[Drift] What Is Conversational Marketing?

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On this subject here is an article about Conversational MarketingIt’s time for a reality check: After talking to thousands of customers, what we’ve heard loud and clear (and maybe you’ve felt this, too) is that something is broken with the way we market and sell.

Over the past several years, we’ve become obsessed with tracking and measuring every metric imaginable: hits, clicks, emails, dials, and so on.

We’ve become so focused on things like A/B testing, retargeting, email blasts, robocalls, form fills, marketing-qualified leads (MQLs), and sales-qualified leads (SQLs), that we’ve lost track of what really matters.

At some point, being data-driven started being more important than being customer-driven.

As a result, the buying experience most companies provide has become cold and impersonal. For many marketing and sales teams, their leads have become faceless entities that exist only inside of spreadsheets — they aren’t treated like actual people.

Not only is it a terrible experience for potential customers, it’s also bad for business.

There’s a reason why only 43% of people answer cold calls, and the average email open rate is about 20%, and the average landing page conversion rate is just 2.35% …

The way we’ve been doing marketing and sales is broken.

The good news? You already know how to fix it, because the solution has always been there:

We need to make business personal again.

So that’s exactly what we’re doing, and thousands of businesses are doing it with us. And the way we’re doing it is by putting one-to-one communication and dialogue back at the center of everything.

We’re replacing traditional marketing with conversational marketing.

Keep reading to learn more about what conversational marketing is, what kind of results it’s been driving for businesses, and how you can implement conversational marketing at your business.

1. The Definition of Conversational Marketing

Conversational marketing is the process of having real-time, one-to-one conversations in order to capture, qualify, and connect with your best leads.

Unlike traditional marketing, conversational marketing uses targeted messaging and intelligent chatbots instead of lead capture forms — that way leads never have to wait for follow-ups, and can engage with your business when it’s convenient for them (like when they’re live on your website).

Of course, conversations with potential customers don’t just happen on your website, which is why conversational marketing is bigger than any single channel or platform. Combining inbound and outbound tactics, conversational marketing is all about starting a dialogue with the people who can benefit from what you’re offering, whether that’s via a face-to-face meeting, or a phone call, or an email exchange.

Regardless of the medium, with conversational marketing you’re not just blasting your messaging outward, or forcing people to take an action: You’re answering people’s questions, and listening to their feedback, and then uncovering new ways to help them.

In other words, you’re having an actual conversation.

5 Distinguishing Features of Conversational Marketing

1) Real-time

Instead of forcing people to fill out static lead forms and wait for follow-ups (that might never come), conversational marketing focuses on engaging people in real-time, both with human-to-human conversations and human-to-chatbot conversations.

Thanks to the rise of intelligent chatbots, anytime a potential customer asks a question, your company can now be there to provide a real-time response — 24/7, 365. Same goes for if a potential customer wants to a book a demo with a sales rep. A chatbot can take care of scheduling that anytime, day or night.

Remember: it’s not about replacing human-to-human interactions (those are definitely still the best kind!), it’s about making sure your potential customers get their questions answered as quickly as possible. Because ultimately, if you can’t provide an answer to someone’s question right away, that person is going to go ask someone else — possibly a competitor.

That’s just the nature of the on-demand, real-time world that we live in these days, where everything seems to be one click away. Conversational marketing was born out of this real-time world, and is the only marketing methodology that’s adapted to it.

2) Scalable

Marketing and sales teams have known about the power of one-to-one conversations for decades, but there’s always been one lingering problem:

“Having one-to-one conversations doesn’t scale.”

That’s why teams have been locking up conversations behind “Contact Us” forms. Because marketers and salespeople just don’t have the bandwidth to talk to every lead who drops by the site…right?

Back before the rise of real-time messaging and chatbots, scaling conversations was a hard nut to crack. Because in order to have 100 one-to-one conversations with leads simultaneously, you’d need to have 100 employees dialing and smiling.

With the rise of messaging, which has been popular with support teams for years, a single employee gained the ability to manage multiple, concurrent one-to-one conversations.

And now with the rise of chatbots, the ability to scale conversations has reached unprecedented levels — which is why conversational marketing has been taking off.

A single marketer can now set up a chatbot that automatically greets hundreds or thousands of visitors and asks them qualifying questions. That bot can then route qualified leads to specific sales reps (based on territory/ownership in Salesforce) or help those leads book demos on a rep’s calendar. It’s like you’re opening up a fastlane for your best leads.

3) Focused on Engagement

Marketing teams have traditionally been measured on how many leads they capture via lead capture forms, or how many MQLs they generate.

With conversational marketing, the focus shifts from passively collecting contact info, to actively engaging people in conversation. Instead of MQLs, you’re looking for CQLs: conversation-qualified leads. People you actually talk to who tell you, “Hey, I’m interested in your product and want to learn more.”

Of course, inbound leads are always going to be an important part of that equation. And by setting up welcome messages and targeting your messages to specific visitors, you can make sure no leads are slipping through the cracks.

But conversational marketing can include outbound tactics, too. Wherever there’s a conversation with a potential customer to be had, you should be having it. So that’s not just limited to your website.

With email, for example, you can proactively reach out to a lead and get the conversation started. The difference is that instead of blasting that person with a generic message, you’re crafting something personalized (more on that next) and — by including a link that triggers a chatbot — you’re giving them the opportunity to start a real-time conversation if they want to.

4) Personalized

With conversational marketing, every interaction you have with a lead has context, because your team can always reference previous conversations.

But even when you’re talking to a lead for the very first time, you can add a personalized touch.

At the most basic level, you can customize the conversations you’re having on different pages of your site. For example, when a lead is on your pricing page, you can have a welcome message automatically appear that says, “Hey, this is [your name], I see that you’re checking out our pricing page. Let me know if you have any questions.”

But that’s really just the tip of the iceberg.

With enriched data, you can tailor messages based on specific information about companies (a.k.a. firmographics) as well as the specific tools they’re using (a.k.a. technographics).

You can even surface the name of the company a visitor works at via IP address matching and insert it into a message. Alternatively, once you learn the company a lead works at, you may choose to reference some of their competitors in your message, or other companies in their industry. The goal is to grab their attention and to convince them that you’re worth having a conversation with.

5) Built-in Feedback Loop

Unfortunately, a lot of companies still take a Mad Men approach to marketing and sales:

They sit in closed rooms, cut off from customers, and dream up ideas for how they can attract new customers. It’s an entirely company-driven process, which puts more value on the ideas of internal stakeholders than the feedback of actual customers (or potential customers).

With conversational marketing, the customer feedback loop is built in. Because with every interaction, you’re giving leads and customers the opportunity to share their opinions.

Most people think “selling” is the same as “talking”. But the most effective salespeople know that listening is the most important part of their job. — Roy Bartell

Feedback is like a battery that powers your marketing and sales decisions. It has positive and negative sides, but you need both positive and negative feedback in order to figure out what’s working and what isn’t.

(Pssst. Need help figuring out what to do with customer feedback after you collect it? Check out this customer feedback framework our CEO created.)

2. The History of Conversational Marketing

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