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Originally published in the Boston Business Journal

Is your company still asking customers to fill out form after form to reach the next step in the buying process? If so, you’re missing your chance to convert as many as 89% of business buyers who expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations.

One-way methods of communication such as emails and forms is no longer enough to convince a buyer that your solution is right for their company. According to Salesforce, 82% of business buyers say personalized customer care influences their loyalty, and Facebook found conversations between companies and their customers via Facebook Messenger had a 30% greater ROI than a typical mobile web ad campaign.

So, how can companies interact with prospects through meaningful conversations that will ultimately convert them into customers? By prioritizing and creating opportunities for a two-way dialogue. In other words, you can do so by implementing a conversational marketing strategy.

What is conversational marketing?

Conversational marketing has been defined as “the fastest way to move buyers through your marketing and sales funnels through the power of real-time conversations.”

Conversational marketing helps companies:

  • Create authentic, meaningful interactions with target audiences
  • Build trust and increase loyalty among prospective and existing customers
  • Reduce friction within the buying process to help your prospects move seamlessly through the funnel

While the premise of conversational marketing is as simple as fostering a genuine sense of connection with your buyers, it’s surprisingly complicated to put into practice. To ensure you’re on the right track to a successful conversational marketing strategy, keep these tips in mind.

Integrate conversational marketing with your existing strategy

Conversational marketing is often associated with chat tools and chatbots because they make it convenient for prospects to get in touch with your team. Despite this association, remember that conversational marketing is an overarching strategy that reaches across channels. While live chat and chatbots are excellent for engaging buyers, you’ll want your conversational marketing strategy to amplify the other channels you have in place.

For example, adjust your blog posts or website copy to encourage dialogue, or encourage those who follow your company on social media to take advantage of direct messages through those platforms.

Consider the five “Ws” for your buyer

Companies that implement conversational marketing should engage with buyers based on answers to the five Ws, says Drift.

  • Who is expressing interest?
  • What are they engaging with?
  • When is the right time to engage with them?
  • Where did the buyer come from?
  • Why are they on your site or getting in touch in the first place?

Recognizing your buyer’s unique situation will help you show them how your solution can meet their needs. This personalized interaction will improve their buying experience, and in turn enable your ability to market and sell. That’s when the sixth W, “win,” comes in.

Embrace Artificial Intelligence

It took 75 years for phones to reach the 50 million-user milestone, 19 months for Instagram to have 50 million users, and just 1 month for Pokémon Go to reach the same number. It’s imperative that you keep up with the ever-increasing pace of digital transformation, while also staying in tune with how people actually want to interact.

Marketing - especially conversational marketing - is adapting as AI enters more and more aspects of our daily life. HubSpot found 47% of shoppers were open to making purchases from a bot, and the number and complexity of tasks performed by bots is only expected to increase in years to come.

Determine what success will look like in the context of your overall marketing strategy.

As you implement your conversational marketing strategy, make sure you’ve set KPIs in order to measure your ability to move your prospect to the next stage. The more you revisit your KPIs and perfect your process, the easier it will be to gain customers through conversational marketing.

Perhaps the most important aspect of conversational marketing is to remember that in the end, your buyers are people who have a problem they’re looking to understand and ultimately solve. If your team implements live chat only to become part of the 21% of companies whose live chats go completely unanswered, your prospects will quickly turn elsewhere to find the answer they need. Humanize your connections with prospects and remember a little empathy goes a long way. Your customers will remember you for it in the long run.

About the Author

Susan LaPlante-Dube | PMG Principal
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Susan LaPlante-Dube, PMG Principal

Susan LaPlante-Dube created PMG in 2002 and acts as one of PMG’s Principals. As a jack-of-all-trades in marketing, she loves digging deep on a topic and finding new ways to spin old ideas. While she would prefer having some high-tech voice software to record all of her blog thoughts instead of having to write them down, she loves the satisfaction of helping her readers learn something new.

 Tags: Inbound Marketing Emerging Channels

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