A lot of people on the interwebs tout conversational marketing as a new big trend no one has done before. The idea is nothing new; we have been subject to conversational marketing since humans ever started selling.
Not really a new concept
When you visit your local grocer, butcher or any other shop, do the people working there usually say hi and start talking to you?
They are starting a conversation because if they can learn your needs, they are more able to sell something.
Scale it up, and we realise every marketplace is just a conversation. It is a discussion about wants and needs along with the price those wants and needs are worth. Side note - there is an interesting book on this called The Cluetrain Manifesto (non-affiliate link).
The reason conversational marketing is now "a thing" is because technologyand consumer sentiment allow the conversation to happen in the digital space.
What conversational marketing used to be
Forget banner advertising (programmatic/contextual or otherwise), affiliates, sponsored content, product placements and other such one-way channels.
Social media has helped move some control to consumers, allowing businesses and brands to create more personalised and dynamic content. However, what we are still seeing is business pushing content (albeit much more personalised and better timed) in the hope someone engages.
The meteoric rise in consumer adoption of messaging apps (FB Messenger, WeChat and WhatsApp all have over 1 billion users each) is forcing businesses to respond and converse with consumers at a level and time theydemand.
It is forcing business to switch from broadcasting content to having it ready and available (along with the ability to deliver it) when it is asked for.
Content can no longer be created and delivered at a predicted buying stage or expected requirement.
In conversational marketing, it starts with listening
Listening to what the consumer is asking for and then publishing and delivering what they need.
What typically happens when you walk into a shop:
"Hi." says the assistant.
"Hi." you reply.
"Can I help you find something?"
"Yes, I need a leather jacket."
"Sure, we have a few, what colour do you want?"
...you are shown the jackets, helped into one to check the size and then make a purchase.
Here is the modern digital equivalent of a similar journey.
"Hi." you say to the company via FB Messenger.
"Hello, how can I help?" replies the company (by using FB Messenger in this case)
"I need a leather jacket."
"Ok, we have a few, what colour are you looking for?"
"Ok, let me send you a few links to some on our website."
...you browse the selection of jackets and make an order online.
Here's a video to show it happening.
Lots of you smart people will ask - what is the point of providing a service like that? We have a search on our website, and there are lots of ways for people to find black leather jackets.
What if the jacket they want was out of stock? Or maybe you do not have the size they wanted? They could have asked if you have similar available or when you are getting more.
What if they wanted to know the difference between two types of leather used to make a jacket? They could have asked rather than opened new browser tab and wandered to a competitor that had the answer.
What if during the conversation you had asked: "what is the jacket for, are you going anywhere nice?". It may have led to an additional sale of matching shoes or a woolly hat.
You see, conversational marketing is a way to engage more, to understand more, and above all else, to sell more. There are infinite ways it can help your business.
Conversational marketing is engaging in conversations worth having. It is to understand your customer better, to create value for all, and a way to deal with enquiries and solve problems.
This is why conversational marketing is here to stay, and it is why businesses of all sizes are scrambling to deliver the conversational experiences required by their consumers.
Has your company started conversational marketing? Is it even on your radar? Doyouthink it is here to stay?