Drift Chat Delivers Big Results for Small Business: The Buy NZ Story

By Drift


When you’re a small business trying to do big things, you have to spend your time and effort wisely. You don’t have the luxury of bottomless budgets or expansive human resources, so efficiency is key.

As the executive director at the Buy New Zealand Made campaign (Buy NZ), I head up a small, dedicated team that looks after the needs of Buy NZ licensees. Our number one goal is to help these licensees succeed, which we accomplish by increasing consumer awareness of the NZ Made Kiwi trademark. The more people who see the logo, the better the brand recognition for our licensees.

This means that, on a day-to-day basis, much of our focus is on getting more eligible businesses signed up for licenses. This is where Drift has made a big difference for us.

In our first 30 days working with Drift, we achieved our highest number of approved businesses in the previous 12-month period. Our Drift conversations had a 75% success rate of converting into interested leads – far more impressive than the 20-30% rate generated by our traditional contact form.

Drift is simply the best conversion funnel we’re running.

What might be most interesting to other small businesses thinking about implementing chat is how we use Drift. Our approach is a little bit different, but it’s definitely replicable.

(Re)Discovering Chat for Small Business

More than 1,200 New Zealand manufacturers rely on the New Zealand Made Kiwi trademark to differentiate their products and services in New Zealand and beyond. The Kiwi trademark speaks to the character and values of New Zealanders, inspiring trust and conveying a sense of authenticity.

We strive to embody these same attributes – honesty, trustworthiness, and authenticity – in the way we conduct our business, which is part of the reason we didn’t adopt live chat right off the bat.

My first experience with chat was way back in 1998, when it was still an emerging technology. At the time, I was managing an ecommerce site, and was using chat to talk with prospective customers about my products. Unfortunately, people were so distracted by the technology that it wasn’t very helpful in my business.

Even so, I thought chat was an amazing way to communicate with potential customers and unblock barriers to purchase by providing immediate answers questions. I guess I was just ahead of my time.

Fast forward 20 years, and I’m talking with Steve Nathan, co-founder of TimeHub and someone I knew from way back. I ask about his business and how he’s getting his leads. His answer, “Most of it’s just knocking on doors and traveling around New Zealand, but we’re also using Drift chat for online customer service and for me to talk directly with potential leads.”

This was really interesting. Like Buy NZ, TimeHub is a small business with only a handful of employees. And yet, their founder is using chat to engage prospects in direct conversations.

I decided it was time to take another look at chat.

Doing It Our Way – Developing a Customized Chat Strategy

Despite my curiosity, I still had a few doubts. Initial reactions from my team echoed my concerns about typical bots that are clunky and end up causing more frustration than they’re worth.

In the end, we realized we could make our own rules and use Drift’s chat technology in a way that worked for us. We could implement chat in a way that would not only align with our organizational values, but would also deliver results.

Human Only – No Automation

The first hurdle we had to clear was how to avoid an impersonal experience for the prospect. Chat has come a long way, but – like many small businesses – our people take pride in delivering a really “human” experience.

While larger organizations often adopt chat in order to automate initial conversations, we didn’t want to remove ourselves from that initial interaction. After all, if you get that first contact wrong, you risk turning that person off for a year, or five years, or even for life.

To alleviate this concern, we make it really clear right from the start that our chat is with a real human being. In fact, the chat is specifically with me, the director. Our opening greeting features my profile picture, name, and title so that people immediately know who they are talking to.

Managed by Most Senior Team Member

Which brings us to the second point of differentiation in our approach to chat. It’s a little unorthodox, but we decided to follow TimeHub’s example and make the most senior person in the organization – in Buy NZ’s case, me – responsible for managing the chat conversations.

Some founders and CEOs might cringe at the prospect of answering chats day and night; but I don’t feel that way at all. Because of how we’ve set things up, I know the people coming through the chat are exactly the high-value prospects I want to talk with. It doesn’t make sense to outsource these conversations to a junior-level role.

After all, the same high-level people I’m trying to meet in the real world are also on our website. Talking with them via Drift chat is actually a major time-saver for me.

Even larger organizations can benefit from having high-level executives spend some time on chat. I’d say everyone should spend at least seven days engaging in chat conversations. It’s a great way to get front-end exposure to your buyers.

While having the CEO manage all chat conversations isn’t a scalable model, it works well for the volume of inquiries we process. And we proactively manage the volume by designing the chat to serve a very specific purpose.

Very Targeted Chat Objective

Our chat strategy began with the end in mind. We knew that the purpose of the chat was to provide specific information (about eligibility, costs, and benefits) to business owners and marketing managers who have shown interest in the Kiwi trademark. From there we reverse engineered our way to the right approach.

To make sure that the chat would be used almost exclusively by people who want the Kiwi trademark, we’re very intentional about how we open the conversation. The greeting is simple and to the point, “If you want the Kiwi, let’s chat.” By using this specific question instead of something more generic like. “Hi, how can I help?” or “Do you have any questions?” we’re able to filter out other kinds of requests and reserve the chat channel for only the highest-value conversations.

This specificity also allows us to accelerate the prospect’s journey through the funnel. In the past, prospects submitted conversion-related questions about costs and eligibility through a contact form, and we would typically respond the next business day. With Drift chat, we can answer those questions immediately, and the prospect is often filling out their application 10 minutes later.

Always On – No Questions Left Unanswered

On a related note, we decided to make sure our chat was always available, meaning someone would always respond – day or night. This wasn’t an easy decision, but timing is so critical when you’re trying to land a new customer. We’ve all become accustomed to instant gratification; getting answers to business questions shouldn’t be any different. You have maybe 60 seconds to respond before the prospect puts their wallet back in their pocket. It’s the moment of truth.

The Drift mobile app helps us capitalize on this moment by giving me 24/7 access to the conversations that turn prospects into customers. Drift is the only mobile app on my phone with sound and vibration notifications turned on. I prioritize incoming Drift chats over email, social, and anything else on my phone because they are like hearing someone say, “I want to give you money.” Why wouldn’t I answer that?

Bonus: Marketing Insights

In addition to delivering a better buyer experience, improved conversion, and greater efficiency, Drift chat has also given us some key insights into ways to optimize our web copy and generate unique marketing content.

Website: By analyzing the questions people ask via chat, we’re able to easily identify gaps in our website content. It can be pretty surprising when buyers are baffled by something you think is obvious. We’ve made some strategic additions to our website copy that help buyers and ultimately reduce the overall volume of inquiries so that we can focus on only the highest-value requests.

Content: We’re also repurposing questions surfaced in chat conversations as material for my marketing show. We anonymize the questions and then I answer them on videos that are shared with about 2,500 viewers.

Getting Our Priorities Straight – A Win-Win for Buyers and Buy NZ

While we initially had some doubts about whether chat could be a good fit for our small business, in the end it makes a lot of sense and works really well. In general, we all tend to prioritize our conversations in a backwards way. We rush to answer emails and check our feeds on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. We’ll even pick up a ringing phone. But none of those sources deliver qualified prospects.

The chats that come through Drift, on the other hand, are a much higher quality inquiry, which means they should actually be the highest priority. When I get a notification from Drift, I know that the person initiating that conversation has a high level of interest. I know this based on the specific pages they’ve visited on our site and the specific questions they are asking. Once they start asking about eligibility and cost, I know it’s only a matter of time before they become a customer.

Being able to respond in real-time as a real human goes a long way toward getting them over the finish line. Drift enables instant conversations in which I deliver the exact information a prospect needs when they are most engaged and ready to take action. It’s a better experience for our buyers and delivers better conversion results for our business.

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Ryan Jennings is Executive Director of the Buy New Zealand Made Campaign, working with manufacturers, producers, growers and exporters to gain market origin advantage for their products through the application of the globally recognized ‘New Zealand Made’ Kiwi trademark.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post. Interested in contributing content to the Drift blog? Email Molly Sloan at msloan@drift.com.