fountain in Millenium Park, Chicago with resident's faces projected on it
PHOTO: Max Talbot-Minkin

Despite being professional communicators, marketers could often use a lesson in talking to people. It’s a lesson we might learn from robots.

“Hey Google, how can you teach me to communicate more like a human?”

2020: The Year of the Virtual Voice Assistant?

This year looks to be the year of the virtual voice assistant. As we head into 2020, voice technologies like Siri and Alexa are not only a part of more than 100 million Americans’ daily lives, but also key players in the new digital experiences marketers are racing to design. From a marketer’s perspective, these AI-powered chatbots and the devices they come packaged in are a dream: easy to understand, fast and incredibly useful for people across all kinds of different demographics.

These are intensely personal machines that create a strong bond with the people who use them. Take a look at how children use Alexa and one can only imagine what those interactions will look like 30 years down the road when the technology is fully realized and those kids have been using voice assistants for decades.

It’s perhaps a little too techno-utopian (and maybe dystopian) to say that people will have relationships with voice assistants akin to friendships, but people will certainly communicate with them like they would friends — in familiar, informal back-and-forth conversations, something marketers should strive to attain.

Related Article: Calling All Linguists: The Messaging Bots Need Your Help

Storytelling Is Just as Important as Data Analysis

Marketers have spent the last handful of years laser-focused on listening to their audiences and engaging them in regular, ongoing dialogues, but still haven’t mastered the art of communicating with customers that way. The way we structure conversational content should feel unrehearsed and natural, which it still too often doesn’t. Voice assistants remove all the barriers between requests and responses, heading directly into meaningful, useful interactions rather than into a funnel or ending up at an email help desk.

With marketing’s turn toward data-driven performance and analytics, we sometimes forget that the core purpose of our job is talking to humans. The connections we strive to make with customers and potential customers rely on us going out of our way to captivate, excite and surprise our audiences. It means being as much of a storyteller as they are a data analyst.

Good storytelling (and good marketing) is all about the concept of “show don’t tell.” We’re no longer aggressively pitching our products and trying to convince people to buy them. Instead, we’re working to build trust and establish some understanding about who those customers are so we can give them something valuable. The messages, content, ads and everything else we work so hard to send to people are neutered if we don’t communicate them in a human way.

This is where we can take a lesson from those Alexa and Google Home devices sitting on our counters: Make every interaction useful. Ditch the jargon. Communicate like a human.

Your customers will thank you for it.

Related Article: Build Your Customer Experience Strategy Around Customer Communication