It’s estimated that consumers now exchange over a billion chat messages with businesses each month - in fact, the number of global monthly active users for the top four messaging apps has exceeded that of the top four social media networks combined, and this gap continues to grow.
The shift to messaging platforms is disrupting business communication, and chatbots are quickly becoming a mainstay of digital marketing. More and more consumers prefer to interact with brands via messaging, whether it’s to receive support or to ask questions, and many businesses have now realized the immense opportunities that messaging platforms provide.
But as businesses increasingly turn to messaging to engage with current and potential customers, it’s important that they have a solid conversational marketing plan in place in order to achieve the best results, and to use messaging platforms to their fullest potential.
Here are some reasons why brands need a plan.
1. To Ensure They Provide Value
Nowadays, companies can’t afford to provide anything but exceptional customer support. Responses to customer inquiries must be speedy, relevant - and perhaps most importantly, personalized.
This is where messaging platforms can help. Interactions with brands that feel more conversational rather than transactional can help customers feel more valued. When using messaging platforms, businesses should think about how they can deliver content in a personalized and engaging way. The customer experience must be well-thought out, and the messaging platform must align with other marketing efforts in order to be effective.
For example, Aeromexico developed the first-ever airline chatbot in 2016 to help make flying easier for its customers. Travelers can use Aerobot on Facebook Messenger to check flight schedules and ticket prices, as well as their departure and arrival status.
Aerobot has received rave reviews for being one of the most natural and easy-to-use messaging services, and the airline has been able to provide customers with valuable information very effectively, justifying the bot’s value.
2. To Maintain Focus on the Goal
Adding a messaging platform to an existing digital marketing campaign can be overwhelming. It's therefore important for brands to start small and grow their private messaging offerings in line with the number of customer interactions they're receiving.
Businesses can start by promoting a single offer, or offering a single messaging channel to their audiences, in order to grow adoption rates at a manageable pace.
For example, when Sephora launched a chatbot on the messaging platform, Kik, it started with just one goal - "to engage with and educate teenage girls for prom". By starting with a single campaign, Sephora was able to create and share highly-targeted tutorials and product guides which engaged their target audience on their big night, and after.
3. To Define Where Marketing vs Sales Teams Come In
A common mistake companies make when offering customer support via a messaging platform is not specifying if the channel will be used primarily for marketing or sales. On top of that, they often lack a clear workflow which defines when the marketing team will interact with users, and when the sales team will take over.
The lack of a defined workflow for incoming messages can quickly lead to confusion and frustration, both internally and for users. It’s important to discuss the goal of your presence on a messaging platform, including the core benefits for the brand and how the process can be as frictionless as possible.
Companies should lay out the entire process – from the initial conversation to the final sale – and review it in-depth before launching to ensure that everyone understands where they come in, and how interactions will be tracked through the sales cycle.
4. To Avoid Over-Automation
The point of providing a private messaging service is to increase the chances of having more frequent and personalized interactions with potential and current customers. But that doesn’t mean a chatbot or messaging app is always the right way to achieve this goal.
For example, if a brand wants to encourage their audience to download an eBook or other informative materials, there’s little need for one-on-one messaging to accomplish this goal. Encouraging website visitors to interact within a chat will likely feel like an unnecessary step, and could even annoy them.
There’s no need to overcomplicate things just because you have the technology available - messaging platforms should be reserved for more fluid, back-and-forth or Q&A interactions. Consumers can sense when they're being sold to, and will avoid channels that don’t feel authentic.
As noted, messaging platforms are changing the way brands interact with their audiences, and these apps will continue to roll out new tools and functions to help brands reach and monetize new users. From chatbots to built-in payment options, apps like Facebook Messenger and WeChat are helping businesses leverage their platforms in exciting new ways. But with so many options, and varying levels of functionality, brands looking to incorporate conversational marketing into their current campaigns need a plan to be successful.
Those that strive to make sure each interaction is authentic and personalized will be well-positioned to increase brand awareness and conversions.