Ever had a friend or colleague who could just talk your ear off? A person who’d tell you everything about their weekend (the places they went, the food they ate, the sights and smells)—and eventually, they’d ask about yours…only to then transition your response back to their weekend and the to-die-for appetizer they forgot to mention.
Sound annoying? Well, that’s what most modern marketing feels like.
Brands talk and talk about their features, securities, customers, case studies, and more. Then, a visitor asks, “Hey, do you have so-and-so feature?” The brand responds, “Yes, we do! And we have so-on and so-on and so-forth.”
Most businesses have turned all their channels into one-way broadcast marketing—where they speak at the customer, and they have little-to-no opportunity to respond. It’s far from a conversation and more like the “friend” who keeps talking about themself.
Conversational marketing ignores conventional one-way marketing tactics in favor of two-way conversations. It’s a way for brands to listen to their customer’s wants, needs, and questions so they can respond with personalization instead of links and redirects. Conversational marketing creates brand awareness, customer loyalty, engagement, and (eventually) more sales through, well, conversations.
Ready to stop talking at your customers and start chatting with them? Let’s first talk about how conversational marketing works and then dive into how you can get started.
How conversational marketing works
You’ve experienced conversational marketing likely without realizing it. Have you ever clicked the automatic chat window on a website, messaged a brand on social media, or texted a business’s phone number? These are all forms of conversational marketing.
How conversation marketing works is simple:
Conversational marketing is real-time
Or as close to real-time as possible. Imagine a text conversation with your mom. It wouldn’t be much of a conversation if it took you a week to answer her text.
However, given the complexity of a conversation, the messaging might ebb, flow, and even transfer to new channels. For example, a customer may initiate a chatbot conversation that then moves to an email thread that then progresses to a phone call. This entire back and forth could happen over an hour, a day, or even a week.
The important thing is that you’re communicating on the customer’s preferred schedule and channels. Nobody likes to be transferred around the digital world—only relocate the conversation if they choose to.
Conversational marketing is continuous
Conversational marketing builds off of each interaction, furthering the relationship and dialogue. You don’t start from scratch each time your customer messages you, nor do you hit the reset button if they choose to switch the conversation channel.
Imagine the following customer experience (you’ve likely experienced it yourself):
- You call a business’s support team for help with an issue. Support agent A asks you for details about your problem. You provide all the information.
- Agent A tells you that another department is responsible for that problem, and they then transfer you to Agent B.
- Agent B asks you for all the details about your issue. Again, you give it to them.
- Agent B decides that issue is probably better handled by another department, and they transfer you to Agent C.
- Agent C asks for all your information, again, and then transfers you back to Agent A…who then asks you who you are and what you want.
It might sound like a crazy story, but it’s all too real for businesses who don’t practice conversational marketing.
Store every conversation you have with a customer and make it accessible via your CRM (customer relationship management system). No matter who is responding on whatever channel, they should have the information they need from past interactions with the customer to provide a great future experience.
Top 3 benefits of conversational marketing strategies
Conversational marketing isn’t a new concept, but it has become less popular compared to batch-and-blast marketing like email blasts, cold calling, and SMS bulk messaging. However, these 5 benefits prove conversational marketing has an essential place in every marketing program:
1. Conversational marketing builds customer relationships
Conversations build and nurture relationships. Powerful Super Bowl ads, witty billboards next to the highway, and clever social media campaigns don’t.
Although these tactics may generate one-time sales, they typically don’t build relationships, and relationships are worth more than any one-off purchase. Relationships lead to recurring buyers and loyal customers—one of a business’s strongest assets.
Conversational marketing channels like messaging apps and chat windows make for a personalized communication experience—kind of like the ones you have with your friends. You don’t just blast all your friends an email every time you have something to share. Could you imagine your mother finding out you’re having your first baby via a mass email to all your friends and family? Yeah, don’t try that.
These channels also make continued conversation seamless and easy. Instead of starting the conversation over every time, you can pick back up where you left off and continue building off your last interaction.
2. Conversational marketing solves customers’ problems
Conversational marketing listens to the issues before offering solutions. When you send an email campaign boasting a 25% discount on summer shorts, you’re assuming the customer needs shorts and wants them at a low price. You could be right and nail the promotion. However, when you listen to your potential customers first, you may realize they have enough shorts already, but they could really use some summer footwear.
3. Conversational marketing provides free market research
Focus groups and large surveys aren’t cheap. Take advantage of conversations with your customers. Listen to what they have to say. Customers aren’t afraid to talk about their grievances and desires. Instead of blowing them off, take these data points as free market research.
When customers come with problems, ask them what they think would be a good solution. Not only can these conversations lead to potential ideas, but they’ll also validate your customers’ concerns and help them feel heard.
Best examples of conversational marketing
When people think of conversational marketing, they typically just think about Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and website chat windows. However, other more general marketing tools like SMS, RCS messaging, and email marketing can be used in conversational marketing, as well.
SMS Messaging with Nordstrom
When Nordstrom heard that over 1/3 of their customers prefer texting as their communication channel, they listened. Nordstrom enhanced the shopping experience by allowing customers and salespeople to communicate via Twilio SMS.
SMS allows customers to initiate conversations with the sales team on their own schedule to start their shopping experience. Sales reps can use those conversations to follow up with customers (via SMS) with updates on new arrivals they might be interested in and even send pictures of merchandise they think customers would like.
RCS Messaging with 1-800-Flowers.com
RCS (Rich Communications Services) makes text messaging glossier and more interactive while providing the reach of SMS & MMS. Features like photos and video sharing, map directions, location sharing, typing indicators, and much more are delivered to a device’s default messaging app irrespective of the network the user is on.
1-800-Flowers.com capitalized on this tool to create richer conversations with their customers. Their messages now enable customers to make, modify, and track orders, and adjust the delivery times, all within their messaging app. Customers on the receiving end of the RCS messaging never have to dial the phone or sit on hold to speak with a CS agent—they get all the information, functionality, and conversations they need right from the comfort of their default messaging app.
Email Marketing with Neil Patel
Look through the Promotions tab in your inbox. Open up one of the emails from a popular brand you know and love. It’s likely a pretty polished email, chock-full of high-quality images, brand colors, clever copy, and powerful CTAs.
Now, look at this email from Neil Patel.
No fancy images, no crazy colors, no noticeable branding of any kind, and just a simple CTA with a single link. The difference is—the first polished email comes off as a well-done advertisement in a magazine, and Neil’s comes off as a personal email to a friend. Which are you more likely to respond to? Which feels more like a conversation, and which feels more like an ad?
Top tools for conversational marketing
Twilio’s suite of customer engagement tools provides the perfect omnichannel source for brands and businesses looking to get started with conversational marketing:
- Autopilot: Build, train, and deploy AI-powered bots for your contact center to scale conversations that start off on the right foot.
- Twilio Conversations: Manage and orchestrate customer conversations at scale across channels like WhatsApp, SMS, MMS, and chat.
- Twilio Flex: Create and manage conversations seamlessly using one contact center platform interface.
- Twilio SendGrid Marketing Campaigns: Use smarter email marketing to drive business impact beyond the inbox.
- And more!
Conversational marketing is far from new. It’s been going on since the dawn of marketing, and the term’s even been around for the last 10 years. However, it’s hotter than ever given the innovative technology that’s making conversational marketing more scalable than ever before.
Email marketing, social media campaigns, and digital marketing will always have a place in your marketing strategy. Conversational marketing doesn’t replace traditional marketing—it supplements and supports it.
Don’t wait to start having conversations with your customers. Take a look at Twilo’s products and get started now!