B2B Marketing and the ChatBot – too soon?
Chatbots are everywhere in the B2C digital marketing world right now, but do they have a place in B2B? I believe the answer is yes, and here are a few reasons why…
It’s been hard to miss the meteoric growth of the “chatbot” – those automated self learning or scripted chat sessions that have appeared on websites across the globe over the last 12 months or so. If you are a retailer, for example, selling “off the shelf” products the conversations are easy to predict and the answers easy to communicate, but as with many other areas, often in B2B and especially where complex or bespoke technology solutions are involved, it may not be that simple. All is not lost however and there is still some value in deploying this technology.
B2B engagement and the chatbot
The sales process of many B2B organisations can be complex, with many touch points along the way with lots of different stakeholders. At the same time different stakeholders can be in different stages of understanding your unique proposition and how it might meet their needs. Rather than applying chatbots to answer mundane, repetitive enquiries that might be their mainstay in B2C, It is this very complexity that well crafted chatbots and instead help us deal with.
A virtual guide, directing their visit
One application where chatbots can be effective is by acting as a “virtual guide” for visitors to your site. Rather than having them search through many pages of content, why not ask them a few decisions that mean you can get them to the most effective content more quickly? For technical folks you might want to quickly get them to the “meat” of your content, into technical forums or reviewing detailed specifications. We might want to get them quickly talking to the right kind of support engineers. For executives it might be thought leadership content about the industry, your place within that and your vision for the future – supporting their need to identify a long term partner.
If the visitor is early in their buying journey you might quickly offer them your best educational content – a webcast you suggest they watch, or a group, forum or event they should join. If they are close to a decision you might want to jump quickly into a “live” chat to make sure any objections are quickly dealt with and a deal is closed. The faster we can understand the reason for their visit, their role and where in the sales cycle they may be, the faster we can direct them appropriately.
Helping to understand your market better
By asking questions we’re not only qualifying prospects but we’re also gathering valuable insight into the market. By triggering chatbot sessions relevant to particular types of content we can ask questions that will help to expose buyer preferences, challenges and the like. We can ask in-depth technical questions or we can offer solutions or useful resources. At the same time, we might observe that, for example, a landing page for, say, an ebook gets lots of views, but few actual downloads. Let’s ask why. Maybe we’re off message in leading them to the asset, or maybe the asset is not what they actually need. Either way, that’s valuable, actionable input that we can use.
The personal touch
It’s tempting when applying a new technology to go “over the top”. To see it as a panacea to a variety of challenges. Make sure however that you don’t “over automate”. We’ve all been stuck in IVR hell on the ‘phone where we must choose a variety of options from a numeric menu, over and over again. This “decision tree” automation will only get you so far, and the”chatty” nature of the way a chatbot works certainly helps to mitigate any fatigue associated with answering multiple questions. At some point though it’s going to be important to oversee, if not intervene in, the automated process and go “live” with a chat session. This shouldn’t be viewed as a failure but instead just the beginning of a valuable (and now somewhat better informed) conversation for your team.
It’s early days for chatbots but already their potential has many possibilities.
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