Many people hear conversational marketing and think, “Great, I’ll throw up a few chatbots on my site and call it a day.” But in just my first few weeks at Drift, I’ve learned it’s so much more than that.
Conversational marketing and sales is transforming how businesses buy from other businesses. Why? Because buyer behaviors and expectations have changed and it’s about time we as marketers and salespeople caught up.
But where to even start?
Let’s go all the way back to 1876 – the same year Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone and opened an entirely new means of communication. A new, real-time channel that involved a very personal part of who you are – your voice.
It provided a more convenient, faster way to converse. The telephone made purchasing something personal and pleasant.
But by the mid-20th century, things changed. Communicating like we do today started to take shape. The TV, radio, magazines, and catalogues began influencing what and how we bought.
All of this helped the buyer make more informed decisions and enabled them to spend less time talking to salespeople face to face (or at all). And when they did engage with a salesperson, they had a better understanding of what it was they were buying.
By the 90s, the internet changed everything again. Magazines and catalogues go online. Forms, email, and inside sales start to displace what’s known as field marketing. Marketing automation systems are born.
This disrupts the natural way people communicate – personal, 1:1 conversations.
But all these tools mean marketers and salespeople have more ways to capture our attention than ever. But once they have that attention, they muddy the waters with process. We have too few real conversations.
All of this process alienates buyers. They opt-out, block our messages and phone calls. And lose trust.
Sellers don’t get the leads they want. Marketers do silly things to win more attention. And the more we do, the more we alienate the buyers we have won over.
Customer acquisition costs go up, conversion rates go down, and customer happiness plummets.
We don’t get our desired results and the buyer doesn’t get the experience they’re after. Buyers and customers want you to remove the layers, friction, and gates.
Drift’s Conversational Framework puts the customer experience and customer relationships at the center of marketing and sales. And teaches businesses how to create trust and deliver value through the power of conversations.
It’s a new way to move people through your funnel.
This framework will inform your use of conversational marketing and sales to change how your funnel works. It will teach you how to build a customer-centric business by focusing on the buying experience and the relationships you’re creating with potential buyers.
We’ll break it down in three parts – engage, understand, and recommend.
Conversations today take place in person, over Facebook Messenger, Zoom, Slack and myriad other channels. Regardless of platform, these systems enable us to engage with one another.
And today’s buyers want to engage with a business when and how they choose.
So marketing and sales need to be ready to engage buyers on their own terms. You can no longer control how a buyer buys your product. And if you don’t make it easy and convenient to buy, you’re going to miss out on sales.
Your website experience shouldn’t be designed for marketing and sales. It should be designed for the buyer and the experience they want.
The secret here is to capture the intent of buyers when it’s at its highest. So when they’ve set time aside in their day to look at your site, you need to engage with them right then and there. You’ll start to cement a relationship that can be leveraged towards a sale faster than through any other action that happens later.
The takeaway: Make it as simple as possible for buyers and customers to engage with your business. Use chatbots on your website as the primary tool to engage. You can still use forms, but remember, if the buyer feels like the experience is less than ideal, you run the risk of losing their attention.
Your buyers have more information at their fingertips than ever before. Every business today is doing some form of content marketing. Buyers have been trained to seek out information and facts before they engage in a conversation with you. The education and knowledge you share with buyers is important. Even more important is how you deliver the information that helps them really understand it. Think text vs. video or mail vs. messaging.
Marketing and sales are now at a disadvantage. Buyers might understand more about what you do, why you do it, and what you sell than even you. They understand how marketing and sales works today. They want to be treated like a human and not an email address you’re trying to qualify.
Marketing and sales need to understand what buyers know so they can design the best experience for each buyer. Each buyer might have similar goals or problems, but they’ll want an experience that’s tailored to who they are, what they desire, and how they prefer to communicate.
Buyers typically come to you highly educated and want you to help them refine what they already understand. You can build more trust with buyers if you help them better understand what you offer and how you can solve their needs. This is where teaching comes in.
Marketing can teach buyers by creating content that answers their questions and inspires them to act. Sales can teach buyers by listening, understanding their situation, demonstrating empathy, and recommending solutions to meet their needs and pain points.
Marketers need to be focused on making the website and content as conversational as possible – make it as simple and as pleasant as possible to find an answer, to learn about something, or to connect with someone.
Salespeople need to use messaging and video to create conversational experiences with buyers – make it personal, make it about what the buyer wants, when they want it, and why they want it.
Now the rubber meets the road. Delivering timely and helpful recommendations and guidance is crucial to solidifying a relationship with the buyer and building enough trust that they’ll purchase your product.
People remember recommendations. And they’ll definitely remember if the content you share with them was helpful or just more marketing jargon.
Recommendations and reviews have become an essential part of how buyers buy now. Buyers turn to their networks to learn if they should purchase your product.
And they’re not just looking to understand if you have a good product. They want to know if your business is one they would want to do business with. It’s not just about what you sell anymore. The buyer’s overall experience and all the small interactions that create their opinion of your business matter too.
The recommendations you provide need to come off as natural and helpful. Sellers need to be patient and listen to understand if the recommendations they’re offering are truly helpful. Using a combination of verbal and non-verbal cues to know if a recommendation is landing can be a great strategy.
Video is an underused medium to communicate with buyers. Video is a great tool to use to understand how a buyer feels and reacts. Are you making the right or wrong recommendations?
I encourage anyone who’s selling online to use video as the preferred way to communicate with a buyer.
Next comes messaging. Sales reps can use messaging to share micro-recommendations throughout the buying experience. It could be anything from “checkout this short video” to “did you know our product does this.”
The goal is to provide as many useful recommendations as possible. But buyers don’t want to be oversold. They want the recommendations you share to be useful, helpful, and personal to them.
Buyers today won’t tolerate mistakes or bad recommendations. The more helpful the recommendation, the more trust will be developed and the higher the chance the relationship you’ve built will last.
Your job today is to engage with buyers on their terms, to understand who they are and what they want, and to recommend ideas and solutions in a moment’s notice.
The time has never been better to change how you move buyers through your funnel.
Make it on their terms, their timeline and using their preferred medium.
Your goal as a marketer or salesperson is to engage with the right buyers, understand what they need, and provide valuable recommendations.