Customize is the marketing mantra of the hour. I urge my clients to study data to understand how to deliver the individualized service their members want. And, data is important, but there’s a simpler path to engagement that sometimes gets neglected. What could be more personal than a good old-fashioned conversation?

Our expanding digital options are increasingly paired with the desire for connection. Post-pandemic, we’re seeing more businesses realize the value of conversational marketing, or actually talking with their customers and letting them respond. Whether it’s via a chatbot, a human, or some combination of the two, dialoguing in real time is a powerful tool to build sales and loyalty.

Consider this—the typical sales funnel puts a conversation at the end of multiple one-way interactions. Talking with customers at the beginning of their journey creates an authentic experience that gets the relationship-building off to a quick start. It gives your audience a voice, agency, and the all-important opportunity to ask questions.

IBM, makers of the chatbot Watson, describes the strategy like this:

“Conversational marketing is a form of interactive marketing that engages consumers in dialogue-driven, personalized experiences at a one-to-one level, enabling brands to listen and gain unique customer insights while also providing value to the user.”

(Fun fact—Watson was developed to answer questions on the quiz show Jeopardy! and in 2011 won a $1 million prize! Watson’s first commercial application was more serious. The software was used for utilization management decisions in lung cancer treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.)

These statistics highlight the value and impact of conversational marketing.

  • Conversational marketing can increase conversion rates by up to 45%. (Drift Research Report)
  • Businesses that adopt conversational marketing are 80% more likely to retain customers. (ZipDo)
  • 90% of B2B decision-makers believe conversational marketing can improve customer experience. (Drift Research Report)
  • 79% of consumers prefer live chat for quick communication. (Drift Research Report)

Pamper Members

Last week, I described the steps involved in adding a chatbot/s to your platforms. In this post, I want to highlight the value of chatting, which you can implement either with or without an electronic sidekick. Live chat, or chatting with a human, is a great way to deliver white glove member services and to obtain valuable feedback.

Live chat delivers white glove member service.

You may wonder how live chat differs from a phone conversation. Of course, some questions are complex, confidential, or multilayered, and don’t lend themselves to a written dialogue. In general, live chat offers greater efficiency and convenience, especially in the age of recorded messaging.

Without a human operator, just finding the right person to talk with can be an exercise in patience. It is refreshing not to feel my blood pressure rise when I’m the prisoner of a pre-recorded telephone loop that’s headed in the wrong direction.

I also like the option of multitasking while I am getting the information I need. Chatting is efficient, it’s convenient, and your organization can have a written record of the conversation as well as analytics regarding the interactions.

If diversity, equity, and inclusion are priorities, chatting should also be on your agenda as a readily available option for users who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Here are a few examples of how live chat supports more positive member experiences.

  • Members with technical questions can get documented responses quickly. This is especially helpful when the instructions are complicated.
  • Purchasers can receive product information without having to leave the sales site.
  • Prospective members can ask questions without committing to a phone call.

Conserve Resources and Convert Prospects

In addition to making current members happy, live chat can also help you win new friends. According to Insite Software:

  • By quickly answering questions and eliminating roadblocks to a purchase chat increases conversions by 20%.
  • Personal interaction makes customers who chat three times more likely to buy. 
  • Instant gratification leaves customers more satisfied and improves their overall experience.

One of the biggest perks for organizations is cost. Many vendors can install this function on your website or social platforms for under $20 per month. Some companies even provide limited-option services free of charge. Bots and analytics are frequently part of the package.

When the humans are relaxing, live chat is offline.

Here’s the Forbes list of 2023s best live chat providers:

Pair People, AI, and Innovation

The human touch can make a significant impact. But when the humans are watching the kids play soccer or having dinner, live chat is offline. It can’t provide the 24/7 assistance your members may expect. Pairing live interactions with a chatbot, to respond after business hours or to simpler questions, is an ideal scenario. By answering the most predictable questions, chatbots free humans for more important communications.

Something I find compelling about the bots is their ability to market your brand in an entirely new way. Last week I mentioned Rose, the Las Vegas Cosmopolitan Hotel’s digital concierge. Travel and Leisure magazine describes Rose like this:

“When guests check in to the hotel, a front desk representative gives them a card that reads: “Know my secrets. Text me,” and “I am the answer to the question that you never asked.” The card also bears Rose’s phone number, which you can text for nearly anything you might need during your stay. (In the background, staff of The Cosmopolitan are on hand to administer anything that Rose cannot.)”

The travel industry was quick to pick up on both the practical and promotional value of bots. Rose, who is the hotel’s most popular influencer, was launched in 2017.

Emirates Vacations takes the unique tack of placing a bot within their display ads. If you are ogling that enticing pic of the infinity pool, all you need to do is click on the ad to chat about your next tropical experience. After running the promotion for 30 days, the company reported an 87 percent increase in engagement compared to its click-through ads.

Luxury brand Burberry launched its chatbot back in 2016. From giving fashionistas first-glimpses of new collections to pairing them with a live consultant, the bot has multiple unique functions.

Turn Chat Into Charm

These examples highlight how human ingenuity powered by digital systems can turn a simple function like chat into a multipurpose tool for building excitement, loyalty, and engagement.

I frequently write about Association 4.0 practices, or strategies for success in the digital marketplace. Pairing the old-fashioned idea of talking with your customers with the next-generation concept of turning machines into marketers is the essence of that leadership style.