This article was originally published in Demand Gen Report.
Chat-based engagement provides companies with a customizable platform that delivers more personalized customer experiences while streamlining operations, increasing cross-departmental communication and optimizing employee effectiveness. Designed to fuel demand generation, account-based marketing and sales while aligning internal teams, the continued shift to a fully digital world is boosting conversational marketing’s popularity, strategies and results.
According to research from Drift and Heinz Marketing, online live chat has grown by 35% since 2019, while communication via email has grown by 3%. While chat-based engagement isn’t new, strategies for optimizing its effectiveness are improving. As the marketing world continues to pivot and rely on digital technologies to promote effective selling, companies can leverage chat-based engagement to ensure they’re identifying target audiences on-site and tailoring conversations to engage high-volume clients.
“Much of the digital transformation that we’ve all been through is here to stay,” said Kate Adams, VP of Marketing for Drift, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. “Marketers, salespeople and revenue acceleration professionals need to think about what their digital experience looks like and how hard it is for someone to have a conversation with them or their business. People who are not paying attention and transforming their digital experience are going to get left behind.”
Engaging potential customers with chatbots at their point of highest intent fuels account-based marketing by immediately opening the door for conversation when a target account is identified on a company’s website. According to Drift’s report, companies that used conversational marketing tools saw:
In an ideal world, a sales rep would be available to engage with a customer at a moment’s notice and anticipate their needs. With about 50% of customers demanding immediate responses to their inquiries, hyper-vigilance is key to closing sales. Unfortunately, the reality is that most sales teams don’t have the bandwidth to open a direct line of communication with a client when it’s most critical.
“You want to start a conversation with a customer when they’re at their point of highest intent, which is typically when they’re on your website and consuming content,” said Adams. “As marketers, we put all this blood, sweat and tears into creating all this great content, and now when someone’s finally reading it and questions pop into their mind, a chatbot enables them to start a conversation in real time.”
The other aspect to consider is the ease and accessibility potential buyers have of finding content on a company’s website. Given the immediacy of which customers expect to receive responses, easily-accessible content is crucial.
“Give your customers the content they’re searching for instead of making them dig through your website,” explained Arjun Pillai, Co-Founder and CEO of Insent.ai, in an interview with DGR. “If they want case studies, give them case studies. Conversations and content are the most important instruments for buyer enablement.”
In addition to engaging with customers when they’re at their highest buying intent, chat-based engagement software “contributes 30% into your funnel,” said Pillai, explaining that it has the potential to increase over time. He also estimated that about 30% or more of leads will be generated through chatbots, while anywhere from 10% to 20% of deals will be touched by chat at some point in the sales cycle.
For example, Unity Technologies, a video game software development company, partnered with Intercom, a messaging platform, to introduce a chat-based channel that proactively capitalized on visitor’s intent. As a result, Unity’s visitor-to-customer conversion rates increased by 45% and enabled 32% of Unity’s current customer retention to come from real-time messaging interactions.
Perhaps the best way to find success when optimizing conversational marketing is to take an introspective look and examine where your company falls short of customers’ expectations to identify and address buyers’ pain points.
The three biggest frustrations respondents indicated were receiving too many irrelevant ads and emails (53.2%), an inability to receive answers to simple questions/business information quickly and easily (36.4%) and services that felt impersonal (35.3%).
In an interview with DGR, Justin McDonald, VP & GM of Chat at Terminus, explained that companies can alleviate these pain points by generating a clearer picture of where particular accounts are in the sales cycle. When targeting specific accounts, companies should consider:
“Create the right experience based upon where buyers sit in the pipeline and what they care about, not just based upon the area of website engagement,” said McDonald. “This requires great data, personalization and deep ties with an account-based strategy.”
Chat software isn’t going to build out and customize itself. Internal teams, specifically marketing and sales, need to remain in close alignment while developing and deploying conversational marketing software to ensure it’s consistent and conducive to ROI.
“Chat-based engagement a very, very cross-departmental activity,” said Pillia. “We actively sell to marketing, but the salespeople are the end users for incentive in most cases, support are the secondary users of the system and marketing is actively configuring sales. At the end of the day, marketers can do their best but if the salespeople aren’t adopting and embracing chat, the whole thing will fail.”
Kraig Swensrud, CEO and Founder of Qualified, added that it’s critical for marketing teams to have an ongoing feedback loop with sales as the teams work together to build their engagement strategy and implement their conversational platform. Three questions Swensrud suggested marketing teams ask include:
In an interview with DGR, Jane Honey, Sr. Director of Product for Intercom, explained that chatbots must be deployed and built in a way that’s most useful for the company. Doing so better optimizes sales teams’ time, as more than 40% of customer inquiries are incredibly repetitive, Honey explained, citing Intercom data.
Companies must be on top of their website’s chat-based engagement experiences if they want to see sustained and continued success throughout 2021 and beyond. In the interest of closing sales, increasing internal collaboration and fueling demand generation, improvement, personalization and optimization of chat-based marketing is necessary to succeed in the increasingly digital world.
“Conversational relationships are going to be the future for businesses, and businesses that think they can talk to customers like they’re a ticket or a number are going to be completely outdated,” said Honey. “As more businesses shifted online due to Covid-19, so have support experiences. It’s not good enough to force people to wait in a phone queue for four to five hours or for them to just send an email — it should be like they’re contacting a friend.”