The rise of conversational marketing

Estimated reading time
5 minutes
28th May 2020
Author: Mark Kilens
Posted in: Strategy & Planning

Conversational marketing can take your digital content from a one-way broadcast to a two-way interaction, giving customers more valuable and memorable experiences.

It’s news to no one that we have more information at our fingertips than ever before. The same is true of the number of options people have for what to buy, where to buy it and how. As a result, our expectations, especially when it comes to convenience, are going up and up. We are firmly in an era where customers are in control.

“If you’re not focused on experience,
you’re in a race to the bottom”​

To succeed in the digital world, you have to have a website built for the customer era. For instance, a visitor to your website will always want something. A product. An answer to a question. Someone to talk to. If they cannot find what they are looking for quickly and easily, you are creating a worse experience for that person than most have the patience for. As a result, you may lose them to a competitor, another website, or to Google.

Experiences are essential

When it comes to your brand, if you’re not focused on experience, you’re in a race to the bottom. Almost everything has been commoditized. How do you stand out? How are you different? Why should someone choose you?

When a B2B or B2C brand means something to someone it’s evoking some type of emotion. People need a reason beyond the nuts and bolts of your product to believe in and follow your brand. Brands today have to build emotional connections with their audience. Your brand’s promise, what your brand stands for, and what people feel about it matters more and more.

“You can’t build relationships without conversation”

These sentiments are established in the sum of all interactions between a business and the individual.

At every touchpoint, every interaction, the experience needs to capture and convey your brand’s unique point of view, an overarching set of values, and a consistent voice. The experience at the top of the funnel needs to support what the sales and marketing teams are doing at a more personal 1:1 level further down. These characteristics will help you to engage the right people. Furthermore, they’ll help to create a connection, an emotional reaction, and an affinity to the brand.

A holistic view of customer interactions when considering brand experience is especially important in B2B. This is because essentially, what you’re trying to do is build a relationship. Beyond brand identity, marketers need to consider how we use online and offline content to personalize and deepen those relationships. You need to think how you’re going to add value to people each time they interact with your brand.

Content and conversations

This is why content is more important than ever. But content has always been a one-way thing. I, as a marketer, am going to publish a lot of content to educate or entertain people and hope they a) find it, and b) read it. What if someone has a question? Or they want to talk to you right after they read the content? Or they want to talk to you while they’re reading that content? This is where conversational marketing comes in. You need to use something like conversational marketing to be able to create that connection with that person in the context of their choosing. This will then feed into the relationship you’re trying to build with them.

“Marketers need to create opportunities for conversations throughout a person’s journey with your brand, not just at the very bottom of the funnel”

You can’t build relationships without conversation. There has to be a natural back and forth and that has to be done over time. If you’re already serving people with useful entertainment or education, it’s time to go deeper. Start by having conversations with them. In addition to a content strategy, you need a conversation strategy.

At Drift, we work with a framework that helps you understand how to really have conversations. In other words, it comes down to three elements: Engage, Understand, Recommend. Above all, a natural conversation should have points of engagement. It should be a shared understanding between two or more people. The conversation should also include recommendations made that help both parties get something from that conversation.

Marketers need to create opportunities for conversations throughout a person’s journey with your brand, not just at the very bottom of the funnel. Pre-purchase, this spans five stages:

  1. Engage
  2. Educate
  3. Research
  4. Evaluate
  5. Justify

Your content and conversational marketing strategies need to cover how you can engage and educate people, help them research your solution/product, evaluate if you’re the right fit for them, and justify their investment.

Bots for the heavy lifting

To create the most emotionally accommodating brand experience, it’s imperative that every single page of your website offers someone a simple way to connect with you. This is similar to what people expect when visiting a physical store. However, one difference is that online, the rep they speak with doesn’t have to be a human.

For example, your blog is typically more top to middle of the funnel. After about 10 seconds of reading, you could have a chatbot pop open that invites them into a conversation. A question could be “Hey, thanks for coming over to read this article, do you have any questions about [blog topic]?”. On the other hand, you could ask “Do you want to hear a joke about [blog topic]?”. From there, you can directly answer common questions with preprogrammed answers. In addition, you can point to other resources where they can find an answer or simply try and make them laugh. Any and all of these add more value to the interactions and make them more memorable.

“The more you understand about someone – the who, the what, the why – the easier it is to meaningfully personalize the experience of their next interactions”

If a person you’ve been nurturing visits a case study or a particular product page, you can have their sales rep reach out through the chat functionality on-page to answer any questions, picking up the conversation at a time when they are already interacting with your brand.

Conversational marketing is a pretty easy way to get started with personalizing the experience you give people on your website. You can use contextual information. This can include where the reader arrived on the page from (search, social), their IP location, the subject matter of the page, and so on to tailor the questions and messages used to prompt conversation. You can use the conversations themselves to further unpack why the person is looking at that page. It follows that the more you understand about someone – the who, the what, they why – the easier it is to meaningfully personalize the experience of their next interactions with your brand and make a deeper connection.

This article originally appeared in The Splash: Getting Personal. Check out the rest of the issue below.

Click to read The Splash | Issue 2: Getting personal | By Turtl