How Smartling Tripled Inbound MQLs in 60 Days with Drift

By Drift

Language translation is a service that people don’t think about until they actually need it. So my job – as Director of Brand Strategy and Communications at Smartling – is to build a category and identity that causes people to think differently about how translation impacts global commerce.

A little about us: we’re a language translation company built to help brands translate the words on websites, mobile apps, and within products into any other language. And one of the channels that I own to tell our story is and our inbound technology (including Drift).

Our brand is all about how we use technology and human translators together. Smartling is the first cloud-based translation platform that fully automates the process around human translation. Over the last few years, we’ve worked on a campaign and released an award-winning book called “Move the World with Words” that features our amazing translators as a way to start conversations and humanize our brand.

When Drift came up, it was an instantaneous “yes.”

In the summer of 2018, we decided to rebuild our website from scratch. Yes, I know. It was a massive project that had me coordinating between pretty much every department at Smartling. But the website was stuck in the 2010s and was way too old school – hard to navigate, forms everywhere, and a complicated buying process to boot ?

Since we were already blowing up the whole thing anyway, we thought, how can we make a buying experience as frictionless as possible?

We weren’t just redesigning the website – we were literally rewriting every single piece of content, introducing a new CMS and UX, and reworking the buying process on the front and backend.

We understand that technology investments can become a competitive advantage. When we learned about Drift, we knew it could be a game-changer for our business. In fact, I was with Ani Obermeier (our VP of Marketing) when she booked a meeting with Drift (via Drift!) on their site. We looked at each other and said, “We need that.”

We signed the dotted line eight business days later, and implemented it in fourteen business days. I’m convinced that if I had done nothing but work on Drift, we could have implemented it in a day: all the playbook content and logic, website configuration, and routing in just one day.

If there’s one thing I’d do over, it would be implementing Drift faster.

It was like a lightning blast

Our new website launched in just 41 business days. We didn’t have to design or build forms throughout the site – instead we just added Drift with a single line of Javascript. What happened next was awesome. We tripled inbound MQLs in the first 60 days.

We jettisoned forms and Drift became our new conversion point. We focused on driving people to converse with us on our website as opposed to filling out a form and waiting for later. We moved from this outdated model where we sold on our terms to really putting the customer first so that we were there when they wanted to buy from us.

We can make sure the experience is about people

The ideal customer experience is that anyone who comes to our site can ask a question and get an answer.

The most complicated thing about marketing a solution like Smartling is that there’s so many different people who are our buyer.

Sometimes product managers are looking to localize an app. Or digital marketers are using it to translate a website. Or it’s a localization manager buying a solution for multiple departments. We have personas with such different needs that we can’t personalize every page effectively – with chat, we can make sure the entire content experience and customer journey is about people.

Take our welcome message for example. Depending on where you are in the world, or what we’re targeting to the specific user, the message will change, but generally it will say something like, “Hey there! Want to learn how we can translate content for [Company]?

What does the person want to know? How can we help feed them information that will educate them around our product and around the space of translation? Whether it’s about pricing, integrations, how to work better with us, how to apply for a job with us, our website visitors want more than to hunt for the information. We needed a way to support any inbound inquiry on a rolling basis, any day, day or night, no matter who was actually available to converse with that person. So we realized the best way to create a great experience for our customers and for our prospects was to automate conversations with them.

We can create a personalized welcome mat for anyone who comes to our site and who returns to our site. More importantly, we’re able to analyze the different types of questions that people have and we’re able to respond really quickly by adding layers to our content model within Drift. So as new questions are introduced, we add new responses that can be utilized the next time the question comes up.

The analytics we get from Drift have helped us understand what’s top of mind for our site visitors. When we first started out, we saw that our site visitors mostly asked about pricing and plans. Chats would usually go like this:

But we know “it’s complicated” isn’t a great answer, so while we’re working on creating a plans and pricing page to help distill that information more easily, we’ve also made small but meaningful changes to our bot to improve the experience for our buyers.

The more we learn from our chats, the more we can build. We’ve added several types of playbooks:

  • A “Welcome to Smartling” playbook
  • Specific to the inbound channel – PPC especially
  • Specific to the product pages on our website
  • A “Book a Demo” playbook for our sales team

You can think about ROI when it comes to any marketing channel, but for us, Drift is a part of who we are now. It’s the type of solution where it’s like, we have to have it.

You wouldn’t operate a business without a website today – and I wouldn’t operate a website today without Drift.

It’s just part of who we are now

At our marketing all-hands each week, we watch for number of meetings booked – which is never something we would have measured before. When you think about traditional marketing, it’s about collecting as many leads as possible. And we’ve completely stepped away from that.

We’ve stopped trying to forcefully collect information and lean into the natural progression of the conversation instead. If someone isn’t ready to move forward, we can say, “We’ll be here whenever you’re ready.” And that’s a much nicer experience – so they’ll want to come back.

Our sales team went from, “Oh, we want like allllllll the leads,” to, “We want the quality leads.” Every Wednesday, we have a Sales all-hands and we always ask, “Where did this opportunity come from?”

And more often than not…it’s Drift.

It’s been shocking (and amazing) to see how our sales team has come to appreciate marketing in a whole new way. Marketing numbers aren’t always cut-and-dry, especially at the top of the funnel with content. But it’s easy to understand when someone comes in and chats with you, books a meeting, and you’re speaking to a real person in the span of a few days. It makes the marketing contribution so much more real for our sales team. (Especially when so many people are hitting their quotas faster than before!)

We meet with our sales team every day to get feedback from them on how to optimize our bot so it can be more helpful for our customers. We created a Slack channel as we implemented Drift so we could help onboard SDRs in real-time.

They’ll send us links or screenshots to conversations that are good or bad and tell us how to get better, or show us any trends they’re seeing in terms of messaging and themes, and that’s a critical part of the sales-marketing feedback loop we just didn’t have before.

Every single meeting we book now comes in through Drift. It’s just part of who we are now.

I think I know more people at Drift than at Smartling (I’m kidding)

 After we had Drift for a year or so, we made the leap to Drift Automation. It wasn’t even a debate. We just knew after seeing it in action that it would give us a huge competitive advantage.

We implemented that in just five weeks.

We have such open communication with our team at Drift. I think I know more people at Drift than I know at Smartling at this point. This is a joke, but I say this from time to time because their emphasis on the customer experience is evident by how many people are looking after our account.

As soon as we signed on for Drift Automation, Drift assigned us a team of four or five additional folks to our account to help us implement it. We came up to Boston for a kickoff meeting and had a very clear project plan. We knew exactly the type of data that Drift needed to build the initial content model, like our current integrations.

Most of all, I can directly communicate with so many people who are all there to help us succeed. Which made a big difference because we weren’t sure how it would work. There was quite a bit of anxiety from our team about when to launch it. Should we have it on all the time? How are we going to make sure that it’s not going to respond something stupid? How are we going to train this thing?

The day we flipped the switch on, we just went with it. And it’s blown us away.

With Drift Automation, we’ve…

  • Increased our Drift conversations by 86%
  • Increased our meetings booked through Drift by 75%
  • Increased our meeting rates by 35%

And in February 2020, we’ve increased our meetings booked rate by 80%. This comes after rolling out Drift AI in our “Book a Demo” playbook and making a handful of other optimizations to our website.


We’re having hundreds and hundreds of conversations per month. More of those conversations are turning into meetings. And even better? They’re more qualified meetings.

Up next: Ramping up ABM

For 2020, our plan is to dive deeper into account-based marketing with Drift. By better understanding how we can approach high-value prospects, we can answer their questions with greater precision, and experiment with different hooks across different web pages so we can keep increasing the quality of our customer experience – and our leads.

Adrian is a brand and communications strategist with experience conceptualizing and implementing worldwide, omnichannel campaigns. Adrian is the Editor and Creative Director of the award-winning publication “Move the World with Words.”

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