Have you ever shopped online late at night and really needed an answer to a question right then and there? Maybe you saw a laptop at a great price and needed someone to talk you through a few simple questions about shipping. You wanted to buy it, but you just needed a few answers before adding it to your cart and checking out.

You’re not the only person who has been in this predicament. In fact, 55% of online consumers will avoid making a purchase simply because they can’t get an answer to their question quickly enough. In a world where information is at your fingertips all the time, customer interactions need to match that level of efficiency.

Conversational marketing streamlines the customer experience. It enables you to provide real-time support and move qualifying leads down the funnel faster.

What Is Conversational Marketing?

Conversational marketing is the process of using real-time conversations to engage new leads and potential customers through the sales funnel.

conversational marketing infographic

The term “conversational marketing” was coined by Drift. They came up with a three-pillar conversational framework upon which conversational marketing is built today:

  • Engage: Start a conversation with your potential customer.
  • Understand: Identify your potential customer’s needs.
  • Recommend: Form a recommendation based on your potential customer’s needs.

At its core, the goal of conversational marketing is to deliver a personalized experience so customers feel their needs have been adequately addressed.

“Between human beings as well as between companies and customers, a relationship cannot exist without an interface,” says Mattia Gnemmi, Co-Founder of Conversational Design, a conversational marketing agency based in Italy.  “Conversation is the oldest and most effective interface. It’s what everyone uses in real life. It can be the strongest interface between a user and the company even in the digital world. It’s not an acquisition form or a way to ask for an email or a phone number, but it’s a way to try to emulate the real-life experience and relationship model.”

From a business perspective, using a conversational marketing strategy can accelerate customer engagement and inbound marketing efforts by utilizing chatbot and live chat interactions.

Chatbot Interactions

A primary form of conversational marketing is accomplished through chatbot interactions. Visitors are greeted by AI-driven chatbots as they enter a website or other company channels with messaging capability.

conversational marketing mirror example

Source: Mirror

These interactions determine how far a customer journey goes. If the chatbot can’t solve a website visitor’s pain points, for example, it should have the functionality to hand the conversation off to marketing, sales, or a customer support rep. It’s about making sure that potential customer relationships are being nurtured through the proper channels.

Chatbots can also be great for MOFu marketing. They can remember a user’s prior actions and recall previous conversations with them. The ability to recall previous conversations also helps make the customer relationship with the chatbot feel more like a face-to-face interaction where the artificial intelligence remembers what a customer was there for.

It’s also important to keep in mind that chatbot interactions don’t only take place on company-owned websites. Chatbots interactions take place on Slack, SMS, and a variety of social media channels like Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and Kik. More marketers are seeing opportunities to boost conversion rates with chatbots through a number of digital marketing channels.

Live Chat Interactions

Another form of conversational marketing includes the use of live chats with real people who answer questions on the website, on the phone, or in person.

This process is more challenging for companies with large customer bases because it requires more manpower. The workflow also isn’t as fast or efficient because customer support reps are often dealing with long customer queues during busy hours.

And consider this: Customer data from the John Lewis Partnership Card found that one in 15 purchases are made between midnight and 6 a.m. — long after most customer support reps call it a day. The fact that a chatbot doesn’t need much sleep works to its advantage here.

Conversational Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing

With traditional marketing efforts, such as email marketing or content marketing, it takes time to nurture leads. Qualifying a lead can often take weeks, even months, with a traditional sales funnel. They need to fill out online forms and receive marketing campaign materials before becoming a qualified, purchase-ready lead.

Conversational marketing and the sales funnel

Conversational marketing streamlines the lead generation process. People speak directly with a chatbot or live chat rep, which serve as filters for bad leads. They can identify qualified leads within minutes of an interaction. If the chatbot or live chat rep receives a top of the funnel (TOFu) question, for example, it can understand how to handle it differently than a bottom of the funnel question.

What Can You Use Conversational Marketing For?

When executed properly, conversational marketing has two-way benefits. It helps potential customers get answers to pressing questions faster, and it saves your business time hunting down qualified leads.

Sales Generation

If you’re looking to boost sales efficiency, conversational marketing can help with that. People are more likely to purchase products or services from a company they interact with — and there’s some compelling data to back that claim up.

Website visitors are “82% more likely to convert to customers if they’ve chatted” with the company first. A single company reply increases a visitor’s likelihood to convert by 50%. Two replies increase the likelihood to 100%, and six messages exchanged can increase chances by 250%.

Conversations are personal experiences. Every potential customer comes in with their own preferences, and talking to someone makes them feel like they’re being heard. Instead of simply dictating what a potential customer should buy through ads and other marketing efforts, you’re now offering them the chance to have their say.

Lead Qualification

Chatbots and live chats can easily identify which leads are truly interested in purchasing your product or service. For example, there’s a difference between a lead who wants detailed pricing information and one who’s looking to understand how your product or service works.

Drift’s 2020 State of Conversational Marketing report found that 55% of companies using conversational marketing received more high-quality leads as a result. The same report found that 38% of companies have accelerated their sales funnel after implementing conversational marketing.

Drift's 2020 State of Conversational Marketing report found that 55% of companies using conversational marketing received more high-quality leads as a result. Click To Tweet

Chatbots and customer support reps can flag qualified leads and direct them to a purchase faster. Their conversations with potential customers reveal their motivation level and whether they simply want more information or if they’re purchase-ready.

Educational Content

Leverage conversational marketing to provide educational content.

Let’s say your company provides a CRM solution, and you want to educate people on how it works. Instead of listing out a number of features, you can turn the customer journey into an interactive lesson of sorts. You can set up a chatbot to personalize different customer pain points as questions, and the end result will change depending on the questions answered.

Not only does the potential customer walk away feeling like they learned something, but they also have a solution right in front of them.

Completing User Tasks

Sometimes you just need a little extra push to complete a task.

Using conversational marketing to help users complete tasks like booking a hotel room or buying a product is becoming increasingly common through different marketing channels. Getting a chatbot or live support rep to guide a customer through a certain process both helps them and makes them feel taken care of.

You can even take it a step further and have that chatbot or customer support rep act as a concierge of sorts. Think about getting leads to speak to someone (chatbot or human) who understands the product or service process flawlessly and is keen to help with every step and offer their own suggestions.

Where Does Conversational Marketing Happen?

A lot of people interact with chatbots and live customer support reps on company websites. While that’s definitely a common channel through which to deploy conversational marketing tools, other channels are starting to see significant growth on that front as well.

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter often have business pages that are set up with a chatbot or live customer support rep. Messaging apps are also becoming great lead capture tools with chatbot and live customer rep conversations taking place through channels like Whatsapp and SMS.

The sheer scope of conversational marketing channels has widened, and companies are seeing opportunities outside of company-owned channels.

Consumers don’t want to sit through long phone queues and wait times to get answers — they want information here and now. That means offering support dialogue through several different channels, including your website, social media, phone, and messaging apps.

In fact, high-performing customer service teams are more likely to have an omnichannel support approach than teams that don’t.

What Makes a Bad Conversational Marketing Experience?

Not all conversational marketing experiences knock it out of the park. Make sure you set up your chatbots properly in order to offer the best customer experience. Below are a few chatbots mistakes you should avoid.

Building a chatbot that tries to answer any and every question a user asks

Many businesses don’t have the resources to devote to building a chatbot with advanced AI functionality, and even ones that do may find that it takes significant training to produce a great chatbot that answers even a small number of questions. In this scenario, it may be better to have the chatbot stick to answering the simplest, most frequently asked questions for prospective customers and handing off more advanced questions to a human rep.

Failing to build user trust first

Sending someone who has engaged in conversation with your chatbot straight to a landing page or lead form without any context is a good way to turn your lead off in a hurry. It’s no different than a blatant sales pitch. The chatbot should make an attempt to get to know the customer and their needs before asking for an email address or other contact info.

Failing to set user expectations up front about what your chatbot can do

It should be clear to a lead or customer from the beginning what the chatbot can help them with and where they’ll need a human to discuss further steps. Interacting with a chatbot that doesn’t have an answer can be frustrating, but they should be able to direct the customer to a support or sales rep if the question is too complex for their understanding.

Writing long-winded responses

Chatbots should always offer tight and concise responses throughout a conversation — not ones that are so long that the customer has to scroll up to find answers. Remember, one of the benefits of conversational marketing is that it’s meant to be a conversation. If the chatbot is flooding a lead with sales cycle information and unnecessary metrics, that lead will likely have a tough time keeping up and get overwhelmed.

3 Examples of Conversational Marketing Done Right

Conversational marketing is more than offering up a customer support rep or chatbot to talk with customers — it’s also about how they talk to customers. These companies have it figured out.

Amika

conversational marketing amika example

Source: Amika

Haircare brand Amika features a highly intelligent chatbot that can help you choose the ideal products for your specific hair type.

The chatbot talks to you like a friend making a recommendation; it’s also very visual, offering different photos of hairstyle examples for you to click.

Casper

conversational marketing casper exampleSource: Casper

Casper has a live chat functionality that connects you to a customer support rep in real time.

This customer support rep is a real person. Notice how friendly their interaction with the customer is. The use of exclamation points adds urgency and excitement to the conversation and an overall warmth to their tone.

HelloAva

conversational marketing helloava exampleSource: HelloAva

Skincare brand HelloAva uses a quiz-style chatbot that emulates a real conversation and helps you choose the right products according to your problem areas.

This chatbot gets straight to the point. It asks you short, direct questions about your skin, almost functioning like a medical specialist. The chatbot makes you feel like you’re getting a suggestion from someone who knows these products on a deep level.

10 Tools Leading the Conversational Marketing Charge

If you’re looking to boost your conversational marketing efforts, you should consider using one of the following tools:

  • Drift
  • Zendesk Chat and Chatbot
    • Zendesk chatbots easily integrate with other solutions including Zendesk Support and Zendesk Chat for a unified CRM experience.
  • Intercom
  • HubSpot Marketing Hub
    • HubSpot’s marketing suite includes free live chat software that connects customers with live support reps and a chatbot builder that can streamline customer interactions. 
  • ManyChat
    • ManyChat is a chatbot builder offers seamless integration with a number of different tools including Google Sheets, Shopify, MailChimp, and PayPal. 
  • Facebook Messenger Bot
    • Facebook Messenger Bot is specifically designed for Facebook and helps you build chatbots that are fully optimized for the platform. 
  • Acquire
    • Aquire’s chatbot automatically reroutes customers to a live customer rep whenever it is unable to answer a question in full. 
  • LiveChat
    • Message Sneak-Peek feature sees what a customer is typing to you before they send it to promote faster customer support responses. 

Conversational Marketing Is the Future of the Customer Experience

The conversational AI market is expected to jump from $4.2 billion to $15.7 billion by 2024. This means the technology behind conversational marketing as a whole is only going to become more prevalent and intelligent. If you haven’t already, consider investing in this type of technology now to stay in line with the customer experience of the future.

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