What Is Conversational Marketing?
As business owners, we’re constantly bombarded with new information. Every day is another trend!
So, to help you stay on top of the learning curve, today’s blog post is dedicated to a little trick called conversational marketing. Like customer-centric marketing, this strategic choice is one of many ways to wow your audience. It’s also one of the hottest ways to engage with your consumers.
There’s a lot going on behind the scenes, though. You’ll be doing more legwork to establish a successful conversational marketing strategy than a series of drip campaigns.
The Definition of “Conversational Marketing”
First, let’s start with the basics.
What is conversational marketing?
At its core, this modern marketing strategy aims to provide customers and prospects with one-on-one interactions and two-way conversations. Think of it as a category rather than a style of marketing. It’s a way of thinking rather than a predefined series of steps.
Categorically, it falls under the inbound marketing umbrella.
Moreover, there are three major “kinds” of conversational marketing tools, namely:
- AI-powered content
- Live chat services
Clever marketing teams mix and match these ideas to create unique user experiences. While the pre-programmed chatbot may be the most recognizable form of conversational marketing, it’s not a definitive example of the concept. In fact, thanks to the rapid growth of similar services, there are many more examples of conversational marketing.
The Benefits of Conversational Marketing
But, first, take a step back.
I want to address why people are hopping on the conversational bandwagon.
Like anything in business — and in life, really! — conversational marketing has its ups and downs. Some brands use this tactic to dominate sales cycles, while others prefer it as an operational tool. It’s up to you and your team to decide if this conversational strategy is right for your business.
Polish That Customer Experience
One of the first perks to mention is this tactic’s status as a subset of an inbound marketing strategy.
While you’re certainly aiming to have meaningful conversations with your potential customers, you’re also in the business of making money. You need to keep that sales funnel flowing, and your sales teams can only handle so much.
Fortunately, modern technology has an answer.
You can automate those interactions by utilizing conversational marketing across multiple channels. Messaging apps may be the most popular choice, but brands have also embedded proprietary chatbots on web pages. Others have used email inboxes as engagement platforms.
These tools can then serve existing and potential customers, replacing traditional sales agents.
Today, many live chat marketing services offer interactive experiences built to tap into customer behavior. Practically, this means users are treated to a personalized experience without the expense of individual sales reps. Functionally, it makes your sales funnel faster and frees your sales team from otherwise mundane interactions.
Give Customers What They Want
Statistically, these two-way communication channels are expected facets of modern marketing. Users crave individualized experiences. Website visitors want to be validated, to know their presence is more than number.
You could provide the same experience with old-fashioned emails or phone support lines, but those methods are slow and inefficient. Modern conversational marketing strategies streamline these concepts, making conversations happen when needed.
And consider this: When polled, 82% of consumers rated response speed as a major factor when deciding where to spend their money. In many ways, today’s conversational marketing strategy mirrors the old-fashioned door-to-door salesman. But — unlike that friendly neighborhood salesperson — your live chat is welcomed into a customer’s life.
Yes, you read that right! This marketing strategy can have all the personal touches of a one-on-one sales process without the troublesome human intervention.
Moreover, marketers can now leverage artificial intelligence to attract potential customers. Outside of customer support issues, many conversational marketing tools give consumers constant, direct access to a “real” person who can respond with (somewhat) intelligent information and advice.
Get Consistent Lead Generation and Targeted Messages
These real-time interactions become gold mines for content.
In many cases, your customers’ inputs are stored in a database. Over time, those customer inquiries show trends and patterns, which can then be applied to your overall customer experience. Consistently asked questions can be incorporated into web pages, further streamlining your sales cycle. You may even find ways to analyze your data further, breaking otherwise mundane interactions into insightful glimpses of customer preferences.
As more conversational marketing takes place, brands tend to find themselves attracting customers regularly. And — more importantly — these newcomers tend to be highly qualified leads.
Finally, there’s that “streamlining” I’ve been talking about.
Imagine you’re a sales rep. You have a pool of 50 potential leads, and all of them have questions. These are — by the way — qualified leads, so don’t mess up!
How are you feeling right now?
If you’re Johnny Many-Prospects, you’re probably a little tense.
Now, let’s add conversational marketing to the mix.
You are once again Johnny Many-Prospects, and you still have 50 hits from lead generation. But! You have this handy live chat on your web page, and that chat answers your leads’ questions. All 50 leads go through the chatbot, and only two of them end up having “serious” questions that the bot can’t answer.
Look at that! You just delivered a unique, on-demand customer interaction to 50 people, but you’re down to handling just 2 customer queries. Now, you can focus all your attention on those remaining stragglers, guaranteeing their future status as paying customers.
This is what makes conversational marketing important. It’s all about delivering relevant content as needed and freeing your team to work with the most promising leads.
How Does Conversational Marketing Work?
Unfortunately, the inner workings of conversational marketing are more complex than its list of benefits.
It sounds simple, but it takes a lot of behind-the-scenes work to make those customer interactions feel natural. There are also many different approaches to conversational marketing efforts. The simplest examples are little more than interactive flowcharts. A “helper” asks a question and narrows down its responses by following a predetermined route. However, there are also advanced “artificial intelligence” options, and that’s an entirely different rodeo.
How Basic Chatbots Improve Your Conversational Marketing Strategy
Of all the conversational marketing examples, one of the most prevalent is the humble rule-based chatbot. This service has existed for decades, and you’ve probably encountered its predecessor.
As its name implies, a rule-based bot delivers real-time conversations based on a series of predetermined inputs. They’re classic simulations of “if x, then y” problems. In fact, if you’ve ever waded through the tedium of telephone voice assistants, you’ve met the earliest form of modern rule-based chatbots!
Aside from gathering customer feedback and simulating human interaction, rule-based chatbots are fairly primitive. They’re great for driving web traffic and handling basic customer expectations, but you can’t expect a through-and-through logic puzzle to tackle complex problems. In most cases, their responses are limited; the simplest examples are limited to prewritten responses.
However, their simplicity has endeared them to many. You’ll find countless rule-based bots on the most popular messaging apps, including Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.
The Logic Puzzle of Rule-Based Chatbots
A rule-based chatbot runs on assumptions.
In most situations, these “live chat” agents serve as customer support. They’ll ask a series of prewritten questions and respond based on the consumer’s responses. Simplistic variations use predefined options. For example, a rule-based live chat may ask, “Are you looking for information about your cowboy boots? Yes or no?”
Advanced variants use natural language processing (NLP) to turn customer queries into actionable inputs. In this scenario, the question would be different, closer to, “Which of our shoes are you having problems with?”
How to Apply Rule-Based Chatbots in a Successful Conversational Marketing Strategy
Now, what if you want to take the bot out of the customer support role?
Can you put this little guy into a sales role? Absolutely!
A rule-based chatbot can serve potential consumers across multiple channels, effectively serving a role within your inbound marketing strategy. It can also gather valuable insights into your audience. Indeed, that double combo of communication and data is one of the core ideas of conversational marketing.
You’ll find countless examples of conversational marketing chatbots across the web. These handy helpers use prewritten rules to turn customer data into high-quality leads and sow the seeds of customer loyalty. I could list hundreds of examples right here, but we don’t have time for that! So, instead, let’s move to the complex topic of…
Artificial Intelligence (AI), Conversational Marketing, and You
These days, many businesses are hopping on the “AI” bandwagon. It is, after all, a boon to the conversational marketing approach. Unlike classic rule-driven chatbots, these “intelligent” solutions simplify the customer journey and multiply the benefits of conversational marketing.
However, there’s more to this idea than you may think.
How Do AI Chatbots Work?
Aside from the ethical debates surrounding AI content scraping, the technology’s name is a bit of a misnomer. The most popular AI, ChatGPT, is not necessarily “intelligent.” It’s a language model.
It’s combed through years of web content and developed an internal algorithm to predict the likelihood of one word appearing after another. This predictive system is also one of the technology’s sore spots, as it leaves plenty of room for factual error. Moreover, despite its function as a language-learning model, you’ll also see plenty of nonsensical sentences without a bit of human intervention.
However, most commercial applications of the technology are a bit more refined.
Aside from limiting the bot to a subset of questions, these bots are locked into predetermined communication channels. Like rule-based bots, they’re fed information to improve their inbound marketing skills; alternatively, customer support bots are given data on common questions. Over time, these bots naturally develop new solutions for problems by harnessing valuable insights.
What Can AI Chatbots Do?
First and foremost, the power of an AI chatbot should not replace human interaction. Contrary to what some may believe, customer behavior is impossible to predict. Nobody can see the future, even computers! We also cannot account for individual factors, such as mood and personal beliefs. Instead, AI chatbots should be used to improve the relationships that conversational marketing creates.
There are multiple ways to do this, including:
- Focused Marketing: Like basic chatbots, powerful AI can take over conversational marketing channels. Common questions and concerns are funneled aside, allowing sales teams to focus on high-value prospects.
- Gathering Data: While handling customer inquiries, an AI naturally accumulates data. This information can be reused throughout a business to improve the sales process.
- Machine Learning: Outside of the live chat window, machine learning can predict consumer trends and deliver targeted ads to existing customers. These ads may include relevant cross-selling opportunities.
- Training Modules: A study found that an AI-powered bot can effectively coach new employees, including sales reps!
AI, Customer Relationships, and a Warning
I’m sure all of this is exciting. It may even make you think that AI-powered conversational marketing sounds like the perfect deal. You’ll get the perks of a conversational marketing strategy without those pesky support team schedules. You’ll see your customer journey take off. You may even get to watch your numbers skyrocket through the roof!
But! It’s worth taking a minute to consider your options.
Conversational marketing practices do not require an all-powerful AI. That generative text support agent may look nice on paper, but is it worth the price? Don’t forget! You’ll have to train and maintain this technology.
Despite its many perks, an AI-powered marketing strategy can alienate your audience. The technology’s inherent privacy issues have turned many away from its use and prompted calls for legislative protection against algorithmic surveillance. When used carelessly, the stilted results may even hurt your customer relationships.
Is a Conversational Marketing Strategy in Your Future?
That’s a lot to consider.
And I haven’t even touched on real-life conversational marketing examples.
This burgeoning tech is undeniably useful in the marketing sphere, but what does it mean for you? Can conversational marketing help your business? These are deep, complex questions; I honestly can’t answer them in a blog post. However, I can help you find the perfect marketing strategy for your business!
Give me a call and schedule a free strategy session. We’ll chat about the ins and outs of marketing.
And don’t be afraid to browse the rest of my blog while you wait. You’ll find many more tips, guides, and updates to help you understand the complex world of digital marketing.