“[W]hen you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
—from the movie “When Harry met Sally” by screenwriter Nora Ephron
At the climax of the movie “When Harry met Sally” Harry Burns (played by Billy Crystal) delivers an impassioned speech at midnight on New Year’s Eve to Sally Albright (Meg Ryan). The movie chronicles the humorous circumstances and events of their years-long on-again, off-again relationship. He finally concludes that she is “the one” and feels the urge to express that conclusion immediately to her and to receive an immediate reply.
No matter how long the sales cycle, once the B2B buyer decides that the company is seriously in the market for something, anything… they want to act on that desire as soon as possible. Whether they need more product information, case studies, testimonials, or to pull the trigger and buy, speed suddenly becomes essential.
As explained in a recent Digital Reach article, the company that can deliver what’s needed to progress the sale with the least friction wins. B2B companies are increasing their use of conversational marketing platforms to give prospects what they need 24-7 in order to move closer to a buying decision.
Conversational Marketing Platforms vs Chatbots
What is a Conversational Platform, and how is that different from a Chatbot? Gartner defines a Conversational Platform as a platform which “…can be used by developers to build conversational user interfaces, chatbots, and virtual assistants for a variety of use cases.” It also must offer integrations with chat interfaces (to allow conversations to move to a live chat) and offer a developer API. In summary, marketers use a Conversational Platform to create multiple chatbots and other AI-driven UIs which integrate with other communication vehicles like web chat or SMS. Many also integrate with CRMs to route information to reps.
A Conversational Marketing Platform of Note: Drift
Don’t let the acronyms “AI” or “API” scare you away from using Chatbots. Many of our clients have IT teams which are too busy to take on building out complex AI-driven user interfaces for Marketing. Conversational marketing platforms aren’t as scary to implement as you’d think, and our preferred Conversational Marketing software, Drift, makes it jaw-droppingly simple to set up. Drift enable Marketers to create fully-featured Chatbots with minimal drain on IT resources. Drift’s platform does much of the heavy lifting, from simple interactive meeting scheduling widgets to more sophisticated lead-generating chatbots. Your bots can be programmed to recognize visitors from your target account list, and even to recognize anonymous site visitors who don’t fill out forms.
Chatbots are as friendly, helpful, on-brand, and as responsive at 10 a.m. as at 10 p.m. They are a relatively inexpensive way to provide the continuous access to assistance and information that buyers have come to expect. They can help deliver just the right content to site visitors. To understand the site visitor and what content they would find most helpful, let’s consider Chatbots in the context of the Buyer’s Journey.
Making use of Chatbots throughout the Buyer’s Journey
Chatbots can be used successfully throughout the buyers’ journey to guide site visitors through each phase, increasing conversions every step of the way. From Awareness to Informational, Consideration to Buying, chatbots can be programmed to provide just what the site visitor needs to move smoothly from one step to the next.
The chatbot as a concierge
Chatbots can serve as the Concierge to your company website, answering straightforward questions and directing users to the most relevant content when they need more information. The Concierge function serves those site visitors who are in the Informational stage of the buyer’s journey.
The visitors in the Informational stage may have only recently discovered their company’s pain, perhaps a performance gap that can be solved with your type of solution. The visitor is looking for information, and may have found your site via their favorite search engine. Now they are eager to learn more. Your bot can satisfy by answering questions directly or pointing the way to the resources that will help them the most.
The chatbot as a very attentive sales rep
As the B2B buyer moves into the Consideration phase, his or her interaction with your chatbot is on parallel with that of a sales rep. Conversational marketing solutions make use of AI, including Natural Language Processing, to carry on more human-like conversations with site visitors.
Most chatbots can be programmed to make use of data from previous site visits in order to craft a more customized user experience. If a visitor has accessed white papers and case studies, but hasn’t yet requested a demo, the chatbot can issue a personalized invitation to schedule one at a time that’s best for him or her and the others on the buying team.
The chatbot as closer
Hopefully your site visitor’s buying team has liked what they learned about your solution and moved to the Buying phase. Your chatbot can assist with closing the deal by providing leadership in the purchasing decision.
A chatbot can tease out the obstacles in the buying team’s way which have to be dealt with before a buying decision can be made. What objections need to be talked through? Would financing help? How about explaining the guarantee? Chatbots can provide helpful, friendly, non-pushy support through to closing.
Chatbots for post-purchase customer support
Chatbots first gained popularity through the customer support avenue. It is a simple process to turn a company’s FAQs into its first chatbot script. This is a natural place for many companies to tiptoe into chatbots.
Once the B2B prospect has become a Customer and entered the Using and Advocating phases, your company’s conversational marketing tool can continue nurturing the relationship by offering customer success coaching to managers, supervisors, and end users.
Tips for getting the most out of chatbots
1. Give your chatbot a name and a personality.
Don’t insult the intelligence of your site visitor by pretending that your chatbot is a living, breathing agent. Most people aren’t opposed to bots. (Who wouldn’t like to talk to R2-D2 or C-3PO?) In fact, the Wall Street Journal reported on a 2017 Forrester Research Inc. survey that found that approximately 36% of adults said they prefer digital customer service (including bots and email) to engaging with a human.
2. Customize all default chatbot script messages.
Most conversational marketing software comes with templated workflows with sample scripts. These are intended to simplify the onboarding process and get users up to speed quickly. A surprising number of marketers keep these default scripts. Don’t pass on the chance to reinforce your brand and its voice and messaging by customizing each conversation.
3. Segment as much as possible
Chatbot software typically enables the creation of multiple bots with different script sequences to place on different web pages. Some can pivot to a different script depending on the referral source. Where is the traffic to each chatbot coming from? Organic search? Ads? By segmenting your audience, you can match the script to their level of awareness and offer the information which is most relevant to them. (Read more about the phases of the B2B buyer’s journey here.)
4. Use A/B testing for continuous improvement
Full-featured conversational marketing software makes it easy to A/B test bot scripts for engagement and conversion. Using A/B testing best practices, make one change with each test and allow the test to run long enough to gather sufficient data to make a conclusion before adopting the winner and moving on to the next test.
5. Experiment with handing over to live chat
Some chatbot software can integrate with collaboration software such as Slack to transfer a chabot conversation to a human at a given juncture in the script. You might want to test this option, especially with highest-intent prospects.
6. Don’t “set and forget”
As your products and services evolve, and you add new information to your site, don’t forget to update your chatbot scripts.
7. Use chatbot conversations to understand gaps in your marketing
Review chatbot logs to identify areas where your marketing is falling short. If prospects are expecting to find easy access to information that should exist on your site but doesn’t, you have found a priority item for your to-do list.
Embrace chatbots and help them help you
When one of your company’s dream prospects concludes that the problem that’s keeping them awake in the middle of the night must be dealt with as soon as possible, can he or she find an answer and a helpful, listening ear on your website?
There are many reasons chatbots are swiftly becoming mainstream tech for B2B marketers. Conversational marketing solutions are inexpensive to implement, costing much less than any employee for the 24-7 responsiveness they provide. Chatbots can be used very successfully to guide prospects through the buyer’s journey, improving conversion rates at every phase.
If you need assistance in setting up an effective ChatBot for your site, or are interested in other digital marketing services, please contact Digital Reach today!