Artificially intelligent (AI)-driven chatbots are an exciting emerging channel, but in 2020, conversational marketing doesn’t just mean chatbots. In fact, according to data from Business2Community, 79% of consumers are willing to use messaging apps to get customer service. 

That means customers want to have live conversations with their favorite brands via social media platforms, messaging apps and other communication tools. With this in mind, we’ve turned to the experts to learn what conversational marketing means, and how brands can implement an effective conversational marketing strategy.

What Is Conversational Marketing?

“In short, [conversational marketing] is a new, proactive way of doing online marketing,” said Paweł Ławrowski, head of growth at Tidio. Rather than simply pushing content to the consumer, brands interact with them in a way that fosters better engagement through live conversation. This live conversation could be a chatbot, but more often than not, it’s still a human sales or customer service representative. “Conversational marketing is about leveraging the power of real-time conversations and two-way dialogue to engage customers and seamlessly move them through your marketing and sales funnels,” said Nicole Bojic, SVP of strategy at InVision Communications. This could be online chats, social media channels, or a live brand experiences, but the end goal is the same — engaging with customers one-on-one to stand out from the competition and humanize your brand. 

“The key to successful conversational marketing is to personalize your approach,” she continued, “so that the customer feels heard, understood and listened to.”

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How to Implement a Conversational Marketing Strategy

Conversational marketing is a powerful way to get better engagement from consumers and drive business results. Here are some top tips for implementing an effective conversational marketing strategy in 2020.

Make It Part of Your Omnichannel Initiative

It’s crucial to consider conversational marketing an omnichannel strategy and meet consumers on the channels they actually use. “Ensure that all marketing content you develop gives your audience something to react to, respond to, or act on,” Bojic explained, “and ensure that when they do react, respond, or act, they know you're paying attention.” It starts with a solid omnichannel content marketing strategy, but brands also need to facilitate a two-way conversation as well. “A real-time chat (automated or with a human) facilitates the process of moving the customers through the sales funnel in a paced and natural way,” added Ławrowski. That’s why a strong conversational marketing strategy requires brands to focus on the customer journey. “Sketch each stage of their experience whenever they interact with your brand and see where and how your customers enter your marketing (and sales) cycle,” Ławrowski said. Using this insight, you can tailor potential conversations to the individual more effectively.

Learning Opportunities

Keep Advancing Your Personalization Strategy

Personalization is crucial for engaging with consumers in a more human way. “Use data tools and innovative technologies (e.g., digital personalized kiosks, dedicated mobile apps) to personalize cross-channel engagement,” Bojic said. She believes this will generate far more qualified leads and business impact than traditional marketing efforts. “Consumers are inclined to ignore irrelevant advertising and promotional content so brands have to earn customer loyalty with exceptional experiences and rich mobile engagement,” said Matt Ramerman, president at Sinch Engage. Personalization means leveraging customer data to deliver relevant content to consumers, at the right time, on the channels that matter most to them. “Reducing churn is about cultivating and strengthening customer relationships, Ramerman continued, “by offering customers the most relevant experiences and personalized content.” 

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Remember: Humans Are (Still) More Compelling than Chatbots

“The best tip for implementing a conversational marketing strategy,” said Malte Scholz, CEO and co-founder of Airfocus, “is to get rid of chatbots and employ a human touch.” He believes making sure customers talk to actual people and not bots or auto-responders is crucial for driving engagement. “Most people think that conversational marketing is all about live chat and chatbots,” he continued, “but there is much more to it.”

Ławrowski also recommends keeping conversations human-like, even when using bots. “Just because your customers speak with a piece of software,” he said, doesn’t mean they need to hear “the robot on the other side.” Instead, you can use humor or visual aids — GIFs, memes or videos — to make the conversation feel more genuine.

Online and Offline Channels Are Critical

While digital channels are a great way to reach consumers, in-person interactions have the most impact when it comes to triggering a conversation between a brand and consumers. “No matter what's happening online,” Bojic said, “a face-to-face dialogue elevates the entire communication.” That said, brands can still deepen communication with their audience through mobile apps, chatbots and social media. “Even in the context of a live event” Bojic continued, “technology can and should be leveraged to take the conversation to the next level.”