Breaking the Sound Barrier: BeyondWords on the rise of audio and how they market it

27th July 2022

With clientelle including the Irish Times, Sanofi and the United Nations, BeyondWords has been riding the wave of sonic branding long before its accelerated rise during lockdown. We interviewed Rachel Handley, Lead Content Strategist on recent learnings, content, and how their strategies contribute to their success.

If you took a look at the 2021 Cannes Lions Radio and Audio Category, you’ll see voice technology, streaming music platforms, podcasts and cross model science gaining ground on what was formerly made up of TV spots. (Names like Burger King, Barilla, and Ben & Jerry’s.)

Remember when Lego Playwaves (by Akelo for Lego) began guiding users through interactive missions with their Lego bricks? This is sound branding at work.

And worth repeating was Good Humour’s lack of appetite for systemic racism teaming up with Wu-Tang Clan to re-craft an ice-cream jingle (one that this time isn’t based on a 19th century traveling minstrel show.) Adweek called it ‘another use of audio for good.’

“It’s exciting to see more marketers talk about social responsibility and ethics,” said Handley. “This is where we can have a meaningful impact — help customers to make more conscious decisions and encourage positive change.”

As a company working in human-centered AI, this is very important. Says Handley, “Voice AI has an ethics problem, and it’s something we want to contribute to solving. That’s why we partnered with the Open Voice Network to launch an open voice cloning contract for AI voice actors, which helps them better protect and monetize their voice IP.”

Their partnership is helping them build better relationships in the voice industry, which is key to the development of their voice library, while aiming to instill confidence in their voice cloning service.

Before Handley joined BeyondWords in 2021, audio wasn’t on her radar. “I was working on SEO campaigns at a digital marketing agency, and outside of some chatter about podcasting, it rarely came up. This is despite the fact that catering to mobile users, accessibility, and repurposing were all major talking points in the industry.”

“We’re now at the point where marketers are taking notice. Media habits are changing, and audio publishing is more accessible than ever. News publishers have led the way, showing how audio-enabled content can better attract, engage, and convert audiences.

“I don’t think it’ll be long before users expect all readable content to be listenable, too.”

Marketing challenges and why ‘Done is Better Than Perfect’

Content marketing is tough in the sheer number of elements to master. You’re often a writer, designer, data analyst, and more, with consistently emerging trends and tools- there’s always something to learn.

“The variety and personal development opportunities are what attract a lot of people to the industry, myself included,” said Handley. “But it can be easy to get overwhelmed or disheartened.

“You have to accept that you won’t nail everything, especially the first time around. I’ve found it helpful to adopt a ‘done is better than perfect’ approach’. For example, I’m a beginner to making videos, so my product tutorials aren’t the slickest around. But I know that they’ve helped our users to solve problems, and that’s what matters.”

Handley recommends taking or requesting help where you need it, whether it’s from a teammate, tool, or template. “The creative in me wants to build everything myself from scratch, to master every skill. But the best content marketers will know where to ask for support.”

How content marketing has led to a better customer journey

BeyondWords recently published their Knowledge Base, which houses all their evergreen content (aside from product documentation) in one place. “It’s more accessible than it was on the blog, and it increases our brand awareness for those looking for AI audio publishing advice. It also helps us to convert onsite visitors and attract more people to the site in the first place.”

This content focuses on the most common pre-purchase queries and concerns, to help people decide whether text-to-speech and BeyondWords are right for them. “For example, we have an article comparing human voiceover with voice AI, as this is one of the first considerations for publishers turning to audio.”

BeyondWords are also working to shape the conversation in a space where relatively few people are talking about the things you can achieve with text-to-speech and where the industry’s going. “We are speaking up about things like the rise of user-side text-to-speech and how this can harm sonic branding.”

Linking collaboration with campaign delivery

Handley admits that aligning with the product team was a challenge at first. Feature marketing had been relatively limited, more of an afterthought rather than part of the launch process. “This is something we wanted to change. After all, the engineers are building in-demand features, and we need new and existing users to hear about them — and adopt them.”

With employees who worked remotely, improving communication was one of their key strategies. “We began to bring the product and marketing teams into the same virtual room weekly to discuss progress and strategy, and increased workflow collaboration.

“For example, the engineering team would notify me when a feature was available on staging, so that I could start to work on the documentation early. I created a list of all potential marketing materials along with the best practice for each. This meant I could effectively scope out the content required for each feature and ensure everything was prepared in time for launch.”

They launched a custom playlists feature, and the campaign included a blog post, knowledge base article, documentation, video tutorials, social media posts, and emails. “If we’d published these later, they wouldn’t have had the same impact — and we’d have probably received more questions from users.”

Handley also addresses contending with a data gap. “We count news publishers, independent writers, and voice actors among our target audience, so it’s important that we can tailor and segment our content accordingly. However, we wanted to avoid causing friction during signup with extensive data collection. We also wanted to move away from Google Analytics on our website, to help protect our users’ privacy.”

The solution? “We adopted a privacy-first analytics tool called Fathom that allows us to track key metrics without collecting user data. We’ve also moved to HubSpot and started using in-product data, such as feature usage, to segment our audience and serve them relevant content. This is still a work in progress, but it’s already allowed us to deliver our campaigns more effectively.”

Their highest marketing Return on Investment

Handley attributes the time investment in their docs and guides as their greatest investment.

“Firstly, the rate of support messages has decreased despite increased user growth. And when we do get questions, it’s often quicker and easier to answer, as it’s just a case of directing the user to the right place. This helps us in two ways. We’re saving time and resource, and users are less likely to get frustrated and stop using our platform.”

“The content is also assisting with conversions. It allows users to see all the features in detail and learn exactly how things will work, making them more likely to sign up or upgrade their plan. Some users are also discovering us through our docs and guides, because they rank for relevant queries on search engines.”

So what’s next? “We’re currently in the process of migrating to a new documentation platform that will allow us to strengthen this content further. For example, it will allow us to implement more complex category structures, so that users can more easily find the information they need. I’m also working on tutorial videos to enhance our guides and onboarding emails. If we’re advocating multiple formats, then we have to practice this as well!”

Rachel Handley is the Lead Content Strategist at BeyondWords.