Conversational marketing is the fastest way to move buyers through your marketing and sales funnels through the power of real-time conversations. It builds relationships and creates authentic experiences with customers and buyers.
Conversational marketing is the ability to have 1:1 personal conversations across multiple channels – meeting customers how, when, and where they want. It is more than just live chat – it extends to phone calls, texts, Facebook Messenger, email, Slack, and more — basically any channel in which a customer wants to communicate with your brand.
Conversational marketing is an asynchronous relationship. Meaning conversations should occur whenever the customer prefers — whether that’s in real-time, after finishing their meeting, or later that night when they have a spare moment.
While it’s important for businesses to be able to chat in real-time, it’s just as important for them to be able to finish a conversation at whatever pace the customer wants. Sometimes that means starting a conversation at 7 a.m. over their first cup of coffee and finishing at 9 p.m. after they’ve put their kids to bed.
Because conversations happen on customer-time, all conversations need to be scalable. A customer doesn’t care if you’re talking with 50, 500, or 5,000 other people — they only care about the issue they need to be solved.
Businesses, especially SMBs, shouldn’t get left behind due to a lack of resources or manpower. This is where chatbots come in. Bots make 24/7 support possible by providing answers to common questions based on data that already exists. Business shouldn’t sacrifice human interaction for scale. Rather, bots offer quick access to information or a human.
Conversations can’t exist in a vacuum; they need context and should get smarter as you collect more information. This is important for two reasons. First, it’s what customers expect. Think about it: If you called a company yesterday to report a defect in something you ordered, and then you chat them the next day about needing return instructions, you’d expect the person you’re talking with to have access to previous interactions and know which product you’re sending back.
Second, context is what makes messaging convenient. Without it, bots or a support rep would need to ask people the same qualifying questions every time they interacted with them — wasting their time and testing their patience. If you’ve ever called customer support, you know how frustrating it is to repeat your account number time after time as you’re passed around to different departments.
People want to get the answer to their question as quickly as possible and with the smallest amount of effort. This is why it’s so important to make a CRM part of your conversational marketing strategy. Context means gathering, storing, and making accessible customer data — from recent orders to visits to pricing pages to their job title. The more you know about the customer and the more you can demonstrate that in the conversation, the more helpful you’ll be.
Inbound Marketing is about providing value to your audience and meeting them where they are. Conversational marketing is just a part of that now — thanks to the mass adoption of messaging and new tools and technology.
And that means conversations should happen on the channel that best suits your customer — that might be over the phone or on Facebook Messenger, with a human or a bot. People don’t want to be forced to call a 1-800 number if they could easily send a quick chat message and grab a link to a knowledge base article.
Some people equate conversational marketing with live chat — something that’s been around for a while. But it’s much more than that. Conversational marketing isn’t about a single tool. While Facebook Messenger, Slack, SMS, email, and others allow conversations to happen, this is about the changing communication preferences of consumers that in turn, should change how you view one-to-one conversations.
For example, social media giant Facebook is drastically changing the way its users engage with businesses. There are over 65 million business pages on Facebook, and over 2 billion messages are exchanged with these businesses each month on Facebook Messenger. That’s a lot of conversations happening. Consumers are using Facebook Messenger and other popular messaging platforms to get content delivered, shop and buy, and access support.
But remember, businesses should not only be communicating on a variety of channels, but they should also be prepared to continue those conversations across all channels without missing a beat.
When you have a conversation with a friend, you don’t expect to have to remind them of things like your name or where you live — the same holds true when customers have conversations with a business. That’s why using a CRM is so important. A CRM is like a digital memory that allows you to have conversations with customers like you know them.
A successful conversational marketing strategy is dependent on fast and reliable access to a shared knowledge base that includes data such as communication history and necessary customer information. Companies who want to do conversational marketing will need a way to store and organize that data in order to have more seamless interactions with customers. With the help of a CRM, you can organically promote events and products, distribute content, and provide support all through chat.
So what data should marketers collect? You don’t need to know everything about them, but you should know the basics and details of past conversations. Cirillo encourages marketers to think first about why they’re using chat.
Start with what you want your customers to be able to accomplish via chat and then build out processes for acquiring the necessary information.
In addition, you can’t implement a conversational marketing strategy without a process for tracking performance, moments of confusion or drop-off, and new questions. You should always be gathering data and optimizing the experience.
Once your CRM is set up, it’s time to think to think about how you can scale your conversations. This is where chatbots can help.
Business isn’t just happening in one city, in one state, or in one timezone — it’s happening all around the world, every minute of every day. As I mentioned earlier, adding automation with chatbots is crucial in keeping up with a volume of conversations and to have a fighting chance at 24/7 support. Bots allow SMBs to compete with enterprise-sized businesses. Customers expect to be able to connect with businesses whenever they need to. According to research from Aspect Software, 65% of consumers feel good about themselves and the company when they can handle an issue without talking to a live person, and 61% think that chatbots allow for faster answers.
Here are few ways chatbots can help:
Keep in mind that while chatbots can do many things, they should never be used as a barrier between customers and a human. 86% of consumers want the option to transfer to a representative if their request is too complicated for a bot to handle. Bots can’t replace human talent, but they can help augment teams during off-hours or when conversation volume is too much for a small group to handle.
Developing a conversational marketing strategy can take time – it’s not easy to think about process when you’re trying to keep up with the day-to-day demands of running a business. That’s why HubSpot’s Brian Bagdasarian created some tips for building a conversational marketing strategy. Conversational marketing isn’t something you can set and forget, you have to continuously optimize your strategy to see the best results, but there are five things you should keep in mind: Personalize,Contextualize, standardize, empathize, and optimize
When speaking with a customer or prospect, conversations should be personalized with relevant shared knowledge. Shared knowledge is the foundation of good conversations. Think about it: If you’ve already given a business you’re phone number, do you really want to waste time reciting it every time you have a simple question? Personalized details make the conversation feel more natural and help you to get to the root of the issue as quickly as possible.
Conversations that have context not only improve the end-user experience, they also help minimize misunderstandings and get straight to the heart of the issue. Because you don’t have to waste time collecting information you already have access to, you’re able to provide immediate value. Context is necessary to help answer the right question, at the right time, in the best way possible. Conversations that aim to answer the most important question first will provide the best user experience. Even though it’s a conversation, this isn’t like a conversation with friends. When customers interact with your business, chances are they don’t want to spend time talking about cat videos or their weekend plans. They want to solve their most immediate need in the fastest and easiest way possible. Spend time analyzing your interactions to determine what data will help improve your customer relationships.
However, it’s important not to get too caught up in personalizing your messages. While personalization and contextualization are important, standardizing elements of conversations helps bring a level of professionalism and consistency to your business. Conversations should be repeatable and predictable. Figure out your customer’s most frequently asked questions and draft approved answers for bots and marketers to use. Repeating conversations will help automate, optimize, and improve future interactions. Predictable conversations help to users have a natural dialog with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Standardization is crucial to delivering clear, consistent answers, across conversations and users.
When involved in a conversation, we often have to deliver the right answer before correcting the problem. For example: Let’s say you receive an email with a coupon code from one of your favorite stores. You spend a half hour scrolling through their products trying to decide what to buy, but when you finally enter the code to make your purchase, it doesn’t work. You’re understandably annoyed that you wasted all that time when you weren’t even planning on buying something without that code. The business should emphasize with your issue and assure you that they understand the problem before the can move forward with providing a solution. Emphasizing helps customers feel valued and heard.
Finally, it’s crucial to optimize. Learn from your past conversations so you can improve them in the future. Optimize for the strengths of the channel and for the answer – aim to provide answers that people would receive in a real, one-to-one conversation. For example, live chat or phone might be better for providing support, while Facebook Messenger could be a better choice for content delivery. Listen to your customers and observe their behavior as you build out your strategy and make changes where needed. Conversational marketing is an iterative process — what you thought might work may not always provide the best experience. Take time to ask your customers for feedback. Their advice will help you delight your next customer. Remember, every conversation should be impactful and help add value to your business.
Phew, you made it to the end. Good convo guys.
We’ve come a long way from letters and telegrams. For the first time, people are having meaningful conversations with businesses on a massive scale thanks to automation with bots, a CRM, and new channels. Conversational marketing is changing the way companies talk with their customers by making interactions seamless and faster than ever before. Your customers are having conversations. Why not join in? The most important things to focus on are the channel, the conversation, and how the strategy fits in with your overall inbound marketing strategy. Channels should be simple for businesses and consumers to use, conversations should follow a clear process and serve a purpose, and your inbound marketing strategy should inform your conversational marketing strategy.
Remember, humans have been having conversations since the beginning of time. Technology is only making it easier and more productive for businesses and their customers to connect. While the days of communicating by the Pony Express may be over, thoughtful, friendly conversations (and gossip) will continue to stand the test of time and technology.