Gary Vaynerchuk is chairman and CEO of VaynerX, a $150-million-plus media holding agency that includes VaynerMedia and PureWow. He is one of the world’s leading marketing experts and a four-time New York Times bestselling author. After growing his family wine business from $4 million to a $60 million business, he developed and now runs VaynerMedia, one of the world’s hottest digital agencies. Gary is also a prolific angel investor and venture capitalist, investing in companies including Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Uber and Venmo, and cofounding the Vayner/RSE fund, among many other enterprises.
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The following is excerpted from CRUSHING IT! Copyright © 2018 by Gary Vaynerchuk. Reprinted with permission from Harper Business, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Chances are good that most people reading have at least heard of, if not experimented with, all the platforms we have discussed so far in this book. But few of you at the time of this writing are probably sitting around thinking, What’s my Alexa Skill gonna be? And yet you should, because we’re about to talk about a tech innovation that I am absolutely sure will transform how the world consumes content. It’s called VoiceFirst, and anyone currently building a personal brand needs to learn about it fast and early. Its platforms are the equivalent of yet to be discovered Malibu beachfront property, much like Twitter in 2006, Instagram in 2010 and Snapchat in 2012.
I daytrade attention, and lately I am particularly interested by what people pay attention to during the transitions of their day, especially the three that occur in the home: what they do during the first 15 minutes of their morning, the first 15 minutes after they come home from work, and the last 15 minutes before they go to sleep at night. Those are transition periods. They’re the moments when we take stock, get updated, and plan for the next few hours of our lives. We’re busy, so we want to do it fast. There was a time you’d pull out a pen and paper and start a to do list, turn on the radio, or even check an app. Now, though, you don’t even have to do that. All you have to do is talk.
Podcasts fill our brains during the long periods when we’re quiet, such as while we drive or travel. VoiceFirst platforms are going to allow us to fill our brains during all the interstices of our lives, those blips of time that used to be lost to forgettable activities like brushing our teeth, sorting through mail, or even checking our phone notifications.
In 2016, Google revealed that 20 percent of searches on its mobile app and Android devices are done by voice.
That number is only going to rise, fast. And you have an amazing opportunity to make sure your brand rises with this trend.
As of this moment, there are two key players: Amazon Alexa, played through a device called the Echo, and Google Assistant, played through its Google Home device. Microsoft, Apple, Samsung, and others are preparing to make their respective pushes into the space with platforms of their own, but at this time it makes sense to focus only on the big two. I started with Alexa, launching a Flash Briefing Skill called GaryVee365.
A Flash Briefing is a short report offering users a key bit of information.
Mine offers daily motivation from yours truly. The Skimm’s airs its breakdown of the day’s top news stories; eHow’s presents daily life hacks. Add these and others to your list of Flash Briefings, and when you ask for them, either by saying, “Alexa, give me my Flash Briefings,” or even, “Alexa, what’s in the news?” you’ll hear from your favorite sources one after another.
Other Skills offer more interactive experiences. Enable The Tonight Show Skill (as opposed to the Flash Briefing) and you could ask for Jimmy Fallon’s most recent monologue, but you could also get the most recent Tonight Show guest list or a rundown of his newest Thank You Notes, a popular segment on the show where he expresses gratitude for anything from PopTarts to Ryan Gosling. I could develop a Skill called GaryVee Recommends Wine that recommends three wines to go with whatever you told it you were going to eat and gives you the ability to order those wines straight from the Skill through a thirdparty alcohol delivery service like Drizly or Minibar Delivery or from my family wine shop, Wine Library.
What we’re seeing with the development of VoiceFirst is the culmination of our addiction to speed. The world moves fast and we want to keep up. If there is a choice between reading a notification or checking an app and getting the same information via VoiceFirst, which allows us to keep our hands free and multitask, the latter is what we’re going to pick. Just like the first washing machines and coffeemakers, VoiceFirst platforms will save people time. Once the masses understand that, they are going to flock to them. Be there ready and waiting when they do.
Your Flash Briefing will be a one minute version of your one hour podcast, a one minute audio version of your eight minute videos or live streams, or a one minute selection of your pretty pictures on Instagram. You can bring people so much value right now, whether you create for Google, Amazon, or both. While brands have developed countless Skills, most deliver the same basic experience. The field is clear for anyone who is clever enough to come up with something fresh and new. Take the landgrab, my friends, and become a vital part of your consumers’ morning routines. Very soon, as even more brands jump onto these platforms, it will get harder to make a dent in people’s awareness. Don’t let this moment pass. Don’t let the big guys snap up all the cheap real estate. Please, put down this book right now and go create your Skill. Your one minute audio tip of the day could be the thing that compels a person to put on your podcast during their morning commute instead of their usual NPR or classic rock.
- Keep your content super brief.
- Make it native. Do not do what I did with my original podcast when I just transferred the audio from a video onto the podcast platform. Tailor your content to suit the reason people are coming, which is to get fast, easily digestible information nuggets. “Hey, Alexa users . . .”
- Make it the highest quality possible. I cannot stress how important it is that you not treat your Skill as a dumping ground. It’s great to collect the scraps from your other content so they don’t go to waste, but study each piece closely and use your imagination and creativity to craft something new and fresh with them.
You know how it’s such an irritating process to get off an email list? First, you have to bother to go to the bottom of the email and hunt for the unsubscribe button. Then you have to plod through a box asking if you are absolutely sure you want to leave, and would you care to share the reason? And then finally, upon confirming that you’ve been unsubscribed, you’re told it could take a few business days be fore the emails stop coming.
In VoiceFirst, all people will have to do once they lose interest in your content is say, “Alexa, remove MumboJumbo’s Flash Briefing,” and boom, it will be done. You will have no room for error. No room to be annoying or too long or low quality. Go ahead and document the process while you learn how to craft your content—you can use clips from all that material for other content—but make sure whatever segment you publish is short and tight. You will need to be remarkable right out of the gate, or in three milliseconds, you’ll be shut down.
VoiceFirst is going to become a huge pillar in our communications. By the time this book is published, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Siri, or some other platform will be talking to us in our cars. Remember when we all thought it was amazing that we could be driving along, recall that we used to love Kenny Rogers’s “Lady,” and download his greatest hits as soon as we got to our destination (because we would never do that while driving, right?). Soon, we won’t have to wait to play a song or pull over to type in a location on a map app. We’ll just tell Alexa what we want her to do, and she’ll do it. Finally, texting and driving will be a thing of the past—unless we’re in our driverless cars.
There is no Skills 201. The feature is so new, we’re only just now identifying best practices. I hope you’ll share yours with me as you discover them and explore all the exciting possibilities in this space. Hit me up at @garyvee.
My intuition is that all the brands in the how to space will flock to VoiceFirst by 2020, and they will battle to be the ones chosen to teach people to make cookies and pair wine and get better at chess and clean carpets.
It’ll be our on the go resource, too. When changing our oil in the garage, we won’t pull out the car manual or Google “How to change your oil.” We’ll just call out, “Tell me how to change my oil,” and the VoiceFirst technology sitting on a shelf or mounted on the wall will ask us what kind of car we drive, then walk us through the process with step by step instructions. Right now we’re putting VoiceFirst tech in only one or two rooms in the house. In the future, we won’t go anywhere without it.
Imagine This: Alexa Skills
Let’s say you’re a 49 etiquette coach named Marlo. You used to think you’d be educating children in the finer points of polite conversation and the continental style of eating, but over time your services have been increasingly sought out by companies desperate to fill in the educational gaps of their millennial hires. They just don’t know anything about proper protocol, especially for international business or formal affairs. Your business is doing OK, but things are starting to feel routine.
You’re at your boyfriend’s house one morning, and you hear him ask Alexa to tell him what’s in the news. A seemingly human voice reads the morning headlines, then the weather, some sports stats, and a fun fact of the day, all from different media outlets.
Fun fact of the day? That’s not news; that’s just learning for the sake of learning.
A lightbulb goes on.
You spend the next few weeks recording the answers to every etiquette question you can think of. How do you fold a napkin for a formal table? Should I invite my boss to my birthday dinner? What’s the best icebreaker question? How do I end a conversation at a cocktail party without being rude? Can I wear black sneakers with a black suit? You could have asked your phone these questions, but you look up “How to build an Alexa Skill” online and learn that there’s a studio just a few miles away that will help you record the audio file. You upload your new Alexa Skill, The Manners Maven, and announce it to your clients and on all your content channels. They love the way the platforms let them engage with you in a virtual one on one. It gives them confidence. Eventually, you add “calls to action” to direct people to other pieces of your content on the internet so they can discover longer versions of the answers they got from you here, as well as guest posts from other experts and interviews with people sharing their funniest, most awkward faux pas.
“Crushing It!” is available now at fine booksellers and can be purchased via StartupNation.com.