As companies, we are constantly on a quest for the right audience, the right tactic and the right message to get in front of potential customers. More often than not, marketers mistakenly focus on changing the tactics rather than adjusting the delivery of their content.
It's not only a delicate dance between content and inbound marketing, but also one of the effectiveness of content throughout the entire buyer's journey or inbound marketing funnel. Emphasis on the conversion rates between the stages is as important as the content itself.
Buyer's Journey Versus Inbound Marketing Funnel
The buyer's journey is commonly utilized to visually map how a persona or ideal client navigates through the buying process. This journey takes the user from the awareness stage to the consideration and finally, the decision stage. The duration of the buyer's journey depends on each persona and the confidence required for the service you are offering.
The inbound marketing funnel is based on the methodology of attracting strangers to your business with relevant information that ultimately drives them to make a purchase further down in the buyer's journey. To align with the buyer's journey, the segments of the inbound marketing funnel break down into: the top of the funnel (awareness stage), middle of the funnel (consideration stage), and bottom of the funnel (decision stage).
The content shared with consumers in each of the stages is strategically placed in order to drive the prospect through the journey and onto a purchase (or reaching out to sales) by providing the relevant information and confidence they need.
Accelerating the Buyer's Journey
Alongside the strategy of the Inbound Marketing Funnel, marketers typically utilize email to shorten the time frame between awareness and decision. By planning out the entire buyer's journey, marketers come up with content and calls to action that uncover “the next step” in the journey. This can be shared via page content, blogs, social media and even paid ads. Typically, a key piece to this strategy is automation.
There are two types of marketing automation:
- Time-Based Automation: This is the typical email (and task based) automation everyone is familiar with, in which a user is given a time-based drip when (or before) a certain action/event triggers it, such as a form submission on a landing page. The automation platform sends an email introducing (or reminding) the prospect that there is another available step. This repeats with multiple messages spread out over days, weeks, and months. Typically, these emails are focused around the value-equation that matches where they are in the buyer's journey, while pushing to the next step.
- Intent-Based Automation: This automation can work like the time-based automation, but features emails that are delivered in a contextually relevant timeframe based on the user’s interactions with the brand. Businesses can use this tactic to notify their sales team that a user has visited a pricing page, or to send an email with a case study once a prospect has looked at a particular set of product pages. A frequent example of this is how Amazon sends product-promoting emails. They use machine learning and detailed if/then workflows to trigger emails based on the pages you view, the products you add to your cart, etc., recommending other products you may find interesting.
PRO TIP: Ensure that your marketing team or agency is utilizing both of these automation types in order to drive a higher ROI and conversion rates. ANY modern marketing team HAS to be using these tactics in order to drive the value and ROI of their efforts.
The key to accelerating the buyer's journey is to uncover the questions and relevant tactics to answer them in a timely manner. As with most modern marketing, strategies are constantly evolving as more opportunities are being uncovered to reach your prospects with the most contextually relevant message.
Spend the extra time to map this journey and create value at every stage. Once you’ve created the messaging, measure and iterate until you get to the desired ROI for your campaign.
Say Hello to Conversational Marketing
One of the biggest barriers that marketers run into with the automation mentioned above is that it is heavily dependent on email and targeted off-site advertising. Currently, there is a shift happening due to how your prospect communicates online. Inboxes are becoming bogged down with SPAM and promotional messaging.
So, users are moving to direct one-on-one messaging platforms such as Messenger, Facebook Messenger, Microsoft Teams and Slack to communicate. These platforms are also all investing heavily in business communication. As businesses, we need to recognize and leverage how natural it is to communicate to prospects this way.
Stop writing content that speaks to a group of people. They don’t read it in a group. Make it a start of a conversation with the person reading it.
One of the immediate issues/fears is that this one-on-one communication is going to be problematic and un-scalable for users. The fact of the matter is that businesses don’t have a choice. Our prospects are communicating this way, and the companies willing to leverage that are the ones that will win the race for confidence and the sale.
I remember back when buyer personas were a new concept and companies resisted them, saying the idea wasn’t scalable. Of course after personas were adopted, suddenly the company’s marketing became significantly more effective. Conversion rates increased, traffic needed to drive sales decreased, and revenue came in (with less work). It’s about to happen again with conversational marketing.
Human vs. Chatbots
One of the biggest opportunities in conversational marketing is using chatbots to engage visitors and start a conversation. Similar to how marketing teams are using intent and time-based automation, companies can use chatbots to create micro conversations that are contextually relevant, timely and drive a natural conversation.
Let’s face it, nothing’s better than one-on-one human interaction to provide value, but in most cases, it’s not scalable. We live in an instant gratification world. While a five minute response to a lead via email is great, it seems like ages when it was thought of from a chat point of view. AI and chatbots can leverage this opportunity and bridge this scalability gap to: open the conversation, answer common questions, qualify leads and even set meetings, in a natural way that your prospect will love.
It wasn’t until we started using live chat and bots that people actually thanked us after providing their information. --- When is the last time someone thanked you for giving them a form on your website?
- Remington Begg
While the first thing to consider when leveraging conversational marketing is your individual personas, the platform comes second. Understanding tech capabilities, features and user experience will ensure success in your engagement. There are three main areas where your conversations will occur. On (1) social media, on (2) your website and (3) via text message. We’ve highlighted our picks of platform and will provide a recap of why below:
- Chatfuel: This tool is a great resource to utilize when looking to create a chatbot on Facebook Messenger. You can set default replies, create different campaigns, or even set up blog subscriptions (like up above on this blog). One of the perks of the paid version of this tool is that you can integrate it into other platforms using JSON.
- Drift: This tool is my favorite. We utilize this for all of our on-site messaging. Drift’s Team version of their tool allows for custom playbooks to set up different conversational logic. One of the best features is the ability to set buttons/CTA’s to trigger chat conversations. It’s been really successful on our website.
- Twilio Studio: This feature is brand-new. But one of its most compelling features is the ability to take conversational messaging mobile. Twilio has the brains for the chatbot features described above, but handles the conversations via text message. This allows the tool to be leveraged in traditional brick and mortar businesses and even live events.
- HubSpot Messages: As part of HubSpot’s Sales Professional, you can set custom messages for different pages (or sections) of your website. A new feature (currently in beta at the time of writing) will allow for a chatbot to qualify the conversation and then pass it along to a live chat operator who can take the lead. While this feature is new, it’s a big focus for HubSpot since their acquisition of Motion.ai
How Conversational Marketing Works
Want an example of conversational marketing?
Here's what it looks like with returning visitors, or known contacts/customers. These customers have done business with you in the past and want to be known (and feel known). It’s customer service at the next level.
We suggest starting with a chat tool that identifies your current customer base. Customers will feel left out immediately if they have nowhere to go for answers but new users have all the tools. In other words, if your returning customers have an immediate need, they expect an immediate response. It won’t bode well if your immediate answers focus solely on potential sales. Serve your current customers well, and they’ll stick around and may even sing your praises the world over!
This would include people you’re building a home for right now, who have questions about zoning issues, the right cabinets, or some other “quick question.” They don’t want to be sold to - they want service.
So start with creating a knowledge base document that answers common questions, and can escalate a conversation to your support team.
HubSpot Service Hub & Drift can handle a knowledge base option with their tools.
When you show someone is a customer, you can choose to show them only support questions and upgrade opportunities. You should speak to them as a customer, not as a potential customer.
Get Started with Conversational Marketing
Step 1: Map Out Buyer's Journey
Before you can start with a meaningful conversation or content piece, you have to know where it is intended to show up in the buyer's journey. Ask yourself questions about how the content is going to be consumed and consider how the user story (below) ties in. Where is that user in the buyer's journey when you want them to interact with your messaging and where does the result of the conversation take them.
Step 2: Create User Stories
While typically used in agile development, user stories are short, simple descriptions of a feature, as told from the perspective of the person who desires the new capability. Usually, it’s a user or customer of the system.
These can follow a simple template:
As a [type of user], I want [some goal] so that [some reason].
By creating a conversational marketing user story, you can shift the focus from writing about benefits to discussing them with your prospect.
Step 3: Role Play the Conversation
Use sticky notes to outline the questions and potential answers on a board or on the wall. The goal here is to map out the conversation and make it easy to adjust language and order of questions etc. Make sure your user story is top and center to keep the conversation on point.
Step 4: Identify Triggers for Next Question
Once you have your questions and potential answers outlined with sticky notes, the next step is to focus on the triggers for each question. Think about whether you’ll providing free text answers or if you’ll providing buttons for the user to check (keeps the conversation natural and focused).
Step 5: Identify different branches of the conversation
Once you have your questions and potential answers outlined, determine if you want to allow conversations to branch off to other conversation flows. This could be to make the conversation more contextually relevant after a simple yes/no question, or could be more advanced with multiple options to choose from.
Step 6: Publish and promote
Get your message out there. It’s always easy to make excuses and not publish your conversations. So set it and let it out into the wild. Try implementing your conversational marketing piece on multiple mediums. Publish on Facebook Messenger and also consider using the same conversation on your website, too.
Step 7: Analyze & Iterate
Once your message is out and people are engaging with your bot, start to look for similarities where people fall off. That trend indicates areas you should consider spending time on. Add your enhancements and then continually iterate, analyze and improve the conversations.
Two Perks of Conversational Marketing
1. Hyper Targeted Conversations
Conversational Marketing allows and reinforces the one-on-one conversation. It allows you to hyper-target conversation and value propositions in a direct conversation. From a branding perspective, it also allows you to showcase your culture and messaging, while also allowing bite-sized messaging to keep the user engaged.
At Impulse Creative, we call these micro messages. They’re the “thank you” after a user provides their email, or the excitement you can show when visitors say they need help with your service. Micro Messages allow you to immediately uncover what the prospect cares about (because you ask), and provide an intelligent, timely answer that exudes confidence from the very beginning. It also provides instant gratification from the prospect’s point-of-view. When building out your conversation flow, find ways to provide additional value with these micro messages.
2. Intent-Based Conversations
One of the most important aspects to consider about conversational marketing is the intent behind the chat. When developing your Conversational User Story, you need to consider the intent. Similar to the expectation when someone clicks a CTA before your landing page, the intent a user has for starting a conversation may or may not be due to clicking on an element.
You have the ability to ask the user to engage based on: engagement metrics, time or even certain pages they’ve shown interest in. Be sure to consider the intent in the beginning of the conversation to keep the conversation authentic.
Increase Conversions on your Pillar Page Content
Pillar pages are a huge asset for gaining more traffic on your website, but conversions may take a hit if you previously had that content gated. By using inline CTAs and chat bot popups, you can find ways to incorporate conversational marketing throughout the page.
Consider sending them the “cliffs notes version” to share with a colleague, or even ask them questions throughout the document that initiate a chatbot. There is a lot of ways to naturally push someone through a pillar page and be a natural resource.
As you look at the engagement on your pillar pages, think about the questions you would want to ask someone as they get through 50% or even 100% of the resource. Create different messages to them as you go through the document. You’ll be glad you did.
Qualify Leads by Asking Them Directly if they'd Like to Talk
This is an area where marketers are notoriously lacking. There’s a stigma in many companies that marketing doesn’t want to engage with the prospect, whether it’s to set up a meeting or talk to sales (worded however you’d like). In contrast, a smarketing SLA is typically a very black/white handoff.
Using conversational marketing is key in lining up sales-ready conversations because it’s a soft ask, but still allows for you to qualify for intent. And in most cases, you can follow up with all of the questions you need to qualify a user. Once qualified, you can even provide a link for them to get a meeting scheduled.
This process would typically take at least a couple hours of back and forth without conversational marketing, with an instant hand-off to sales. Using conversational marketing instead, there’s no whiplash, no different contact form, no separate call. A chatbot (in Drift) can seamlessly hand-off the conversation without the user skipping a beat.
We recently had a sales opportunity engage on our live-chat feature, ask a few questions, we discussed the project, sent over a scope of work, and within two hours, had a signed contract back. This is the future of sales and marketing alignment.
A Surprising Result
Ever get busy and intend on downloading an ebook or guide, but get interrupted with your busy workday? Recently, I was interested in an ebook that HubSpot released on Facebook. I clicked to signup for the offer and found their conversion form had been replaced with a Messenger Bot. This bot naturally took me through the same questions I would have been asked on a form: my name, company, my position, etc.
However, right before I provided my email address, I got interrupted and didn’t finish providing my information.
With traditional forms, this would be a lost conversion on a landing page. But, using conversational marketing and chatbots, that “half submitted” form was still hanging out in my Messenger Inbox. About a week later I noticed it was there and finished filling out the submission.
We’ve noticed that this same behavior happens on our website also. Prospects will ask a question or start converting on an offer, and then come back later to continue the conversation.
There are countless ways to think about how this could help with future engagements. Let me know about some that come to mind.
Conversion Rates Drastically Increase
Another byproduct of adopting conversational marketing that we’ve seen: conversion rates are climbing steadily site-wide. While the conversion rates we’ve seen are already doubling in some of the more service pages on our site, we are also experimenting with using Drift on our top-performing landing pages.
While the sample size is modest, the results are exciting. Our A/B test is showing a 22% increase in overall conversions on this landing page. The only difference between the two tests is that one has a form and the other has a button that initiates a chat-bot. Stay tuned as we’ll do a follow up on this once the full test has concluded.
ABH: Always be Helping
Conversational marketing is an easy offshoot of the inbound methodology. At its core, conversational marketing, chatbots and live chat allow for your sales and marketing teams to always be providing value to your prospective customers when they need it the most.
As you are building out your playbooks, chatbot user flows, or engaging in live chat, find ways to make it easy to help your prospects. Identify the pages where people have the most questions and if they are not sales conversations, think about updating the content on those pages to disclose the common questions right away.
Stay connected with your prospects by making it easier than ever to get the information they need. This can be a huge opportunity to win your prospect over your competition.
Symptoms of Success
- More Micro-Conversions: The gap between a visitor and a lead is typically a huge one. In most cases, 95% of your traffic doesn’t convert. Initiating a tool like Drift will allow for you to tap into these contacts and have meaningful conversations even before they become a lead.
- More Qualified Leads: Provide a detailed way that prospects can convert. Remove the daunting form to begin the conversation and create value faster. Naturally ask the questions that matter to your sales team.
- More Micro-Conversations: Connect with your prospects one-on-one to understand what they’re looking for, the questions they have and to have the conversations that enable you to nurture visitors and prospects into leads in the future.
- More Sales Conversations: Use a tool like Drift and schedule qualified sales meetings instantly. Get your sales team connected to users as soon as the meeting is scheduled. Let your sales team engage with the user even before the meeting to establish rapport.
- Accelerate Buyer’s Journeys: By being available, the communication lines are open and buyer’s journeys are now more intent-based versus being time-based. This can mean the time-to-close is drastically reduced. By leveraging conversational marketing, you’ll have direct access to the questions being asked and identify what’s slowing down the ultimate conversion to customer.
Time is NOW to get started. Jump in with both feet!
In review, 2018 cannot come and go without a tactical change to your overall strategy. In a world where more and more content is being produced and interruptions are more frequent, we, as marketers and business owners, need to focus on optimizing our conversions as much as we focus on “NEW” content.
At Impulse Creative, our team spends just as much time on optimizing conversion rates as we do writing the content. We are data-driven junkies. We are always looking for a way to find the most profitable ROI for our clients. And from where we stand, conversational marketing and sales is the next natural step. After all, your customers are already communicating that way.
Need some help? Let’s have a conversation (hint, it starts in chat)