easier with the help of some experts. 360i's team identified 11 roles to consider when hiring for a voice team—positions like "SEO content developer," "monetized partnership manager," "voice user interface designer" and "data scientist and machine learning expert" (to focus on natural language understanding).
But let's be real: Getting the go-ahead for 11 hires isn't feasible for many companies. Belsky says the agency is seeing clients who make one or two hires to start and supplementing with agency help.
"It's like social marketing in 2007—the talent pool is very shallow," he says. But there are likely employees within a marketer's own walls who have a natural interest in experimenting with the new technologies. Marketers should look there first when building a team.
Getting a voice app up and running is an involved process that involves making a strategy, designing how the experience will work, then can involve voice recording, re-recording, then weeks of stress testing, re-recording and quality assurance. It's no simple feat.
"I think marketers have to understand, you can't just take your web assets or mobile assets and move them over to voice," Belsky says. The new ecosystem requires specialization and a unique strategy and determining a brand's own tone of voice.
Every time a consumer interacts with a voice assistant, its pool of knowledge about that consumer grows —and "she will never forget what she learns," the guide says.
So whether that's a consumer's preference for a certain restaurant or brand of detergent, the artificial intelligence uses that data to inform every next piece of information it provides a user, and makes it harder for other brands to enter the consideration set, 360i says.
Belsky says that marketers familiar with search know that winning the first few spots in results is particularly powerful. In voice, it might just be the first spot that matters.
"In voice, it's like Ricky Bobby: You're either first or you're last," he says. "There's no second-place trophy, there's no third-place ribbon … If you're second, you're invisible."
Though 360i counts over 30,000 voice skills available, usage for most isn't high.
People find skills on directories or by hearing an "invocation phrase"—something that will open up a voice app like "Alexa, use 'Daily Horoscopes'"—on a commercial or via social media. The guide suggests some guidelines per Google Action best practices, which includes avoiding words that have multiple pronunciations, providing at least 10 invocation phrases for each action and using the platform's microphone to make sure it recognizes your app name.
Other things to consider: Prioritize good customer reviews, keywords and an optimized app description so a skill is prioritized during implicit invocation—basically, make sure an app comes up when asking an open-ended command. For instance, 360i says Jeopardy comes up when a user says, "Alexa, I want to play a game."
Also, 360i suggests thinking of a voice app's invocation phrase as the new "Follow Us on Instagram."