When you look back on the past decade of B2B sales and marketing, there’s been one constant — one thing that buyers and businesses alike could count on, day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year…
As B2B marketers and salespeople, we’ve been conditioned to make our buyers wait. We’ve been taught that putting up lead capture forms and following up with potential customers days or weeks later is somehow a best-in-class approach.
And maybe, a decade ago, it was…
But here’s the thing: It’s not 2008 anymore. Times have changed. The rise of smartphones, messaging, artificial intelligence (AI), and other groundbreaking technologies has led to a new set of expectations for buyers.
These days, buyers don’t want to sit around and wait for follow-ups: They want to get responses NOW.
The Era of Now
Today, as consumers, we expect to be able to make purchases instantly. Whether we’re scheduling a ride, booking a place to stay, or renting a movie, we can now get exactly what we’re looking for in real-time, on-demand.
I’ve used these words — “instantly”, “real-time”, and “on-demand” — over and over again when describing conversational marketing. But ultimately, these words are all just synonyms for a simpler concept:
As consumers, we no longer have to wait for a cab at a cab stand if we want a ride. We no longer have to wait on hold if we want to book a place to stay. And we no longer have to wait in line at a Blockbuster store (R.I.P.) if we want to watch a movie at home. Thanks to services like Lyft, Airbnb, and Netflix, we can now buy exactly what we want, when we want it — no waiting. That’s what it means to live in the Era of Now.
But buyers aren’t the only ones who benefit. The people working at companies that are embracing this concept of “now” also benefit, as they’re able to do their jobs more efficiently. A Lyft driver, for example, doesn’t have to worry about where they’ll find their next ride (since one will show up automatically in the app), which allows them to focus on the “now” during each ride and deliver the best experience possible.
☝️ Imagine if B2B marketing and sales teams could work the same way. As a sales rep, imagine if instead of having to keep asking your marketing team for more qualified leads, meetings with qualified leads would simply show up on your calendar automatically. No poring through spreadsheets. No wasting time on pre-qualifying people. Instead, you could focus on the now and provide the best experience possible for each and every lead.
That’s what we’re building at Drift.
Drift Connects You With the People Who Are Ready to Buy NOW
Traditional B2B marketing and sales tools were built for a world that no longer exists. They were designed with companies in mind, not customers. The focus was on capturing as many leads as possible, not providing people with the best experience possible.
Time kills all deals. And when you look at the old marketing and sales playbook, it’s easy to see the fatal flaw: Waiting is baked into every step. As a buyer, you have to wait for a marketing team to qualify you before a sales rep will talk to you. And if it turns out you are qualified, you have to wait for that sales rep to email you or call you. And if the process keeps moving forward, you’ll likely still need to set up a time a demo which means even more waiting.
That’s a terrible experience to inflict on people — especially people who are coming to your website. People who are ready to buy NOW.
When we launched Drift back in 2016, we were making a bet that B2B marketing and sales was going to evolve. We went all-in on the idea that just like with B2C buyers, B2B buyers would soon be expecting that “now” buying experience by default. After all, when you’re selling to other businesses, you’re really selling to the people at those businesses. And at Drift, we saw early on that those people were getting sick of filling out forms and waiting around for follow-ups.
So we decided to build something new. Something designed specifically with that “now” experience in mind. What we ended up with was not just a new product, but an entirely new methodology: Conversational Marketing and Sales.
At our first HYPERGROWTH conference last year, adopting a conversational approach was still seen by many as an interesting experiment, but not a viable system for running marketing and sales. For lots of people, the idea of getting rid of lead capture forms and replacing them with messaging and chabots seemed crazy…
Until they tried it and saw the results.
The Movement Continues to Grow
Flash forward to today, just a year after our first HYPERGROWTH conference, and Gartner has come out and acknowledged conversational marketing as a category. As Gartner analysts Benjamin Bloom and Mike McGuire noted in a recent press release: “Conversational marketing will be a recognized channel of B2B and B2C customer engagement and revenue by 2020, displacing a combination of marketing, sales and service activities.”
G2 Crowd, the crowd-sourced software review site, has also added conversational marketing as a category. As they note on their website, “Conversational marketing platforms help provide a higher standard of customer service at scale and simplify the overall buying process for potential customers around the world at any time of day.”
Clearly, there is growing demand for education around conversational marketing software. And there is also a growing demand for education around conversational marketing in general, which is why the publishing company Wiley — who has published best-selling business books including Optimize by Lee Odden, The 10x Rule by Grant Cardone, and Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman — reached out and asked us to write the definitive book on the subject.
No, seriously. Conversational Marketing and Sales will be arriving on bookshelves (physical and digital) in 2019.
And to think, just a couple years, no one was talking about conversational marketing at all.
3 Major Announcements That Will Shape the Future of Drift
For the team at Drift, these past few years have been a journey. That journey started with us replacing our lead capture forms with real-time messaging and encouraging other companies to do the same (#NoForms). Then we introduced intelligent chatbots that can answer basic product questions and route incoming visitors to the right teams and sales reps. Next came LeadBot, which can ask qualifying questions and can let qualified leads book meetings and demos directly on a sales rep’s calendar. After that, we tackled email, making it smarter and connecting it to real-time conversations.
And while we’ve certainly come a long way since 2016, when we first started reinventing marketing and sales for the Era of Now, the journey isn’t over. It’s only just beginning.
At this year’s HYPERGROWTH conference, I unveiled three major updates we’ve made to Drift in order to better deliver on our “now” promise.
1) Conversational Advertising
B2B companies will spend $4.6 billion this years on ads that drive visitors to their websites, according to research from eMarketer. But what do most B2B companies do when someone clicks on an ad and lands on their website? Exactly: They send them to a lead capture form and make them wait for a follow-up.
With Conversational Advertising, you can ensure that the people who click on your ads get connected with you instantly via messaging. Instead of sending people to your homepage, or to a traditional landing page with a form, with Conversational Advertising you give potential customers the ability to talk to you NOW.
So forget about A/B testing and coming up with dozens of different landing page variations in the hopes you’ll be able to nudge your landing page form conversation rates by a few fractions of a percent. The alternative: set up a Conversational Landing Page, no code required, and make the goal of every ad to start a conversation.
For those of you doing conversational account-based marketing (ABM), we’ve got more exciting news. We’re pumped to announce that Demandbase (they work with customers like Dell and Docusign) will be our exclusive launch partner for Conversational Advertising. With Drift and Demandbase together, the time it takes someone from a target account to go from ad to real-time conversation has never been faster. Instead of forcing your ABM prospects—your best leads—to wait, with Conversational Advertising you can roll out the red carpet for them and deliver the “now” experience they deserve.
2) Drift Assistant
While B2B businesses have gone digital, paperwork hasn’t disappeared. As a result, salespeople and marketers alike waste precious hours every week managing digital paperwork and making sure CRM contact records and email lists are up to date. At Drift, we saw this as the perfect problem for AI to solve. And that’s how Drift Assistant got its start. By automating the tedious tasks, Drift Assistant allows salespeople and marketers to spend more of their time on building relationships and interacting with potential customers.
Drift Assistant for Sales
Today’s sales reps only spend around a third of their time actually selling, with over 60 percent of their time going to internal meetings, travel, and other non-selling activities, according to data from Salesforce. Of these sales distractions, the biggest one is having to deal with administrative tasks (25 percent of a sales rep’s time) such as collecting background information for sales meetings, rescheduling sales meetings for people who cancel or don’t show up, as well as sending out next steps to people after a successful meeting.
With Drift Assistant for Sales, all of those tasks I mentioned above are taken care of automatically. That way, sales reps have more time to focus on being in the “now” and delivering the best buying experience possible.
Drift Assistant for Marketing
To power our Drift Assistant for Marketing, we acquired the email reply management company Siftrock. With Siftrock’s incredible team and technology now intoverwomen with Drift, we’re taking conversational email to the next level. Specifically, our Drift Assistant for Marketing is able to monitor the email replies your company receives and route those email conversations to sales reps in real-time. And if the Assistant sees in a reply that a person has changed jobs or that their email address has become invalid, it will update that data automatically. That way, no one has to waste time on digital paperwork.
Ultimately, our investment in acquiring Siftrock and launching the Drift Assistant for Marketing is an investment in bringing email marketing out of the “Wait” era and into the Era of Now.
3) Partnerships With Marketo, Demandbase, and Outreach
At Drift, we believe the future of B2B is open. In order to deliver on our “now” promise, we need to join forces and connect our technology with other leading technologies in the B2B marketing and sales ecosystem. That’s why I’m thrilled to announce some new partnerships we’ve formed with three of the top B2B vendors:
- Marketo. We’re forming a strategic alliance and deepening our integration with the marketing automation leader Marketo. To quote TK Kader, SVP Strategy and Alliances at Marketo: “Consumers are increasingly seeking new ways to engage real-time with brands in the digital landscape, and we are thrilled to forge a strategic alliance with the leader in the emerging category of conversational marketing. I am confident that Marketo and Drift will lead this market together and deliver unparalleled value to our customers in the age of the engagement economy.”
- Demandbase. As I mentioned earlier, Demandbase is going to be our exclusive launch partner for Conversational Advertising, which makes it possible for ABM prospects to go directly from ad to real-time conversation. To quote Chris Golec, CEO of Demandbase, “The key to high performing ABM strategies is connecting marketing programs directly to sales activity. We are incredibly excited to be the exclusive launch partner for Drift’s new Conversational Advertising product because now B2B marketers can target specific companies with our account-based advertising, and move to a conversation with sales in a single click. The time from engagement to conversation to pipeline has never been faster.”
- Outreach. Last but certainly not least, we are excited to announce our integration with the best-in-class sales engagement platform, Outreach, which is something many of our customers have been asking for. With this new integration, sales reps will be able to send emails with Outreach from right inside of Drift, making it easier to connect the dots between email outreach and sales conversations (and meetings). To quote Outreach CEO Manny Medina, “Great conversations are the most powerful way to drive conversion. To accomplish this, you must have a consistent customer journey, from calls and emails to your buyer’s experience on your website. Now sales and marketing teams can share context from every touchpoint in the customer journey to drive stronger results wherever they communicate with their buyers.”
I said it before and I’ll say it again: Time kills all deals. Instead of making potential customers wait, you need to engage with them when they’re at their most interested — in real-time, as soon as they land on your website or reply to an email.
That’s what we’re creating here at Drift: A platform that allows you to build better pipeline faster by connecting you with buyers who are interested NOW.
To Recap All Of The Announcements From HYPERGROWTH 2018
- Drift is partnering with Marketo — the #1 marketing automation platform.
- Drift is partnering with Outreach — the #1 sales engagement platform.
- Drift is partnering with Demandbase — the #1 ABM platform.
- Drift has created a new category of digital advertising called Conversational Advertising.
- Drift is launching Drift Assistant: an AI assistant built to manage all of your digital paperwork.