March 14, 2021

The State of Conversational Marketing in 2021

Anyone who has been working in sales for the past few years has heard that conversational marketing is an essential new strategy to effectively increase website conversion rates and boost sales. 

Yet not everyone is taking advantage of all that conversational marketing has to offer. Somehow, a lot of companies seem content with the historically average conversion results they get from their traditional sales funnel: email forms, nurture campaigns, targeted sales outreach, etc.

So what is conversational marketing, and what can you do with conversational marketing to maximize conversions and sales from your website today?

What Is Conversational Marketing?

Conversational marketing is a lot like what it sounds — engaging your website visitors with real conversations. 

This approach can be much more impactful than traditional ways of capturing leads such as web forms that, at best, capture a very small percentage of people who are willing to provide their email and other identification, and then the correspondence with them can stretch out for days or weeks. Moreover, lots of visitors might be intrigued by your offering but not yet persuaded enough to share their email. Devising another way to get their attention is a great opportunity.

Conversational marketing is effective because it:

  1. Engages visitors in real-time
  2. Captures attention when visitors’ interest is at its peak

As a result, you’re able to attract more qualified leads and do so faster than any other online sales strategy. 

But how does conversational marketing work exactly? 

You’ll often see three distinct solutions: chatbots, conversational AI, and live chat for sales — each with their own breadth of complexity that requires strategic thinking and expertise to execute properly.

How do chatbots support conversational marketing?

Chatbots have become commonplace on websites. They are popular because they don’t actually require a salesperson to respond on the other end, and they are both faster and more cost-efficient than people. 

Chatbots use pre-configured responses which require an investment of time, strategy, and expertise to work effectively. A well-designed chatbot will play to its strengths — answering frequently asked questions, directing visitors to resources, supporting with basic requests, and escalating to live sales agents. This allows you to create more accurate conversion funnels and retain more control over your conversations.

Conversational AI is a more advanced evolution of chatbots that attempts to learn and mimic human-like behaviour in its engagement and responses with visitors - however it is generally more useful in scenarios where you have hundreds of thousands of messages to train it to work and  effectively interact and respond to customers in conversations. It’s more frequently used in support rather than sales, since it shines on repeatable processes and large engagement volumes.

How does live chat for sales work with conversational marketing?

In addition to chatbots, and conversational AI, many conversational marketing platforms  offer live chat for sales capabilities, where your BDRs (or sales team) can engage with visitors through a chat window to answer any questions and sell the solution that best solves the customer's problem. 

BDRs are much better than chatbots at converting a visitor into a sale or lead. However, while live chat allows you to capture qualified leads at the best possible time, it also requires your BDRs to be available on short notice to reply to inquiries — and if visitors happen to not be qualified for your offering, then your team is frankly wasting their time. This leads to a lack of performance and productivity, while making your sales team frustrated. 

The best strategy here is to know when you should engage directly and when to leave the qualification process to an automated chatbot, without the risk of losing a valuable lead or sale. More on this shortly.

How to design a conversational marketing strategy

While websites today are created with the best user experience practices in mind, abandonment still represents a major pain point for any business online — visitors not being able to find what they are looking for in a short time and leaving to search for it somewhere else.

Even with conversational marketing in place, most websites make one very common mistake. 

They ask for an email address too early into the conversation. 

Although the desire to capture more information about visitors is understandable, this tactic leads to as much as 50-90% of visitors abandoning the conversation prematurely.

The untapped opportunity, therefore, is in recognizing that people don’t want to be sold to or reduced to a metric, they want to be helped. And conversational marketing is ideally positioned to do just that.

Through conversations with your website visitors, you can design experiences that open up a dialogue, build trust, and establish relationships. To do that, you need to: 

  • Evaluate the buyer intent of each visitor
  • Answer  questions they have about your product
  • Understand the visitors’ goals
  • Gather feedback
  • Help navigate visitors through your website

Once you’ve provided value and earned the customers trust, you then have an opportunity to:

  • Qualify visitors for special offerings
  • Upsell them
  • Capture email addresses and other valuable information
  • Book visitors for a demo

Some of these things can be done with a chatbot, and some require assistance from a BDR — that’s why the most successful conversational marketing platforms use both. 

For example, Drift is a revenue acceleration platform that lets you specify precise engagement points throughout the website. You can write custom prompts depending on the defined target audience and then offer them predetermined options that would lead to (for example) either downloading a report, subscribing for updates, or booking a demo.

In addition, you can let visitors skip all the contact forms and initiate a real-time conversation with your sales team directly through the chat, which can then seamlessly move from text to audio to video as well. 

LivePerson is another great conversational marketing platform that provides both  pre-built chatbots and live chat for sales which can help automate and scale visitor interactions. 

So far so good. The problem, however, is that up to 98% of visitors on your website are anonymous, which means you don’t have enough information to decide how to engage with them. In practice, this means your conversational marketing platform is flying blind — you hope that your BDRs are spending time with the right visitors while chatbots are handling the rest. But how could you know this with certainty? 

Chatbots are not a one-in-all solution — it’s an engagement channel like any other, which needs to be aligned with your visitors right from the start. The last thing you want is for your high-potential visitors to be engaged in a way that doesn’t meet their needs. Thus, it’s important to set clear goals and ensure you’re continuously measuring your progress against them. You should integrate your chatbot and live sales chat experiences with CRM and marketing automation tools to ensure your sales and marketing programs are aligned. 

The key then is to know how to properly allocate your sales resources to boost conversion rates and drive your sales volumes.

Lift AI is a unique buyer-intent solution that applies the power of artificial intelligence to excel at one thing — accurately identifying the buyer intent of every single visitor on your website in real-time. 

What makes Lift AI valuable is a complete elimination of manual guesswork out of visitor targeting, made possible by its proprietary machine-scoring model processing an unprecedented amount of real-life data — more than 15 years of sales engagements, 14 million conversations, and one billion visitors. 

To enable real-time engagement based on visitors’ buying intent, Lift AI works with Drift, LivePerson, or other conversational marketing platforms you already use. Lift AI identifies on average, 9% of website visitors who have high conversion intent. Armed with that knowledge, you can connect high-scoring visitors with your sales team directly, use a qualification bot with mid-intent visitors, and leverage more automation with low-scorers to nurture them and answer simple questions. By engaging visitors with the right resource based on their conversion potential, Lift AI users such as PointClickChare see between 2-10x increase in website conversions

Finally, your conversational marketing can deliver on the promise.

To try Lift AI free for 30 days, just sign up and copy-paste a simple JavaScript snippet on your website, no credit card required. Today is the perfect day to find out who your anonymous website visitors actually are.

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An illustration showing a website visitor being scored in real-time by Lift AI