To achieve success, business-to-business (B2B) companies need a constant flow of leads coming into their sales funnel and a way to quickly and efficiently qualify those leads. When a typical sales cycle can last from 6-12 months, there’s no time to spend on leads that are unlikely to convert.
For years, the vast majority of companies would rely on lead capture forms, emails, and other, similar techniques for lead generation. Many companies still follow this process. The problem is, making customers jump through hoop after hoop — for example, filling out a form, waiting for an email response, fielding a phone call from a sales rep, etc. — is not a great way to do business in our always-on world.
Is there a better option? The answer is a resounding yes; and it's called conversational marketing.
What Is Conversational Marketing?
As the name implies, the basic tenet of conversational marketing is to bypass mediums of one-way communication, like emails and forms, and engage the customer in meaningful two-way communication (in other words, in conversation). In short, conversational marketing is the fastest and most effective way to guide prospects through your sales funnel and ultimately convert them into customers. It involves leveraging real-time conversation to provide an authentic experience and real value for your consumers.
How Does Conversational Marketing Work?
How does conversational marketing work in real-world scenarios? In most cases, an exceptional conversational marketing strategy will combine the benefits of automated chatbots with the advantages that human chat agents offer.
Imagine the following process:
- A visitor finds your company's website and begins to browse your offerings.
- Within seconds of the visitor's arrival, an automated chatbot messenger greets him, and offers assistance. After a moment or two of thought, he decides to type his question into the messenger's text box.
- The chatbot quickly responds with the appropriate answer. In addition, the messenger offers to connect him with a live agent to help him with any other questions he may have. On the back end, the chatbot software classifies this visitor as a "warm lead."
- The visitor accepts the chatbot's offer, and within minutes is conversing with a human agent (a sales rep). The visitor mentions an issue that he is seeking to resolve, and asks more questions about the product. The sales rep is able to answer all of the visitor's questions, provide further detail on the company's solution to the problem at hand, and ultimately close the sale.
In this scenario, conversational marketing enabled a quick journey through the sales funnel in a matter of minutes, instead of dragging out the lead qualifying process over a period of days or weeks, and thus risking a loss of interest.
Chatbots can also be optimized to provide visitors with a personalized experience on your site. Say a visitor came to your site, browsed, and downloaded a case study. She later returns, looking for more information on your product and pricing. Based on her previous activity, you can set up a chatbot workflow to greet her and provide targeted options for what step she might like to take next. In this case, the chatbot could offer a product data sheet, pricing guide, or the option to schedule a meeting with a sales rep — all helpful options to an individual who has shown interest that will nurture her further down the funnel.
More people prefer not only the speed and convenience of the process compared to traditional solutions, they are also coming to expect it. Research from Drift indicates that only 14% of consumers would choose to fill out a website form over interacting with a chatbot. Moreover, as of 2019, some 82% of users expect a response from a live chat agent within five minutes or less, and 78% expect chatbots to answer their questions within the same time frame.
"Show Me the Leads!"
Conversational marketing initiatives have proven the benefits of using a customer-centric approach for capturing leads. For example, HubSpot, a marketing, sales, and service software, was able to attract 20% more qualified leads by adding live chat as a communication channel.
Similarly, Drift, often viewed as one of the industry leaders in conversational marketing, has reported a 15% increase in top-of-the-funnel lead volume by presenting users with an alternative to filling out a form.
Chatbots aren’t just convenient for potential customers, they also provide a wealth of information companies can use to gain new insight into their audience. HubSpot's Conversational Marketing Manager Connor Cirillo said it best: “Your conversational marketing audience is much more insightful than your other channels. They'll tell you in their own words how they want to interact with your business. There's no inferring or guessing.”
By taking that direct feedback and applying it to future marketing and sales efforts, companies can boost lead generation and gather data on which leads make it all the way through the funnel to ultimately become a customer.
Conversational Marketing and Account-Based Marketing (ABM)
ABM is a key piece of the marketing puzzle for many B2B companies. The great thing about conversational marketing is that it can feed into the success of an ABM approach through personalization combined with previously captured data.
For example, instead of greeting visitors from high-value accounts with a generic template, a personalized conversational marketing strategy can enable your messenger to use their company's name (or, in some cases, even their personal name). Since those leads had no doubt been previously qualified, if the visitors want human interaction then the chatbot could seamlessly transfer them to the appropriate agent — perhaps the rep in charge of their account, or an associate that's dealt with their organization in the past.
It's true that conversational marketing has many moving parts, and goes against the grain of traditional lead generation processes. Nevertheless, it’s a powerful way to efficiently qualify leads, boost conversion rates, and ultimately drive revenue. If you'd like to learn more about what conversational marketing is all about, and how to begin implementing it, reach out to our team of experts today.
Posted In: Marketing Technology
Adept at communicating and connecting with people of all backgrounds, William brings more than 10 years of experience leading, developing, and implementing digital marketing solutions for B2B clients. He’s worked with a variety of clients, from large multinational corporations with multiple business units to local small businesses. William previously served as the Director of Digital Strategy and Insights for a Portland, Oregon-based B2B marketing agency, helping it grow from a team of 3 to a team of more than 40. In addition to leading analytics, marketing automation, SEO, paid media, and business intelligence, William also focused on mentoring and providing team members in his department with a clear professional development path.