The Voice Beginner’s Guide For Brands and Companies (EN)

Before you start to think how or what your brand can do on this exciting medium. Invite some experts (like Voicebranding.nl and Conva.ai) to give you the basics of how this medium works, what the possibilities are and go through some use cases of companies that already went through this process and learn from their mistakes. The best way to do this; go and talk to these companies yourself or to attend conferences and meetups (like the Voice Conference and OpenVoice) where use cases and info is explained.

1.  Mindset

If operating as a team leader for a company, make sure your supervisors, CEO’s, whoever is funding and supporting voice-first developments within the company understand it’s a trial and error process. It’s also an ongoing process where you constantly need to analyze your feedback data and adjust your conversation and deploy again. It’s not a project with a start and finish line and you can’t leave the ‘’finished’’ product for it to ‘’do its job’’ after deploying. Gather the right team members and make sure everyone is on the same page.

2.  Solve one problem!

Start Simple. Think about what you can solve for your customer through voice. For companies, it’s sometimes pretty easy to answer, because that is what they are selling, right? But can you sell your product through voice? And I don’t mean bragging about or explaining your product. Rethink how you can help your customers and what they really need from you, that you can give them through voice. Because they don’t need Google telling them a description of how amazing your product or services are. Help them solve an essential thing during their daily routine that saves them time. Use the advantage of voice, because it takes less time compared to typing or emailing.

Another way to think about it is; Which space in their house or activity can you assist to? Would you like to help kids do their homework or help new parents make baby food with healthy recipes? Or help them find out what’s wrong with their car when dashboard lights are blinking?

3. Persona

Because we are dealing with sound and voice, all the visuals are off. If you already have an audio or audible branding strategy for your brand and company, great! But most brands have no clue what their brand sounds like, every video they put online has different types genres of (stock) music, different voice-overs talking to their customers, user interface sound design for their app not matching their sound logo, maybe even having no sound logo at all. Your audio branding strategy is really important and contributes massively to a customers’ brands impression. When visuals are off, who, how and what will represent your brand through audio and voice?

Because of the growth we see in voice-first devices, audible branding is necessary! In 0.5 seconds your customer will judge your brand’s persona. How they talk, formulate sentences, does it sound like the impression they have of your brand? If not, they are confused and unconsciously disappointed and will not ask your brand’s skill, action or app again to help them, especially when they are ‘Impatient Instant Impact Wanting’ millennials.

So here are a few questions you want to think about;

  • What does your brand sound like? Is it male, female? How does it talk? What kind of vocabulary does it have? What is its mood? Corporate, Happy, Joyful, Relaxed? But also think the other way around, what kind of persona your customers want to talk to when you help them? Is the persona that reflects your brand identity the same persona that helps your customers with this specific problem you solve for them? Because maybe you’re focussing on a different demographic than when your advertising on tv?
  • What sound characteristics fit your brand’s identity? Organic, Electronic, Mechanical, Soft, Sweet, Warm? What kind of sounds will confirm and/or compliment your customer’s voice commands and user experience?

The easiest way to do this; is to create a persona with a story that reflects your brand’s values. For example, you are a company called; Autobanden.nl, that sells tires to customers. You are located near each big city nationwide and has auto repair/shops at each location where customers can buy, get advice or get their tires changed. The company’s brands values are; Reliable, Expert, Safe but also Friendly. They are keen to help you drive safely with the right tires for the right season or activity. Their customers are mid 30’s and up, own a car, use the service infrequently and expect safety first.

The brand’s persona’s task is to help and advise them on the right tires for the right car and fit their location weather conditions and driving frequency. It can be quite difficult to decide which tires you need for your car, camper or trailer? Does the model you have in mind fit? Which size wheels does your car have actually? Is there a better alternative? Are they safe enough when there’s ice on the road?

Start writing a biography for the character that fits your brand’s persona and values. For this company I choose the persona to be an employee of the auto shop.

For example;

His name is Casper, he is 38 years old and he is an auto mechanic and works at one of the Autobanden.nl shops. He grew up in a village, just outside of Rotterdam. He is a tall lean built chap with brown hair that starts to get a bit grey. His dad worked at the auto repair shop as well and he learned everything there is to learn about cars from his dad at a young age (which makes him an ‘Expert’ and ‘Reliable’). His mom was a doctor’s assistant at the local general practitioner. His attention to detail and his willingness to help others, he got from his mom (which makes him ‘Safe’ and ‘Friendly’).

All these details determine how your brand’s persona will answer, how deep or maybe a bit higher pitched your brands persona’s voice will be, how your brands persona will react to rude or impatient customers, how your brands persona will react if customers ask something it’s is not built for, how your brands persona will react to jokes, etc. And it also gives you an idea what kind of sounds can confirm a purchase or the given answer. In this case, I would suggest using sounds that people associate with auto repair shops and cars in general and use people’s ability to associate sound to create instant trust and reliability.

4.  Start writing & Testing

After creating a persona you can start with the design of the conversation. During the writing process, test the conversation flow with your team, but also with people outside of your company. Employees or team members already have certain expectations or vocabulary that does not give you an honest reflection of how customers will communicate and interact with your brand’s persona. Fine tune and test it over and over again, till you have a solid conversational design that can truly help, assist or advice your customers.

5.  Start planning

After designing your conversation and persona, start planning. Because not all of the design needs to be developed or produced in detail for the first deployment. Especially, if you have ambitions to extend your conversational design with other related services and other ways to help your customers, you might want to wait with recording a voice and have some feedback, adjust and deploy again with an upgraded or recorded voice that fits your brand’s persona. However sounds like Voice User Interface conformations, achievements, errors, etc. are modular and improve the user experience and customer journey by 83% and are a constant in the conversational design efforts of your company. And don’t forget your sound logo. Use the human sense of association when hearing your brands sound logo. Use it consistently to create trust and reliability!

More information about voice-first audio branding and VUI (voice user interface optimization? Go to www.voicebranding.nl

Written by: Phoebe Ohayon | Partner, Voice Branding.

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