Every Good Relationship Starts with a Conversation

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Photo Credit: Volodymyr Hryshchenko

How conversational marketing is helping companies build customer-focussed strategies.

People used to talk more. We would talk at school, then at work, at dinner parties and events. Then we’d rush home to talk to our families, call our friends and gossip with our neighbours. We used to use phones on the regular and left voice mails to ask that people call us back (to talk). The world was literally buzzing with talk.

But that all changed at some point. Emails eventually killed off handwritten letters, pages and texts eventually replaced voice mail and mobile technology eventually cut the cord to our landlines. For a long time, it felt like talking was a burden. Something you did only when you absolutely had to, like calling your bank or a customer service line. And let’s face it, before we picked up the phone to make those dreaded calls, we’d complain endlessly about having to make them to anyone who would listen read our texts.

Somewhere along the way, the art of conversation died.

Technology is often a convenient thing for us to point a finger at when we’re unhappy about our own changes in behaviour. Not a day goes by that we don’t hear someone complain they’re not getting enough exercise because they’re stuck behind a computer all day or that they’re lonely because they only have time to catch up with friends on social media. We complain about websites loading too slow, deliveries coming too soon and fake news spreading too fast. Oddly enough, it rarely occurs to us that the very things we’re complaining about are a by-product of demands that we made years, sometimes decades, prior.

Companies usually take their cues from their customers. They often wait for their customers to demand change before they begin investing in it. Why? Because change is hard, and we complain about it. And sometimes the things we say we want, we’re not really ready for. This slow-moving cycle of change management is the very premise of customer-centric marketing. Wait for the people to lead the way. Because the customer is always right.

It’s no surprise then, that in the past year, we’ve watched a rebirth of conversation. People are talking again. Not because they have to, but because they want to. Twelve months of rolling lockdowns, work-from-home orders and social bubbles have everyone craving connection.

The flipside? We’ve developed love/hate relationships with our technology; grateful for the ability to continue to work remotely, but utterly tired of glitchy Zoom calls and network outages that eat into our precious talk time. We’ve even heard about people looking forward to customer service calls to resolve tedious issues with a chatbot. After all, AI technology is so good now that you can actually feel like you’re talking to a real person.

But although the technology that we use has changed over the years, the core expectations of communications have remained largely unchanged. People still expect conversations to be genuine and helpful. The only thing that’s really changed is that those conversations can happen faster and on a larger scale. That’s where conversational marketing comes into play.

Conversational Marketing is a personalized approach to online business management. It moves potential customers through the marketing and sales funnel by utilizing single questions to guide a larger (if somewhat structured) conversation. And it’s a powerful tool for customer-centric marketers.

There are four key elements to Conversational Marketing:

  1. The conversations happen when your customer wants them to.
  2. The conversations are scalable.
  3. The conversations have context.
  4. The conversations take place where your customers are.

Let’s dive a little deeper into each component.

The conversations happen when your customer wants them to.
In a truly customer-centric organization, conversations with customers take place on their terms and on their schedule. People are busier than they’ve ever been. If they’re looking for a solution at an odd hour, companies should try their best to be there when they’re needed. And it’s not just about the time at which the conversation starts. It’s also about the pace at which the conversation moves. It’s important for customer service employees and community managers to fall into step with the person who’s looking for a solution.

The conversations are scalable.
Because there is a growing expectation that conversations take place on customer time, the onus is on the company to ensure they can deliver solutions at the customer’s pace. The customer should never feel the burden of a business’s lack of resources or staffing. This is the very reason that chatbots have grown in popularity over the last decade. A majority of incoming queries from customers tend to be simple and/or formulaic requests for information. Bots offer quick responses that can cut down on the need for human interaction.

The conversations have context.
It’s completely inexcusable for customers to have to re-explain their concerns or grievances over multiple calls or days. Conversations should be well documented so that they get smarter with every interaction. Why is this important? Because it’s what your customers now expect. Context is what helps drive speed and convenience. Things just move faster toward resolution when information doesn’t have to be repeated. People want the information that they’re looking for in the fastest, easiest way possible. It’s the reason that CRM software and processes have become such an important part of a customer marketing strategy. Collecting and safely storing data so that it can be easily accessed in the future is now critical. If this is all done well, your customer will always feel heard and valued.

The conversations take place where your customers are.
Conversations need to take place on the channel that best suits your customer. That could be on social media, a messenger app, on the phone, via text, with a person or with a chatbot. In short, companies need to offer solutions across as many channels as possible, because the conversations are now happening everywhere.

It’s important to not mistake Conversational Marketing with live chats, though. There’s much more to it than that. Conversational Marketing is really about having the ability to adapt to multiple communication preferences on multiple different channels, in order to deliver the quickest resolution to a customer issue.

The benefits of starting and maintaining a long-term conversation with your customers are huge. People will instantly feel more engaged with your brand and company if they feel like they’re getting personalized attention. It’s also a fantastic way to collect new and actionable insights about your target audience, so that you can tailor future products, services and processes to them. There’s also no disputing that Conversational Marketing, particularly right now, can be a great way to build long-lasting relationships with new customers.

Nurturing relationships with your customers is more important than ever. Using an omnichannel approach to talk with your online audience sets you up to demonstrate your commitment to delivering value, not just closing a sale. Customers are looking to connect with companies that they trust. Starting a dialogue, and then putting in the extra bit of effort to nurture that conversation over a longer period of time, will help establish that trust.

This is the art of conversation.

Interested in learning more? Schedule a free consultation today.

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