Following is a conversation about marketing innovation with Jeff Janiszewski and Ginger Shimp from SAP, in which they consider the future of audio in marketing.
GINGER: Jeff and I had another great discussion about using audio in marketing on Bonnie D. Graham’s Coffee Break with Game-Changers.
JEFF: Once again, we were on a panel with Pam Didner, author of the book, Effective Sales Enablement, and Kenneth “Shark” Kinney, host of The Shark’s Perspective podcast.
GINGER: Pam brought up some good points about the emergence of “chatbots” and using audio for marketing. In time, with machine learning and voice search engine optimization, we could have all kinds of new marketing tools based on chatbots.
JEFF: Maybe someday. Right now, “Sorry, I don’t know that one,” is pretty much the only thing my chatbot says. But yes, before long, I imagine chatbots are going to go all Star Trek, and I’ll be wandering around in a unitard saying, “Tea – Earl Gray – Hot,” and the bot will actually make it.
GINGER: They didn’t wear unitards on Star Trek. It was more like yoga pants and a polyester shirt.
JEFF: And that’s better how?
GINGER: I don’t know, but the mental image of you in a unitard has completely thrown me off. The point is that I’m thinking of something bigger than Earl Gray tea. What if customers could have actual conversations with a chatbot and not just demand a response from them?
JEFF: I guess programmers are working on that, but right now, it’s just a question-and-answer thing. As far as I know, chatbots can’t actually conceive of and make an extended argument. But if they could, what would be the advantage of a chatbot over a person?
GINGER: Well, in the past, we’ve talked about creating podcasts, like the Game Changers podcast, or Kenneth’s The Shark’s Perspective podcast, or even our own Searching for Salaí podcast, and we’ve also used audio to create other marketing content like audio white papers. But it’s all been unidirectional. We talk to customers and not with them. So, I’m wondering what it would be like if instead of an audio white paper, a prospect could have an extended AI conversation about their issues. How would that change marketing?
JEFF: If it created a more personal experience, that would be great. These are interesting times for marketers. There’s so much information available to customers that it’s quite simple to research, read reviews, and compare products before purchasing. And because businesses can likewise check out their competition, it’s harder than ever to compete on features and benefits, service, or price. That’s why content marketing is so important now. So, assuming these chatbots were capable of a genuine conversation, it would be excellent because it would add a personal touch.
GINGER: What we’re talking about then is an attempt to have an automated one-to-many marketing strategy that feels like a one-to-one marketing strategy to the customer. Theoretically, we could have chatbots available 24/7 that could have a comprehensive, personalized conversation with customers.
JEFF: Theoretically, yes, but it would require a lot of content and a lot of effort to make sure it had the messaging right. But as I mentioned on Coffee Break with Game-Changers, trial-and-error is important in marketing. Instead of thinking about marketing in terms of discreet campaigns or programs, it’s good to think about marketing as an ongoing process. We need to work on the cutting edge and keep asking, “What’s next?”
GINGER: Kenneth sees audio content as the “bright shiny object,” but he doesn’t think it’s a fad. So that may well be the cutting edge. I think audio content will become a standard tactic for all marketers in the coming years. So, what’s next?
JEFF: Well, the good news is that when there is more audio content out there, customers will begin to routinely consume it. The bad news is that we’ll need to have our content stand out in the crowd. I think being an early adopter and learning to perfect audio content will be very helpful.
GINGER: We’ve already learned that it can provide that illusion of one-to-one contact. It can feel very personal, as if it were a casual conversation among good friends. It’s always been the case that audiences will approach any marketing content with individual needs and biases, and then selectively read or listen for the information that’s most pertinent to them, but the audio experience is unique.
JEFF: Yes, an interesting thing happens when we use audio. The listener willingly hands over control of the experience, and the marketer can better manage the tone and pace at which the information is consumed. We can’t necessarily control the environment in which the listener is consuming it, but audio can transport the listener from the outside world and into their own head.
GINGER: Absolutely! If you watch people walking down the street wearing headsets, it’s clear they’re in another world. So, what’s next is perfecting a compelling experience that will transport people.
JEFF: Bonnie asked whether it’s okay to produce audio content on a shoestring budget because it has a more honest, authentic feel, or is it necessary to have highly produced, scripted content?
GINGER: In my opinion, quality beats quantity every time. It’s tempting to do things quickly, but if the audio is garbled or rambles on, no one will listen to it. I’ll frequently add short audio clips from experts when I post content online now, and it might sound like a snippet from some random phone conversation or something, but the truth is I always script those things, with my subject matter expert, to get exactly what I want. It’s show business.
JEFF: Sure. The goal is to effectively put our message across. The truth is that some people are more effective on audio or video than others, and it doesn’t really matter if they are an important executive or a well-known expert. If they can’t perform on camera or behind a mic, the result will be awful. So, I agree, quality beats quantity every time.
GINGER: Hey, maybe if we add an audio clip to this blog we can get Patrick Stewart to play you, and Marina Sirtis can play me.
JEFF: Does that mean I don’t get to wear the unitard?
GINGER: Just stop. Please, just stop.
JEFF: OK. OK. Hey everyone, if you get a chance, check out our podcast and let us know what you think. Thank you for reading!