In 2021, conversational marketing is more important than ever.
Customers have come to expect a personalized touch from their favorite brands, and want to be able to engage with them wherever, whenever and however they prefer. Smart companies understand that customer dialogue must be a two-way street, not simply a one-way transmission.
That’s precisely the promise of conversational marketing, and why it’s a concept that’s becoming increasingly relevant for digital brands.
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What is Conversational Marketing?
Conversational marketing is an approach to engaging with website visitors via dialogue-based activities. The most obvious example is live chat, but conversational marketing is fundamentally an omnichannel approach, where the brand meets the customer wherever they prefer to talk. That could mean email, support forums, Slack, SMS, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, Twitter or any other social platform.
As Hubspot Co-Founder Dharmesh Shah points out:
“Conversation marketing is not new. Not only have we long been having conversations with customers — even the term itself has been around for at least a decade. The reason for the renewed interest in conversational marketing is that because of advances in technology and shifts in consumer behavior, conversational marketing can now happen at scale. We can have direct, one-to-one conversations with individual customers on their timeline — not ours.”
According to a recent report by Gartner, these developments have only been picked up by early adopters, and present a significant opportunity for marketers who get ahead of the curve.
They predict that conversational marketing will be especially effective for complex or high-ticket purchases, such as software, financial products, cars and luxury travel. For these products, customer experience and education is an intrinsic part of the value proposition, so having personalized, one-to-one conversations with customers can add a lot of value.
The key takeaway here is that conversational marketing is a broad, powerful trend that transcends any single tool, technology or marketing channel. Instead, it’s about nurturing trust-based relationships with customers through authentic, two-way dialogue.
It’s also important to understand that these conversations are never “finished” in the sense that a sales process or specific support ticket might be. Instead, the goal is to keep the dialogue going for as long as both sides are getting value. Instead of a funnel, conversational marketing is best visualized as an open loop.
In this article, we’re not going to provide a laundry list of conversational marketing channels. Instead, we’re going to illustrate the core loop by focusing on the two most foundational elements of a conversational marketing strategy: live chat and email.
Step 1: Start the conversation with live chat
Live chat is a powerful tool for engaging website visitors. Studies have shown that visitors invited to chat are 6.3x more likely to convert than those who aren’t. And 61% of those customers convert within the very first chat session.
On the other hand, for many companies, it’s not practical to have live chat available 24/7, or for team members to chat with every single website visitor. That’s where chatbots come in. By automating the initial interaction, chatbots allow you to scale live chat engagement in an efficient way.
And just because the process is automated doesn’t mean it has to be boring or generic. In fact, you should ensure that your chat prompt always gives visitors a compelling reason to engage. One way to do this is by presenting a relevant free offer:
In this example, live chat platform Tidio offers visitors a free ebook of chatbot recipes. Not only is this likely to appeal to visitors who are in the market for a chatbot, it also allows Tidio to showcase various use cases for its solution. The multiple-choice answers allow visitors to respond with a single click, and the best part is that even a “no” or a “maybe” is able to kick off the chat. Essentially, this chatbot makes it extremely easy for any visitor with even a casual interest in Tidio to begin the conversation.
Chatbots can be made even more compelling by personalizing the conversation based on user responses, or user triggers such as landing on a specific webpage. This ensures that the initial interaction will be as relevant to the user’s needs as possible.
Once you’ve caught the user’s attention, the next step is to capture their email address before beginning a live chat session. Not only does this build your list while filtering out low-interest leads, it also gives you a way to get in touch with them if the chat is cut off for any reason.
After capturing the user’s email and addressing their initial questions over live chat, the conversation then shifts over to the inbox.
Step 2: Continue the conversation with email
While live chat is a powerful tool, it does have one serious shortcoming: you can’t contact visitors after they leave your site. That’s why it’s so important to continue the conversation with email after a “warm” live chat session.
Often, this can be a simple matter of sending them a quick follow up email to make sure that you’ve answered all their questions. Not only does this improve the customer experience, it also reminds customers about their interest in your products. After all, given everything else that’s competing for their attention, it’s not uncommon for prospective customers to simply forget about you. Sometimes, a slight nudge is all it takes for them to complete the purchase process.
Having said that, in order to truly optimize conversions, you’ll want to take full advantage of the data gathered in live chat to personalize your follow up email campaigns. Research has established that personalization is extremely powerful, with 91% of consumers are more likely to buy from brands that offer a targeted experience.
The process starts with the design of your chatbot’s conversation flow, as illustrated in this example from ecommerce platform BigCommerce:
By asking visitors to identify the platform they use to host their online store, BigCommerce is able to qualify and segment their leads accordingly. Follow on questions can then determine what their pain points are, and why they’re looking for a new solution.
But BigCommerce isn’t just relying on answers from their visitors. They’re also monitoring those visitors’ behavior to assemble a comprehensive picture of their needs and interests. Relevant data includes:
- Geolocation and language
- Visited pages and page-specific bounce rates
- Downloaded resources
- Filled forms
- Cart abandonment
They then use this behavioral data to segment visitors:
This allows them to follow up with personalized email campaigns that are tailored to each visitor’s unique circumstances. And all of this can be fully automated, thus freeing up their sales reps to focus on the most promising pre-qualified leads.
Step 3: Close the loop by directing them back to live chat
As mentioned earlier, conversational marketing is never really “finished”. As long as you have a relationship with a given lead, prospect or customer, the dialogue is still ongoing. So just because you’re now conversing with a customer via email doesn’t mean you should just leave them there. Instead, take advantage of opportunities to close the loop and send them back to live chat in later stages of the customer journey.
The main reason for this is that live chat’s immediacy makes it a very versatile tool. Think of it like a real-time version of email. For almost anything you can do with email, you can probably do it faster with live chat. So if you can get your customer to open a live chat window, that’s often going to be the better way to communicate.
This can be as simple as a link in your email, as in this message from Yahoo! mail:
Upon clicking the link, the user can be sent to a “conversational landing page”, that can be designed for specific use cases like technical support, product questions or customer feedback.
Here’s one from content and translation service provider Topcontent:
Or how about skipping the link altogether and including a live chat in the email itself?
This has become a reality thanks to Google’s AMP for email, which allows you to send out emails that function like rich, interactive web pages. While the technology is still relatively new, AMP for email allows data to be updated in real-time by multiple users. Check out the example below. To learn more about how to embed live chat into email, check out the Dyspatch email builder.
By taking advantage of this functionality, creative marketers can offer their customers live or near-live conversations directly in the inbox. This changes the game by directly negating live chat’s biggest weakness – its lack of portability.
Open the dialogue with your customers today
Strong relationships are built on authentic conversations. Follow the framework in this article and you’ll be able to establish a solid foundation for those conversations, based on a tight core loop between your live chat and email marketing efforts.