What is Conversational Marketing? – Hacker Noon

…and how can you use it to grow your business?

Over the past few years and months, you’ve probably heard a lot about automation. From Tesla’s attempt at automating an entire factory, to semi-autonomous surgical robots, to Amazon’s no-humans-required grocery store. All the biggest companies with the biggest bank accounts are investing in automation; of course they would, it’s the way forward.

But what about you? How can your company automate its processes?

What is conversational automation?

Conversational Marketing is defined as a one-on-one feedback-focused communication between companies and customers, across multiple channels, to drive engagement, shorten the sales cycle, develop customer loyalty, grow the customer base, and, ultimately, increase revenue, by way of creating a more human buying experience.

Conversational marketing isn’t limited to live chat, it’s an all-encompassing campaign. From emails and customer support to customer loyalty and success programs, being time sensitive and personal will never run out of fashion. Instead of blasting out that generic copy and picture, conversational marketing starts anew by answering people’s questions, listening to their feedback, and then uncovering new ways to help them.

The people have spoken. Research has shown that only 43% of people answer cold calls, the average email open rate is about 20%, and the average landing page conversion rate is just 2.35%. Traditional marketing efforts are not just bad for the people, they’re also bad for business.

But more importantly, people’s representatives have spoken too. GDPR was the death of data hoarding and email spam, marketers will now need to justify why they are holding each piece of personal information and the legal basis on which it’s being used for marketing. This means an end to third-party lead generation companies and list providers, no pre-ticked boxes along with a guillotine to legal cop-outs like assumed consent and opt-ins.

The internet is the most potent two-way communication interface in the history of humanity, so why are you using it just to blast out emails?

It’s time to find a new slant.

Or, the oldest pillar in the business.

Even since before humans could speak each other’s languages, they conversated.

Vasco Da Gama and Christopher Colombus are widely regarded as the pioneers of the first international trade boom, and ever since then, conversational commerce has flourished. Back in the good old days, both humans and business alike traded by having face-to-face conversations. And when speaking directly to the customer was no longer an option, businesses used pigeons to exchange letters, they coded and decoded in morse, traded telegraphs, sent the other party faxes, left each other voicemails and flooded email inboxes; all in the hopes of returning to personalisation and comfort of that first human interaction.

Photo by Anastasia Gubinskaya on Reshot

Even in the age of the all-encompassing internet, you still see conversations in the world of marketing and sales today. It’s in that corner store your mother visits, where she buys that ointment for her bad back because it’s what the shopkeeper recommends. It’s in your local flower shop, where the florist keeps those hydrangeas ready so you can pick them up for your sisters’ graduation. It’s in millions of small businesses across the world where one-on-one, human conversations drive marketing and sales.

In the modern world, we’ve changed what we consider acceptable response times. It doesn’t take two weeks to get the word out on a great house party anymore, it takes two minutes and the right Whatsapp group. Families live closer together through the digital web, friends are around more and teachers answer your questions faster.

So why don’t businesses?

Most companies can’t be blamed for not being more adventurous.

Marketing is like poker, it’s a zero-sum game. For every winner, there’s a loser.

Every product that is bought from your company, is a product that your customer isn’t buying from the competition. This is why bad habits tend to stick in the world of marketing and sales; if it makes money for one person, everyone follows suit (read as email blasts). Behavioral Economics calls it “risk aversion”; the phenomenon described as having, “losses loom larger than gains.”

The pain of potentially losing is greater than the pleasure of winning, so companies are obliged to play it safe and be repetitive. It sucks because most marketing and sales solutions today were designed to automate business processes, and not to offer the intelligence needed to make informed decisions.

Conversational marketing has been around since the dawn of time, so why the renewed interest?

It’s because we now have the technology not to just have these one-to-one conversations, but to be able to have them at scale. That tied to consumers who value personalization and accessible interfaces mean that conversational marketing and sales have become more relevant than ever before.

What are the advantages of conversational marketing?

Time never stops never stopping

Your business doesn’t just run business hours. You’ll have prospects who visit your website at any hour that pleases them, customers who will have questions and queries only once they’re home and businesses who will want to discuss deals in the dead of the night. Instead of having them fill out static lead and contact forms (1%), move from simple customer engagement to a more fulfilling customer delight. Using conversational marketing and A.I. powered bots, you can generate leads, answer queries, and book meetings, 24/7, 365 days a year so you can interact with your customers in real time.

Another important face of conversational marketing is that they don’t happen solely in a single sitting, so your conversations need to be able to be carried over. Regardless of whether it’s in real-time, after finishing their meeting, or later that night when they have a spare moment, your bot should be able to pick up where they left off with your customer and deliver.

A customer doesn’t care if you’re talking with 10, 100, or 1,000 other people — they only care about the issue they need to be solved.

Can we build it at scale? Yes, we can!

All marketing campaigns are inevitably planned with a singular aim: Increase Word of Mouth marketing, so your customers do the advertising for you.

92% of consumers trust recommendations from their friends or family more than any other form of marketing, and a significant part of that statistic stems from having built a bond with your family and friends. Companies know that face-to-face conversations are the best way to build these bonds, but this isn’t scalable.

Scaling conversations have never been easy, regardless of whether it’s in customer support, marketing or sales. In order to have 100 one-to-one conversations with leads or customers simultaneously, you’d need to have 100 employees; or a lot of disgruntled people on hold.

When you stop pitching and start listening to what the other person has to say, it makes conversations more natural and opens up opportunities to cross-sell, encourage sharing, solicit input, as you flow seamlessly between commerce and support.

With a live chat/bot function assisting your conversational marketing functions, you can have one on one conversations with all your customers, or allow the bot to talk to them just like you would.

Engagement

Let’s be honest, we’ve reached a point in the technological revolution where you no longer check your email inbox because you want to, but because you have to.

While a handful of things like sending contracts might not be socially acceptable, there’s little to nothing you couldn’t do with your phone. And consumers agree. According to TechCrunch, consumers spend 5 hours per day on their phones. And if you’re wondering what those dang kids are spending so much time on, you can go through Facebook’s February earnings, which claims that WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger and Instagram had 1.5 billion and 1.3 billion and 1.1 billion monthly active users, respectively.

The present is mobile, if you’re not on the same platform as your customers, they’re not going to be there with you. Using conversational marketing you can be with your customers when they want, where they want, and how they want — giving your audience control over their own support, sales queries or marketing efforts.

Conversational Marketing is not just a matter of convenience for the people who use it, it’s also a great way to present your company culture. Using specific content tools like copywriting, games, emojis, videos, and gifs you can share with your customers, fellow companies and clients what your brand personality is. As customers engage with the bot, they learn not only about your company but your company’s product offerings.

Made by you, for people like you

Context is one of the most important facets of a holistic conversation. It’s why politicians often speak in sound bites, since what they say is reported in sound bites. By eliminating context, they keep their answers consistent and clear of scrutiny.

Context is what builds bonds, it’s what makes inside jokes and great storytellers. With conversational marketing, every interaction you have with a prospect, customer or business is built on a round mound of context, which makes shooting your initial shot or grabbing sales rebounds a better service-side experience.

Using conversational marketing, you can create simple delights like custom-made conversation starters depending on what page of your website your prospect is on, to data enriched lead qualification. By getting to the heart of the issue seamlessly since you don’t have to waste time collating information you already have access to, you can create more personalized and contextual conversations.

Data

Traditional data collected from traditional marketing suffers from a traditional problem.

By virtue of being data-centric, the current incentives for marketing are to collect more data, not make more fulfilling experiences for customers. Marketing as it stands today is more focused on being data-driven, instead of being customer-driven.

We’re ready to burden our customers with a stream of endless emails, contact forms and calls just so we can put their names in a spreadsheet which just more begets more emails, contact forms and calls. What’s the point of knowing someone’s name if you don’t know what they like about your product?

And while you could make your nine-question contact form even longer to accommodate that, but it will never give you the same depth and understanding you could derive from a full-fledged one-on-one conversation. Use the power of artificial intelligence to collect information as a human being instead of simply employing a static tool.

Analyze engagement, retention, funnel bottlenecks, customer pain points and other key metrics that are ignored by traditional methods.

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