Conversational Marketing and B2B – Watch this Space.
Recently the latest trend to become fashionable in marketing circles is what is called “conversational marketing“. At its essence this technique attempts replicate what we’ve been doing in face to face selling situations for millennia. It attempts to tailor the journey of a prospect based on incremental pieces of information gained from interacting with them at each stage in the “journey”. The difference today however that these interactions are actually with a machine rather than a person – primarily today using chatbots. By tailoring the journey the hope is that the sales process can be enhanced, shortened and overall made more efficient and effective. By following these conversation flows it is also possible to get vital insights into what questions customers ask, and what they really care about – further helping tailor int the offer in the future. It’s easy to see how many, relatively simple sales enquiries could be handled this way in the future. For a good intro video and demo of chatbots in action, check out the work of Jim Rowe who is doing some great work in this space at the moment using Facebook Messenger bots.
What About Conversational Marketing and B2B?
In the B2B technology world where our clients operate sales are rarely, if ever done quickly, remotely and with little or no personal interaction. Often times there is a complex discussion to understand the customer’s need, and debate over the right kind of solution and its optimal configuration. What then follows is often a protracted conversation about when and how to purchase the product or service, how it might evolve over time, and lastly how that product or service will be supported and maintained going forward. These deals will often include a number of people in the process both assessing and influencing the process – and in many instances the actual deal itself will be through a channel partner. Clearly a chatbot alone is not going to cut it.
That said, it’s not that conversational marketing techniques don’t have a place. I think what we’ll see is its use in guiding sections of the research and decision making process. And while chatbots in Facebook messenger will likely work well for B2C for B2B and think the “conversations” will likely take place within dedicated online platforms such as the customer’s website. I think we’ll also see it as part of a more sophisticated interaction enabled by new technologies such as WebRTC that enable seamless transitions between automated chat-bot style interactions, through to human interaction in a chat window – right through to live interactive video chat. It’s a space called contextual communication where one of our clients, IPCortex are quite active right now. In fact IPCortex CEO, Rob Pickering has written numerous articles on the topic, for example here and here.
Right now we’re evaluating the first places to employ these techniques with our clients. It’s early days but we can already see some interesting use cases within parts of the customer relationship where conversational marketing techniques may help – but always with the ability to connect to a human just a single step away.
If you want to find out more about our thoughts on where this is headed, or want to talk about how we can help you ready your marketing strategy to incorporate it, why not get in touch?