What is conversational marketing?
Conversational marketing is marketing that engages customers through dialogue that puts the focus on interactions with the customers through two-way communications in real-time conversations. Conversational marketing includes engaging website visitors, converting them into leads or being a vehicle for existing customers to continue engage with a company.
Conversational marketing allows for quicker engagement and encourages an increased pace through the customer journey. The term was originally coined by Drift, a marketing and sales company. It changed the way companies can communicate with their prospects and customers, allowing teams to communicate faster with their website visitors and ultimately get those visitors the answers and information they need in a timely fashion. This creates an authentic experience between brand and consumer and often builds a stronger foundational relationship between the parties.
Why is conversational marketing important?
By taking a conversational marketing approach, brands don't need to stop their more traditional methods of lead capture into a marketing funnel or remove many of the other one-way communication styles. It is another tool used to engage an audience based on their preference or communication styles with a brand. By offering customers multiple channels to engage, it also lets them choose how to communicate with a company. Conversational marketing is increasing in popularity due to its improved results of moving visitors through a funnel in a more streamlined fashion with increased conversion rates.
Traditional marketing approaches are focused on making a sale by influencing prospects as quickly as possible. In contrast, conversational marketing puts the customer front and center. This can happen through live chat on a website or support portal, or by using chatbots and AI to help navigate users toward their intended destination or answer their questions. Conversational marketing also can take a heavy burden off of sales teams by gaining insights about prospects early, leading to more meaningful conversations when the time comes to engage in the sales process.
Chatbots and conversational marketing
With advances in technology and AI, the use of chatbots on digital platforms has increasingly grown in adoption, as they can be an integral part of conversational marketing strategy execution. Chatbots are computer programs meant to simulate and process human conversations, providing users with a more interactive approach to communicating with a brand as if it were a real person.
Chatbots are viewed as some of the promising expressions of interactions between humans and machines in the form of conversational marketing. Using a combination of AI and human-implemented rules, this technology streamlines the real-time interactions between people and services, while offering new ways for a company to elegantly streamline the user engagement process. There is less human intervention when a chatbot is set up to help navigate a user through their journey, but there is a lot of work that can go into planning the chat flows for various persona groups depending on their needs from a brand.
Using chatbots with a conversational marketing strategy is great for marketing automation, but conversational marketing tactics also include the use of real people on the other end of the two-way communication between brand and consumer. With a live representative, there is an added benefit of having real-time communication with someone on the other end. This lends itself well to customer support issues or helping prospects who are at various stages of their customer journey get real-time answers from a person. Human-to-human connection is important for establishing trust and longevity in those relationships.
Benefits of conversational marketing
For marketing teams adopting conversational marketing tactics, there are a significant amount of advantages and reasons to allocate resources and tools toward this effective route, including the following:
Humanize the customer experience. Conversational marketing gives sales and customer experience teams the ability to deliver a more human touch with prospects. This begins the relationship on a positive foot, especially when the conversation is more personalized for the user.
Increase engagement. One-to-one communications with a brand give consumers the feeling that they have direct access to the lifeline that they need. This may lead to an increase in engagement from prospects who may not have previously identified themselves as someone who may need information or support.
Provide a boost to the sales funnel. When conversational marketing is a deployed tactic, businesses are able to quickly identify quality leads as they come in and share information that is crucial to the selling process. Through a conversation, this could lead to an increase in conversions and a shortened sales cycle.
Quickly recommend products or services. Through inputs or comments from consumers, live agents and chatbots can be used to direct consumers quickly to recommended products or services that may be aligned with their needs. With data about past purchase history, chatbots can also pop up to make recommendations for other products based on customers who may be a part of a similar persona profile group.
Maintain customer relationships. Being able to rapidly respond to customer support issues or provide information on other products and services provides a positive feeling for those customers. With customer retention and revenue growth over time, conversational marketing will not only maintain a positive customer relationship but can also grow one as well.
Respond in real time. Especially with customer support issues, submitting a support ticket and waiting to hear back can be a cumbersome and frustrating experience for teams. Being able to respond in real time reduces the resolution of an issue, but also could lead to more sales from new prospects, as they work through their customer decision-making process.
Collect important visitor data easily in the engagement process. When dealing with static lead capture mechanisms -- such as forms -- marketers can collect data from prospects, but often not without hesitation from the end user. Forms are commonplace and many users are hesitant to give information up about themselves. With conversational marketing, data point collection can be built into the interactive experience. The data points collected will be shared organically through the conversation and collected in a marketing automation or CRM tool.
Examples of conversational marketing
To roll out a conversational marketing strategy, human-directed rules and strategies should seamlessly blend with the technologies used to deliver and capture the conversational experiences. Many companies use some or a combination of tools, such as chatbot or live chat software, customer support, marketing automation tools, SMS texting and even streaming services for live video conversations.
Social media platforms also have built-in messenger features that allow social followers to reach out to a brand from their social channels just as they would on a customer support portal or marketing website. Many companies employ conversational marketing well, including the following examples:
Chatbots are becoming more commonplace in the food and beverage industry with an aim at increasing brand awareness, booking reservations or providing recipe and meal ideas. Whole Foods has a Facebook Messenger bot that prompts users to decide the groceries they may need or recipe ideas. Through various filtering options based on meal or event types, they can narrow down the options a user may need to find the perfect meal for their occasion. They also make it fun and interactive, showing they have a clear understanding of their personas.
HubSpot is a leader in marketing automation software and has its own chat tools built into its technology. Whether a prospective customer is looking for a solution to fit their needs or an existing customer seeks support, conversational marketing is used at various steps. HubSpot also offers a form of video conversational marketing through their social and streaming channels, hosting user groups for thought leadership sharing or new tips and updates.
Conversational marketing doesn't always have to begin at the first touch opportunity. Okta uses a return visitor chatbot. Their website stores cookie data in the user's browser to detect when a user begins a repeat visit and personalizes it with a "Welcome back" prompt to help let the user pick up where they left off. This is helpful for encouraging more conversion focused activities, such as booking a meeting with the sales team or getting in touch with a support representative.
Conversational marketing strategy and best practices
When beginning any strategic planning, it is important to keep in mind the goals and how the organization will attain them through the efforts. Selecting a particular strategy can be subjective between organizations. Built-in planning, implementation, testing and optimization cycles will help the program to succeed. Here is a look at a few general strategies and best practices for rolling out an effective conversational marketing initiative.
- Nail down the communication channels. A chatbot or a live agent feature on a website is a great way to kick off conversational marketing with web visitors, but most companies are deploying more multi-channel campaigns. Select channels that have the ability for reciprocating conversations and make it easy for users to find and engage with them.
- Determine the right mix of questions and answers. When executing a conversational marketing strategy through chatbots, marketing teams should work with sales to uncover the important pain points, pushbacks and persona-level profiles of the audience. Analytics from web traffic or previous purchases can also lend a hand in this, but the logic needs to be built into the rules of the chat flow. Know the audience and the questions they are likely to ask when building branches to lead users down, depending on their inputs. Learn more about that visitor by organically placing questions about who they are and what they are interested in. This could enrich their record in a database, but also allow the answers displayed to connect people with a brand.
- Have analytics tracking in place. Make sure there is a destination to store these chat conversations or data about the prospects and customers submitting the information through these experiences. Most chat tools have their own analytics tracking, but can also integrate with marketing automation systems and CRM The technology used will give marketing teams the insight they need and a location to store the data, but it is important to use this information to measure the success of those conversation points or identify gaps that require optimization.
- Use personalization. With more information collected through these conversational methods, a brand can create a more personalized experience. If a website detects a returning visitor or an existing customer, their conversational experience should be slightly different than a first-time web visitor. Make sure to find opportunities to personalize the experience and increase the human-to-human relationship by using their names, or recommending products related to past purchases.
- Use different conversations for different personas. If a brand sells toward different persona groups, each group should have a unique experience. For example, if a company sells different software for different departments, each software product section of its website should have a different conversational experience. Outside of the website, make sure to collect information in a way that would allow users to self-identify what persona group they may be a part of and move them down their appropriate path.
- Ask for feedback. Both chatbots and live chat experiences provide ample opportunity to solicit feedback in the form of surveys or other feedback loops. Try to build in space for feedback throughout the channels to collect more user experience data that could inform future decisions for the company.