The Rise of Conversational Marketing
In the past 100 years, we have seen the rise of marketing through the invention of the Radio, TV, and PC. From people selling their wares one-on-one in the market square to giant billboards in Times Square- and now back to highly-personalized experiences again – but this time, online. Conversational marketing is one of the newer evolutions in online personalized marketing and it is changing the way brands plan and implement their content marketing and sales strategies.
Just like the market square, conversational marketing offers customers a surprisingly personal touch that provides prospects and customers a welcome change from more generic campaigns. Brands are no longer built on the quality and need of their products alone. Buyer experience now plays a huge role in purchase decisions and brand loyalty.
Whether selling a commodity or luxury product, customers demand convenience and a satisfying customer experience.
Each new technological development in marketing has brought with it changes in customer expectations, and conversational marketing is no exception. Chatbots, the key component in conversational marketing means customers now expect conversations and answers to product or service questions to happen whenever they are ready.
While most would think installing a chatbot on your e-commerce site or mobile app is counter-intuitive to personalization, new research shows the opposite is true. Chatbots are providing immediate answers to prospects and customer questions, all while leading them to the product demo and sales call that can close the deal quickly.
What Is Conversational Marketing?
Conversational marketing is very new to most brands and marketing departments. It is an automated conversation with prospects and customers on your website that provides visitors with a more personal and individualized experience while providing you with detailed information about them.
The automated conversation takes place using a chatbot. Chatbots Magazine defines a chatbot as “a service, powered by rules and sometimes artificial intelligence, that you interact with via a chat interface.” Once a chatbot is programmed, brands can gain many of the benefits of live chat without needing staff to man the chat window. Your chatbot is available 24/7 to engage with new leads and customers even when it is 3 am.
When a visitor clicks on a chatbot it allows them to initiate a conversation or ask a question. Or, the chatbot can ask the visitor a question to start a conversation. Each bit of information a visitor provides prompts a different question based on that previous answer. Conversational marketing has the power to move a prospect through your sales funnel by simply conducting a real-time conversation.
For consumer brands, the give and take of such an automated conversation can mimic the experience of having an individualized conversation in a retail shop. For business brands, it can help answer many product questions and qualify a lead, referring them to set up a time for a demo or live call with the salesperson most appropriate for their needs.
How Conversational Marketing Works
Although conversational marketing can be incredibly informative for brands, it should be designed around the needs of the consumer. Just like in a real conversation, if the consumer feels the chatbot is prying for information, the conversation will end and the visitor will go elsewhere.
People expect their conversations to be helpful and sympathetic. The only difference is that now they are speaking with an app. In conversational marketing, you want to offer assistance to those browsing your pricing page or a demo for those on your product features page. Because chatbots are programmed to imitate natural language, it provides the customer with an emulated human customer service experience.
For brands, conversational marketing is breaking down the walls between marketing, sales, and support. You are not just marketing or selling products but adding value by providing customer support. Each customer gains the support for exactly what they need- right when they ask. The result is that your brand becomes more credible and customer-centric. Customers want to return because their experience with you was not generic. Over time, there is the opportunity for further engagement which grows the relationship.
Benefits of Conversational Marketing
The goal of conversational marketing is to increase conversion rates, create efficiencies, and to strengthen the bond between brand and customer. The benefits of these one-on-one conversations are many:
You create a more human purchasing experience.
When a prospect now comes to your website he or she is greeted and encouraged to start a conversation. Your ecommerce site becomes less impersonal and generic. Visitors feel acknowledged and appreciated when they are provided with answers and solutions.
You gain a lot of knowledge about your customers.
Traditionally, lead forms can collect visitor contact information. Conversational marketing can reveal much more about each visitor – why they came to your site, which products and features are most important to them, their needs, and what they want to do next. Everything you learn can be used by your brand. This knowledge is exceedingly valuable and can make your marketing smarter.
You increase your conversions.
Many website visitors will not fill out lead conversion forms. Using a chatbot gives these prospects a friendlier, more helpful alternative.
You strengthen your sales pipeline.
The bot answers visitors’ inquiries 24/7, even when your salespeople are off. Because bots don’t sleep, go on vacation, or take sick days, service is consistent and constant. And, response time is immediate so the customer is satisfied.
You create a flow of continual market research.
Getting customers to talk to a chatbot is miles more informative than filling in forms. Over time, the data collected can provide information on many fronts such as holes in your website’s information, or growing trends and opportunities. This helps brands become more agile and able to take advantage of their customers’ interests. Unlike traditional marketing, conversational marketing is a two-way process and much more acceptable to the ad-averse public.
You can make sales recommendations based on what you’ve learned.
A chatbot can set up a meeting, product demo, or call with a customer automatically through connected calendars. And, they can lead customers not only to real reps who can close a deal but also to related products or services that might be of interest to the customer.
Examples of Conversational Marketing
Hello Fresh is one of the most popular meal kit delivery companies. They named their chatbot – Freddy Freshbot to add personality and a bit of fun to their automation. Using Facebook Messenger, Freddy guides customers through offerings, provides recipes, and can even set reminders.
KLM has a chatbot named BB (Blue Bot). BB helps customers find destinations, book flights, and even pack their bags. Because making travel plans can be stressful, BB helps give customers greater confidence about how to make and set arrangements for their trip.
MongoDB, an open-source database program, developed a chatbot to increase lead generation and qualify leads more effectively. Click on the message icon on their homepage and the bot is set to answer questions and drive the most qualified users to a sales call. The bot is integrated with the company’s CRM so it can set up a meeting with the best salesperson for that user.
Beyond the Chatbot
Since conversational marketing is all about responding to customers whenever and however they want, it makes sense that so many chatbot capabilities extend beyond that initial automated conversation. Chatbots can set up phone calls, schedule a follow-up email, text or message, set up a demo, and even schedule reminders for customers.
The ability for a live salesperson or customer service rep to take over when a conversation needs to be enhanced by a real human helps to reinforce the usefulness of these bots. When a prospect or customer is connected with the live representative, that person does not have to start the conversation anew but can pick up the conversation right where the bot left off. This provides the kind of seamless customer journey that closes sales!
Conversational Marketing Is Here To Stay
Conversational marketing and the chatbot industry is gaining the acceptance of a growing number of companies in all business sectors who are using these new advancements in AI to creatively grow their customer base and sales revenue. Although it requires an investment in new technologies and software, once in use all that is needed are incremental adjustments as you learn more about what your customers are looking for.
The chatbot industry, which is at the root of conversational marketing, is expected to grow to $1.25 billion by 2025, up from $80 billion now. As customer experience is increasingly driving brand success, one-way communication models will not only be a waste of money but a waste of time. We already see the widespread acceptance of AI in our homes with the popularity of Alexa and Echo. It makes perfect sense that consumers look toward AI in the marketplace as well.
Deborah was the kid who would rather write book reports and essays than play ball during recess. Although she didn’t score many points with her peers, it did lead to her career creating content for TV, radio, print and new media for companies as varied as Dooney& Bourke, Panera Breads, Visa, SUNY Ulster and Hudson Valley Federal Savings Bank.
She is also a principal of small packages – a digital design company, and past partner/marketing director of whatis.com, the world’s foremost reference on information technology. And, her love of food enabled her to become a contributing editor of both Gourmet Retailer and Food Distribution Magazines.
Deborah has a bachelor degree in fine art from the Hartford Art School, University of Hartford and a masters in higher education administration from Stony Brook University. When she’s not writing, her love of quilting, furry animals, friends, and family sustains her.