“Alexa, help me grow my business” | Alexa Flash Briefings – Jen Lehner

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If you’re looking for a new and exciting way to reach out and deliver content to your customers and prospects, Jen Lehner has the inside scoop on the newest tool, Alexa Flash Briefings!

Alexa briefings are a great way to stay front of mind, position yourself as an expert in your field, and reach out to your audience in short, daily bursts at times when they normally wouldn’t be looking to consume lengthy content (i.e.: while getting dressed, commuting, having coffee, etc.). Because they’re short and broadcast regularly, Alexa flash briefings make for a great content channel for brands.

A few of the cool things you can do with these briefings is update your customers on new products or services, advise of upcoming events like webinars, podcasts, or conferences, and hand out a daily tip or advice. 

Rich: She’s a digital marketing strategist podcaster, online course creator, founder of The Front Row Mastermind, and Adjunct Professor of Digital Marketing at Cleveland State University. She’s also spoken at The Agents of Change Digital Marketing Conference, she’s a track leader at this year’s Social Media Marketing World, and this is her second time on the AOC podcast. Welcome back, Jen Lehner.

Jen: Hey Rich, it’s great to be here.

Rich: I’m glad to have you back. Now I really have no idea where this conversation is going to go. You just reached out to me via Twitter DM and said, “Hey Rich, I think I need to come on your show and talk about Amazon Alexa and the incredible opportunities available to marketers and brands, right now!!!”  Triple exclamation points. Plus I’m just a huge fan of yours, so of course I said, “Yes, come on my show.” 

So let’s hit it. Let’s start off by explaining a little bit more about what an Alexa briefing is.

Jen: Ok, so let’s just call her “Lexi” from here on out, because anybody who’s listening to this and they have that device sitting on their desk is going to wake her up. So I’m just going to call her “Lexi”.

And basically it is a very short audio clip that is sent out via Amazon smart speakers. So that could be the Echo, or the Show, or even through Amazon’s Alexa app. They’re very different than podcasts but we think of them a little bit like podcasts, and people enable these briefings with their voice.

Rich: So walk me through that. If I’m sitting at home and I’ve got my Lexi and I want to listen to a briefing, what do I say or do?

Jen: So if you’re at home you would say, “Lexi, play my flash briefing”. And then any briefing that you have enabled – which would be the equivalent of subscribing to – she will play those in the order that you’ve set them up to play.

So here’s the key, and this is one of the amazing things about this kind of content, is that it’s super easy. You just activate it by your voice. And once somebody enables them, they’re kind of a pain to disable, so it’s very passive. So once they’re in your lineup you hear it every single day, along with anything else that you’re listening to. And in order to de-enable them, you have to go inside the app and do it. And because of that habitual nature of these things, that is the thing that is electrifying, because you’re able to build an audience really, really quickly. I’ve had one for about a year and the results have just been incredible.

Rich: Alright, so what’s the name of your briefing?

Jen: It’s called The Front Row Entrepreneur Flash Briefing.

Rich: Alright, so if I wanted to add that to my daily briefing, what would I literally say to Lexi?

Jen: You would say, well first what you would do is you would go into the Amazon Store – benefit #2, like a big fat benefit is that this stuff is searchable in the largest store in the entire universe – so you go onto Amazon and start typing “Front Row Entrepreneur” and it will pop up. And then there’s a button on there and you click ‘enable’, and that’s it. You can also do it from your Lexi app on your phone, and that’s it.

Rich: Wait, you can’t do it form Lexi itself? Like, I can’t say to my Echo, “Just add Front Row Entrepreneur”?

Jen: I don’t think so. Now, I don’t want to get off the path because I don’t want it to get confusing. A flash briefing is also what’s called a “skill”, but a “skill” is not necessarily a flash briefing.

So, I also am developing a Front Row Entrepreneur skill, so you could say, “Lexi, open up The Front Row Entrepreneur”. It will open it up and then with your voice you could walk through a whole series in 6 steps. You can purchase one of my online courses, you can get on my email list, you can learn about my upcoming retreat or conference, you could register for the conference, you can register for a webinar, there’s just no end to what you can do. But we’re just sticking today with the good old flash briefing because really you’ll see in about a year everybody is going to have one of these things. But right now the reason it’s so great is that there’s enough of them out there to validate that these work, that there’s still just blue ocean.

This is like if someone came to you in 2003 and said, “Hey Rich, there’s this thing called podcasts, you should start one.” Or back when Marie Forleo was building her empire around YouTube and someone came up to you and said, “Hey, you should start a YouTube channel”, it’s this kind of opportunity, but right now. Because soon it will be flooding.

Rich: Ok, so the “skill” is kind of like an app. And then the briefing is a little bit more like a podcast. Just to use some terms that people might be more familiar with. So how does a consumer find new briefings to add to their mix? I mean, you’ve told us how to get yours, but can I just go and do some sort of search on different types of briefings? Like maybe I want to know about if I follow my local sports team along with some business ones or some self-improvement ones.

Jen: Yes, so you go into Amazon and a little drop down menu next to the big search bar. If you click on it, the very next thing that pops up, I think, is skills. So you click skills and then another drop down comes down and it’s categories. So there’s sports, and lifestyles, and business, and all sorts of stuff.

And then – and this still needs a lot of development – I don’t think Amazon does a great job in how they showcase the different skills in flash briefings, but you can search by featured and highest rated, most views.

Rich: Alright. So what tipped you off? When did you decide, or how did you decide that this was going to be something that you wanted to add to your marketing toolbox?

Jen: You know, it sort of came at me like three different ways at the same time. I was like, ok universe, I’ll do this. One was I had just read Gary Vaynerchuk’s latest book, because he was coming on my podcast and I didn’t want to sound like an idiot, so I got to the end of it and it has just been published, and in the last chapter he talks about voice and how voice is really going to be it. And he talked about it and I was very interested.

And around the same time, someone who was developing a platform similar to a Libsyn that hosts these flash briefings called, Sound Off, contacted me and said you totally need one of these, his would be great. So because I’m lazy and he was willing to just kind of explain it to me like I’m a Kindergartner, it totally worked for me.

And so I just did it with no real expectation, I was just coming at it from a learning curve, because that’s what I do is I like to inform our audience of all the latest greatest stuff. So I was coming from it from that angle and I just didn’t really have any expectations and everything was trial and error.

And then all of a sudden things started happening. And by that I mean I would give a call to action and say, “If you’re not already a member of my free online classroom The Front Row, go over to this URL and join us, we look forward to seeing you there.” And then of course when you come over to my Facebook group there is a questionnaire and one of the questions is, “How did you hear about the Facebook group?” And more and more – first it way 1-2 a day – then it was 5 and 10 a day, then it was 20 a day, and then were coming from this flash briefing. And the thing is these are people that did not know me from Facebook or Twitter or anything. These are people who had never heard anything about me. So it was the coldest of the cold traffic.

And then what started happening is I started tracking these people who were coming into my Facebook group and they were converting. So I literally had – in about a 48 hour period – for example, this woman found me on flash briefing, she joined my Facebook group when I happened to have a promotion on my paid site when I had just opened the doors, she joined that, a spot opened up in my retreat because someone had to drop out, it was a $2,500 price tag and she purchased that. That all happened within 48 hours of her coming over from the flash briefing. And these kinds of things are happening every day. 

So then I started teaching other people how to do these and they are having similar results. People who don’t have large audiences, people who don’t have big email lists. In fact just the other day one of my students – she’s a career coach – she’s kind of starting from scratch in the online world, and on her flash briefing, which had only been up for 7 days, her call to action was to connect with her on LinkedIn and she got a message from someone who was interested in working with her and they told her that they heard her flash briefing. And I’ve got two dozen more stories just like that.

Rich: Alright, so that definitely sounds exciting. A lot of opportunities, and I’m sure a lot of people are like, “Wait a second, I don’t have a very big list either, this feels like a gold rush opportunity.” So walk me through the process of creating and uploading one of these briefings, and give me a sense of how much work goes into that as well.

Jen: Ok. So this is like really the best part. Because we’re all so busy and who has time to add another thing to their never ending list, especially with stories popping up everywhere. I don’t know about you, but it’s just a little bit soul crushing when you just feel like you just can’t get everywhere, so this is the best thing.

So step #1: You record. I had done this before when I had left my laptop and my microphone at home and found myself in a hotel room wondering what I’m going to do. You can literally use the voice memo app on your phone to record it. These are like 2 minutes long. The ideal length is 2 minutes.

You record it, then you upload it to whatever platform you’re going to use. So that takes all of maybe a minute if you have a slow internet connection. So then you do that and now it’s hosted and it’s on the place where it goes and you’re done. It’s an RSS feed so Amazon grabs that RSS feed so now it’s live the minute that you upload it. So that is like the most stripped down version that you’ll find.

Now in order for it to really be good and to get the kind of regular listeners that you want, you want to take it up a notch. So this is what my day looks like. I record it in 2 minutes, I have branded it with a recognizable sound – because the audio brand on this is very important – pick a sound you like and open with a little bit of the music, do your intro, you deliver your thing, you give a call to action, you play a little music at the end. I use Zen Caster for this, which is a paid app, but you could do it for free on something like Audacity or Garage Band, just as easily.

And then that gives me an mp3 file that I upload, just like in the previous example, I upload it to my host and it’s immediately live. But here’s the thing, this is the part that is great, and other people are going to see it and think it’s not so great. And that is, in order to have success with these, unlike podcasts or anything else, you really actually have to have it published every day. I take the weekends off, but here’s how you can do it so that you don’t have to actually do it every day.

That is, you can sit down for about an hour on a Saturday and just record these little 2 minute blurbs back to back to back. And then upload them and schedule them in advance, so you don’t have to touch it again for a month or two, because they’re just going to go out on the date that you want them to go out and they’re all pre-scheduled. So that’s really cool.

Rich: So, hold on. And I apologize if you already said this. Where are you hosting these? Like, are you hosting them in the same place you host a podcast? Like, I use Libsyn, is that where you host them or where do you recommend?

Jen: Well I use Sound Up Now. They’re a startup, obviously, because this is kind of a new thing. But the reason that I like them is well, first of all when I started with them there was nobody else that was doing it, and I don’t know how many more are doing it now. I think there was one that markets themselves as free, but then you find out they’re free until you have to schedule, and then you have to pay. So with this one you can schedule them in advance.

Libsyn may also offer this service, but they’re not advertising it. So it’s worth looking into because I’m sure they have the capability, I just don’t know if they’re marketing it as such.

Rich: Ok. And then Sound Up Now, or whatever platform you use generates an RSS feed and that’s what you upload to Amazon to be able to make these available as a daily briefing.

Jen: Yeah, and I sort of skipped that part, so let’s talk about that for a second. When you first set up your briefing you have to do it in the Amazon developer dashboard. I have a really good step by step blog post I wrote for Social Media Examiner – it’s a guide – and it shows you how to do that. And you do that one time and you actually give it that RSS feed of your host, and then you never have to do that again.

Rich: Ok. So you kind of ran through this, but I’d love you to give us some feedback on what you think a good briefing is. Like, what makes for a good briefing? I think you talked about a few things; 2 minutes, having some sort of audio in there like music that helps you brand it, a call to action. But what are you sharing and what do you think people should share in terms of the content that’s going out in the briefing?

Jen: Ok, so because in order for these to be successful you really have to commit. You have to love it, and you’re not going to love it if you’re not talking about something that you love to talk about. So what I recommend is if you’re a subject matter expert on anything, it doesn’t matter what it is, you easily have 365 tips that you can give to your audience.

So I guess the question is, what would your audience find valuable. Certainly not a whole bunch of commercial or promotional stuff. You’ve got to go easy on that, just one call to action. And then something that is just really valuable to them. So right now some of my favorites one is, there is one that is daily meditation, there’s another one that’s just a positive thought every day but she has the best English accent and she’s just adorable and I just really count on hearing her every single day. There’s a word of the day, just being creative is half the fun. You can really just experiment.

The other thing is you can have several different, you can have as many of these as you want. You can have one centered around your hobby, you could dip your toe into a new niche. Here’s a rock star thing I’ve got to tell you that someone did that is something that your listeners might want to look into. There’s a briefing called Instagram Stories from my friend Daniel Hill of Daniel Hill Media. He got permission – he tried to upload it as it was in Amazon as Instagram Stories and Amazon shot back that he can’t use that – most people would have stopped at that point but he actually contacted Instagram, exchanged a few emails back and forth, keep in mind he’s not a guru he’s sort of at the beginning of building his online audience and doesn’t really have a list to speak of and he’s got a full time day job.

So Instagram said ‘yes’, so the name of his briefing is Instagram Stories and guess what, he showed a graph of this and I posted it online. In 2 months he had 7,000 daily listeners who had enabled his briefing. And this caught the eye of the Amazon people, we were at the Alexa conference and Daniel was there and one of the Amazon people wanted to do a blog post about it and all this kind of stuff. So if you can search for stuff that’s popular or get a name – like if you’re a LinkedIn expert – be the first one to go and plan that flag. 

Rich: So obviously getting listeners is a big part of this, and we talked about his spike in traffic. How are you getting more listeners to your briefing?

Jen: So really you have to promote these in the same way that you promote anything. People aren’t going to fall out of the sky and find your briefing. But, one thing that is really great to do – I don’t know how long this is going to last – but when you set up your briefing you have an opportunity to put in 30 keywords. And some of the strategic stuff that we’ve tried that is really working well right now is to use keywords that are actually the name of other successful flash briefings. In fact, I’ve got to go update mine and put Daniel’s in – because his content is related to mine – so I’m going to put “Instagram Stories” as a keyword in my keywords, because so many people are searching for his via the term “Instagram” and it’s popping up.

This is the second largest search engine and so these keywords for now are really getting found. So that’s wonderful. The other way is to do a nice bit.ly link to the briefing itself, put it in your email signature, mention it everywhere, blog about it, send an email, make a big deal and announce to your listeners, just like if you were launching a podcast. All the usual ways, social media, all that stuff. The other thing is these repurpose pretty well. I don’t go crazy with the repurposing, I’m not like a huge fan of sticking one thing everywhere because I think it ends up making it kind of cheap.

But what you could do with these – and I talk about this in that blog post so I won’t get too detailed – but basically I turn it into an audiogram using Headliner app, which is my favorite app this year and last year. So I use the show logo and I’m actually delivering this out daily via Messenger bot, and it’s pretty amazing the feedback that I’m getting on that. You can also post it on LinkedIn or Facebook and it looks decent.

Rich: Now Jen, you mentioned that you can track that people are coming over from your briefing and joining your Facebook group and your online courses and even your retreat. But are there any metrics that Amazon is providing for you?

Jen: Yeah. So if you go into your developer dashboard, you can see what times of day they’re listening, how many people have enabled your skill, how many people have listened, how many people are re-listening multiple times. So yeah, they have a pretty good dashboard of analytics. It could be better, but it is there for you.

I actually advise people to wait about 3 months before they go in there and look, because it’s a little bit depressing. But what I can tell you is that if you really just keep doing it and you do it consistently, it will happen for you. You also have to get reviews, so that’s important because that is how Amazon is ranking them right now. So you definitely want to get reviews just like it helps to get them on your podcast.

But the point that I don’t think I made very well that I really want to just hammer one more time, is that we are catching people at the in between moment in their lives that we would not ordinarily be able to reach them. Because they’re making their kids lunch, or they’re drinking their coffee in the morning, or they’re brushing their teeth, and they’re listening to these in the bedroom or in their bathroom. They’re so short and easily consumable.

The other thing is, 70 car models right now, are integrating Alexa as a standard feature into their cars. So now you’re going to get people in their commutes on top of that. And people don’t commute longer than usually 20 minutes. So theses little short tidbits, you’re going to be there when everybody has it in their car.

And the other thing, that 100 million people purchased one of these smart devices last year and it’s apparently the fastest growing consumer technology in the history of all technology, faster than even mobile. And it’s been adopted, like people are adopting it and loving it rapidly.

Rich: So before we got on the phone, you mentioned that this would be a great opportunity for The Agents of Change Conference. I’m curious – and obviously I think anyone that puts on an event will be – how might somebody putting on an event, how does a briefing fit into the marketing for that?

Jen: Well, ok, so really what I’d like to see you do with Agents of Change is have and actual whole skill. Because people can do so many things through the skill and they can actually ask who’s speaking, and what room things are in, and you can put announcements out through it, and they can actually register, and you can give survey them using voice. Tons of stuff if you have an actual skill.

But I was just thinking that in terms of talking about it year round, starting to plant the seed in these daily flash briefings – just like you do on your podcast – except you can have little clips and little bitty soundbites from some of the people who are going to be speaking and giving a tip and a little bio and constantly talking about it.

Or, having your briefing just be, Agents of Change Conference sponsored by the conference. But it’s year round. So by the time the conference comes, you can have content that follows up from last year if it’s still valuable. Like little tidbits and takeaways form this past year, and as you get closer – halfway to 6 months out of the upcoming conference – now you’re going to be talking about stuff coming up.

I’m just saying as a whole other platform to market, it would be smart because of this searchability. So if you keyword it right, and in fact use keywords from other popular conferences when you set this up, would maybe be something really good to do. I mean, I just thought of that right before we went live so I’d have to develop it.

Rich: Yeah. I could also see using, we put together a highlight reel at the end of every year, both of people talking about how great the conference was as well as some of the speaker’s best lines. I could certainly see sharing those throughout the year as well to kind of build up interest. And of course the speakers who are coming on could do quick little briefings, like a minute long thing, that I could fit into our own Alexa briefing.

Jen: Yeah, totally.

Rich: Good stuff. So Jen, you shred a lot of good stuff today. Where can people find you online?

Jen: I am at jenlehner.com, and also if you want to learn more or set up your own Alexa, I do have a place for you to do that called thealexaforce.com.

Rich: Awesome, I’m sure a lot of people will be checking that out. Jen, thank you very much for reaching out to me with your Twitter DM and telling me I need to get you on the show. This was great, very helpful, and always awesome to tackle a new task. So thank you very much and I appreciate your time today.

Jen: Thank you, Rich. 

Show Notes:

Jen Lehner knows that digital marketing is not one size fits all, so she teaches businesses how to grow by helping them find the right digital marketing strategies for them. Check out her website for more on how she can help your business move forward.

Here’s the blog post Jen did for Social Media Examiner on how to set up an Alexa briefing. Easy, concise, step by step instructions!

Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing