Conversational marketing (“marketing that enables you to talk one-to-one to your customers”); how this has evolved since the days of simple HTML / CSS websites where the only real way to chat with your customers was through calls or messaging via email! Things have moved on massively in the past few years and with so many channels open now for communication, how do you know which is the best way to message your target market?

Who are you marketing to?

The best way to decide which avenue of conversational marketing you want to go down is to look firstly at your demographic. Are you appealing to B2B or B2C customers? This is the first (and easiest) way of deciding how to approach opening your doors to contact.

  • B2B customers tend to be working during the day, so within this scope, you need to know whether your customers are likely to be in an office (and therefore most likely on a laptop or tablet) or out and about (and as such, using a smartphone for most of their contact).
  • B2C customers may have more channels open to them, although they may still be working during the day, which means that your conversation channels need to be open later or all the time.

With all of that in mind, you then need to decide which channels to offer – there are many, and sometimes, less is more. You don’t necessarily need to offer more than one conversational chat avenue in addition to email/call/contact form options, but it’s important to try and work out which avenue is going to give your users the best service.

Conversational chat avenues

There are a number of avenues you can look at, depending on who you’re marketing to. This is not a complete list, but some of the more popular avenues at present are:

Chatbots do tend to have a bad rep that has been formed by a legacy of years when Chatbots were mainly used by big companies in ways that almost seemed to be obstructive to real contact. They’ve evolved a lot since then and customers are starting to recognise that talking to a chatbot can actually be useful as opposed to frustrating. Users are becoming accustomed to Chatbots being offered as an option, and as long as their query or problem is solved, most people are happy to work with a chatbot if it means no long queue times or waiting for answers.

Examples of big companies that currently use Chatbots well include Amazon, Spotify and Mastercard.

Messaging services
More people use instant messaging services such as WhatsApp or texting than social media, believe it or not – that doesn’t mean they want to be marketed to this way though, so you need to make sure if you are offering messaging services as a marketing option, you have the correct permissions in place first.

Using WhatsApp or other messaging services for marketing does give good scope to offer automated chat services that still engage with users. There are a few different ways big brands such as Nivea, Dominos and Mercedes have gone about this, such as gamification, offers/deals and specific messaging chatbots.

Voice applications
Voice assistants such as Siri or Alexa are used by big brands such as eBay, who as an example have their Google Assistant Action bot (for Android users only), which allows people to search the site by voice command. If a user asks, “OK Google, ask eBay to find me…..”, the Action bot open the eBay app, search the site and ask additional questions if needed to narrow down the results.

Many people have voice assistants integrated into their homes; they use them daily with their phones, they have them on their smartwatches, so offering integration with a voice assistant is just another way to capitalise on this channel of communication.

Social media
There are three channels that form the “golden triangle” of social media private messaging; these are: Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and Instagram.

Facebook Messenger is the easiest (especially for B2C customers) as it has its own app that integrates with the main Facebook platform, but all 3 channels (and others) allow for private messaging.

If you do go down this route, you should make sure that the platforms you use have private messaging open and available to your followers. You can choose to use specific social messaging automated chat options (for example, if someone sends a message you can automate a message back to confirm the message has been received), or you can handle the conversations yourself. Either way, they need to be manned and monitored daily.

The benefits of conversational marketing

If you’re finding it hard to decide, think again about your target market. The benefits of conversational marketing include:

  • Conversations happen in real-time
  • Conversations can be transcribed and emailed to the customer for proof
  • Conversations suit the customer best, wherever they are and whatever you’re doing

So, if your target customer is busy, always on the go, rarely sat at a desk, then a messaging service such as WhatsApp may be best for them, as they can look at it and engage regardless of if they’re on a train, walking to work, or sitting at a desk.

Alternatively, if they’re likely to be in an office or at home, then it may be best to offer a chatbot – this way, they don’t have to sit in a call queue, but they can still converse from their laptop whilst getting on with anything else they need to do.

Of course, you should always offer a telephone option and an email option as standard – these are seen as big “trust” factors, and conversational chat avenues shouldn’t replace them.

Whichever conversational marketing channel (or channels) you choose, they always need to be:

  • Reliable
  • Available
  • Efficient

If you engage users in an automated chat avenue that then doesn’t deliver an answer to their query and they end up having to try a different option to get in touch – or worse, decide not to use your company in favour of one who does answer their needs – then you risk both the loss of a customer/sale and a poor reputation moving forward in regard to your customer service and communication.

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