Conversational Marketing: Why You Should Believe the Buzz

Brittany Walla

By now many of you may have heard the newest marketing buzz phrase: conversational marketing. Similar to its omnipresent predecessor, content marketing, conversational marketing is set to shift marketing focus and strategy in a big way.

Let’s take a look at the basics.

Conversational marketing is a way for businesses to engage with an audience through automated one-on-one conversational interactions. This is accomplished through technology referred to as a conversational user interface (CUI), chatbot, or bot.

Conversational marketing leverages the popularity and immediacy of messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger and enables brands to reach consumers where they spend the majority of their time. Utilizing conversational technology, marketers can deliver content intuitively and automatically through chat interfaces to build their brand and move consumers down the sales funnel.

As a marketer who spent several years knee-deep in automation platforms and refining business email strategy to improve open and click-through rates, it’s hard not to geek out over the opportunities and results conversational marketing affords. Attempting to understand your audience based on information stored in your CRM and deliver personalized, relevant emails using variable data will soon be a thing of the past. Imagine engaging with your audience in a conversation in which they dictate the subject matter and pace while you collect meaningful insight about them in real-time and deliver them the content they want when they want it.

Welcome to the world of chatbots.

Wouldn’t you rather talk with your audience than talk at them? Personally, I’d prefer to participate in a conversation with a brand than be on the receiving end of a one-sided information dump that is rarely relevant to me. Due to the conversational exchange that’s expected by users within messaging platforms, you can learn more from your audience through a minute-long interaction with a chatbot than through weeks of an email campaign. The engagement stats between businesses and audiences further reinforce the allure of conversational marketing as opposed to other marketing strategies (still looking at you, email).

Here are some interesting facts to fuel the conversational marketing fire:

  • Monthly active users in messaging apps have surpassed those on social media platforms. (source)
  • Average open rates are between 80-95% and click-through rates are 25-30% on Facebook Messenger, the leading conversational marketing platform. (source)
  • Gartner predicts that in the next two years, virtual agents will participate in a majority of commercial interactions between people and businesses. (source)

You may be on board to implement a conversational marketing strategy, and you should be, but before you jump in, you need to consider a few things.

The key to marketing effectively in any channel is creating a branded experience that your audience finds engaging and valuable. Many of the out-of-the-box chatbot builders available to marketers right now are clunky and lack the tools needed to satisfy an audience. Since the technology is so new, there are limitations to the current chatbot builder software that hinder user experience and will surely frustrate marketers who have built campaigns in highly sophisticated marketing automation platforms like Marketo, Pardot, or HubSpot.

Unless there’s a developer on your team who has experience building conversational interfaces, you may want to wait until the chatbot builder software improves or hire an agency that specializes in conversational solutions. For those of you who’d rather build a conversational marketing experience yourselves, stay tuned for more blog posts about Voxable’s journey building our marketing chabot, the tools we used, and what we learned along the way.

We are at the very beginning of the conversational marketing era. Therefore, few conversational marketing best practice or strategy guides exist. Similar to social media marketing ten years ago, the lack of conversational marketing documentation and universal understanding of its benefits can make the idea of incorporating it into your overall marketing plan daunting. However, there is huge opportunity in the conversational space and being an early adopter of the technology could translate into a massive return on investment. If you’re interested but unsure how to proceed, consider hiring a conversational interface agency for a consulting session. At the very least, you should start chatting about conversational marketing within your organization.

So the next time you use a messaging application, think about the marketing opportunity at your fingertips. Conversational marketing has the potential to make your brand buzzworthy.