How To Use Conversational Marketing to Increase Email Conversion Rates

When you hear the words “conversational marketing,” you’re probably thinking of chatbots or live chat. This is, after all, a post on the Drift blog. We talk about those things all the time.

But the power of conversational marketing isn’t limited to one channel. You should use conversational marketing to increase your conversion rates across all of your channels.

Let’s. ? Do. ? All. ? The. ? Things.

I sat down with Mark Kilens, VP of Content and Community at Drift, to do a little bit of myth-busting about conversational marketing. We talk about what it is, what it isn’t, and how you can use it across all of your channels to increase your conversion rates.

Conversational Marketing = Real-Time Relationships

Conversational marketing is the fastest way to move buyers through your marketing and sales funnels through the power of real-time conversations. It builds relationships and creates authentic and personalized experiences with customers and buyers now.

Now. Not later, now.

Conversational marketing flips the script so that the customer is in control. They purchase when they want to purchase, not when you want to interrupt them to follow an outdated company process.

Conversational Marketing = Strategy, Not Channel

One common mistake we see is confusing conversational marketing with a specific channel. Conversational marketing is not live chat. It’s not chatbots.

Yeah, we went there.

Live chat and chatbots are tools. Just like blogs, email, analytics, video, and SEO. Marketers today have thousands of potential tools in their toolbox.

Conversational marketing is a strategy. One you should use across the entire customer journey, regardless of the individual tools you use at any point in that journey.

Think about it this way. If you’re using marketing automation, you use it in every point of the customer journey. Take Marketo as an example. You don’t just use Marketo to acquire people. You don’t just use Marketo to nurture people. You don’t just use Marketo to send emails to customers. You use it for all of these things.

The best part about all of this? You are already doing conversational marketing if you have humans talking to other humans. Conversations take place:

  • In a meeting room
  • On a trade show floor
  • At networking events
  • Over the phone or video calls
  • Through text messaging or messaging apps

Where else do conversations take place?


Conversational Marketing = Email Marketing 

Let’s talk about how we as B2B marketers are using email today. Facebook Business actually sent me this email:

They have their logo, an image, a headline, a call-to-action, then some text…and it keeps. on. going. Imagine how long it takes to scroll through this on mobile. This email, like most marketing emails, looks like an ad – highly transactional, highly focused, and highly designed.

Last year, marketers spent $5 billion driving traffic to websites for conversion rates between 2-3%. That’s what good looks like. When you look at email, the conversion rate is super similar – 2.69%, according to our friends at Campaign Monitor.

That’s just sad.

Then we make our customers jump through all kinds of sub-funnels. First they open the email, then they click to visit a landing page, then they fill out a form, then they receive a confirmation email and finally, they attend a webinar a few days later, as an example. That’s not what you would call “real-time.”

The truth is, most people don’t even get to the “open” step. Only 18% – less than one out of five people – actually open any of the emails you send.


Contrast all that high-gloss, lengthy, overly-designed emails with what a sales team typically does. I googled the best sales template and found this from Inc:

No buttons. No graphics. No gloss. And this works.

Why do we spend hours stylizing our emails when our buyers move them straight to trash?

Conversation Marketing = Relationship-Building

 B2B is using a B2C approach to email marketing, and it’s broken.

B2C is about transactions. Amazon can send me this highly personalized email based on the Instant Pot  I was talking about in my kitchen – Alexa, are you listening? – and they can say, “Kate, this is exactly what you need. It is amazing. Buy it.” In one click, I can do that. It’s that simple.

But B2B is about relationships. 96% of all sales and marketing professionals agree that a strong relationship with key stakeholders plays a major role in the outcome of a sale. And the top-selling points for B2B customers are vendor reputation (53%), price (47%), customer loyalty (43%), and ease of purchase (38%), according to the 2018 B2B Ecommerce Report from BigCommerce.

You can’t build relationships without conversations. See how I took this Facebook Business email and transformed it:

I made it way more succinct by getting to the heart of what matters right up front. It’s a technique the military uses called “BLUF,” or “bottom line up front.” Basically, it means your email should tell the reader specifically what they need to know at the very beginning. Now, it sounds more like something a friend would say to me – and makes me actually want to learn more.

4 Ways to Increase Email Conversion Rate with Conversations

 Instead of building emails for CTAs, build them for conversations. We put together four different plays to show you how to increase your email conversion rate with a little help from conversational marketing:

Re-engage any inactive or lost accounts by highlighting prominent new developments in your business. The focus for this email is on why you have to buy our product right now. We stuck to the highlights, making it short and sweet, and finished it with a final offer asking to continue the conversation.

We wanted to see if any of our prospects would be at the Marketo Summit we recently attended. We made this email a simple yes/no instead of a CTA. Remember that funnel we talked about? This email eliminates all of those steps with Siftrock so there’s only one conversion point.

This email had a 31% conversion rate. BOOM.

 This one is a fast-lane play for prospects that fit your ideal customer profile. We made it dead simple and removed all the friction by immediately asking for the next step once they showed more interest.

Hot take: Direct mail is making a comeback. Don’t groan – if everyone’s running away from a channel, it’s your opportunity to stand out and do something different.

This email piques a prospect’s curiosity about what you have to offer. Secret Pro Tip: Make this a limited quantity, limited time offer and keep building the conversation so that it’s transactional but doesn’t feel like a transaction.

Boost Your Email Conversion Rate with Conversations

Think through each of your marketing channels and how you would use them to start or continue a conversation. Questions? Let us know on Twitter @Drift (See what we did there?).

To get all the insights on conversational email, watch the full webinar here. And to get conversational email templates you can actually use in your campaigns right now, download those here.

Free conversational email templates