Lately, I’ve spent some time observing new trends in sales and marketing. I couldn’t help but be drawn to “conversational marketing”, a novel idea introduced by Drift, a platform that offers all-round solutions for staying in touch with customers and leads.
The term itself seemed really interesting to me. After all, cold emailing is a form of starting a conversation, so if something like “conversational marketing” gets blog coverage, it’s even better for cold emailing and similar technology that enables brands to stay in touch with their leads.
So I popped into a chat with Mark Kilens from Drift who’s worked extremely hard on Drift’s Conversational Framework. I also reached out to lead generation experts and asked them to say a few words about the rise of chatbots and conversational marketing.
Let’s see what they had to say about it.
Who took part in the Expert RoundUp Vol.1
Here’s a list of people I invited to take part in the first Woodpecker Expert RoundUp.
- Mark Kilens from Drift
- Will Cannon from UpLead
- Stephen M. Lowisz from 21 Leap
- Étienne Garbugli from Highlights
- Luis Camacho from Fantôm Agency
- David Henzel from TaskDrive
- Jonny Rose from Lead Generation Nation
- Gaetano from EarlyParrot
- Morgan Williams at MorganDWilliams.com
- Deepak Shukla from Pearl Lemon
- Ognjen Vuković from Reportz.io
- Ryan Nahas from GrowthGenius
- Dr. Stanley Mungwe from LeadmeHome
What is conversational marketing?
From what I’ve gathered from my conversation with Mark, “conversational marketing” is a way of using 1-on-1 conversations to drive sales.
No matter how users get to your website, you immediately get to engage with them, understand where they are coming from. Basically, you can be there for them to answer any questions they have about your business.
In a long run, such an approach can drive more sales, since, with the right technology, you can create helpful conversations and recommend the right thing for the right person at the right time. In turn, you see an increase in conversions.
What technology can be used in conversational marketing? Any type of messaging tech, such as
- live chat installed on your website or inside the app;
- chatbot installed on your website or Facebook.
It all seems interesting. Especially when Mark shared with me a study which claims that an average conversion rate for B2B websites is 2% providing that you rely only on forms.
Can conversational marketing change that? What is the general feeling about it? I asked a few lead generation experts.
What do lead generation experts have to say about it?
Conversational marketing seems to have some merits. You can get to know your website visitor’s vocabulary and use it in your next cold email campaign. You can get some ideas for email personalization. You can qualify a lead and design an email campaign for.
Conversely, you can install a chat on a landing page you link to in your email signature. Whenever a prospect gets on the landing page, you can engage with them further via the chat and hold the conversation.
There are a lot of possibilities.
But since I have little to no experience with this trend, I asked around the people who are very much involved in lead generation what their thoughts on conversational marketing are.
First, I tried to find out whether my experts have explored conversational marketing.
Is conversational marketing worth trying?
A vast majority of my experts have tried using various methods of conversational marketing. Overall, they’re very optimistic about the technology that’s behind them.
Highlights, for example, uses “a variety of conversational marketing tactics to convert inbound traffic into leads depending on the source of traffic and intent,” as stated by Étienne Garbugli.
The same goes for Reportz.io; Ognjen Vuković believes that conversational marketing platforms gave Reportz.io “an option to engage, sort and qualify users faster.” They can save their sales rep some time. It would definitely be a plus for Woodpecker’s sales teams.
UpLead, too, uses “conversational marketing as one of [their] key strategies. Will Cannon shared that developing a friendly tone of voice instead of a formal one is a great way to establish a connection with your leads. And a connection is something we want when trying to establish a business relationship. Will said that:
We find that a conversational tone beats a stiff, overly formal tone any day. It doesn’t matter whether you’re engaging a website visitor via live chat, or creating a lead magnet for your ideal customer – you’ll want to speak to them like an actual human being, instead of being too “corporate” and/or spouting jargon at them. At the end of the day, the goal is to build rapport with your leads, and reach out in a way that makes sense to them – that’s where conversational marketing comes in.
What about chatbots?
When I asked Will whether Uplead has any experience with chatbots, he said that they don’t. The majority of the experts I talked to have tried chatbots, especially the ones in Facebook Messenger.
As Luis Camacho from Fantôm Agency told me, FB Messenger chatbots “provide a personal experience even when you’re not there.”
Yet, chatbots won’t close any deal or increase brand awareness. For that, you need a more sophisticated process. Jonny Rose from Lead Generation Nation summed it up perfectly:
Chatbots are only useful once a prospect lands on your website. They are no use for driving qualified traffic to your website. With that in mind, my view is that anyone using chatbots needs to be aware that chatbots are only solving a small piece of the lead generation puzzle – namely, lead qualification and conversion.
Chatbots do very little on their own. However, if you build a strategy in which your sales reps will take over at the right moment, you might generate some sales opportunities that way. Ryan from GrowthGenius said that they generate 25% of their opportunities that way.
Moreover, David Henzel from TaskDrive shared with me that they “discovered that people are more comfortable chatting with a real-life person before making a decision to schedule a call.”
So where should we put chatbots in our sales process?
Ognjen concluded that “chatbots should be used as an instant touch, some sort of engager that let us qualify and categorize the person, in order to personalize the conversation with the user.”
Stephen M. Lowisz, too, made a very interesting point about using chatbots. This is what he observed:
We’ve found bots to be incredibly helpful for low-ticket items (…) however, at the high ticket level, like what we do at 21 LEAP, we’ve found the effectiveness to drop a bit. For general email capturing and lead magnet delivery, Facebook has been great. For scheduling appointments, website chatbots can be leveraged. However, these are fully automated and don’t require any manual response within 5 minutes if done right.
It appears that chatbots are really useful in solving small problems and giving fast answers. Like any form of conversational marketing, you can use automated chat to qualify people who interact with you in that way. Is this what compels lead generation experts to try them?
What makes chatbots so popular right now?
According to Luis Camacho, the method is successful because “the market has not reached a peak and is not being abused like other forms.” Thus, there’s still room for early adopters. The users are not fed up with chatbots, vying for their attention. Although who knows what will happen after more and more B2B companies adopt chatbots
Does it mean it’s just a trend that will fade after some time? I asked the experts about that too.
Morgan Williams thought the trend is here to stay. Ultimately, it gives sales reps an option to get into a direct conversation with a qualified lead way faster than any other method out there. He said:
I see any sales/marketing innovation that successfully connects a true, hand-raising prospect with a salesperson faster as a net positive for both sides, a trend that is here to stay.
Chatbots and live chats can speed up communication between your sales team and potential leads. The trend of using such technology is bound to mature then. Yet, will every company adopt it successfully? Stanley Mungwe from LeadmeHome points out that if you don’t have the right principles at your company, you won’t succeed, even with the best technology.
The issue is that no trend, tactics, or hack can replace fundamental client-centric marketing which is based on showing the right offer to the right audience in his right state at the right time.
So before you jump into the conversational marketing bandwagon, make sure your company is ready for that.
What is the downside of using chatbots?
At the end of the day, chatbots are just… bots that are still in an early adoption phase. They are imperfect and limited in their functionality. Jonny observed:
The vast majority of bots are built using decision-tree logic, where the bot’s canned response relies on spotting specific keywords in the user input (…) Problems arise when life refuses to fit into those boxes.
Because of that chatbots can slow down the buying process. According to Deepak Shukla from Pear Lemon:
Chatbots will always get in the way of the actual action because some people just might want to talk to a human and there’s always some degree of delay with a chatbot and nothing will ever replace the human experience.
Gaetano from EarlyParrot observed another important hiccup with chatbots:
Some leads who are about to convert sometimes think that they are talking to a human being. So when a chatbot gets it wrong, leads might be put off and want immediate assistance by a human being.
Nevertheless, you can find a way around it, namely, don’t expect the chatbot to resolve every query the user come to you with. Your sales reps may take over in crucial moments. Even so, it is desired for the salespeople to take over. As Ryan said:
We’ve tested inviting a human into the conersation at various stages of the chatbot conversation, and without a doubt, can confidently say that once the prospect has indicated they want to speak to a salesperson, the earlier a human is introduced the better.
Chatbots won’t replace salespeople. You still need a human-to-human connection to close deals and build trust and rapport.
What’s the verdict?
I got interested in conversational marketing because cold emailing is a form of starting a conversation. You need to get in front of your leads, initiate a conversation with them in order to build trust and rapport. As we all know, we can’t close a deal after sending just one email.
Conversational marketing, and messaging technology like chatbots, won’t increase sales on its own either. However, pair it with an amazing inbound marketing, professional outbound tactics, as well as a great service and it, will definitely work to your advantage.
Make sure you’re ready to get your sales reps involved before you try conversational marketing technology. As we’ve seen, it’s essential. As the experts have told us, it’s essential to introduce a human being for it to be an effective strategy.
All things considered, give it a shot if you think you have a team to support it.
Thanks to all the experts for contributing. If you have tried conversational marketing, share your experience in the comments.