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All you need to know about conversational marketing (and 7 must-haves to excel)

illustration of a person standing at a desk using a computer. next to the person are large conversation bubbles.

We have conversations every day of our lives – with our friends, families, and co-workers (sometimes all at once!)

While the channels used have changed quite a bit over the years, the basis of a conversation is always the same – it’s a back-and-forth dialogue.

The difference? We no longer need to write letters or leave voicemails to exchange words. Instead, we can unlock our mobile devices and send a quick text.

So, what does this have to do with marketing?

Marketing is a form of communication with your audience – and there are plenty of different approaches to take, especially as an e-commerce brand. But the most influential of all? Conversational marketing.

Creating a dialogue with your audience is invaluable. It elevates the user experience, creates stronger, personalized customer relationships, and keeps your audience coming back for more. Let’s dive in!

What is conversational marketing?

Conversational marketing is a one-on-one, dialogue-driven approach to communicating with your target audience or current customers. It’s an essential part of your overall inbound marketing because it meets your customers right where they are (while creating value!)

Think about it this way: if your website visitors have questions while they’re on your page, they can utilize your chatbot. If your potential customers are checking out your Instagram feed and want to ask about pricing, they can send a direct message.

While these are more modern examples, conversational marketing is not new. Many businesses have been participating in conversational marketing techniques for decades, simply by having their sales teams pick up the phone for a one-on-one conversation.

As you can see, the difference today is the speed and channel of those conversations.

Typically, the average consumer is moving at lightning speed. They’re probably multi-tasking while shopping online, and there’s a high chance that they don’t have the time to sit down for a phone call.

In the past, the sales process was highly dependent on a sales team member reaching out and connecting one-on-one with customers. In truth, it took a lot of time, energy, and effort from both sides, proving more difficult to have a successful conversational marketing strategy.

Today, with the help of advanced, scalable technology, conversational marketing is everywhere.

What does conversational marketing look like in practice?

Conversations happen everywhere (and not just in person) – we converse on social media, in messaging apps, and more. Developing a conversational marketing strategy means your brand understands your customer interactions and the need for fast-moving dialogue. Plus, it gives them access to more channels of communication with your company and meaningful conversations along their customer journey.

Here are some of the top conversational marketing channels:

Chatbots. Chatbots provide a unique advantage during conversations with customers. Not only are they an excellent self-service solution; they also offer immediate responses and can be synced to CRM systems to pull relevant customer data during the conversation (such as tracking information or purchase history).

Live messaging apps. Brands are using apps like Slack or Facebook Messenger to allow customers and prospects to voice questions, comments, and concerns. While it’s a bit more manual than having a chatbot, it’s a wonderful way to establish a strong customer relationship.

Webinars and Livestreams. Webinars and livestreams are a wonderful way to interact with your audience based on their interest and needs. For example, at Ryder E-commerce by Whiplash, we might host a webinar on the do’s and don’ts of e-commerce fulfillment for both our current and prospective customers, whereas a health and beauty brand might offer tutorials on how to use products. Either way, a live chat is enabled during the time of the event, where customers can interact directly with each other and/or a brand representative.

Why conversational marketing?

Developing a conversational marketing strategy is not just about converting leads, it revolves around the customer experience.

Consumers nowadays expect 24/7 access to your brand across multiple channels – and they won’t want to wait for your reply. When your brand takes a one-on-one approach, it’s likely that your customer engagement and how much your customers trust your brand will benefit as well.

Why? Consumers are looking for a personalized experience – and a convenient one as well. If your brand uses conversational marketing tools like a live messaging system or chatbots, you are enabling customers to reach out directly, on their own time, without ever having to make a phone call or send an email to your customer support or sales team.

The powerful thing about conversational marketing is that it blurs the lines between your customer service, marketing, and sales funnels. It requires a one-on-one dialogue with customers, so the opportunity to provide support presents itself with customer questions regarding orders or products, all while kickstarting the sales process.

In short, conversational marketing aims to encourage a deeper connection to your brand within both your prospective and existing customers’ journeys.

The benefits of conversational marketing

Every time a prospect interacts with your brand, there’s a chance to build a relationship. But keep this in mind – how your brand interacts will determine the strength of that relationship.

Conversation marketing techniques like 24/7 chat with personalized recommendations play a part in building strong customer relationships. The better the interaction, the more likely a lead conversion and, eventually, a purchase made.

Because conversational marketing puts an emphasis on meeting your audience where they are at all times of the day, it’s clear that it is the most customer-centric approach to communicating with your audience.

Instead of having to search through a website for a FAQ page, or scour reviews for insight, conversational marketing helps your customers get the answers they need right away. And in return, your team gets valuable insights into your target audience and how to deliver a better experience for potential customers – what they’re interested in seeing, what they’re concerned about, and what questions they have.

7 must-haves for a successful conversational marketing strategy

Developing a conversational marketing strategy can take your brand trust and customer experience to the next level… as long as it’s done properly! This means taking a step back, looking at your overall inbound marketing, and determining the best approach.

Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered with 7 best practices for developing a conversational strategy:

1. Choose your channels strategically

Conversational marketing should meet your customers where they are already spending time. For example, if you notice increased engagement via Facebook messenger, you should think about investing in a chatbot plug-in for Facebook to keep up with the demand.

Likewise, if your customers are constantly emailing the informational address you keep on your site with simple questions, a chat feature directly on your homepage may be the way to go.

2. Plan the flow of the conversation e.g. bots and live chat

For a seamless conversational approach with chatbots or live chat, you’ll need to have some understanding of where they conversation is going and what the lead needs.

If a customer reaches out asking for information on their shipment, you might want them to choose from a menu of “order tracking link” or “shipment status” to help propel the conversation forward without much back and forth.

Alternatively, if they want product recommendations, you’ll need to have a few “this or that” questions prepared to understand what they’re looking for.

3. Make personalized recommendations

The great thing about a one-on-one dialogue is that you can use your wealth of customer data to fuel the conversation with personalized recommendations.

Did you know that 80% of consumers are more likely to purchase when there’s a personalized experience, and 71% of customers are frustrated with impersonal experiences?

If your dialogue doesn’t deliver personalized recommendations, you could be inadvertently turning away qualified leads.

4. Always give your customers a call to action

If your customers are engaging with your brand, it’s in your best interest to provide them with some sort of CTA! Based on the conversation, you’ll want to provide the right message – one that points them in the direction of the most relevant content.

For example, as a beauty brand, if you have a customer reaching out about different shades of lipstick, you’ll want to end the conversation with a link to other products that they might be interested in, or a direct link to the product they’ve inquired about.

5. Make sure that your conversational marketing strategy is scalable

For conversational marketing to work, it needs to work for every customer. That means, even if you have 50, 100, or 1,000 customers reaching out at once, they should be getting the same experience.

One way to ensure this is by utilizing technology to help fuel or complement your manpower. Whether you’re using a chatbot plug-in or a customer support live messaging app, everything should connect back to your CRM database.

6. Ask customers for feedback about their experience

One of the best ways to build relationships with your customers is to ask them for their feedback. It’s the most human thing that your brand can do – and your customers will appreciate that you’re willing to listen and want to make positive changes.

Plus, asking for thoughts, questions, and concerns is another way of engaging in personalized conversations with your audience.

7. Measure the effectiveness of your approach

The numbers don’t lie. If you’re utilizing chatbots, how many conversions are happening after a messaging conversation? If you’re hosting a webinar where customers can ask questions, how many potential customers submit lead capture forms to gather more information after the stream has ended?

Pulling reports to understand how effective your approach is helps you determine whether you should continue as is, or if you need to revamp your efforts.

Conversational marketing examples

Sephora’s Live Chat

Sephora has a conversational feature right on its homepage. All you have to do is choose from the list to be connected to a Beauty Advisor via live chat!

screenshot of sephora’s live chat first screen

Essange’s Bake at Home Bot

Shut down by the pandemic, Mumbai bakery Essange began selling at-home kits, complete with a full virtual assistant to help their customers get the recipe just right!

essange’s chat for their baking virtual assistant on a smartphone

Nike’s Social Media Support

A simple conversation started through Twitter. Nike takes the time to respond to their customers via their Twitter platform, urging them to direct messaging apps where they can dive into the problem at hand.

nike customer service helping a customer through twitter

Whole Foods’ Recipe Recommendations

No idea what to make for dinner? Whole Foods implemented a chatbot to provide recipe recommendations through Facebook messenger.

whole foods chat giving a recipe recommendation on facebook

Is conversational marketing the way to go?

No matter how you slice it, taking a conversational approach is going to benefit your customers as well as your overall inbound marketing strategy.

In lieu of a somewhat dated sales funnel, conversational marketing techniques like chatbots, live messaging apps, and webinars have virtually the same effect on your customers – they connect with your brand, they understand what you have to offer, and last but certainly not least, they get to ask questions.

Targeted messages will always be a great way to expand your reach, but there’s nothing that builds relationships faster than a two-way dialogue between a brand and a customer. Whether it’s via chatbot, sales reps, or a support team – your customers want to talk to you sooner rather than later.

All in all, it’s high time to get started on your conversational marketing strategy!

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