Conversational marketing is an innovative and rapidly advancing technology that encompasses much more than just customer service chatbots. Incorporating a conversational platform into your marketing plan is a revolutionary way to create real-time, high-quality personalization. And 2019 is the time to make sure your company is prepared to utilize this growing trend. Read on to discover why conversational marketing is about to become so powerful, and what you can do right now to prepare.
What is Conversational Marketing?
Conversational marketing can be as simple as it sounds: marketing to customers through conversations. It’s a one-to-one, personalized promotional approach with the aim of gaining the same advantages of traditional one-on-one technologies commonly use on a large scale. Traditional large scale marketing tends to rely on static forms or limited dynamic text. Conversational marketing uses new technologies to deliver targeted, real-time messaging through intelligent chatbots. Conversational marketing is also meant to encompass omnichannel marketing so that customers can smoothly interact with your brand across all interactive platforms.
The goal of conversational marketing is to enable a dialogue with those who can benefit from your offering. This way, you can better qualify potential customers and lead them further along the sales funnel. Instead of blasting out a pre-programmed one-way message via traditional mass marketing, engaged chatbots can listen, answer questions, react to feedback, and uncover new ways to provide assistance to your customers.
Six characteristics that define conversational marketing
- Real-time interaction with your audience
- Powered by artificial intelligence
- Supports deeply personalized interactions
- Scalable customer interaction
- Active, engagement-focused marketing, rather than passive, one-way communication
- Has a built-in, instant feedback loop
Why Conversational Marketing Works
Conversational marketing is predicted to be the next successful marketing practice for three reasons:
- Early adopters of conversational marketing are already experiencing strong results
- Conversational marketing allows you to listen and engage with customers in the way they want
- The technology supports large scale personalization and customization
Conversational Marketing Drives Results
Case studies show that conversational marketing can lead to more lead captures as well as better qualification of leads. For example, RapidMiner has been able to generate more than 4,000 leads using a conversational approach. And Hubspot found that offsite conversational marketing, such as engaging with customers via Facebook Messenger, had 2.5x higher open rates and 6x higher click rates than email marketing.
Also, conversational marketing can lead and support prospects throughout the sales cycle. This converts to higher close rates and shorter customer journeys. In the process, you’re also now able to capture, record, and archive a wealth of data. This data helps the chatbots learn information that it then further refines to improve targeting and other marketing techniques.
Conversational Marketing Allows You to Listen
There’s a reason why the average email open rate is only about 20%, and the average landing page conversion rate is less than 3%. They are too generic and too impersonal. It’s why phone calls are still one of the best sales tools companies have available to them. Not only do people want customized experiences, but they also want to know they are being listened to and understood.
While personalization is easy and effective over the phone, in an effort to scale their marketing, many businesses have lost the personal touch. In the past, businesses simply didn’t have the capability to scale personalized experiences. Instead, they were forced to turn to social listening tools to uncover the wants, needs, and thoughts of their audience. These tools are valuable for gathering data and ensuring you don’t miss a customer mention. But what if your audience isn’t on social media, or you’re in the B2B market? Passive social listening fails to create interaction or communicate empathy. Before conversational marketing, to achieve this, you had to get real people involved. Agents had to manually respond to any mentions in a way that was caring and helpful, but not off-putting or overly-invasive.
Conversational marketing provides a solution that achieves the best of both worlds. It maintains the dialogue of a personal conversation on a large scale and across multiple platforms. Plus, research shows that many people prefer chatbots and messaging systems over other contact options:
- 55% of customers are interested in interacting with businesses through chatbots to solve problems.
- 57% are interested in the instantaneous response they can provide.
- 86% of millennials believe brands should use chatbots to promote deals, products, and services. 67% say they’re very likely to purchase from a chatbot.
- Almost 40% of all US consumers would use chatbots to get a quick answer in case of an emergency.
Conversational Marketing Supports Large Scale Personalization
Marketers know that customers want meaningful personalization, but the struggle has been how to provide it on a large scale. With the introduction of instant messaging, employees were able to manage many conversations at the same time. But, there was still a limit to how many conversations could feasibly be maintained at once. Trying to multitask this way also carried the risk of offering a sub-par user experience. Thankfully, recent advances such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, voice recognition, natural language processing, and the internet of things are making personalized, content-rich conversations possible on a massive scale.
Today, companies can create a chatbot that automatically greets hundreds or thousands of visitors. It can also ask them qualifying questions before human sales agents become involved. This allows leads to engage with your business when it’s convenient for them. Some conversational programs are configured so that customers have the option of interacting with a bot or a human agent.
If a prospect wants to talk to a real person, bots can first qualify them as leads, then connect the lead with a live agent or book a follow-up call. Even when someone lands on your website at midnight on a Saturday, they can still have a life-like conversation. This prospect can ask questions, find out valuable information, and request a salesperson to give them a call Monday morning. A bot can also route leads to salespeople based on set criteria such as their department or area of expertise.
Preparing to Use Conversational Marketing
With conversational marketing set to explode over the coming years, building strong foundations with a conversational strategy now could reap huge rewards long into the future. Here’s how to prepare.
Build a Holistic Marketing Strategy
To get the most out of conversational marketing, you need to embrace an omnichannel marketing strategy. Implementing a stand-alone website or Messenger bot is not enough. All of your channels and marketing platforms should be fully integrated. This way, customers can experience a seamless transition across channels, and all data captured can be stored in one central data warehouse.
Adopting Chatbot Technology
While we may not yet be able to replicate a true human conversation, we can make moves in that direction. Each step that you adopt now will make it easier to fully transition once conversational marketing technology is improved. Oracle research predicts that 80% of businesses are either already using bots or plan to adopt them by 2020. While natural language processing has not yet been perfected, chatbots have come a long way over the last few years, and already offer some significant advantages.
For instance, with the use of dynamic text, you can currently program bots with surface-level personalization and with conversation patterns that can help qualify and capture leads. A bot can ask questions to find out why someone came to your site, what they need help with, what their budget is, and if they’re looking for more information. Another good step is to replace opt-in forms with chatbots that have the ability to set up meetings with sales agents for any customers who want to chat on the phone with a live representative. Incorporating chatbots into your business now will also help you become familiar with implementing and maintaining a bot before conversational marketing truly takes off.
Include Real People for Real Life Experience
While we recommend adopting a chatbot now, be aware of their limitations and have a back-up plan or adjacent human-led initiatives in place when the tech doesn’t adequately satisfy the needs of your audience. Even without glitches, chatbots won’t always provide the experience your customer is seeking. Your customer may not trust technology or may prefer to speak to a real person. However, the chatbot may not be equipped to react to a user error, or the user may get frustrated with chatbot error and be turned off from your product altogether.
To deal with these situations, provide an alternative communication option so that prospects can switch from communicating with a chatbot to dealing with a real person who can alleviate any machine error hiccups.
Optimize for Voice Search
With the increasing popularity of voice-activated tools such as Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa, there is no question that we’ll be seeing a rise in voice-based conversational marketing in the near future. To be truly successful in conversational marketing, you need to achieve strong voice search authority. One way to do this is to focus on optimizing all of your content for standard SERPs. Content that ranks well in text searches is more likely to rank in voice searches as well, especially if it appears in a featured snippet. A few specific tips for achieving voice search optimization are:
- Focus on improving your site page speed
- Make sure you have an HTTPS website
- Create short, concise answers to any targeted voice search queries
- Publish easy-to-read, long-form content that is written at or below a 9th-grade level
- Improve the authority of your domain
- Promote social engagement
The technology needed for exceptional conversational marketing is still developing, but it could be ready sooner than you think. Stay on top of market trends and be ready to adopt new improvements in AI, chatbots, and conversational messaging as they are released. With any new technology, there will be some bumps along the road, so it’s critical to regularly test any new functionality, elicit customer feedback, and track your return on investment. Continually listening to your audience will help pinpoint what is and isn’t working and help you improve your marketing efforts. For instance, when customers choose to transition from your chatbot to a live agent, it’s the perfect time to ask them why they wanted to speak to someone and identify where your conversational marketing tool or strategy needs improvement.
Be Ahead of the Conversational Marketing Curve
Conversational marketing is a new way to have natural, real-time interactions with your audience on a large scale. While the perfect technology isn’t yet here, it is constantly improving and proving it’s value. Not only does conversational marketing already show strong results, but it’s also what your customers want. People want to be listened to, understood, and empathized with. Conversational marketing technology supports the level of customization and personalization needed to engage with your growing audience.
Focus on improving your SEO for both text and voice, and embrace an omnichannel marketing strategy. Chatbots should be incorporated into your current inbound marketing funnel. But it’s important to include a means of transitioning customers to real sales agents or customer support when necessary. Be aware that the technology behind conversational marketing is still learning and improving. Stay on top of trends and be ready to continue adapting as improvements become available.