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Conversational Marketing – what is it and what are the benefits?

The way we do business is changing, and a good offering just isn’t enough to convert anymore. Customers now expect instant, personalised and exceptional service, and they won’t purchase from brands that don’t offer this. B2C businesses seem to be picking up on this quickly whilst B2B companies are lagging behind, with 58% having not adapted to modern consumer behaviour yet.

Brands need to keep up with the times, and consumers want to message you. According to data from Business2Community, 79% of consumers are happy to use messaging apps to get customer service. If your customer experience isn’t up to date with modern customer expectations, you’re missing out on valuable business, but what can you do to upgrade your service? 

In comes conversational marketing.

What is conversational marketing?

Conversational marketing is simply a personalised approach to online business, that aims to move buyers through the marketing and sales funnel by using relevant questions. Through a conversation flow, whether automated or human, this process focuses on interactions, rather than just a one way transmission with the brand.

The benefits of conversational marketing

If you’re still not convinced, and wondering why you should seriously consider implementing conversational marketing into your strategy, we’ve compiled some of the top benefits.

  • Human buying experience – according to Harvard Business Review, messaging apps “provide a continuous thread between customers and brands”. By creating a genuine conversation flow, you build relationships with your customers.
  • Convert more leads – conversational marketing has been shown to dramatically increase the amount of leads generated.
  • Pre-qualify leads – by pre-qualifying leads, you are able to assess straight away which users are a right fit for your business, resulting in a shorter sales funnel and less time wasted. 
  • Collect data – through the use of questions, you are able to gather data about your buyers and customers, resulting in a better understanding that you can use for further strategy.
  • Multiple uses – conversational marketing works extremely well for qualifying leads, booking meetings, signing up for webinars and setting up free trials.
  • Increases revenue – ultimately, through the increase in leads, you will see an increase in revenue. We focus on ROI as a top priority, learn more here.

Types of conversational marketing

Chatbots

Chatbots have exploded into popularity in recent years due to their ability to dramatically cut costs and handle a wide range of processes. A bot is a form of artificial intelligence (AI) that can simulate a real conversation. A site visitor is able to chat with the bot, and receive answers to questions. Chatbots leverage Natural Language Processing (NLP) with question & answer programming to interact with people in an authentic way, remembering the conversation and following a predesigned conversation flow.

There are pros and cons to using AI. Bots are 24/7, meaning they can handle queries out of hours while your team sleeps. They have limitless capacity and are able to handle many chats concurrently, whilst instant responses means no waiting around. They allow your human team to focus on what they do best, rather than just answering the same questions over and over. A study from Aspect Software found that 61% of people think chatbots allow for faster answers.

However they also have their limitations. AI has not yet reached a level where it can replace human interaction. For tricky queries, the bot will not be able to help, so it’s important to be transparent about the fact that the customer is talking to a bot, and have options for if they aren’t able to help.

Live chat

We live in an era where more people are using messaging apps than social media, and virtual chat reps will count for the majority of customer interactions with businesses by 2020.

Live chat has endless benefits. Humans can handle any query, from simple right through to complex, and can provide help whenever customers need it, even out of hours. The obvious benefit of live chat is that the customer will receive a completely personalised, human experience, a major factor in positive customer experience. 

Live chat can have phenomenal benefits, but it requires a well thought out strategy. Many businesses download a free widget and put their already-busy team on live chat, so they don’t see the results they want. Setting up a full chat operation in house can be very costly, so in order to see a ROI from live chat, it’s worth it to get some expert advice, or outsource entirely. 

Messaging apps

Messaging apps like Facebook Messenger are widely used and can be a great tool for conversational marketing. Using the same principle as chatbots, they can be programmed to understand questions, provide answers and handle tasks.

Using messaging apps allows you to reach your audience directly. Headliner Labs found that people are 3.5 times more likely to open a Facebook Message than a marketing email. By adding buttons users can use to respond to questions, you streamline the process and move them through the marketing funnel quicker. Messenger bots can save you time and money on customer experience and re-engage customers.

The same limitations apply as with chatbots, so it’s always a good idea to have a human option on hand. HubSpot recently experimented with delivering content offers via Facebook Messenger and saw some incredible results – the test saw a 2.5X increase in open rates and 6X the number of clicks when compared to email.

Email

The principles of conversational marketing can also be applied to email. It can seem like the best way to send emails is to promote yourself with CTAs, logos, a description of your absolutely amazing product that the reader just has to have, but according to Drift, only 1 in 5 people actually open an email they receive like this.

Instead of building emails for CTAs, build them for conversations. Get back to a human level and work on building a relationship by referencing something personal to the recipient, mention the last time you were in touch or a new development in their business. Stick to a few highlights of your offering, but don’t sell, simply ask for a conversation. Build intrigue and keep things informal if appropriate.

Forms

Forms have always been an easy way of taking leads through your website, but with the growth of other conversational marketing tools, they need a serious upgrade if they are going to be effective. There’s nothing wrong with using a form, but make sure it’s created in a user-friendly way that feels more like an interaction than just detail-grabbing.

Using a quiz-like form to capture information has the potential to triple your conversion rate. Step by step forms can provide extra detailed information within questions, meaning no frustration by seeing that you missed something when you get to the end of your form. Statistics show that conversational forms are likely to convert 70% of people while those boring, static web forms will only convert around 30% of people.

Voice

In the past few years, virtual assistants have become somewhat of a phenomenon. Half of U.S. adults (46%) now use voice assistants to talk with smartphones and other devices and 20% of Google searches are voice searches (but in 2020 this could go up to 50%), meaning businesses need to keep up with the times.

Virtual assistants obtain information from a variety of sources, searching through millions of websites and pulling the best information, so by being a site of authority, that is well optimised and structured clearly, you could make use of this. Create content focused on answering questions and work on SEO to reach the top of search results.

Best practice

  • Conversation starter – conversational marketing best practice starts simply with the conversation starter, whether this is a chat box in the corner of a webpage, a CTA encouraging interaction, or a push notification.
  • Tools – deciding the tool you need is key, and will be different depending on your business needs. This can be everything from a bot, to live chat and email.
  • Strategy – a proven strategy that applies to every issue is ‘engage, understand, recommend, repeat’. First you engage with the customer, you learn about their query, you recommend a product, service or solution, and continue like this until the conversation is over.

Final thoughts

Keeping up with consumer expectations is not a choice if you want your business to succeed, it’s absolutely essential. Implementing conversational marketing techniques mean that you are able to optimise your customer experience and increase your conversion.