Alexa, Help Me Build a Great Channel Program

Mike Moore, Averetek

Half the battle in the channel is attracting and holding partner interest. If you can connect with partners, share a message of value with them – something that will help them in their jobs, then you will gain loyalty and support for your initiatives. Creating content that partners will consume is the goal, but it’s also a moving target. Like any marketing audience, you need to put content where your audience will consume it.

For our own marketing, as well as to test out ideas that we think will work for channel marketing, we’ve expanded our communication channels in the last year. Since we know email is challenging, we focused on channels that incorporate on-demand consumption of audio and video content.

The feedback has been positive on all fronts, and people seem to appreciate that there are diverse ways to consume the content we produce. We can see that enough people are watching and listening to the various channels to support the effort we’re putting into the content.

So, what comes next? After listening to some daily vlogs from marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuk, I heard his repeated advice to brands that they need to create Alexa Skills so I started to think about how this might work for Averetek and our clients.

While many of us are still trying to figure out what to do with digital assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Home, there is a ton of momentum with tens of millions of devices sold and in November Amazon announced Alexa for Business which is when things get really interesting. Making it easier to join conference calls is an obvious use for voice-controlled devices but there’s really no limit to the ways in which voice can come in to play at work.

But what about specific scenarios for brands and channel partners? How could Alexa help in the channel? There are a couple of use cases that easily come to mind.

#1 To-Partner Communication
You can share daily, weekly, or monthly information or advice with your channel partners as part of their Flash Briefing on an Alexa-enabled device. Think of the Flash Briefing as a customizable audio newscast. Through some experimentation, we discovered that it’s quite easy to create a podcast and turn it into an Alexa Flash Briefing Skill. 
To really put the theory to the test, we’ve created the Channel Marketing Ideas skill that you can activate on your Alexa-enabled device. By enabling the skill, you’ll receive a new channel marketing tip or idea each day. Our goal is to give our readers and followers another effortless way to consume content that we share through other channels. This was a pretty straightforward do-it-yourself project that I think most companies could replicate without much cost and complexity. See the end of this post for detailed steps.
#2 Product and Pricing Information
A Flash Briefing skill is simply. You ask Alexa to play your Flash Briefing and you listen to the audio clip. The next level of Alexa Skills for the channel will be interactive to help partners get quick access to information about your products, services, and support channels. This is exactly the kind of work that Kelly Franznick, Chief Experience Officer & Partner at Blink UX is working on with clients. “People want to ask questions in a natural way and receive information quickly, without the use of a computer or even a mobile device. Alexa can handle this kind of work in a remarkably fast and efficient way,” according to Franznick. 
Because of the interactive nature of this kind of skill, I would not consider this type of skill to be a do-it-yourself project. Connect with Kelly and the team at Blink UX and you’ll be in good shape.

Whichever scenario you pursue, remember that most Alexa Skill content is public and can be accessed by your partners, customers, the public, and of course, your competition. There are ways around this so that users must be authorized to use your skill. But for simple things like a Flash Briefing, it won’t be worth the effort.

If you’re interested in pursuing a Flash Briefing skill to share regular updates with your partners, here are the steps I followed to put things together:

  • Equipment: I use an Audio-Technica USB microphone with a pop filter suspended in a shock mount on a scissor arm microphone stand. I place acoustic foam around my setup to make the room sound good. I record the sound using Audacity, a free application for Windows and Mac. Originally, I was using Camtasia, but I like the controls better in Audacity. I wear Bose headphones for recording and editing but you could easily use something less expensive and still do a fine job.
  • Content and Recording: I recorded the first couple of clips by reading scripts, but I’ve now found I can jot down some notes and speak naturally to make an update. I don’t want to sound too scripted and rehearsed. I try to keep the length around one minute, but if I need to go longer I’ll never exceed two minutes.
  • Podcasting Service: I had to hunt around for some time to find a podcast hosting platform that would give me an RSS feed I could use in the Alexa Skill settings. I tried and failed with many, but Blubrry was able to make some changes needed to allow the use of their service for our skill. They had to enable HTTPS for the media file links in the feed and I also had to ask them to change a setting for the feed to only allow one episode (as each clip is known on their platform) to be in the feed at a time. Without that change, listeners would get five clips every day which is obviously too much. If you don't have an Alexa device and want to hear what we're sharing, you can listen to the clips through the Blubrry website.
  • Amazon Developer Account: You can create a free Amazon Developer account. It’s a straightforward process to create the skill. You’ll need the RSS feed URL from Blubrry, some text to describe the skill, and some artwork to serve as the icon on the site and in the Alexa mobile app. Once you complete the fields, you submit the skill for certification which for me always happened within twelve hours.

Once approved through the certification process, the skill is live, and you can invite people to enable the skill and start enjoying your content. For ongoing work, I record a few days’ worth of updates and then schedule them for publishing in Blubrry so that a steady stream of content is available to listeners.

Have ideas for how to use Alexa in the channel or need help with your own Alexa Skill? Please let us know.

 

Partner Communication

Mike Moore, Averetek

Posted By: Mike Moore, Averetek

Mike Moore serves as Averetek's VP of Channel Strategy. Mike has spent twenty-three years in the IT channel as a channel partner and as a channel and field marketer for software companies like Microsoft, GE Healthcare, and Progress Software.

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