Over the past year or so, you may have heard rumblings of an impending robot takeover. Well, I’m pleased to inform you that it’s officially happening (kind of). Chatbots have arrived, and they’re taking the marketing world by storm. But there’s no need to panic. If supplemented by an effective conversational marketing strategy, chatbots can work wonders for your lead generation efforts and ultimately drive growth for your business.

Building a chatbot sounds like a daunting feat, but it doesn't have to be. With HubSpot’s recent acquisition of Motion.ai, building a chatbot is going to be easier than ever before—no programming required. HubSpot is currently in the process of integrating Motion.ai technology into its marketing software, so you too can create a personalized chatbot in 2018.

Why You Should Implement a Conversational Marketing Strategy

As new technologies continue to emerge, it’s up to savvy B2B marketers to evolve their strategies to maintain a competitive edge. If you haven’t considered a conversational marketing strategy yet, it’s time to start.

Fortunately, conversational marketing and inbound are a match made in heaven. Akin to inbound, a conversational marketing strategy is educational and buyer-centric by nature, making it painless to incorporate conversational marketing methods into your existing inbound program. Where conversational marketing differs from traditional inbound is in its medium of implementation. Interactive, on-site chatbots are the optimal vehicle for a true conversational marketing strategy.

Chatbots can engage users with valuable information and help push them down the sales funnel nearly instantly. Rather than searching around your site or waiting for a sales representative to get in contact with them, users can interact directly with your chatbot to receive curated information and resources on the spot. In exchange, your chatbot can collect essential properties to supplement that user’s contact record. It’s a win-win. 

How to Adapt Your Master Form Strategy for Chatbot Logic

Chatbots provide a sociable, conversational experience that a traditional form strategy just can’t compete with. If you, like many modern B2B marketers, have built your database through a traditional inbound form strategy, you may be panicking right now. But don’t fret! Your hard work hasn’t gone to waste. Your master form strategy can be easily and effectively adapted for a chatbot.

It’s critical to maintain inbound form strategy best practices when formulating your chatbot’s responses. The first step to aligning your chatbot logic with your existing form strategy is prioritizing the essential data points you’d like to collect. As with any lead capture strategy, less is more. If you can simplify your form to request only the most valuable contact properties, the higher the chance that a user will fill out that form. The same logic applies to chatbots. Keep your interactions short, concise, and most importantly, helpful. Moreover, these interactions should mirror your form strategy based on the context of the engagement and the user’s position in the buyer’s journey.

Once you’ve determined the form fields you want to map to your chatbot, consider how that piece of information would be collected in a real-life interaction. For example, imagine that a stranger came up to you and simply asked “Name and phone number?” rather than introducing themselves and building a rapport. You would likely be taken aback and maybe even vexed. This is certainly not an appropriate way to start a conversation on or offline, especially with a prospective customer. 

Thanks to traditional forms, marketers have been getting away with this blunt, inhuman method of lead capture for a while. But it’s time to flip the script; it is conversational marketing after all. Establishing a connection with your prospects is essential at every part of the sales cycle, not just the opportunity stage. Your chatbot should uphold the same standard of courtesy that you hold your sales representatives to. Doing so will ensure that your prospects are being delighted from first touch to closed won, all the way through up-sells and renewals.

It’s not always obvious how certain form fields can be translated for conversational marketing, but as long as you’re requesting contextually relevant pieces of information, practically any data point can be incorporated into friendly banter. It can be easy to forget that not everybody is completely psyched about the robot takeover, so be mindful that users may be reluctant or uncertain about providing information to your chatbot. By keeping your requests friendly and conversational, you can better mitigate that apprehension and ensure that users feel comfortable interacting with your bot.  

For example, if a user selects that they’re interested in accessing a content offer that would traditionally require a form asking for their name and email, your chatbot could reply with something like, “Great! Can I collect your name and email in case we get disconnected?” By incorporating form fields into a reasonable, sociable phrase, you can collect your desired data points without intimidating your user.

Aligning Your Chatbot With Existing Conversion Paths

Because chatbots are awesome, you can do more than just collect information with them; they can be used to serve lead nurturing content on the spot. No longer will your leads have to fill out a form on a landing page to access contextually relevant, educational content. Even better, they won't have to search around your resource library to find it. Your chatbot can serve them a custom content suggestion based on their previous conversions to nurture them through the lifecycle stages.

Always remember to align your chatbot’s questions with the user’s lifecycle stage by maintaining your inbound form strategy best practices. Keeping your lead capture strategy consistent across your website will ensure that your prospects are being served the appropriate pieces of content to urge them down the funnel.

For example, if a user returns to your website after downloading a top-of-funnel piece of content, it wouldn’t make sense for your chatbot to suggest they download that same offer a second time. Rather, your chatbot could say something like “Hey there, I noticed that you’ve downloaded our ebook on lead generation. Can I suggest a piece of content to complement it?” This is a simple, personalized way to nurture a lead with contextually relevant content.

Requesting private data points too early can be off-putting and potentially break trust with your prospect. Just like you wouldn’t request a phone number in a top-of-funnel form, your chatbot shouldn’t ask for a user’s phone number in a top-of-funnel interaction. For top-of-funnel conversions, basic details like name and email are a safe bet, no matter your method of lead capture. Conversely, if a user is highly interested in your business and is requesting to get in contact with a sales representative, your chatbot should collect their contact information and essential details about their company so that a rep can better tailor their follow-up.

Best Practices for Measuring the Success of Conversational Marketing

No savvy B2B marketer would dare to leave their website static for too long. As lead generation aficionados, we’re always searching for new ways to optimize for conversion. Like any element on your website, you should consistently work to improve and evolve your chabot to drive growth.

By monitoring the following conversational marketing metrics, you can better gauge the effectiveness of your chatbot and in turn, identify opportunities for improvement:

  • Total users
  • New users
  • Session duration
  • User engagement rate
  • Conversion rate
  • Error triggers

To better gauge your chatbot’s contribution to revenue, it’s essential to consider conversational marketing metrics in the context of your entire demand generation program. Ensure that you’re weighting your conversational marketing touch points in alignment with your other marketing channels for the most accurate results.

Chatbot technology and conversational marketing can seamlessly integrate with your existing strategy to amplify your inbound marketing efforts. By streamlining the buyer's journey using a chatbot, you'll be able to help your users quickly access the information they need and in turn, collect essential data points to enrich their contact records.

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Originally published Jun 26, 2018 9:00:00 AM, updated December 02 2019