Conversation is at the heart of everything we do as humans. Body language, facial expressions, and hand gestures all play a part in the wonderful world of social interaction.
And with that, written discourse has evolved to a point that might be compared to verbal interactions.
With words, we can communicate almost anything.
So when it comes to our customers and their expectations, how do we replicate those experiences expected from a real-life conversation?
Digital marketers introduced conversational marketing.
With the use of tools such as chatbots, live chats, and instant messaging, brands are increasingly able to create a conversation-led service to interact with their customers.
Imagine visiting a website and talking to a real-life advisor in real time. Having a conversation from within a website. Not so long ago, this idea seemed like pure fantasy.
But, even before the days of the internet and digital marketing, that still sounds quite familiar, doesn’t it?
That’s because conversational marketing comes from the very essence that made the world of retail (not e-commerce) thrive. It’s in the name – conversation.
Before the days of online shopping and self-serve checkouts, you could rarely make a purchase without a conversation.
Conversational marketing is less of a digital strategy itself, and more of a type of physical marketing that, as digital marketers, we might easily forget.
So, what is conversational marketing?
Conversational marketing is a tactic used as part of a digital marketing strategy to provide customer-centric service in a dialogue-driven format. It’s a form of inbound marketing that is used to create tailored relationships with users, whilst making their experience as pain-free as possible.
The pain points that we’d look to tackle when using conversational marketing are all reminiscent of those of a typical high-street store:
- Increase customer engagement
- Provide excellent customer service
- Grow revenue
These two-way communication systems are used to nurture customer relationships by providing real-to-life, tailored experiences online.
Chatbots, live chats, and messaging apps have made interacting with customers online much more accessible, and customer-driven dialogue is now possible from an online service – to the point consumers have almost come to expect it.
Modern conversational marketing also feeds directly into the instant-gratification models we’ve become accustomed to – Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify, Facebook etc. Customers expect instant answers and instant results, and it’s up to us as marketers to provide them.
What is a Chatbot?
Chatbot marketing is one of the most prominent tools within conversational marketing. They are designed with pre-written responses to common customer queries.
This way, you do not need to expend additional resources to answer commonly asked questions or relay order details.
Chatbots can also operate 24/7, so your customers will never be without access to important information.
There are also a number of different types of chatbot you can use, depending on your chatbot marketing requirements.
What is Live Chat for business?
Live chat marketing allows companies to communicate with their prospects in real time directly from the website.
This live support makes interacting with customers as tailored and personable as it needs to be. Questions can be answered, and the potential of making a sale can be driven directly into those moments.
Unfortunately, this does require operators to be available for all of these customers. If the traffic is high, additional resources will be needed to keep up with demand, and the return on investment may not always pay off.
Is Instant Messaging good for business?
Businesses may reap the benefits of instant messaging platforms, such as Messenger and WhatsApp, by connecting and interacting with their customers in a format they’re already familiar with.
With the ability to create predetermined chatbots, businesses are able to communicate with their prospects through platforms they are comfortable using and can trust.
Why is conversational marketing important?
Conversational marketing tools provide the opportunity to answer your customer’s questions across multiple channels without having them trawl across your site themselves.
That’s what customers want, an instant answer whilst putting in as little effort as possible.
That’s what they’ve always had on the high street.
For the most part, conversation allows us to reach a conclusion to our query as fast as possible and rarely leaves a question unanswered.
But if your customer fails to find the answer to their query on their own, there’s nothing stopping them from visiting a competitor who provides that answer with more ease.
Don’t get me wrong, I know a customer can’t just walk up to the landing page, flag down an advisor, and ask where the most popular vegan organic shampoo for fine hair is.
That’s where chatbots, live chats, and instant messaging integration comes in handy.
Customers can expect the same level of service they’d receive in person.
It’s the closest, most advanced offering that brands have to integrate physical service expectations into their online presence.
Brands can adapt their messaging and tone of voice to accommodate each enquiring customer, and provide refined and tailored interactions.
At the core of it all, conversational marketing tools do a good job of replicating those physical store targets:
- Engagement is encouraged with clear-cut and well-placed CTAs
- Tailored service is provided to each customer
At the heart of it all, conversational marketing isn’t just a tool. It isn’t just a tactic. It’s just conversation.
Conversational Marketing Has Its Flaws
“ But that’s quite expensive just to have a conversation, isn’t it?”
It can be an exceptionally expensive investment that not every company has the resources to invest.
Chatbots can add a wealth of value to your online operations. Able to speed up payment processes, answer customer questions, and handle order data, there are a variety of chatbots that can assist your business these days.
They also operate 24/7. Not only are they available for your customers around the clock, but you’re also not losing resources to salaried employees.
However, there are only so many unique solutions pre-written responses can solve through a chatbot.
Even impressive tools, such as Conversational AI (Artificial Intelligence), are inept at resolving every customer issue or query.
Instant messaging, through the guise of WhatsApp and Messenger, allows customers to interact with a business directly from their mobile devices. They’re platforms consumers are comfortable with. It brings the business to them in a format they recognise and, distinctly, feel in control of.
But whether you’re speaking to a chatbot or even a live advisor, instant messaging has its limitations. When it comes to representing real human conversation, a quick text does not represent the full scale of a customer’s query.
Whilst conversational marketing might improve a variety of operations within your online strategy, there are many other effective methods that are simply overlooked. This got me thinking…
Conversational Marketing in the Wild: Currys Vs. AO
“Is conversational marketing strictly defined by chatbots and other expensive marketing tools?”
When we look at conversational marketing, the core element always remains the same. It is just conversation.
So, is it possible to provide a sense of conversation without actually conversing?
Though I can’t see the actual click-through rates, I wondered whether online retailers could be manipulating Google by using top level conversational tactics.
Is Google favouring conversational marketing in the SERPs?
Disclaimer: Before I began this research, I believed I was onto something. I am not afraid to admit that I may be wrong, but please stick with me.
Here’s how I should have been right.
Like some SEOs, I believe that title tags and meta descriptions are an incredibly important part of any organic search strategy. Yes, I am aware they don’t hold the most value in terms of “ranking”, but they are the key to having a potential customer visit your site instead of that of the next ranking competitor.
Well-optimised title tags and meta descriptions can make all the difference when it comes to click-throughs between a top-ranking and second-ranking page.
What better place to implement conversational tones and tactics?
Here is how I believed that Currys had mastered conversational marketing from the outset.
It all started with a search for coffee bean machines…
Lo-and-behold, Currys were ranking first in Google’s results pages.
For those in the back who don’t know, Currys are one of the UK’s top electrical and appliance retailers – both online AND offline.
Following close behind, ranking second, was AO – one of the UK’s top online only electrical and appliance retailers.
And not to over simplify things, I appreciate that there are a lot of different factors that lead to this result, but to anybody else, these title tags say exactly the same thing (bar the branding). The only key difference is the capitalisation.
It’s a known fact that capitalisation in title tags does not affect SEO, but I was interested nevertheless.
Why was Currys using sentence case, but AO using title case?
The answer, I thought, was simple. You’d expect a title tag to be written in the title case, as the name implies.
Currys, on the other hand, were replicating the written style of conversation, of sentences.
This isn’t uncommon for informal blog posts, but it is for a professional online retailer.
Take a look at the next two search results:
Two blog posts are both being presented using sentence case in their title tags. These articles are designed to be conversational in tone to connect with their audiences on a conversational level – somewhere in the middle of the marketing funnel.
Compare that to AO, for example. Their use of the title case – correct and professional grammar – elicits trust and professionalism, and what better place to implement trust signals than in one of the first places potential customers will come across your business?
Currys on the other hand have a much greater tool at their disposal to elicit trust – the conversation and service provided within their physical stores. It is with this service that Currys outperforms their competitors on the high street.
It is this core customer service, as with many physical stores, that increases customer retention and helps grow revenue.
Why wouldn’t they implement these trust signals, this success, into their digital marketing efforts?
I believed Currys had cracked it – they were implementing a conversational tone online to align with their physical store experience; of raw customer conversation. They had successfully aligned their physical and online marketing efforts to make the experience much more human.
So, had Currys mastered the raw art of conversational marketing without the implementation of expensive tools and resources?
As it turns out
Probably not. But it’s still something to be conscious of.
It’s not an unknown fact that Google likes to change title tags as it sees fit, I had to do my due diligence and back up my suspicions.
Using tools such as SEO Minion, I was able to identify the true title tags of the pages.
If we compare the true title tag to the one Google had chosen to present, my theory no longer rings true.
Capitalisation is all over the place. There is no consistent case. It’s quite frankly a mess.
What had actually happened was some classic truncation from good old Google, and the H1 of the site was pulled instead.
For some clarity, AO’s title tags were represented as they were written, and not truncated by Google’s algorithms:
This blew my theory completely out of the water.
But, I still believe that conversational marketing should not be, and is not confined behind the guise of expensive digital marketing tools.
Conversational marketing is, as it should be, a stylistic form. So what can be done beyond spending a ton of money on costly interactive tools?
6 Ways to Improve Your Conversational Marketing on a Budget
Conversational marketing, as a whole, is grounded within those expensive chatbots and interactive tools. Whilst many businesses can benefit from these, not every business can afford them.
Here are six ways you can implement a conversational marketing strategy without breaking the bank.
Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
As previously mentioned, focusing on your brand awareness is essential to ensuring customers click through to your website.
Don’t just sell your customers the dream – be consistent in your tonality and messaging.
Your title tags and meta description should promote personality as well as what you’re selling from the outset – whether that’s a product, service or content, the key is making the connection. Make sure that these are optimised for click-through rates with clear, relevant and relatable messaging.
Focus on your Inbound Marketing
Once customers have landed on your site it is imperative that you keep them there.
Create valuable content around your site with a focus on the questions that people are asking – create an FAQs section, blog posts and hub content to present your expertise and knowledge to your potential customers. Make sure the content on your website is as helpful as possible.
If this information is easily accessible and navigable from relevant areas of your site, you’re likely to keep users on your site for longer, and it is something they’re able to learn from and retain for future use or to make better-informed purchasing decisions
Email automation is a useful tool that allows you to address particular visitors at particular times, depending on who they are, how they interact with your site, and whereabouts they are in the sales funnel.
You can use targeted language for individual visitors based on the actions they’ve taken on your site. Use conversational tones and other conversational marketing techniques such as authentic, personalised CTAs where you can address their needs by leading them to things such as FAQs, hub content, how-to guides and beyond.
All of these things help add value and improve trust between your brand and your potential customers, supplying them with a guiding voice and the right kind of expertise exactly when they need it.
Grammarly’s Tone Detector
Grammarly is a fantastic tool that digital marketers and other writers have been using on the web for a few years. It is designed to offer grammar suggestions to improve the quality of your writing.
One neat feature of Grammarly is the Tone Detector.
This feature identifies the tone of your writing and allows you to make amendments according to the message you are trying to convey.
You can use this across all of your marketing channels, and especially within your on-page SEO.
Social Media Marketing
Social media platforms are the hubs of online conversation and have completely changed how we interact with each other, how we shop, even the language we use.
Building a following through social media has almost become vital these days. It will allow you to be reactive and engage with your customers directly, whilst also building brand awareness and trust.
Most social media platforms are now optimised for business, so customers can leave reviews, share your content, and access your services directly through your social media profile.
If you’re looking to interact with your customers directly in real time, social media marketing can be a cost-effective way to build those relationships and engage in that much-needed conversation.
Though most chatbots can cost more money and resources that many SME’s and other businesses are unable to afford, there are free chatbots available.
Utilising these tools can be a helpful way to ensure that you are providing the best customer service from your online presence.
Digital marketing strategies are constantly adapting and evolving to accommodate customers’ expectations.
Whilst we might look towards conversational marketing tools to better our online marketing efforts, it’s worth remembering that there are many other techniques available.
But, don’t get me wrong, if you have the resources, tools such as instant messaging integration and online chats can elevate your service offering to the next level, so why not give them a try?
If you’re unsure which route is right for you when it comes to conversational marketing, just get in touch!