Conversational marketing is a term that describes a feedback-oriented approach to driving customer engagement, building brand loyalty and positively impacting the bottom line. Heck, this isn't new. It's been around since early man traded a few beans for something he needed. It's how business gets done. It's the core to selling. So why all the buzz around Conversational Marketing now?
Sales and Marketing teams can see the switch occurring before our digital eyes. Just when we all got used to 'trading beans', or our personal information for something we want or need, the consumer has demanded a more immediate interaction. Companies recognize the consumer has taken charge of the selling process and it's time to adjust or get out of the way.
Enter the Chatbot
Chat messaging on websites aren't all that new either, however, it was largely perceived to be only used as a support tool, offering customers answers or routing them to the proper resource. What's changed is the use of this tool for marketing and sales. Companies now operate in a sales environment that no longer dictates when, where, or how customers engage with them. With real-time messaging buyers expect a new type of experience — where conversations happen on their terms.
Additionally, marketing teams have spent the better part of the last decade driving top-of-funnel leads through content marketing, rather than shifting their focus to what clearly needs to be addressed. The buyer's journey and sales funnel have changed. For years, sales and marketing teams have been focused on using the “form and follow-up” approach to capturing and qualifying leads. We all are familiar with the steps below...
- Step 1: Drive people to your website
"Sales reps would never ignore customers who walked into a brick and mortar store. Why should they ignore them when they visited a company’s website?"
- Step 2: Make those people fill out lead capture forms
- Step 3: Email, call or dump them into an automated “nurturing” flow
While steps 1 and 3 are pretty straightforward and typically get most of the attention, step 2 is the problem child. Lead capture forms have become annoying, cumbersome and seemingly outdated to buyers. This may have something to do with the increase in use and higher comfort levels in using messaging apps, as stated in Mary Meeker’s 2016 Internet Trends Report, reporting the average consumer has 3 messaging apps on the smart phones, and sends on average 3 messages each hour.
The answer - Chatbots. As the popularity of chatbots grows, so grows the necessity to adopt a conversational approach. According to Drift, one of the fastest growing tools on the market today, the conversations have overwhelmingly shifted from the sales rep to the Bot in an amazingly short time.
Chatbot Conversation Breakdown
Implementing a conversational approach, a single marketer can now to set up a chatbot that automatically greets hundreds or thousands of visitors and asks them qualifying questions. That bot can then route qualified leads to specific sales reps or help those leads book demos on a rep’s calendar. This new 'fast lane' saves time for both the buyer and the sales rep. The buyer receives real-time interaction, and the sales rep spends less time filtering out the bad leads. Today's consumer behavior was demonstrated by a study performed by Hubspot, testing delivered content on Facebook's Messenger App that saw a 2.5X increase in open rates and 6X the number of clicks when compared to email. This improved performance is due in part to the channel's push notifications, but it also aligns with how people want to shop, buy, and engage with companies today. Hubspot states that "We’re producing 20% more qualified opportunities as a result of adding an onsite messaging option." (6 Marketing Lessons HubSpot Learned in 2017)
Create a More Human Buying Experience
Don't get me wrong - chatbots are not replacing human-to-human conversations outright. It simply allows the right conversation to occur with the right people (or bot) at the right time. Odd as it may seem, bots are actually allowing marketing and sales to have a more human conversation with potential buyers.
Driven by artificial intelligence (AI), conversational marketing is predicted to yield better opportunities to engage with customers, provide untold value from conversations, and monitor not only what your customer needs but also their tone. Long gone are the days when a dozen people sat in a room for an hour or two for you to glean insight into their minds and thoughts of your services and brand. You can now have a virtual focus group at your fingertips and include your entire customer base, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Marketers will have unprecedented opportunities to gather data. The future will bring with it a new network of knowledge and an ability to redefine your brand to lead in this new digital economy. This enriched data affords you to customize your message and take personalization to whole new level.
Conversion Through Conversation
Businesses are enabled to stay above the marketing noise by leveraging the personalized information conversations provide. Interactions such as bi-directional or chatbots build stronger, longer, and more loyal relationships. Let's face it, messages get lost in the shuffle. Conversational marketing breaks through the clutter and delivers relevant communication at the right time.