Although marketing fads and trends do tend to come and go, marketing truths won’t ever change. One such concept is customer interaction as a contributing factor to a company’s marketing success. Since the beginning of time, companies knew the importance of talking to their customers, so customer service teams have been around since the 18th century.
The way companies talk to their consumers has drastically changed over the years, thanks to evolving ideals and technology. Today, these concepts are known as conversational marketing, which is considered a must for companies who want their business to succeed.
What is Conversational Marketing?
In a nutshell, conversational marketing is a marketing approach where businesses strive to give their consumers intuitive and personalized forms of communication. As the name suggests, conversational marketing is all about having conversations that bring value to your consumers. So how do you make sure your interactions with customers provide value? It depends on each customer’s specific need. Some customers may want someone who immediately responds to their queries, while another may find value in human customer support at two in the morning.
The challenge for companies is to ensure that each conversation is tailored to fit each customer’s need and pull this off despite having thousands of customers reaching out every day.
How Conversational Marketing Came To Be
Before we delve into how companies can make conversational marketing work for their business, let’s look at the history of conversational marketing and how it came to be.
As stated earlier, communicating and interacting with customers has always been important for businesses; however, in the early days, this was easier said than done. Before major communication channels were invented, people had to travel directly to the store or company office if they had any questions, complaints, or suggestions for the company.
Snail mail was invented in the 1980s, and it allowed consumers to send letters to the company about their complaints through the country’s postal service. Although this method was more convenient than barging into the company office personally, response times were long, and some consumers did not receive replies from the company.
Although the telephone was invented in the late 1800s, the telephone and telegraph services weren’t widely accessible until the 1900s. This technology elevated customer service by leaps and bounds because it allowed customers to simply dial in and talk to a live person at the other end. Telephone use in customer interaction has grown throughout the years and is still used by companies.
Email was a significant breakthrough in human communication, and its discovery allowed people to continue a conversation gradually over time. The problem with phones is that the conversation comes to a halt if one party is unavailable. With email, one party sends a message to another, and the recipient of the email can simply choose to continue the conversation at their convenience.
One of the most significant disadvantages of emails regarding customer interaction is that they lacked a sense of urgency. If a customer emailed a company with their concern, they might receive a reply after 2-3 business days, and responses would come in during business hours. What if a customer had a problem they wanted to address immediately?
This is where live chat and instant messaging come in. Customer interaction has always been meaningful throughout time, and the practice has evolved with each technological breakthrough. With the introduction of live chat and instant messaging, customers now have access to businesses 24/7 and can have conversations with companies whenever they want.
However, conversational marketing is not just about live chatting and customer service. Live chat and instant messaging is simply the latest tool that companies have at their disposal to have meaningful conversations with customers to deliver customer service and close sales. Your conversational marketing strategy will affect all aspects of your marketing, from your content creation to the way your website and eCommerce channels are built.
Why Is Conversational Marketing Important To Businesses?
So why should businesses care about conversational marketing? Because conversational marketing involves customer interaction - something that has been around for a long time, they might think it’s just a fancy name given to the latest marketing fad or trend. However, because conversational marketing is deeply rooted in one of the most critical aspects of marketing, it is here to stay.
Currently, companies who are thriving with conversational marketing is using it for the following benefits:
Gather and Collect Consumer Data
One of the most significant factors to the success of a business is knowing what your customer wants. The great thing about conversational marketing is it allows you to know exactly what they want. With conversational marketing, the customer comes to you and tells you precisely what is on their mind and how they want their consumer experience to be. A well-developed conversational marketing strategy takes the guesswork out of consumer wants and needs. If your company has hundreds of consumer conversations per day, you have an unlimited source of feedback that can help your company grow and evolve.
Build Stronger Customer Relationships
According to recent studies, roughly 64% of consumers feel better about brands that connect with them. Consumers want to feel like they’re having an actual, personalized conversation with brands when they reach out. Consumers are turned off by long waiting times and apparent templated responses. They want to feel like they are speaking to a real person who cares about their wants.
Customers want prompt responses and conversations that evolve and adapt to their specific situation instead of generic replies. Consumers feel closer to companies with personalized experiences and develop a certain sense of loyalty to these brands. With conversational marketing, your company will not only acquire more customers but retain the ones you already have.
Shorter Sales Cycles
Conversational marketing can create shorter sales cycles by moving customers quickly from product interest to intent to purchase. Customer conversations play a considerable role when it comes to inbound marketing. Potential customers are interested in a product, and they send a query over social media or the company’s live chat function on their website. A rep immediately replies and provides more information about the product. The potential customer expresses concerns over the product, which the rep immediately offers solutions and options for. The customer becomes confident in the purchase, and the conversation ends in a sale.
The ability to respond immediately to customer queries and concerns has resulted in more closed sales for companies. Before, customers had to wait for companies to respond to their email or suffer through long phone queues. During this time, a customer can change their mind about wanting to purchase a product or find another option.
How To Master Conversational Marketing
Conversational Marketing isn’t difficult to master. After all, the concept is pretty straightforward: create personalized conversationsdirectly for each customer or potential customer. However, how do you pull this off if you need to personalize hundreds or even thousands of discussions per day? The secret to mastering conversational marketing is consistency. Fortunately, companies have several tools at their disposal to ensure they deliver personalized interaction no matter what the volume is.
Let The Consumer Lead
The number one rule of conversational marketing is that the consumer should control when and where the conversation happens. Conversations progress in accordance with what’s convenient for them. While conversational marketing has definitely progressed thanks to live chatting and instant messaging, these should just be one of the many options available to customers. If customers prefer talking to someone on the phone, they should be able to do so in a reasonable timeframe. If they want to initiate a conversation before they go to work in the morning and then continue that conversation in the afternoon once they get off work, they should be able to do so. The beauty of having so many communication channels is that consumers can choose which channel is most convenient and comfortable.
Use CRM to Create Context for Conversations
One of the most significant advantages small family shops have over big corporations is their ability to create personalized services for their clients. It’s normal for small stores to know all the names of their clients, their birthdays, their kids’ names, and any personal problems they are going through. Large companies find it challenging to replicate this type of service because they handle more customers and have more personnel. The customer service rep you speak to today may not be the same rep you talk to tomorrow.
As a customer, you know how frustrating it is to start from the beginning every time you reach a business. Imagine talking to someone for over an hour, going over your account details, explaining your problem, and attempting to find the best solution. Now imagine getting disconnected from that call. You call the customer service team again and contact another agent, and you find that you have to go through the process all over again.
By implementing a CRM system for your business, all interactions with customers can be recorded and give context to the next person the customer interacts with. It’s a huge comfort for customers to find out that the person they’re talking to at the moment has been kept up to speed and is now ready to proceed to the next step.
Create Conversational Marketing Strategies That Scale
Providing personalized customer interaction is just one part of the equation. The other part is replicating that experience for every customer interaction, no matter how large the volume is. Personalized customer interaction is easy if you’re only talking to a couple of customers per day, but how can companies keep up with hundreds of conversations daily?
When planning your conversational marketing strategy, make sure it can scale as your company grows. The best way to deliver personalized customer interaction is through live chat agents who can accommodate several conversations simultaneously without sacrificing quality. However, what do you do if you can’t keep up with the increasing demand? And what if your customers decide they want to initiate a conversation at two in the morning?
The answer to this problem is chatbots. Companies have been using artificial intelligence to further their marketing strategy for years, and automated chatbots are the perfect way to cater to the overwhelming demand for personalized interaction. While chatbots may not be the human interaction that customers expect, companies can promptly reply to messages and automate everyday business tasks.
You can set up chatbots to answer common customer queries and accept feedback. Customers can now shop for items, place a delivery order and participate in promos and giveaways without the need for human interaction. What’s important is that customers’ needs are met efficiently and without any problems.
The Future of Conversational Marketing
What does the future hold for conversational marketing? That all depends on the changing needs of consumers everywhere. Since the early days of snail mail, technology has allowed companies to respond to customers faster and offer them more ways to communicate. Nobody knows what the future will bring, but one thing is for sure. The way companies communicate with consumers will continue evolving as technology advances, but it will always rely heavily on what’s best for consumers.