August 29, 2017 7:09 pm

Rebecca Murtagh

Natural Speech is Vital to Brands Seeking to Satisfy Search Engines and Customers

Language is the foundation of interaction between humans; and between humans and brands. Exponential growth of smart speakers, digital assistants and voice search, makes it more important than ever for brands to focus on speech that search engines and customers understand.

If you don’t use the same language your audience uses, you just may be talking to yourself or your inner circle.

Brand Communication

Advertising became common in Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece. Political promotional material has been found in the ruins of Arabia and Pompeii. Papyrus, wall, and rock painting has been replaced with tweets, emails and SMS messages. Methods and speed have changed dramatically. There are more mobile devices in the hands of more humans than toothbrushes. In many ways, the way brands approach marketing has changed very little over the years. It is easier and more cost effective for brands to create mass media campaigns, controlled messaging, and scripted communication with customers.

Same as It Ever Was

Unfortunately, for brands, the demands and expectations of customers are outpacing their ability to keep up. Even market leaders like Amazon has experienced negative pushback for its customer service bots when they failed to evolve beyond the first level response. I experienced this myself after I turning to Twitter and tweeted to Amazon’s customer service when I experienced difficulty getting a human on the phone who I could understand. No matter how many times I responded, I kept getting the same response from different “reps”, providing the same link to resolve the issue, which didn’t work…and was why I was trying to escalate the problem to get help. Was I dealing with bad bots or really poor humans? I didn’t matter to me, or the countless others expressing their frustration with similar experiences. Amazon failed to meet expectations of its customers. And, customers are not shy about letting others know when they have a negative experience.

The Crowd is in Control

There will probably always be a place for some mass media messaging. However, in the social economy, broadcasting has been replaced with interactive engagement. Brands no longer control the majority of the message. A brand’s destiny is now heavily influenced by the media, reviews, clicks, shares, recommendations, and even competitors. Whether your business will survive the democratization of the brand depends on how responsive you are the needs and expectations of the crowd – your customers. Stop Talking, Start Listening

Relinquishing control to the people they serve is difficult for some brands. While brands invest resources to design what they will sell and how they wish to sell it, the ultimate control lies in the hands of customers who are seeking the perfect solution, the way they wish to buy it. Brands are learning that either respond to what the customers want or face failure. Or, even worse, watch a competitor fill the need with a better solution.

Answer the Question

When you want to know how to do something new, what do you do?
Most people Google it by asking Google a question.

Searches often begin with a phrase, such as; “how to”, “what is”, “where is”, “the difference between”, etc.

People (customers) are looking for an answer to their question – a solution to their problem.

Search is Much More Than Keywords

Since the late 1990’s I have been helping brands leverage the way search engines work to reach their customers. Most call this SEO (search engine optimization). However, the approach I developed was so different from the way short-sighted hacks worked and talked about SEO that it only appealed to brands who were truly interested in serving their customers (a great client qualifier). While most of the industry convinced brands to chase keywords, I have always emphasized answering the customer’s quest by answering the questions in a way that would help Google, Bing, and social search engines bring customers to their brand and their offer. I explain how this approach should drive the design and creation of website content in my book Million Dollar Websites.

Using natural language may seem like common sense. Yet, it is the exception rather than the rule in the way most brands approach SEO, marketing and sales communication. – Rebecca Murtagh

This approach has always been, and continues to be extremely powerful, and became especially relevant in 2008 when autocomplete became the default search method on Google search, mobile apps and browsers. The practice of completing queries (including #hashtag searches) has since spread across the internet on ecommerce websites like Amazon, social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, Instagram, and just about anywhere a search can be conducted.

The State of Digital Speech in 2017

When smart speaker owners (i.e. Alexa, Google Home, Siri, etc.) were asked what they use their device for most, a study conducted by Pandora and Edison Research found that personal, human-like interactions ranked especially high. Artificial intelligence is what drives the speech Apple, Google, and Amazon use to interact with users, based on mega-collection of voice and language data across their platforms.

Hmm, people prefer to speak to voices that sound like people. No big surprise here. Except, the language brands use is rarely written for the customer, as crazy as it sounds. All too often, brand communication is written to appeal and appease investors, media, competitors, internal management, etc.; rather than customers.

Talking Brands

If someone starts a conversation with you, how should you reply?

Imagine walking on to a car lot, asking a sales person to see a two-door convertible and being pointed in the direction of hundreds of cars to find your own way. Or, worse yet, being forced to listen to the salesperson’s spiel about the dealership’s history, manufacturer warranties, dealer hours, and service department specials before even getting close to the car you are searching for.

This is the experience your customers have if your website is not only search engine-friendly, but speech friendly. Search is just one mechanism that will utilize speech. However, it is likely the most common speech-centric action that connects brands with customers at this stage in the game.

Speech and Search

Answers are not merely a connection of possible results. Artificial Intelligence is turning data into real answers. Google now uses neural networks and deep learning to create “sentence compression algorithms” understand and respond to natural speech. Why is this so important?

Voice recognition accuracy is around 95% and continues to improve.

20% of mobile search queries in 2016 were conducted by voice.

70% of queries to Google’s assistant (Google Home) are made in natural or conversational language.

Takeaway: Everyday language is the most powerful way to connect a customer with a solution.

Digital Domination

The digital experience is the customer experience. It is not a pre-cursor to what will happen when a customer arrives on your doorstep. It how well you can communicate at that very first point of contact may very well determine whether you will advance to the next level of engagement with your brand.

Digital Commerce is growing for both retail and B2B (business to business). U.S. e-commerce sales grew 16.3% during Q2 2017, and Amazon was responsible for nearly half of that growth according to the U.S. Commerce Department. Investment in B2B Ecommerce are expected to reach $1.1 Trillion by 2019, which will be double that of B2C at $480B, according to Forrester. Bottom line, just about every type of business transaction has an online component.

What it All Means to Your Business

Question: What do recent trends in ecommerce and search technology mean for your business?

Answer: More of every phase of the sales process will take place online, 24/7, creating a greater demand more human-like engagement.

You must be willing to have a conversation that meets the need of your customer.

Speak the Language

Want to appear more often in search results, grow market share and increase sales? Recognize that you win each customer individually. Consumers don’t make a research a purchase decision as a group, they begin as an individual, seeking a solution, the way they want it, when they need it, (what Google calls Micro-Moments).

One of the most powerful things you can do to improve performance of your website, social media, and other channels to support marketing and sales is to speak the language your customers are speaking. This often means letting go of industry jargon and focusing on how you best solve a problem. In other words,

So, when you begin planning user experience, lead generation, website design, content, bots, Q&A, customer service scripts, or any interface with your customer, think of how you would like to be engaged…that just may be the most effective way to go.

About the Author

Rebecca Murtagh: Human First Futurist, CEO & Founder of Human AI Institute, winner of the Inc. Magazine Power Partner Award.

Rebecca leverages decades of experience working with Fortune 500, Silicon Valley, Wall Street, Mains Street, global brands and startup entrepreneurs to help executives, their teams, and entrepreneurs leverage their genius through Human AI to improve productivity, collaboration, creativity and job satisfaction for optimum performance and long-term success.

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