For the second part of our blog series on conversational marketing, we’re diving into the specifics of creating a successful messaging strategy. Conversational marketing is all about meeting your target audience where and how they want–whether that be social media or live chats on your website.
As Jay Baer, founder Convince & Convert, points out, “The big variance within conversational marketing is whether the interaction site is present on the company’s web property or a social network/freestanding social app.” Baer continues, “Going to a website and interacting with a chatbot is a different experience than having your order confirmation delivered via Messenger. As conversational marketing matures and technology shifts, these differences will be emphasized in a more nuanced fashion.”
We’ve outlined actionable steps to address all channels and create an effective and cohesive messaging strategy.
Step 1: Provide Real-Time Engagement on Social
Before you embark on implementing your messaging strategy, take stock of the low-hanging fruit. Conversational marketing encompasses real-time engagement across all channels, including social media and review sites. Think of anywhere a customer or lead can contact you and devise a customer service plan to offer a quick and responsive reply.
A simple way to provide real-time engagement is to answer all messages or inquiries on social media. Set up notifications—desktop or email—to be routed to the correct person for prompt responses. Remember that Facebook shows your response rate on your profile. Don’t forget about review sites as well. Leave an appropriate comment or reply on any business review. (As a bonus, Google confirms that responding to reviews helps with local SEO).
This type of engagement is especially integral for any negative messaging, i.e., complaints. According to recent Convince & Convert research, 39 percent of social media complainers expect a reply within 60 minutes, yet the average response time from businesses is five hours. Don’t alienate those unhappy people, keep an eye out for contacts or inquires, and promptly respond.
Step 2: Install and Use a Chat Platform on Your Site
As discussed in Conversation Marketing Part I of this series, a chat platform on your website provides a complement to existing lead forms and lets your audience reach you when and how they want. What’s more, according to the American Marketing Institute, those who use chat platforms see a 20 percent conversion increase and 305 percent better ROI for their site.
Image source: Business 2 Community
There are two popular options for chat platforms. First is a chatbot, which is an automated (typically AI-powered) system that will take customers through programmed responses to common inquiries. Second, is live chat functionality, which is a direct line to your customer service staff (or a contracted service).
According to the 2019 State of Conversational Marketing Report, people do report a better customer experience with a live online chat. However, that’s not an option for every company, especially small businesses. On the flip side, that same report found that while online chat is the most convenient channel, chatbots are the best option for delivering 24/7 service—an important factor to consider if you have an international audience.
For small businesses, the answer isn’t to pay a customer service rep to work the graveyard shift and answer late-night chats. (Unless you have a high volume of inquiries all day). Instead, work toward a bot + human hybrid for your messaging strategy. During work hours have a live person field messages, then have an away message, or indicate to customers that they will receive automated answers during off-hours.
The Best Chat Platform Options
There are several options of chat platforms and tools out there, with new ones launching every day. Below is a list of five popular chat programs, for a variety of business sizes and budgets.
Drift dubs itself “the conversational marketing platform,” which it backs up with a serious roster of clients. Their system uses a “leadbot” which qualifies inquiries and messages to then route to the appropriate department. Drift offers a very sophisticated level of automation, even going as far as to schedule meetings for your team. The platform also integrates with many CMSs and marketing systems.
However, if you’re looking for a simple system, some reviewers say that Drift is complex with many updates to keep up with.
Price: Freemium, with a free “personal plan,” more robust plans start at $50 per month.
Image source: Drift
Intercom is one of the most well-known options for chat services. You’ve definitely seen their emoticon (a smiling chatbox) on the bottom right of websites. The system offers both a live chat option, called Business Messenger and a customizable chatbot functionality. Intercom also has an entire suite of marketing tools, along with integrations for most of your marketing needs.
Most reviews do mention that Intercom is best when you use the full features of the platform and that the chat functionality on its own can be limiting. This platform would be best for a company looking for an industry-level marketing system.
Price: Customer service packages with chat functionality start at $38 per month.
Olark offers a simple, straightforward chat system. For those looking for ease of use, but with customizable options, this platform might be a winner. Olark integrates with most CMSs and support tools including WordPress, Zendesk, Google Analytics and MailChimp.
Price: $17 per month per agent (with a discount for annual billing).
LiveChat is one of the original chat platforms that offers a feature-rich product. For those dealing with international audiences, they have multilingual chat options. Their pricing is also different than other companies, as they charge per “seat” not “agent.” Meaning if you have customer service reps take shifts, you can still pay for one seat, and swap out.
Price: $19 – 59 per month.
Tawk.to labels themselves as the completely free system, with no spam or ads. (They make their money by offering chat agents that start at $1 per hour). The system is fairly easy to install, with a clean analytics dashboard for data and metrics. If you’re looking for a visually robust chat option, Tawk.to also has attention-grabbing widgets and in-chat emoji use.
We’ve recently used Tawk.to with a client and experienced overall positive results, especially for a free system!
Remember, just like engagement on other channels, once you implement your chat functionality, it’s up to you to make sure you stay present. Engage with your site visitors, promptly respond and focus on adding value with your interactions.
Use Your Messaging Strategy to Start a Conversation
Conversational marketing makes it faster and easier to reach your target audience. However, without the right messaging strategy in place, you can’t properly interact and start the conversation. Make sure to get your team on the same page with cross-channel, real-time engagement. Then find the best chat platform to install and use on your website. The critical element is to be punctual and offer helpful dialogue.
In part three of this series, we’ll teach you how to take your conversational marketing to the next level, map ROI with analytics and give examples of other companies killing it.