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You may know of marketers suffering from “hot new platform exhaustion”. The disease typically affects members of a marketing team who spend endless hours rearranging content to fit specific platforms. Just as they start to figure things out, something “hot and new” comes with an entirely different set of post criteria, and they need to pivot… again.
This feeling of frustration is understandable. However, the harsh reality that every marketer faces is that we live in a continuous evolution of media consumption. Fueled in large part by new technologies, customer lifestyles are changing rapidly and marketing teams must adapt to keep pace.
There isn’t much validity to the idea that we can sell to a “captive audience” anymore. People listen to pre-selected content while they run, drive, or wash dishes. Viewers choose what shows they want to watch and when they want to watch them. They also tend to play around with their smartphones or tablets whenever things get boring or predictable; if they don’t like what they see or hear, the smartphone comes out and go.
Spending on audio marketing increased from $ 1.1 billion in 2016 to $ 3.09 billion in 2020, according to Statista. That’s almost three times more in four years. Obviously, if your business isn’t currently producing audio content, it’s time to take the plunge.
The successful marketers will be those who prioritize capturing the eardrums while retaining content for their eyeballs.
The four most popular audio content marketing platforms
If your business is relatively new to audio content marketing, there are four basic categories that have gained traction over the past few years.
1. Voice search
If your business has the capacity to invest in just one area of audio content marketing, choose this one. The reason is that the availability of voice search will soon be priority on search engine results pages (SERP) in the same way as Mobile-first website design now receives a significant boost in search rankings.
Sometimes referred to as ‘voice-activated’, voice search allows potential customers to find what you have to offer by making their requests for treatment through Google Voice Search, Amazon Echo, Siri, Cortana and a host of other technology-based technologies. ‘IA.
There is a noticeable difference between written search strings and what people say out loud, so it’s important to optimize your content for voice search.
The word to keep in mind before you jump into the podcasting craze is episodic. You can decide to release a new episode once a month or twice a day, depending on what you can handle, but you need to make a commitment from the start to regular audio production and release schedule.
If you don’t have the resources to commit to a consistent timeline, wait for now.
Best-selling podcasts offer tips, tricks, and interviews, all organized around a topic of common interest. Ideally, any branded podcast will focus on something that fits perfectly with your company’s area of expertise.
Don’t let the word “book” put you off. While audiobooks certainly include works of fiction or non-fiction published aloud in their entirety, the audiobook format is not limited to these. Anything that has been printed or published online– and received enthusiastic attention – has the potential to become an audiobook.
For example, a popular blog could be revamped to offer an audio version of every entry posted. This way, fans are free to listen with headphones instead of being glued to a laptop or forced to watch a smartphone.
4. Audio announcements
Audio ads in the internet age aren’t that different inform the types of announcements you might hear on a radio station. The difference is that running radio ads is roughly the same as taking a ‘shotgun’ approach: you could be able hitting something, while audio content ads can be thought of as a sniper focusing on a specific target.
Audio ads can be restricted to serve specific demographics, geographies, or audiences pre-filtered into groups most likely to be interested in what the advertiser has to say. The format allows companies to produce advertisements that reach the ears of interested listeners, not just the one who might be listening.
Think big, but start small
There really is no reason for businesses to turn away from audio content marketing. Chances are, you already make some form of it whether you know it or not. If you answer customers’ questions verbally, that is audio content marketing. Anytime someone comes to you for your opinion or expertise, that qualifies as well.
A quick tip is to crystallize the things that you hear yourself or your staff say every day and turn them into useful online audio content. Here are seven steps to get you started.
1. Determine the area that needs the most
Many business owners respond to this challenge reflexively with something like “Make more sales.” There is nothing wrong with that, of course; but when it comes to audio content marketing it helps to reverse the focus.
Focus on the greatest identified need of your current and potential customers. Why are they doing business with you in the first place? What questions do they frequently ask? If they decide not to buy your product or service, where was the breaking point in the sales funnel?
Your job is to offer valuable information, make suggestions for overcoming common problems, and have confidence that listeners’ loyalty will translate into future sales.
2. Set a reasonable budget for time, talents and treasures
Just like you would add a line to your monthly budget for print, TV, radio, or other marketing channels, add audio to the mix and assign a dollar value to that place. Include associated staff time, targeted media purchases, and production costs.
Marketing of audio content cannot be relegated to “whenever I find the time”. If you hesitate to invest regularly, ask yourself why.
3. Start with the fruits at hand
Start looking for high quality “found” sound. If your business has produced videos before, you may already have some high-quality audio content. More than a few companies have leveraged their previous investment in branded YouTube channel marketing by exporting audio tracks to other platforms.
Or, if you have a provider that already produces high-quality audio, you can make a deal to repost their content with a header and footer that identifies your business as a trusted local provider.
4. Get out of your head
It’s too easy to succumb to the thought inside the box while you work in a silo. As you move your business toward marketing audio content, take the time to ask others what they think of your industry as a whole, not necessarily your business in particular. Write down comments, questions and ideas from a wide variety of people.
Silent thinking can cause us to immediately dismiss an idea that we have already considered and not listen to what is being said. One way to get around this problem is to invite someone who knows absolutely nothing about your business to come with you for informal conversations and interviews. They might hear things that you would miss.
5. Collect and analyze past objective data to guide future spending
When streaming your audio content in the wilderness of the internet, pay close attention to what works and what does not. Audio content that you think is your “worst effort” could become the most popular.
Schedule regular times to review your website, podcast, and social media analytics with one or more of your top marketers. Decide ahead of time that you are okay with your “best” material that falls flat. Click-through rates can only tell you that someone cared enough about what you said to verify it; they won’t tell you exactly Why.
Adopt, adapt and improve
As you go through the audio marketing process, pay attention to the audio content you meet from other people that you think works well for their niche. Learn what you can from their approach.
When engaging with the comments you receive online, pay attention to the positive and negative responses you receive. Can you change your approach to responding to a legitimate complaint or area of confusion without letting your posts end up on a rabbit trail?
As analytics guides your marketing team to polish and refine, expect you not to hit home runs every time at bat. It’s OK. In the new online market, sincerity trumps finesse. If your audio content stays focused on answering real questions, not setting up bogus questions as promotional tools, your audience will quickly appreciate it and pass it on to others.
More resources on audio content marketing
Six Ways Content Marketers Can Use Audio Marketing
Your new content marketing engine: podcasting
Audio marketing: from radio to clubhouse [Infographic]