What is conversational marketing?
Conversational marketing is a strategy that uses real-time, one-on-one conversations to engage with and understand customers. This approach often utilizes chatbots, messaging apps, and other personal communication tools to foster direct interactions, aiming to enhance customer experience and gather insights, while also guiding customers through their buying journey in a more interactive and personalized way.
Conversational marketing: One of the earliest strategies in the sales world
“Once upon a time”, there were door-to-door salesmen. Well, they still exist, but once upon a time there were ONLY traveling salesmen, the pioneers of conversational marketing. They would drive thousands of lonely miles, trunks filled with product, knocking on doors, drinking in hotel lobbies and local watering holes, sussing out leads and shaking hands with strangers, all in the pursuit of making that precious sale, closing the elusive deal, fulfilling their reason for being (and being paid).
One on one interactions
Those one-to-one human interactions allowed the experienced and skilled salesmen of the world to assess their would-be clients in real time; what solutions were they lacking for problems in their personal and professional lives? Was this a person who would be scared off by the hardsell, or respect the direct approach? Would they resent the softsell as an affront to their intelligence, or would they need to be brought gently to the truth: they need your product? In all likelihood, they might not even know there existed a problem, like a hunchback, making the solution itself invisible to them, yet a thoughtful and persuasive sales representative could help them to see more clearly their own state of being.
As a skilled fisherman, the salesperson could feel when to let out some slack, when to churn the reel, when to pull back on the pole, and when to let the fish run and tire itself out. They would learn from experience where the fish ARE, which bait is most attractive, what time of day they
got hungry. Maybe Mr. Fish was an impenetrable wall, but Mrs. Fish got lonely in the afternoon and loved lemon cakes.
Then came innovations like cost effective postage and technological advancements, such as the telephone. Like casting nets, these were far more effective at reaching a wider audience, the salesmen and their employing companies could save the time and money spent on traveling, lodging, and schmoozing to reach exponentially more people in the comfort of their office.
While this sacrificed some of the human connection that allowed a skilled salesman to do their work, the scale of the customer pool gained through these modern inventions more than made up for any inefficiencies in conversational technique and the personal connection lost when faces no longer saw faces.
ATL, BTL & TTL marketing and advertising
The advent of televised and broadcast programming, millions could be reached simultaneously. One well placed advertisement on television or radio could do the work of thousands of salespeople, each prone to human error in their own special way, each susceptible to misrepresenting the corporate message.
Now a single actor could mimic the human effect of the horde of door to door salesmen by appealing to the needs of the public as gleaned by market research. Again, far clumsier than the handshake method, with no possibility to win a sale with human charisma, but the economy of scale won out; many fish would slip through the holes, much resource would be wasted on bycatch, but plenty of targets would be hauled in to make up for it.
Then came email and the internet, and with the world wide web, a whole new wave of mass marketing took over, the ocean trawler of e-commerce. Like a tv ad for a sliver of the cost, bulk email campaigns, search engine optimization, and well designed websites could reach even more people with less effort and investment of resources. But with this leap, human faces and voices disappeared completely from sight and sound. No longer was there a need to pay even the actor. Or was there?
Learn more about: ATL, BTL & TTL strategies
Ironically, as sales methods advanced with technological development, each interaction became less and less effective, due in no small part to the ever increasing impersonality of the interactions between company and client. As a sales manager of mine once instructed, get the email, schedule the phone call, and arrange a meeting: The most effective avenue for closing a deal remains, to this day, the face to face interaction.
So how does one preserve the interpersonal touch while maximizing reach? Where on that graph is the point of optimization? This is where conversational marketing enters the scene. Let’s break it down.
What’s on this page
- Conversational marketing? Never heard of it
- What’s the point with conversational marketing?
- Email marketing reimagined
- Social media: conversational marketing’s home sweet home
- The power of personalization: tailoring the message to the individual
- Case studies and examples of conversational marketing
- How to implement conversational marketing strategies?
Conversational marketing? Never heard of it
Essentially, it is a sub-strategy within the larger framework of inbound marketing (the attracting of clientele via content creation. Think Red Bull’s extreme stunt campaign, for example.) Not so much an innovation as it is a throwback to time tested strategies, the term “conversational marketing” truly started gaining traction in 2017 as a means of referring to the world’s original, pre-advertising sales techniques within the context of the world wide web.
Some of the tactics utilized in the relationship building strategy of conversational marketing are live chats, social media, direct messaging, and, most recently, chatbots and artificial intelligence. Emphasizing real-time, one to one connections between marketers and customers, conversational marketing’s main purpose is to make the customer experience more user friendly and customizable to the individual.
In many ways, conversational marketing was an inevitable evolution of the often cold and sterile world of e-marketing. While technology has expanded market reach, those customers are still the same humans that were customers before the internet, and the same psychology that previously led to effective marketing is required today, too many people want to be seen as the individuals they are, not the statistics of which they are a part. This can be seen in any sales opportunity, where, oftentimes, a simple mistake such as calling a client by the wrong name can sabotage a would-be deal.
What’s the point with conversational marketing?
So what do these aforementioned conversational channels accomplish? They simulate all the
same benefits of a traditional house call: By engaging with prospective clients as individuals, the
customer experience becomes more palatable, allowing the marketer to nurture these leads in tailored fashion by creating more personalized and interactive experiences, making it easier for customers to ask questions, and to get detailed information prior to making purchasing decisions.
Interaction is key!
Interacting with a prospective client in real-time is essential to keeping them on the hook. The
accessibility to the marketplace offered by e-commerce has rendered customer patience all but
extinct. If questions aren’t answered instantly, concerns not assuaged promptly, they will simply spend their money with someone more responsive.
Furthermore, such responsiveness allows businesses to provide dynamic interactions based on the individual. They will literally tell you how to do business with them! All you have to do is listen, and sometimes, ask the right questions.
This cannot be done with the cookie cutter, one customer is like the rest approach.
This added benefit serves simultaneously as informal market research. By engaging in conversations, your business can gather valuable information about an individual’s needs and preferences, the data from which can then be used to tailor further marketing messages and offers to specific individuals. Rather, specific subgroups of client types.
I often think back to a midnight walk on a Maryland beach, blanketed with ghost crabs. While, yes, they were all crabs, some reacted to my presence by skittering into the water, some burrowed into the sand, and some got tough, squatting into a fighter’s stance. A one size fits all email will come off as impersonal, and composing thousands of individuals emails is impractical, but tailoring campaigns to certain customer-types, a process that can only be achieved through conversational marketing, is that Goldy Locks of approaches.
Email marketing reimagined
The traditional email blast may be among the best ways to alienate the end user. Sent with the
intent of maintaining brand awareness and disseminating useful information, well intentioned
newsletter often become a burden. “Another piece of junkmail? Who are they even talking to, I already bought that!” A mission emerges. How do we most respectfully keep a customer’s attention?
From broadcast to dialogue
We’ve established that, in today’s dynamic online landscape, the one-size-fits-all approach of
traditional email blasts is losing its effectiveness. With a conversational marketing approach, email marketing is reimagined as a two-way dialogue, fostering deeper, voluntary engagement. When an
email recipient becomes a willing participant and not a faceless target, elevated results are sure to follow.
Shifting the tone: from informing to engaging
Traditional email marketing often adopts a formal, one-directional tone, bombarding recipients
with promotional messages and product information. Conversational marketing flips the script, prioritizing a friendly, approachable voice that resonates with individuals. Imagine swapping out
robotic salutations like “Dear Valued Customer” for personalized greetings like “Hi [Name],” or replacing dry product descriptions with conversational storytelling that sparks curiosity. This shift in tone fosters a sense of connection, making recipients feel like they’re interacting with a trusted friend or advisor, not another marketing machine.
Social media: conversational marketing’s home sweet home
Social media is the glove to conversational marketing’s hand. Perhaps nowhere else does it feel
as organic as on these platforms. They are an ideal space for implementing conversational marketing strategies due to their inherently interactive natures. Commence with the social media marketing engagement strategies!
Ditch the bullhorn
Let’s face it, the days of barking sales pitches through a social media megaphone are long
gone. Today’s savvy audiences crave interaction, not dictation. They want witty repartee, not robotic retweets. They want a conversation, not a sermon. Conversational marketing is the magic potion that transforms cold, broadcast marketing into a vibrant, engaging dialogue, brewed in the bubbling cauldron of social media.
Email signatures: the subtle significance of the sign-off
Far too often, email signatures are treated as afterthoughts. This blunder has undermined many well crafted correspondences. As in any letter, an email signature frames the tone of the entire
preceding message. Literally called a complimentary close, your signature can make or break the conversation.
Learn: How to sign off an email
Closing with a dissonant tone can single handedly undo all of your digital marketing efforts by leaving the recipient with a bad aftertaste. First impressions usually get the credit of maximal import, but final impressions are nearly as essential in engendering positive reception.
Generate a free email signature with WiseStamp.
The power of personalization: tailoring the message to the individual
Personalization is no longer a buzzword; it’s the bedrock of successful conversational
marketing. By leveraging data and customer insights, businesses can craft emails that feel
relevant and tailored to individual needs and preferences. Imagine receiving an email recommending products you’ve recently viewed or suggesting solutions to specific challenges you’ve faced.
This level of personalization fosters a sense of value and appreciation, boosting engagement and conversion rates.
Instant feedback: the key to building relationships
One of the biggest drawbacks of traditional email marketing is its one-way street nature.
Customers are left to passively consume information, with limited opportunities to provide feedback or ask questions. Conversational marketing bridges this gap by incorporating interactive elements like live chat, embedded polls, and Q&A sessions. This instant feedback loop allows businesses to gather valuable customer insights, address concerns in real-time, and personalize future interactions based on individual preferences. See this great example from Kate Spade.
8 Case studies and examples of conversational marketing:
In this section, we take a deep dive into a series of case studies and examples that showcase the effectiveness of conversational marketing. These real-world instances demonstrate how businesses across various industries have successfully implemented conversational strategies, using tools like chatbots and messaging platforms to engage with customers, solve problems, and drive sales.
1. Dollar Shave Club’s witty emails drive engagement
Dollar Shave Club exemplifies the power of conversational marketing. Their emails are infused with humor and personality, often featuring tongue-in-cheek content that resonates with their target audience. By avoiding the usual marketing jargon and injecting their unique brand voice, Dollar Shave Club has built a loyal following and skyrocketed engagement metrics. Their open rates consistently hover around 70%, and their click-through rates are three times the industry average.
2. MOO cultivates customer connection with personalized storytelling
Moo, the online printing service for custom business cards and other printed materials,
understands the power of personalization. Their email campaigns go beyond generic product
promotions, instead focusing on storytelling and customer experiences.
For example, their “Moovember” campaign encouraged customers to design unique Movember-themed business cards, showcasing the stories and causes they were passionate about. Moo’s conversational
approach fostered a sense of community and engagement.
The Moovember campaign generated over 10,000 unique card designs and led to a 25% increase in website traffic during the month. Moo’s innovation proved personalization and storytelling can turn customers into brand advocates and drive positive outcomes. They also provide templates to personalize your own email campaign.
3. Casper’s interactive quizzes and sleep tips
Casper, the online mattress and sleep-product brand, prioritizes building trust with customers
through informative, but importantly, interactive email content. Their conversational emails often
feature quizzes that help customers identify their sleep styles and personalized recommendations for optimal sleep.
Additionally, they share valuable sleep tips and insights, positioning themselves as sleep experts rather than just mattress sellers. Casper’s conversational emails have boosted their open rates by 30% and click-through rates by 40%. Their focus on customer education and engagement has also led to a significant increase in brand loyalty and positive word-of-mouth.
Providing valuable information and fostering two-way communication through quizzes and interactive elements can build trust and brand loyalty.
4. Sephora’s beauty advisors offer virtual consultations
Sephora understands the importance of instant feedback and personalized guidance. They’ve
integrated a live chat feature within their email campaigns, allowing customers to connect with
virtual beauty advisors for instant product recommendations and personalized consultations. This interactive approach not only enhances the customer experience but also drives sales, with conversion rates for live chat interactions exceeding 30%.
5. Nike: the paragon of conversational marketing
Nike is the paragon of active listeners on social media. They don’t just wait for complaints to
come to them, they seek them out. That is peak customer service, the key to brand loyalty. In focusing on their clientele’s mental and emotional relationship with the brand, Nike has established firm roots of trust. This, in turn, opens up opportunities for them to create hunger marketing campaigns, stimulating their audience with an urge to buy more product.
6. Wendy’s sassy social media clapbacks
Wendy’s sassy tweets, witty comebacks, and playful jabs at competitors (and even themselves)
have garnered them a massive following and earned them the reputation as one of the funniest brands on the platform. Though a distant second to McDonald’s in revenue, the engagement generated by their conversational tone eclipsed what McDonald’s was able to accomplish with their dry, arguably Condescending, messaging.
Wendy’s Twitter account boasts over 4.4 million followers, with tweets regularly receiving thousands of retweets and likes. Their engagement rate is off the charts. Undoubtedly, Wendy’s conversational marketing approach has contributed to its leapfrogging Burger King as #2 in the fast food burger sector.
7. Kimpton Hotels: Season to taste
Mass marketing is so last season. Tailor your responses, acknowledge individual profiles, and
reference past interactions. Make your audience feel like valued guests, not nameless faces in the crowd. Imagine the difference between a generic “Happy birthday!” and a “Hey [Name], hope you’re having a cupcake-tastic birthday!”
Kimpton Hotels, a boutique hotel chain with 81 locations, sees a lot of guests some and go, yet they certainly give the impression they honor each individual. While personalization may seem small, one can only imagine how cemented Elizabeth’s loyalty for Kimpton became as a direct result of this personal reply.
8. Levi Strauss – conversational marketing at it’s best
It might be an understatement to say the Levi Stauss has a leg up on storytelling, what with a rich history nearly 200 years in the making, but full points to them for leveraging their key ingredients. In telling the story of Levi’s early outfitting operation, they loan that identity to every customer. You aren’t just wearing jeans, you are wearing an American tradition of bravery, ruggedness, and adventurousness.
How to implement conversational marketing strategies?
Here’s your implementation guide (including automating that feeling of non-automation):
Step 1: Know your audience, plot your goals
Who are you trying to chat with? Millennial gamers on Twitch? Busy professionals on LinkedIn?
Identifying your ideal audience is crucial. Next, how will you get to them? What’s your
conversational compass pointing towards? Brand awareness? Lead generation? Customer
retention? Quality control? Clarity on goals keeps your interactions focused and prevents
Step 2: Pick your channels for conversation
Think of online platforms as vibrant marketplaces buzzing with your target audience. Instagram
for eye-catching visuals, Twitter for witty quips, email for in-depth storytelling – choose the
channels where your brand’s voice will resonate loudest. Live chat offers instant support,
Facebook groups foster community, and chatbots can handle FAQs with lightning speed. Tailor
your communication channels to the nature of your conversations and where your audience
Step 3: Find your voice and let your personality shine
Forget robotic pronouncements, inject your brand with a personality that sparks connections. Be
it helpful, humorous, or playfully relatable, let your unique voice shine through. Authenticity is
the magic dust that transforms generic interactions into engaging dialogues. Remember, people
crave connection, not algorithms. So, ditch the corporate jargon and speak in a way that resonates with your audience.
Step 4: Automate with artificial intelligence
AI and machine learning are your tech-savvy deckhands, automating repetitive tasks and
analyzing data like ninjas. They can personalize greetings, handle routine inquiries, and even
recommend relevant products based on customer preferences. But Don’t let AI drown out the
human touch. Train your AI to recognize sentiment, escalate complex issues to your human
crew, and always prioritize genuine empathy over robotic efficiency. AI no longer just provides
an advantage; it is essential to keeping up.
Step 5: Measure your progress
Conversational marketing needs clear markers of progress. Open rates and click-throughs are
nice, but go deeper. Track reply rates, customer satisfaction scores, and brand sentiment. Are
your conversations leading to deeper connections and business growth? These are the metrics
that tell the true story of your conversational journey. Remember, effectiveness measurement is
your compass, guiding you towards continuous improvement and optimizing your conversational
Step 6: Embrace the ebb and flow
Conversational marketing is dynamic ocean, not static. You are going to have to think on your
feet, this is not a set it and forget it strategy. To help you, new technologies like voice assistants
and immersive platforms are popping up like islands on the horizon. Be curious, research, and
experiment with evolving trends. Stay agile and be adaptable in your approach. By embracing
the constant change, you ensure your conversation is not just able to reach a wide audience,
but also maintains authenticity.
Where the conversation goes: looking into the crystal ball of conversational marketing
Conversational marketing is no longer a novelty, it’s the rising tide sweeping across industries.
But where does this tide flow in the future?
Imagine AI so nuanced it reads your unspoken needs, tailoring conversations to your unique
desires. Machine learning will decipher subtle cues in tone and behavior, crafting interactions that feel like having a coffee with a best friend who knows your coffee order.
The empathy revolution
Cold automation will get the cold shoulder. AI will be trained to recognize and respond to
emotions, offering support with genuine warmth and understanding. Think proactive chatbots noticing sadness in your tone and sending a personalized meme to cheer you up.
Beyond text walls
Visuals and voice will take center stage. Conversational marketing will embrace immersive
experiences, using augmented reality to try on virtual clothes or letting you chat with brand
mascots in 3D spaces. Picture trying on sunglasses while watching a live influencer video, all
within your messaging app.
The rise of context-aware bots
Chatbots won’t be one-trick ponies anymore. They’ll tap into external data, like your weather or
calendar, to offer contextually relevant suggestions. Imagine your grocery delivery bot reminding
you to buy sunscreen during a heatwave, or your travel bot suggesting restaurants near your
The blurring of lines Conversational marketing won’t be siloed in specific channels. It’ll seamlessly flow across platforms, picking up where you left off. Imagine starting a conversation on Instagram, then having the bot send you a personalized video offer via email the next day.
The future of conversational marketing is a vibrant ecosystem where empathy, intelligence, and innovation intertwine. AI marketing and machine learning will graduate beyond the level of technician, but it will still need humanity to emulate. The future is all about listening, learning, and building genuine relationships, one personalized chat at a time.
Remembering those days of the door-to-door salesmen, forging connections and closing deals
through face-to-face conversations, and comparing it to both the current and future trends of
online conversational marketing, it’s easy to see that what was old is new again.
Conversational marketing isn’t just a trend, it’s a powerful return to this human-centric approach, fueled by modern tools. It’s about forging genuine connections with customers, tailoring experiences, and fostering engagement through real-time dialogue.
Conversational marketing fosters trust, boosts engagement, and unlocks valuable customer insights. It’s the key to a thriving online presence, where brands become trusted advisors, not faceless corporations. Ditch the megaphone; join the conversation. Your customers – and your bottom line – will thank you. So, open the door to deeper connections and unlock the magic of conversational marketing. It’s time to chat.