Episode 52: Susan & Scot Westwater
Entrepreneur Conundrum Podcast
Susan and Scot Westwater talk about how they help businesses capitalize on the incredible opportunity Voice represents.
EC 01 | 4min
About The Guest
Susan and Scot are the husband and wife co-founders of pragmatic digital, where they advise the world’s most innovative brands that want to capitalize on the incredible opportunity that voice has.
Through the consultancy, Susan and Scot, help clients solve their marketing and customer experience problems. Using customer-centric approaches to plan and create useful and usable voice experiences for their audiences.
They have presented and authored a number of talks, workshops, articles, and eBooks focused on the role of voice technology plays in marketing and business strategy together.
They authored the book of voices, strategy, creating useful and usable voice experiences and are working on a second book, titled voice marketing, which will be released in spring of 2022.
Welcome to Entrepreneur Conundrum with Virginia Purnell where growing entrepreneurs. Share how they get visible online. Hi everyone. Today, I’m talking with Susan and Scot Westwater about how they help businesses capitalize on the incredible opportunity voice represents. Susan and Scot Westwater are the husband and wife co-founders of pragmatic digital, where they advise the world’s most innovative brands that want to capitalize on the incredible opportunity that voice has through the consultancy, Susan and Scot, help clients solve their marketing and customer experience problems.
[00:00:35] Using customer centric approaches to plan and create useful and usable. Voice experiences for their audiences. They have presented and authored a number of talks, workshops, articles, and eBooks focused on the role of voice technology plays in the marketing and business strategy together. They authored the book of voices, strategy, creating useful and usable voice experiences and are working on a second book, titled voice marketing, which will be released in spring of 2022.
[00:01:04] Susan. And Scott are also co-founders of voice masters and online education program designed to teach innovative business teams about voice and or strategy as well as ambassadors for the open voice network and instructors for the marketing AI Institute, AI. Academy. They both were recognized on voice spots, top 68 leaders in voice 2020.
[00:01:25] And Scott was recently included in SoundHound top 40 voice AI influencers to follow on Twitter. Welcome Susan and Scott.
Susan and Scot
Thank you for having us. Yeah, this is great. Thank you.
You’re welcome. I’m excited. You guys are here today.
Susan and Scot
Yeah, likewise. Yes.
What inspired you guys to become entrepreneurs, and kind of be where you are today?
Susan and Scot
00:01:49]It started back for me in 2017. My father passed away unexpectedly and I was working at a agency ad agency in Chicago. And when that whole thing with my father happened, it really caused me to take pause. Cause he worked in a job that he didn’t love and he was retired for six or seven years before he unfortunately passed.
[00:02:11] And so as I was kind of going through the grieving process and Susan went through a similar experience with her father a few years earlier, it was do we continue down this path where we’re, not necessarily. Doing what we’re super passionate about and absolutely love or is this an opportunity for us to look at ways to reinvent ourselves?
[00:02:28]That was kind of the beginning of it. And then in the fall of 2017, I was listening a lot to Gary Vaynerchuk and his podcasts and videos. And he was talking about this new thing called voice and using, Amazon Alexa, Google assistant to engage with audiences. And so I started looking into some of the data behind what he was talking about.
[00:02:50] And I saw a story playing out very similar to what I saw in the early days of the web and even with mobile. And so we made a concerted effort and made the decision to actually build a business around helping companies figure out how to actually bring that power of voice to reach their audiences.
00:03:07]That’s pretty cool. What do you guys like most about the work that you do?
Susan and Scot
I think the combination of being able to be creative in the sense of the problem solving and the way that we come at things isn’t necessarily as rooted heart as hardcore in something like technical, but instead get to be a lot more creative and pull off of our knowledge from working on big.
[00:03:32] Advertising and brands and working for big enterprise companies and being able to make that something that is tangible for our clients and something that’s actionable is really quite rewarding. And the other side of that is, is that we’re able to incorporate our work into our lives. So I think the biggest thing is the husband and wife team is that we’re kind of, it isn’t work-life balance.
[00:03:54] It’s work-life integration. So there’s this yin and yang that makes it so that we can continually find the things that make us excited about getting up in the morning to go to work and just kind of live our lives. That’s a really interesting way of putting it. I about like how your it’s not a work-life balance, but like an integration.
[00:04:11] Yeah, there’s definitely. I think one of the things I’ve learned is when I was working on some pretty big brands like Coca-Cola and craft, it does become a whole part of your life. And it isn’t about working a million hours. It’s about working the right hours. And I learned that the hard way. So it’s been really important to me actually, to help other people figure it out faster so that they can start living like basically their best lives.
[00:04:40] Yeah. Are there any common mistakes that you see your clients making?
Susan and Scot
There, there’s definitely, when it comes to voice, there’s so many components and I don’t necessarily think there are mistakes, but I think their opportunity to learn. So one of the big things with voice, and especially when you’re talking about the AI component of it, artificial intelligence, there’s a lot of learning that has to happen, especially if you’re in an industry that has its own jargon.
[00:05:08] So if you’re in healthcare or if you’re in legal or, anything where there’s like shorthand language, That’s something that the AI is not going to understand by default. And so there is a fair amount of, we just don’t know how people are going to ask these questions, what words they’re going to use, what, how they’re going to actually ask the question.
[00:05:27]So that’s really a mistake, but I think there’s this tendency to launch something and then not necessarily go back and optimize. So it’s similar to what people do on websites, where they basically put website out. They don’t look at their analytics, they don’t look at how people are passing through.
[00:05:44] They don’t really figure out what they’re doing and how to optimize that experience. And so I’ve seen some brands do that, but with voice there’s such a big opportunity to learn because it is new, it’s new for consumers. It’s also new for the brands. So I would say that’s probably the biggest area of opportunity that companies have is to really get that intelligence.
[00:06:04] I think another mistake is forgetting what you’ve done thus far. With new technology, there’s always a fear of this is new. I have to start all over again. And there’s this huge learning curve like yes, as Scott said, there are some learning curves with some of the technology, but there are other things that you can look to as a business or a brand and say, I’ve already figured out how to solve this problem or I’m handling this well.
[00:06:31]Can I use this new technology, like voice to add to it? And I think there also is this tendency to want to shoot for the moon and make this very complex experience that isn’t necessarily going to get everything done. So it’s better to kind of start small. And if it’s, Hey, I’m having a lot of problems with getting coupons out.
[00:06:51] All right. Let me think of a way that I can use a voice skill to do coupon distribution a little more easily, or can I’m having a hard time with handling customer support and instead of doing call avoidance, where you make it harder to use your call center, you find a way that you are able to use voice to be able to handle some of the more.
[00:07:11] Easier things that don’t require human intervention from your call center. So it’s making sure that kind of just right-sizing what that experience is. So you can start to get some wins, but also start to get a nice foundation as opposed to trying to solve all the things all at once. That’s cool. So how do you guys, for who would you define as your ideal client?
[00:07:35] Like I know you’ve worked with some really big names. We have a mix. We can, there’s two ways that we can work. We work directly with some clients and essentially it’s anyone quite frankly, who is looking to be innovative and is looking to get that competitive advantage. We’ve worked with enough industries that are regulated and unregulated from government to tobacco, to alcohol, to healthcare.
[00:07:58] All the things that it isn’t so much as about the industry, as it is, as someone who is trying to figure out a way that I want to make the best customer experience, or here’s a way that I can work a bit smarter with innovation. The other side of our business is that we are able to help agencies and those who service is figure out a new way that they can bring this innovation to their clients in a meaningful way to deepen client relationships.
[00:08:24]That, if they’ve already gotten in rows of they’ve been handling branding and all of those pieces we’re able to help them continue to keep their competitive advantage and their innovative leadership with their clients by helping them understand here’s how to use voice. And we have ways of we have done for you services as well as a mastermind where we walk through.
[00:08:45] Here’s how this process works for integrating innovation into. How you work with your clients or how you work with your brand.
So if you can bear with me on this for a minute and can you shed some light for us about, so you’re talking about voice innovation and different stuff like that.
Can you give us some a couple of quick examples about how that.
Susan and Scot
[00:09:11] Yeah. Here in the States, Butterball Turkey actually did a voice execution. I think it was just on Amazon. Alexa. I don’t think they did it for Google as well. But what they did is they actually took three of their Turkey hotline operators and they answer, or they recorded them answering questions that they commonly get when people call in.
[00:09:30] And so think about, you’re. Do it make the Thanksgiving dinner? You have a question about how you cook your Turkey. There’s a lot of anxiety there. So rather than needing to call in to talk to another experts, you can actually get the answer by simply saying, Alexa, what’s the ideal cooking temperature of a Butterball Turkey, let’s say.
[00:09:48] And so in that example I think they answered 60, 80 different questions. You don’t, as a customer, have to call into their call center. But you get the answer that you need and you can move on with cooking the meal. So that’s one way a brand, a very traditional brand has actually leveraged the technology and their existing content and even their operators that are already answering these questions to create something in voice.
[00:10:13]There’s also the idea of voice search. So if someone uses their Siri on their phone or their Google assistant, That your product or service or solution shows up and not your competitor. One thing that I always like to ask brands to do is to ask Siri or ask Google assistant, to find information on your brand.
[00:10:34]Tell me about, Coca-Cola tell me about general motors, like whatever. And they’re always shocked at what comes up because usually it’s information from Wikipedia. And so we also help them identify opportunities for voice search. Because we know that consumers are actually already doing this behavior.
[00:10:52] It was something like 250 billion searches in the us. We’re a voice in 2020. And so it’s how do you make sure that you’re the one that’s found and not Wikipedia or not your competitor? When someone asks a question specifically about your brand or about the industry that you represent? And if you’re a multiplier, let’s say you’re not a multimillion dollar brand like Butterball or Coca-Cola or general motors.
[00:11:14]The way that this translates down to is like Google businesses around me and enabling and helping companies and small businesses make sure that when you, someone says, Hey, I need pest control around me, or I need this, that you’re the one that comes up. And that you’re the first one that, that, that is on that list on those results.
[00:11:31] Because when it does come to those devices, there’s only one result. So it’s kind of like translating, if I do say Google SEO, but having SEO for voice search. Yeah. That’s definitely one big component of it. And honestly, that’s. The easier idea to understand, because a lot of brands and businesses are doing some SEO.
[00:11:53] If not, a lot of SEO work, the big change is to go from a keyword focused approach where you’re literally trying to rank for one or two words. And you think of things in complete sentences because as people naturally ask questions, it’s an a lot fuller sentences. There’s a lot more nuance and a lot more information in there.
[00:12:13]There’s a big opportunity actually, for all kinds of different sized businesses to start ranking for those bigger questions. Because right now, only about a third of all websites are optimized for what we refer to as long tail, which is those bigger phrases. So it’s good for SEO. It’s good for traditional SEO and it’s certainly very good for voice SEO.
[00:12:33]Yeah. One thing I should say is the way that we define voice is just. We defined voices and umbrella term of any device you can control using your natural spoken language. So just by using your voice, you are able to activate something. So that can be everything from a television remote to smart home all the way to then as you’re just talking through the speakers or the devices on your phone.
[00:12:57] So it’s a lot of things. So that’s also where the challenge comes into wrapping your head around it. A lot of our clients right now, have Amazon skills or Google actions, which is literally just a voice and an application that’s activated by your voice. And it can answer frequently asked questions, everything from, for one of our B2B clients that helps define their product and their category, and then makes it possible for you to get a link texted to you so that you can contact them or go something along those lines.
[00:13:26] The whole idea is that it’s making everything accessible via gesture, voice.
[00:13:31]Okay. So how do you get in front of your ideal customers? Like how do they find out about you?
Susan and Scot
We wrote a book, as you mentioned in the intro. So a lot of people actually come, having some sort of knowledge of our book. We also speak internationally. We’re actually about to speak at a conference later this month and while it’s virtual, but Copenhagen it’s a UX Copenhagen.
[00:13:54] And so there’s been a lot of. Inbound that has come out of that. In addition to that, we write a lot of blog content and, we, we have a pretty robust social strategy where we’re constantly pushing content out. Again, to help people figure out this new technology and where it fits in their business.
[00:14:12]And then beyond that, Word of mouth referrals. So we found a lot of people, through our network and through our past lives that we’ve worked with. There’s people that refer people to us for both sides of the mastermind side and also the done for you services. Cool. So just random question out of my brain with you.
[00:14:31] So you’ve worked with Coca Cola. Did they come to you or did you approach them?
Susan and Scot
When I was working with Coca-Cola, it was an existing relationship through our agency. We haven’t created a voice experience for them, but they have actually created a voice experience. They did it through Ogilvy and Mather and then an agency out of Australia was actually Coca-Cola Australia.
[00:14:52]And so that was how they worked through. There were some of our bigger clients. We have worked through either an agency partnership who have said, Hey, we need a voice X, we need voice strategy in here, help us you understand the category and help us to build the roadmap. We’ve also had just, again, as Scott said, we’ll have an introduction as someone has seen us, like we earlier today had a call because we had been on a podcast and someone wanted to find out more.
[00:15:15]It’s. Definitely all about getting exposure. But also just make yourself accessible. We do a lot of what I call evangelism work, which is educating folks about what it means to work with voice and then how that can help them, because it is so new. Some of the questions that you’re asking are very much questions that we get asked a lot, because it is understanding what.
[00:15:36] How it’s cool. It’s neat. It’s nifty. What does that really going to do to my bottom line? And so we spend a lot of time educating in that particular space.
Gotcha. Okay. So going off of that, what are some of your big goals that you hope to achieve? The next one to two years?
Susan and Scot
[00:15:55]So I think our first goal is going to be finishing that second book. The first book, it’s amazing what one can do. And one doesn’t know one isn’t supposed to be doing it. We did that book, ours, we self published it. This, the second one is actually through a large independent publisher. So it’s getting through all of the reviews and all of those pieces.
[00:16:11]And I think also continuing to build our mastermind this year. We really want, there’s only two, there’s only two of us. In, in the Scotland of Scott and Susan. So our goal is to be able to grow our masterminds so that we can help more and more agencies use voice correctly. It’s really important that voice is used correctly because as a new tech with new technology and innovation, if it doesn’t work the first time there, sometimes won’t be a second chance.
[00:16:37]And we’ve seen a few experiences that are not necessarily the best thought out. And sometimes there’s a host of reasons, so we want to help as many folks as possible get voiced. Because it can do so much because of that ability. And I think the third is continuing our work with the open voice network, which is it’s an not-for-profit organization that is working on the creation of open standards.
[00:17:00] For voice technology. So that means interoperability. And that way, then you can talk to all of your devices and they’ll all recognize what you’re asking for, but also it covers off on privacy and data standards as well. So making sure that as people become more aware of their digital data footprint we can make sure that we’re doing right by them.
[00:17:18]And that we’re proactively as an industry taking care of that, as opposed to having to be legislated into being, the right citizens, we should be. Yes. Sometimes we all need that rule book to, or that guideline book to help start every note.
That’s cool. So how would your goal of finishing your book and.
[00:17:42] Your mastermind, how would that affect your business or change your business?
Susan and Scot
I think because our first book was self published, the second book is actually going to be even a bigger new business tool for us in that it’s coming from a recognized publisher. And it’s also going to be used or the idea is that it would also be used in college universities or colleges for marketing programs.
[00:18:08] And so it’ll actually be in addition to a professional development tool, something that they’re actually using to teach marketing students, moving forward, once the book’s released. So I think the opportunity is getting that specific book in front of more of the ideal target audience and also not going to lie, having a publisher behind it.
[00:18:29] With some marketing effort is also going to be super helpful. For many, we bootstrapped our first book, we wrote it, designed it, laid it out. Everything was all homegrown. We just happen to have all the skill sets with all of our background to be able to pull it off. So when you look at it, people go, Oh, you had a publisher, you have a designer that worked on it.
[00:18:49] You had an editor, but we just happen to have all the skills to do it. So I think just by nature of having it come from a publisher, that’s going to go along the way. And I also think with a mastermind, right? Being able to educate a lot of these agencies who already have existing relationship with the brands, but maybe they don’t have the internal teams or the internal processes.
[00:19:09] That’s also going to lead to opportunities down the road where maybe they don’t want to bring folks in to do it full time, but maybe they’re going to, work with us in a consulting role to actually execute projects for their clients. So I think those are really the couple of ways that those tactics are really gonna play out and benefit us over the next couple of years.
[00:19:27]Do you think you have any roadblocks that are stopping you from achieving any of those?
Susan and Scot
The biggest roadblock is the fact that the technology is still relatively new. And while you’re seeing a very large adoption from the consumer side, you haven’t seen the business investment yet. So this is very similar to the early days of mobile.
[00:19:48] So like 2010, 11, 12, where people know it’s coming, but they’re not quite sure how to build something for it. And our position is having gone through the early days of the web and mobile there’s things that we just know, because we saw it play out that we can actually start helping brands with now. So that a year or two from now, when there’s this massive onslaught and everyone starts using voice that they’re ready and they’ve got those years of learning versus starting from a standing stop.
[00:20:18] So I think that’s the biggest challenge and that’s something that. We recognize even talking to the Googles and the Amazons of the world. There’s definitely a bit of an education gap when it comes to the business side, which is really why we do what we do. Yeah. I think there’s also a tendency to say I’m not ready for it.
[00:20:35] I’ll just buy my way in, in a couple years. And I know it will be more expensive, but I’m just gonna I’ll buy my way in. And the reality of it is that’s a big obstacle in that. You’re not going to have learn learning, and you’re also not going to have the user tolerance. Those who are getting involved in building out their roadmaps and figuring out their plans now are learning about exactly how it’s being used.
[00:20:57] And they’re able to create something that is that much more meaningful and better to helping solve their customer’s problems and their own problems. And they’re going to have tolerances. If they don’t get it perfect every time two and a half years from now, it’s going to have to be darn perfect.
[00:21:13]As we say to each other, lot of folks think of AI and all of voice tech as Jarvis. Jarvis is like not where we live today. But in a few years, people are going to start expecting that. So it’s better to give yourself some runway now to really understand how it is you’re going to use it versus making a lot of really costly mistakes in a few years.
[00:21:32]I agree with you too. So you said about like having more lenience right now, if it’s not perfect.
Susan and Scot
Yeah. Yeah. I’m getting ahead now. They’ll just be able to hit the gate running when everyone else is just figuring it out. And honestly, that’s going to be the innovators that are going to have those learnings and are going to be way ahead of everyone.
[00:21:51]And especially when it comes to voice search, since there is only one answer, when you ask a speaker for answer to a question, but it’s the rest of the industry that’s going to be playing catch up in two years. It’s identifying those innovators who are hungry and eager to learn and set themselves apart so that they’re in a very good position two years from now.
[00:22:10]I just going to switch that on yet. Again, what’s the best advice that you’ve ever received?
Susan and Scot
That’s a good one. I think one of the most important things that I’ve learned it was early on was, it was Learn your numbers, learn your budgets and learn the business reasons behind things coming from a field that was an advertising.
[00:22:31] That was, wouldn’t it be cool. That’s not a strategy nor is hope is not a strategy either. So make sure that you’re, well-versed not just on what is sparkly and exciting and inspirational. But also what practically solves business problems. That’s going to be able to get you farther on your business, but it’s also going to keep you very grounded.
[00:22:54] And for me, the idea of never stop learning was a lesson I learned very early on in my career, and it’s always stuck with me. And so it’s really what drives me. As an entrepreneur and we’re constantly looking for new ways to, either bring innovation or new techniques to execute or new ways of looking at things and never being satisfied with this is how we’ve always done it.
[00:23:19]That’s a death nail to a company. If they have that belief and that’s just a poison culture, so we always want to be innovating. We always want to be listening for those great ideas and looking for new ways to do stuff. And if we find something that works better than we already do awesome. If it doesn’t work, we, at least we try.
[00:23:38]And with that, with a question that I was going to ask you, but it kind of sounds like you kind of answered it, but I was going to ask, do you ever have an issue with that learning with them?
Susan and Scot
Applying the learning because so many people just learn, learn, learn, learn, but they’ve never actually acted on any of it.
[00:23:53]So because of the nature of our careers, up until this point, we’ve always had to put things into practice. And so we never had the luxury of learning something for six months and then taking another six months to figure it out. It was, you have three weeks to figure this out, put it in place, learn from it and move on.
[00:24:12] And so that’s, at least in my opinion, what advertising really taught me was how to think on your feet, how to be flexible, how to learn just enough to move on to that next point. And then actually start going with it versus spending six months to a year, watching every webinar and reading every book and really thinking about it and figuring out the strategy.
[00:24:33] Like you don’t have that luxury. Because clients aren’t going to pay for that. So I’ve never really had problems with putting things like that, learnings into practice just by nature of what I did previous to this. That’s good. Yeah. It started as well. So yes. So what’s the best advice you have ever given
[00:24:53]my advice that I give a lot of folks, I actually just Give some advice to a group of high school dropouts in New York city during this time of COVID, it’s been a really challenging time. I would say there’s two pieces of advice that I’ve always given folks. And one is don’t ever stop being curious, always try to solve problems, looking beyond and keep that curiosity for learning.
[00:25:15] And the other is it’s really never going to benefit you to say something. Isn’t your job. Even if it is at that time, it really isn’t your job. It’s amazing what you can learn, but it also then helps foster either servant leadership or team playing that really does help make you show that you’re, you have a commitment to the team to make that work.
[00:25:35]And you never know where that will lead in the end either. Doing something outside of your scope. Exactly.
[00:25:42]Is anything that I haven’t asked yet today?
Susan and Scot
[00:25:47]I think we’ve covered a lot. I think If anything if folks wanted to get in touch with us we actually have Bitly links. So it’s B I T dot L Y right. Slash Susan. Westwater all lowercase. Or B I T dot L Y right. Slash Scott Westwater Scot with one T all lower case. We’re always re you know, we’re always reachable or else we’re always find-able on Twitter.
[00:26:12]We love talking to people and learning more and more about how we can help evangelize and help people understand things. So I think that’s the most important thing we’re always looking to get from folks.
Great. Thank you so much for being here with us today.
Susan and Scot
Thank you for having us. This was great.
[00:26:26] Thank you. You’re welcome. Have a great day and we’ll pick up. Great. Thank you so much for joining us today. Be sure to subscribe and leave some love through a review and I’ll catch you on the next episode.
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