In early 1848, gold was discovered in the United States’ Sacramento Valley sparking a mass migration of people that would forever change the country’s landscape.
Pursuing what looked like a shortcut to wealth, thousands of people took the treacherous journey from the civilized East to the uncharted West to mine the ground in search of precious specks of gold.
What transpired over the subsequent years is a significant piece of US History now known as the California Gold Rush.
Fast forward to today and in some ways, the Gold Rush reminds me of inbound marketing.
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The Traffic Rush of 2005
The expression “stake your claim” came from the Gold Rush.
As miners expanded into the West, they would literally place wooden stakes in the ground to mark, or more literally, stake their claim on land.
That claim would be the land miners would displace sifting through it in the search for gold.
Aside from some best practice and intuition, there wasn’t much telling these miners if their claim would be chock full or fully devoid of gold flecked wealth.
These claims are a lot like modern marketing tactics. Like stakes, marketers deploy them out to attract large volumes of traffic in hopes of it containing sales opportunities (the 21st century equivalent of marketing gold).
But here’s the thing, we need to start shifting how we define marketing success.
As any tale of the California Gold Rush would tell you, fortune isn’t measured in the number of stakes you lay.
Conversational Marketing is the use of live chat, chatbots, and social monitoring to foster genuine conversations and real relationships. It is the return to businesses communicating organically.
We tried applying the traditional measures of success to Conversational, but it felt a lot like putting a square peg into a round hole.
Something wasn’t adding up. Traffic and conversion rate didn’t correlate to the success we were seeing.
It was clear, we needed to find a new way of measuring success.
I chewed on this problem for a while and then it hit me, but in order to explain, we need to take a detour into the reason we’re taking Conversational so serious in the first place.
Conversational is the Future of How You’ll Do Business
You know, I chuckled to myself when writing that heading because while I do feel it’s true, the oldest way of doing business is conversationally.
Pause and think about that with me for a second.
Back in 1849, if you were arranging travel West in search of gold, how would you do it? Would you fill out a form? Of course, not!
You’d talk to someone who owned a horse and wagon. You’d ask them questions and ultimately, you’d strike a deal.
Business was done entirely through human conversation. Somewhere along the road, however, we got away from that.
Today, you can host a website, create a conversion path, and sell a product, all without ever interacting with your customer. Many people do.
Your website does the talking. It just doesn’t do it very well.
The entire marketing automation ecosystem is a response to this. HubSpot, “Send an email to people who visit these five pages.” We’re not talking to those people. We’re talking to a persona; a generalized representation of them.
We have this idea that everything we need to do needs to be volume-based, done at-scale, and people tend to optimize their funnels from the top down. I’ll take more traffic with a side of conversion rate, please.
In reality, all of that traffic is made up of people and each of those people is unique. Their problems are unique and how you solve for them are unique. I worry that we’ve lost sight of that in our marketing.
Today, we’re in the business of marketing at scale. Business communication went from one-to-one to one-to-many.
We ended up where we are today, talking one-to-many, because the digital age has made it possible and as marketers, we took the bait.
However, in an perfect world, aren’t the only people we need to optimized for the ones who end up buying? Are we neglecting those quality conversations in favor or driving more traffic or getting more conversions?
Conversational is all about the use of genuine conversations to foster real relationships. It is the return to businesses communicating organically.
It is the return to the way business had always been done.
Genuine Business Relationships, at Scale
As I’m writing this, I can hear people’s objections in my head.
Too bad this isn’t a conversation, right?
“Kyle, we can’t afford to talk to everyone who visits our website. If I knew who to talk to, of course we’d talk to them.”
The current thinking is that we can’t have genuine one-to-one conversations at scale.
Well, I’m here to convince you that’s no longer true and that’s why Conversational is likely the biggest opportunity for your business right now.
Stick with me. We’ve finally come full circle.
The Foundation of Your Conversational Strategy
As I’ve shared before, we made the mistake of overthinking conversational when we started making it a cornerstone of IMPACT’s strategy.
Learn from our mistakes. Keep it simple.
At the end of the day, focus on creating a path towards having a genuine conversation with your visitors.
This is all about building real relationships.
If you’ve already built out an inbound marketing program, this will be easy. Famous last words, right?
Allow your visitors to research and self-select.
Please don’t make the mistake of reading this blog article and interpreting it as me telling you traffic isn’t important or that you shouldn’t be producing remarkable educational content.
That couldn’t be farther from my intent.
I’m simply saying we may be robbing Peter to pay Paul. It’s time we focus on creating genuine, human, experiences that compliment all the work we’ve put into attracting and educating the right people.
Here’s why: Have you ever been to a restaurant, gone to order the lobster, and seen “Market Price” next to it?
When most people see this, a few things generally go through their minds: “It’s probably expensive. I better pick something else” or “I don’t dare ask the waiter the price and risk looking cheap.”
This is the same experience you’re creating for potential customers when you omit valuable details, like pricing, from your website.
Now, again, I can hear the objections to what I’m saying.
“Kyle, we can’t put pricing on our website. Our competitors will see it.”
“Kyle, we can’t put our pricing on our website. It’s custom to every customer.”
First of all, your competitors already know your pricing. Let’s get that off the table.
As for your custom pricing, this is exactly why your business needs to be taking advantage of Conversational.
You can still communicate one-to-many on your website, giving general ranges, while setting the expectation that your pricing is custom. This builds trust, but also opens the door for you to talk to the right people.
See, Conversational isn’t forcing your community to engage with you before they’re ready. It’s the opportunity for them to do so when it’s right for them.
Invite your visitors in.
Once everything is out in the open, there’s nothing to hold people back from reaching out to you.
Sometimes, though, you have to lay out the welcome mat.
The key here is reducing the perceived risk people have of communicating with you. This brings us right back to the market price example.
To name a few, nobody wants to feel:
Like they’re wasting their time
On the hook to make a purchase
People need to know you know their time is valuable. They need to know that you’re there to help. They need to know that it’ll be a two-way conversation, not them getting pitched.
That’s why I recommend crafting your live chat invitation just like you were talking to a person in real life.
Here’s some things that we’ve found help drastically:
Let people know if you are or aren’t available.
Let them know what to expect when they chat in.
Let people know that you want to talk to them. Because you do, right?
In practice, it can be as simple as, “I’m here now to chat if you have any questions.” Just like it would be in person.
You need to experiment with your own conversational voice: How does your brand and its employees represent themselves on conversational?
At the end of the day, it’s all about letting people know that you want to have a real, human-to-human conversation with them.
Treat Your Visitors Like Humans, Not Metrics
I just had a lunch meeting (read: nerding out about inbound) where we got really deep into an interesting conversation: Have we, as marketers, favored things we can measure over things our gut tells us are the best experience?
My favorite example of this is: exit-intent. (If you’re not familiar, exit-intent are those little pop-ups that show-up when you try to leave the page.)
We know that exit-intent sucks. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard people complain about it or that I’ve passed judgement on a website for using it. (Yes, even IMPACT’s.)
It’s pretty clear that we dislike exit-intent. However, all the data shows it works. It will increase the number of people who convert on your website.
The question is this: Because we cannot readily measure the negative effects of having exit-intent (i.e. pissed-off users, increased friction, decreased trust), do we favor what we know, that exit-intent increases conversion rate, even when our gut tells us that the negative effects are potential big?
Sadly, the answer is, most often, yes.
This article isn’t about swaying your decision to use or not use exit-intent, so why is this important?
Conversational is hedged in the idea that we need to return to creating genuine relationships with our community. Every experience with your company and conversation with a sales rep is part of that relationship.
You can’t build genuine relationships on a foundation of mistrust and poor user experience.
Even if you can’t easily measure it, pay close attention to the experience you’re delivering to your users. Your relationship with them may be hard to measure, but I assure you it’s valuable.
Your Future Success Metrics
I can’t write this blog article telling you to start leaning on Conversational Marketing, Sales, and Service and not give you a way to measure the success with it.
That’d just be uncool, and I’m cool, I promise.
I started this article by saying that we tried applying traditional metrics to conversational and they didn’t work. Well, luckily, we found metrics that did.
These metrics not only paint a clear picture of how our success is growing, they’re clearly representative of the relationships we’re building.
The best part about it, they’re simple. Real simple.
Volume of Conversations
This one is my favorite. It simply shows us, “this is how many people we’ve talked to.”
The reason it’s my favorite is as it grows, it shows we’ve created more relationships. It shows we’re creating comfort in the IMPACT community.
Some of the conversations are short while some of them turn into massive deals, but every single one of them is attributed to a real relationship we’ve developed with one of our visitors.
How cool is that?
Volume of Conversation-Attributed Deals
This is the one you’ll want to bring up at your next review, especially if your results are as good as I expect they’ll be.
Volume of Conversation-Attributed Deals shows you how many conversations transitioned into a sales conversation. This metric shows the sales readiness of the conversations you have which will help you optimize how you position chat. It’s also a great metric to track the effectiveness of your team on chat.
At the end of the day, this is the metric that made me realize that Conversational was the future.
People who want to work with IMPACT love using live chat as a way to start the sales process and I don’t blame them; It’s as easy as it is low commitment.
When Should You Start?
Rereading through this blog, I remembered, I promised to mention how businesses can do conversational at scale.
There are finally tools available that allow businesses to create genuine one-to-one relationships without hiring an entire team to staff live chat.
These tools leverage conversational bots to route conversations, fast-lane qualified leads, and manage offline hours. On-top of that, they enable reps to better manage conversations and handle higher volumes.
IMPACT is heavily involved with tools like Drift and HubSpot and they both enable us to field hundreds of conversations a month that we weren’t having before.
I’d be lying if I said we weren’t putting human resources into Conversational Marketing.
Of course, we are -- but the time we spend doing it is generating a lot evangelists and a lot of sales. So much so it’s clear it’s well-worth the investment.
Marketing automation and human-to-human business are finally colliding. It’s no longer a choice of one or the other. You can reap the benefits of both.
The time to start thinking conversationally is now.
Hey! I had a ton of fun writing that.
I hope I get to see you at IMPACT Live. I'm going to be sharing IMPACT's strategy and tactics we're using to crush it with Conversational.