If you had told me a year ago that I would be appearing on the stage of our sales kickoff dressed as a chatbot, I would never have believed you. But, crazy as it sounds, that’s exactly what happened after our Drift chatbot – “Parker” – gained a certain level of celebrity both within our organization and with our customers.
We originally implemented a chatbot to replace the live chat we’d been using for about a year. Our main objective was to take advantage of a bot’s ability to engage prospects 24/7. The live chat had served us well, but we knew we were missing out on conversations.
After running Drift’s chatbot for a year, we’ve achieved stellar results. Not only were we able to simply and easily replicate and automate what we had been doing with the live chat, we also:
- Tapped into an entirely new lead source
- Improved speed of lead to opportunity by 20%
- Improved overall speed from lead to close by 15%
There were also some unexpected benefits. For instance, we doubled the open rate on our email campaigns. And our bot, Parker, has evolved into a powerful branding asset with almost unlimited potential.
How Parker Changed The Game
Park Place Technologies provides companies of every size from every industry with proactive and predictive data center support and maintenance. Our buyers are typically IT directors and managers who are charged with ensuring that all systems are up and running all the time. My job as Marketing Operations Lead is managing the different technologies we use to distribute our messaging and content. I’m also currently focused on integrating these technologies, such as the recent integration we implemented between Demandbase and Drift.
When we first launched Parker, we immediately saw the chatbot’s value as a way to engage prospects from markets in other time zones, like India and Singapore. Using what we’d learned from our experience running live chat for a year, we were able to develop a core set of playbooks to address the most commonly asked questions. It was a pretty seamless transition that immediately delivered the functionality we expected.
But there were also other benefits that we didn’t anticipate.
New Lead Source
A big part of our business is picking up where original manufacturers leave off by helping companies maintain and service equipment that manufacturers no longer support. Our EOSL (End of Service Life) library – an up-to-date list of upcoming service retirement dates – is a key resource on our website. It attracts about 40% of our overall site traffic, most of it organic.
Before we implemented Parker, the majority of the traffic to that page consisted of visitors who used the page as a reference resource and then left our site. Once we added Parker to the experience, we had a way to engage those visitors in a way that’s helpful to them and which also serves our business needs. Parker greets visitors and asks them if they have found what they are looking for. If they answer that they have, he responds, “Great! Are you interested in anything else?” and invites them to either request a quote or subscribe to our EOSL newsletter.
But for us, the real benefit is being able to talk to the visitors who haven’t able to find what they’re looking for. In this case, Parker asks the visitor if they want someone to contact them with that information. If the person says yes, Parker asks for their email. Before Parker, people who weren’t finding the information they needed would just leave. Now we know what EOSL date they’re looking for and then our team tries to track that down for them. It gives our sales team a new contact who likely has equipment that is going EOSL soon, and the site visitor gets valuable information that they hadn’t been able to find online.
So Parker is not only providing a better buyer experience, he’s also giving us an organic and conversational way to engage visitors and collect their contact information, which we then handoff to lead nurturing.
Since implementing, Drift has helped us win 27 opportunities and has added 94 opportunities to our overall pipeline. It’s also added more than 700 leads to our prospect database for nurturing.
The best part is that the majority of these opportunities and leads are incremental since we were not previously able to capture these conversations on the EOSL page.
Efficiency, Volume, and Speed
In addition to generating more leads more efficiently with Drift’s chatbot automation, we’re also finding that our Drift leads are easier to close. On average, Drift leads evolve from lead to opportunity 20% faster than non-Drift leads, and they get from lead to close approximately 15% faster.
Based on what we’ve observed, it’s the immediacy of the chat that helps move prospects and buyers through the process more quickly and with less friction. Parker provides a much better experience than a traditional form – visitors feel more engaged and the conversational interaction is a lot more personal.
Internally, the chat allows our sales team to respond more quickly, meaning they are able to reach out to interested prospects while they are still “hot” as opposed to trying to re-engage them seven days later as part of an old-school follow-up strategy. In fact, our sales team tends to prioritize leads from Parker because – based on their own experience – they realize those leads are worth pursuing.
Branding Asset/Better Email Open Rate
The most surprising result of adding Drift’s chatbot to our website was how quickly “Parker” became part of our brand identity and a valuable brand asset that has opened up all kinds of creative opportunities.
We launched Parker using a stock art image of a little blue robot. The visual helped to drive engagement and give Parker a visual identity to go along with the personality we were developing through the playbooks. It didn’t take long for site visitors to start chatting with Parker as though he were a real person. People will often end a chat with, “Thanks, Parker.”
Seeing the natural customer affinity for Parker, we started to wonder where else we might be able to use the newest member of our team. Our first experiment was to send emails to prospects and customers from Parker. Instead of sending emails from an info@ address, we gave Parker his own email address and included his picture and signature in the sign-off of the emails.
Our open rates on those emails doubled.
It’s pretty low-hanging fruit, but it was a substantial increase in opens nonetheless.
We’ve also done some fun things internally with Parker. We had some little plush toys made up to hand out to employees in recognition of achieving certain milestones or winning a contest. Our employees started taking pictures of their Parker plushes and posting them on social media. Many of our team members take Parker with them when they travel. He’s visited domestic destinations like Denver and even more exotic locales like Shanghai and Hong Kong. He’s a well-traveled chatbot!
And yes, there was the time I dressed up as Parker at the sales kickoff meeting 🤖
All this to say that Parker has evolved into a kind of brand advocate asset who has wide appeal both within our organization and with our customers. People like Parker and we love what Parker is doing for our business.
How We Get Things Done
Behind the scenes, managing Parker is pretty stress-free. On average, I spend maybe 10-15% of my day in Drift. The majority of that time, about 70%, is spent monitoring chats or even jumping in on conversations. I then spend the remainder of my time editing playbooks and looking at data for insights.
At this stage in Parker’s evolution, we don’t change our playbooks too much. We created our initial playbooks based on analyzing a year’s worth of live chat history, so we had a pretty good handle on the kinds of conversations we needed to be having. We intentionally focused on “evergreen” conversations that would have a longer shelf life, and we really haven’t had to edit them very much. We do, however, tweak them based on what we see happening in the chats and on feedback from our support team.
We also have some fun updating Parker’s avatar with seasonal swag like a Frankenstein look for Halloween and a Pilgrim hat for Thanksgiving. And we have launched some multilingual updates. Parker is now able to engage prospects in our two most popular playbooks, including our EOSL playbook, in eight different languages.
Our marketing team is pretty lean for a global company. We have eight people in Cleveland and two in London. When it comes to managing Parker, Larry DeAngelis, our Global Director of Brand Management, takes point on overall strategy while I focus on operations. We then have a digital manager and project manager who handle conversation monitoring and the sales reps.
Bringing Parker into the mix has changed the way we score our leads. We have added three categories for Drift leads:
- Three-lightning-bolt CQLS: These are the hot-hot-hot leads. Someone is providing details on their equipment and asking for an immediate quote.
- Two-lightning-bolt Conversations: These are typically from the EOSL library page and involve Parker helping someone find the info they need. These aren’t quite as hot as the three-lightning-bolt CQLs, obviously, but they are the beginning of a relationship and an opportunity to continue building rapport between the prospect and the sales team.
- One-lightning-bolt Leads: People who subscribe to our EOSL newsletter fall into this category. Once someone is subscribed, they become an MQL and we start sending emails to nurture them. We’re also able to identify them when they return to the website, which allows us to move them through the funnel more effectively.
We have also seen some substantial benefits from Drift integrations. For instance, the Demandbase integration gives us the ability to recognize the company name and incorporate that information into Parker’s playbook. It’s a small detail, but it helped us double chatbot engagement from 2% to 4%.
The integration process was seamless and didn’t require any heavy lifting. It gave us the valuable ability to personalize the experience for the visitor and to flag specific big accounts for our sales team, both of which give us an important advantage. In addition, it allows us to see when competitors are searching our site, which is always helpful intel.
And then, on the back end, the integration allows us to pair the chatbot conversation with additional details about the prospect from Demandbase. This is really helpful to our sales reps when we send a lead their way. It gives them a more complete picture and a leg up on the follow-up conversation.
In short, Drift’s chatbot has helped us enormously with the higher funnel marketing support that we didn’t have before implementing Parker.
The Beginning Of A Beautiful Relationship
Clearly, we’ve already had a lot of success with Parker – more than we even originally expected. And we’ve been able to see these great results even though we have a fairly small team and have been learning mostly through trial and error. The whole conversational process and strategy are pretty intuitive, and Drift’s documentation has been really helpful throughout the journey.
While we’re really happy with what we’ve achieved so far, we’re continuing to explore new ways to use Parker. We added a Drift CSM to our team who is helping us identify new opportunities around how we route conversations to our sales reps. For instance, we’re doing a product-specific experiment by routing all inquiries about our Parkview product to a single, dedicated business development manager.
Finally, since Parker has taken on a life of his own, I’m excited to see how we can expand his presence beyond the chatbot and allow him to become an even stronger brand element. We’re looking at incorporating his image and persona into different kinds of collateral including our holiday card. We’ve also been giving Parker some airtime on our social media channels and may one day give him his own social media profiles to share tips and trends.
It’s clear that our prospects and customers like interacting with Parker. And, he also has earned himself quite the following internally. We’re really pleased with his performance so far and look forward to what else he can bring to the table in the future.
If you’re looking for even more pro-tips for marketers, take a look at what we learned after sitting down with seven B2B marketing leaders 👀
As Marketing Operations Lead, Eric manages Park Place Technologies’ MarTech stack, coupling data-driven insights with creative thinking to create a seamless customer experience. Prior to working at Park Place, Eric earned a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and a Master’s in Business Analytics from Case Western Reserve University.
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post. Interested in contributing content to the Drift blog? Email Molly Sloan at email@example.com.