What Is Conversational Marketing? — A Brief Overview

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If you have visited any websites lately, you may have noticed those tiny message icons in the bottom right corner. Yes, those are chatbots. By 2020, nearly 80% of enterprises are predicted to use chatbots to automate and scale responses to customer inquires. However, chatbot technology goes beyond mass automation. Behind the tech is an entire marketing methodology called Conversational Marketing.

While live chat is one of the more common tools used in Conversational Marketing it’s not the only one. Marketers can use email, phone, video, text messaging, online messaging, and more. While the tools you use to communicate with your customers are important, they alone don’t make up the core of the methodology. Let’s dive into five core principles of Conversational Marketing.

The Five Core Principles of Conversational Marketing

Conversational Marketing is Customer-Oriented

First and foremost, your Conversational Marketing strategy must be customer-oriented. This means you must serve your customers rather than sell to them. For example, if your customers have questions about a product or service, offer them helpful information that will inform their decision. This could mean sending them a product guide or pointing them to your blog or sending them a third-party industry guide. Don’t use the car salesmen method and try to immediately offer special discounts or press them for more information about their intentions.

Customer-oriented also means meeting your customers where they are. If they are on your website, use a chatbot to interact with them. If they prefer email, get into their inbox. If they use Facebook, use Messenger.

Conversational Marketing is Conversational

Sales scripts and canned responses will not work in Conversational Marketing. You must have real conversations with your customers. It’s in the name, literally. This also means keeping a conversational tone which can be challenging for many professionals.

Think about it this way. How do you speak to your friends and family? You probably use exclamation points, contractions, and humor. Now, how do you speak to your boss? You probably tighten up your grammar and use a more professional tone. When you speak with customers, a conversational tone enables them to feel more comfortable and relate to you. They start to see you as a human trying to help rather than a company trying to sell. This is especially important when they cannot see your face. But, they also need to be able to understand what you are saying, so you still need to use proper grammar and check your spelling.

Work with your Conversational Marketing team to adopt a conversational yet professional tone. This may take some time. We’ve found that a brand voice guide can act as a helpful reference to your team. It helps the team blend their voice to the brand so everyone is consistent.

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Image Source: Jason Leung

Conversational Marketing is Personalized

Without personalization, Conversational Marketing will not produce results at scale. Personalization is the method of using demographic and contextual data to personalize the message to your potential customers. For example, when a chatbot greets a returning visitor to the website, it may say “Hi there, welcome back! Is there anything I can help you with?” Another example could be if someone has already had a conversation. In this case, the chatbot would say something like “Hi Joe, welcome back! Are you interested in learning more about our pricing plans for product XYZ?”

Notice how both of these examples use contextual and demographic information. The benefit of using personalization is that you can create a unique experience for the customer where they feel the brand is entering their world not the other way around. It creates a friendly, conversational environment where the customer feels they are in control.

Personalization at scale does require automation. If your sales reps had to add every individual’s name to a mass email, that would take hours. Automation enables you to personalize messages that would otherwise feel like a billboard blast or a robot going through a script.

Conversational Marketing Is for Marketing and Sales Teams

Conversational Marketing requires participation from both your marketing and sales teams to be successful. Conversations occur up and down the pipeline from initial contact to final sale. This requires your marketing reps and your sales reps to manage these conversations and move potential customers down the pipeline.

How is this different from the role of sales and marketing in a traditional pipeline? The handoff is faster. Often time marketing collects leads, marks them as qualified, and sends them off to sales to start the conversation. In Conversational Marketing, your marketers are already interacting with potential customers before they hand them off to sales. Instead of handing off a piece of data, your marketers are essentially referring the buyer to another person who can continue to provide him or her with information that will help with the decision-making process.

Conversational Marketing is Frictionless

For your customers, a great Conversational Marketing experience should feel as easy as having a conversation with a friend. Behind the scenes, there are several actions that need to be taken to accomplish a frictionless experience. A frictionless experience requires:

  • Customer Data: What is their personal information? Where are they in their journey? What are their pain points? What information do they already have?
  • Automation: This enables you to reduce friction between steps of the marketing and sales funnel. Examples include chatbots, email automation, and API-based integrations.
  • Real-Time Response: You must have the ability to respond to customer inquires in real-time. This requires a mix of automation and team coordination.

Often these factors require some kind of investment of time, people, and resources. But, the return on investment is a great customer experience that helps buyers trust your brand.

What Are the Benefits of Conversational Marketing?

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Image Source: LinkedIn Sales Solutions

Build Stronger Relationships With Customers

Real, timely conversations give your company a superpower: trust. While brands can spend millions of dollars creating a trustworthy brand, Conversational Marketing allows you to get right to the root of the problem. When you can find out what your customers need and help them solve their problems, whether that’s with your company or not, you build trust.

The residual effect is a strong word-of-mouth channel. Think about your favorite restaurant. You probably love the food, but the experience is also fantastic. The wait staff was friendly, you were served quickly, and if there was a problem the managers were quick to help. Have you ever recommended the restaurant to anyone? Absolutely!

Conversational marketing allows you to transfer the same personable experience to your business. When you can provide better service to your potential and existing customers, they are more likely to trust your brand and recommend you to others.

Convert More Leads in a Shorter Sales Cycle

In a traditional marketing funnel, your buyer has to go through a series of steps, usually over days, before they ever speak to a sales rep. Conversational Marketing skips these unnecessary steps and gets potential customers in touch with the marketing and sales team almost immediately.

In a case study presented by Drift, one B2B company reported reducing their sales cycle by 85%. Another fast-growing company noted, “[their] typical sales cycle takes about 8 months from initial contact to a signed deal. With Drift, [they] were able to reduce the sales cycle to only 45 days.”

Offer a Better Customer Experience

As we mentioned before, Conversational Marketing enables you to create a better customer experience by serving your customers instead of selling to them. Personalization enables you to provide a friendly, trustworthy environment where your potential customers feel comfortable skiing questions and gathering information to make their buying decisions.

Is Conversational Marketing Right for You?

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Image Source: JESHOOTS.COM

Do You Have the Right Team to Answer Chat Requests in Real-Time?

In order to serve customers where they are, you must have the capability to have conversations in real-time. This often means having one or more dedicated representatives who are ready to respond when the automation redirects customers to them.

If you have a small team or do not have the resources to hire dedicated chat representatives, try rotating the responsibility among team members. For example, your Marketing Coordinator manages the website chat on Mondays, your CTO manages it on Tuesdays, and so on. This plan requires your employees to take time out of their normal duties but, provides the opportunity for everyone to interact with customers.

Do You Have the Right Tools to Create a Personalized, Frictionless Experience?

Creating a frictionless, personalized experience at scale requires an investment in marketing technology. For example, if you want to reach every person that visits your website, you will need an automated chatbot to help handle conversation requests. The same goes for your email outreach or online messaging. You will also need to obtain customer data (contextual and demographic) from a variety of data sources to create a personalized experience. There are several API tools and built-in integrations that can help you achieve this, however, they do come at a cost.

Think about your resource availability and weigh your priorities. Do you have several sales reps on hand to handle conversations? Then you may want to invest more heavily in personalization capabilities. Or do you have lots of customer data but a small team? Then you may want to invest in conversation automation.

Are Your Marketing and Sales Teams Aligned?

We’ve already noted that Conversational Marketing is for marketing and sales teams. Since a Conversational Marketing strategy changes and shortens the sales cycle considerably, your marketing and sales teams must be on the same page. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do my marketing and sales teams communicate multiple times a week?
  • Do my marketing and sales teams use the same CRM or customer data sources?
  • Do my marketing and sales teams have the same conversational language?
  • Do my marketing and sales teams use the same messaging when it comes to our products or services?

If you’ve answered no to any of the above questions, then you need to spend some time getting your marketing and sales teams on the same page before you dive into a Conversational Marketing strategy.

If you jump in without having everyone on the same page, you will cause speed bumps in your customer’s experience. For example, let’s say a marketing representative qualifies a lead via a chatbot and then routes that lead to a sales rep. If the sales rep is not available, the customer is left hanging and not likely to return to you.

Similarly, if your sales rep and marketing rep have completely different tones of voice, it will feel obvious to the customer. For example, if your sales rep is super formal in tone, but your marketing rep uses emojis, punctuation, and a more casual tone then the customer may feel less comfortable.

Conversational Marketing flips the traditional funnel on its head and can help you deliver a better customer experience, faster sales cycles, and stronger customer relationships. If you’re thinking about adopting a Conversational Marketing strategy, make sure you have the right team and resources in place to be successful.

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