Yesterday, Drift announced the latest enhancement to their conversational marketing platform, called Leadbot 2.0. Leadbot 2.0 increases the power available to marketers and salespeople utilizing chat while also drastically improving the user interface and ease in building out strong chat experiences.
This news, combined with the leaps HubSpot has made with their soon-to-be-released update to their chat product, Messenger (I’ve had beta access to the product for the last month), means that the momentum behind Chat and Conversational Marketing isn’t going to slow down anytime soon.
And for good reason. I’ve always believed that the mantra of the modern demand generation executive is “Solve for the customer!” Done properly, chat is a powerful tool to empower both the seller and the buyer, enabling them to have meaningful conversations in the most effective and efficient way possible. I’ve made no secret that I don’t believe Chat means the end of other demand generation tactics, but the compelling use cases for Chat continues to increase every day.
However, Chat is by no means an easy or “quick fix” solution. It’s not as simple as throwing some code onto your site, assigning sales reps to manage it, and then waiting for the people to ask you if you will let them buy your product/service. Make no mistake, there are far more bad chat experiences than there are good ones.
Implementing chat requires a commitment of time, money, and a solid effort to develop the strategies, plumbing, and training to make it work. There’s no question it’s a great opportunity to create leverage and lower costs, if - IF - you do it right.
Choosing the Right Chat Approach for Your Business
There are basically two chat approaches available for mid-market businesses:
- Live chat. With live chat, the seller is either available or not available to chat. When they’re not available, a message is displayed and then the chat widget typically asks for an email to follow up. When the seller is available, they chat with the visitor in real time.
- Chatbots. With chatbots, you are able to program your “bot” to initiate and respond to simple messages, ultimately routing the visitor to what they want or to qualify and connect the visitor with a rep. This approach typically integrates with live chat as well, so with chatbots you get both.
For the vast majority of companies, live chat alone is not a viable option. The exception would be if you’re involved in a highly transactional, high-volume sale of a simple product (with lots of demand). Even in this case, chatbots would enhance results. If you’re serious about embracing conversational marketing, the only viable approach is chatbots.
3 Reasons Chat Fails
- Poor response time. If someone engages your chat widget and minutes later nothing happens, it’s a pretty good bet the visitor won’t still be there…and if they are, you may wish they weren’t.
- Too salesy. Nobody wants to “chat” with the proverbial trade show sales rep. (Hi, nice to meet you here’s my card.) Don’t chat any differently than you’d engage with someone if they were standing in front of you for a conversation IRL. (That’s 'in real life' for the over-50 crowd.)
- Lack of context. Too often, chat feels like a badly executed pop-up ad instead of a sincere opportunity to engage in conversations. Be sure you pay adequate attention to how the chat widget appears on the screen and how it “introduces” itself to the visitor.
The 6 Strategies Required for Success
The most common demand generation mistake I see made (and I see it constantly) is the interpretation of a visitor’s (or buyer’s) intent. Far too often, marketers and salespeople think they know why someone is doing something when, in fact, they have no idea.
While this is a problem in any facet of your sales and marketing process, it can be deadly with chat. After all, who wants to visit a home page where a friendly chatbot appears to say:
Hi. Thanks for visiting AABCO. Would you like to:
Talk to a sales rep
Place an order
See a demo
While I’d like to say that this an exaggeration, it’s not. It’s literally copied from a recent visit I made to a website.
In much the same way that Inbound Marketing taught marketers that they couldn’t think of their websites in a singular fashion and instead needed to think in terms of pages fitting the top, middle or bottom of the funnel, conversational marketing requires you to more deeply segment the pages on your website.
To implement chat effectively on your site, you must break your web pages into six segments based on the traffic the page gets and the certainty of intent. There are certainly deeper levels of segmentation and personalization you can and should take with chat, but at a minimum, you’ll want to focus on these six segments:
1. High Traffic/High Intent
Your most valuable pages are born for chat. I should note that it’s not unusual for companies to not have pages that are both high-traffic and high-intent.
Some examples of this type of page are webinar registration pages, deep focus pages that explain aspects of your product/service, bottom funnel calls to action, your pricing page (though be careful here, there are lots of reasons that people end up on pricing pages), or anywhere it’s clear there would be a highly limited number of reasons someone would end up on this page.
When designing your conversational experience for these pages you’ll want to:
- Ensure that the greeting is directly connected to the reason the visitor would be on the page.
- Engage with the visitor in as helpful a way as possible (such as highlighting common questions, pointing important things out more clearly, etc.).
- Be clear on your conversion goal (set a meeting, leave some info, start a live chat, etc.) and lead the visitor there in the same way you would if you were talking with your best friend.
- Be sure you leave them an exit. Too often chatbot experiences hit dead-ends, where the chat just ends or stops working. This is can be very disturbing to the visitor.
2. High Traffic/Medium Intent
In many ways, these are the most difficult pages to plan for. As a general rule, I take the path of, “If I’m in doubt about the clarity of intent for visitors, I’ll default to less intent.” Once again, these are high-value pages because of the traffic they provide, and they are high-opportunity because there’s at least some level of clear intent from the visitor for being there.
This is how we design the chat on these pages:
- Introduce yourself in a low-pressure way, making it very easy and clear for the visitor to take action. Think of this as if you had just walked into a store and were looking at the display. If the salesperson started putting high-pressure tactics on you, you’d leave, but it’s equally ineffective when the salesperson says something like “Can I help you today?” Lame chat introductions like that are just as bad.
- Realize that the visitor is on this page for their reasons, not yours; you may not be able to guess why they’re on the page. For this reason, be sure to have a valuable “other” option that can help lead them where they want to go (in a way that nudges them towards where you want them to go).
- Be clear about your conversion goal. Unlike the high traffic/high intent pages, you’ll want to have 2 - 3 conversion goals. (I like to call this “3 paths to Yes.”)
- Be sure to leave them an exit.
3. High Traffic/Low Intent
The most obvious page that fits these criteria is your home page. It’s typically one of your most highly trafficked pages and people get there for a wide variety of reasons. When a visitor is on one of these pages, your goal should be to get them to take an action. High Traffic/Low Intent pages are akin to lobbies or foyers. We want to make visitors feel welcomed and then get them where they want to go as efficiently as possible.
While we’ll go to varying levels of complexity in setting up the strategy for these pages, the actions we’re solving for will fall into one of three general buckets:
- Those in an information- or education-gathering mode. For these people, we want to use chat to serve as an assistant or concierge. Our chatbot (his name is C.A.P.bot) helps curate our site to get you where you want to go while ensuring you know that he’s always there to help--but only when and how you need him.
- Those who want to take a specific action, get a specific question answered or move a buying process along. For these visitors, C.A.P.bot provides a friendly, “Imagine” experience and gets them routed to the right person or resource.
- The third group is the tougher one to manage. They’re there, but not with any real intent. We want to prompt visitors to move deeper into the site. Our goal is to get them to move to a page where intent begins to emerge. At that point, we can personalize the experience further for them.
High Traffic/Low Intent pages present a tremendous opportunity for marketers and salespeople. The key is to balance your desire to move them forward, with their desire not to be pushed uncomfortably. Visit our homepage or blog index page and you’ll most likely see an example of how we handle these pages. (There are exceptions depending upon who you are.)
4. Medium Traffic/High Intent
These pages aren’t too different from High Traffic/High Intent pages, so you’ll want to handle them in a similar fashion. The lower traffic typically means that the focus of the page is a bit clear and you’ll have the opportunity to sharpen your conversion effort. You’ll want your chat experience to be highly contextualized to the persona and the reason they’re on the page. In these scenarios, your chatbot really begins to pick up the role of a salesperson. You’ll want to plan out the interaction accordingly.
5. Medium Traffic/Medium Intent
This is the biggest wildcard page type, and therefore the approach to these pages will vary widely. Popular blogs posts, product pages and the like often fall into this category. If this post, as an example, demonstrates that it is generating sufficient traffic, it will most likely fall into this segment.
Someone reading this post is most likely trying to figure out how to use chat more effectively. They’ll be pretty serious in their efforts, but their seriousness doesn’t mean they’re even thinking about buying services like those that we provide.
In this case (and again, assuming the post generates traffic to justify the effort), we would create a chat experience that would make the post a bit more interactive (like asking some questions, pointing additional resources out or highlighting how to move deeper into the journey). We wouldn’t push too hard for a live conversation (intent isn’t clear enough), but we’d make it clear and easy to move forward.
6. Low Traffic/High Intent
I love these pages because they convert very well and they’re easy to plan for. For these pages, you’ll create a direct chat experience designed to move them forward or move them out (and by out, we mean to a lower intent area).
Chat is a powerful tool in the demand generator’s toolbox. As with any tool - especially specialized tools - the key is to use them the right way. When you do, growing your business becomes easier and making sales becomes effortless.