Conversational marketing matters. Period.

Conversational marketing matters. Period.

Is your organization familiar with conversational marketing? Well if not, it should be. 

We’ve all had moments in our lives where companies have tried to grab our attention and within seconds, we can tell they’re reading a script, using a pre-recorded machine, or getting information that doesn’t match our needs. These types of communication methods aren’t effective anymore as today’s consumer is more thoughtful about who they will do business with. 

Did you know that only 43% of people answer cold calls? What about that the average email open rate has fallen to 20%? These low success rates won’t help your organization grow. 

So as a marketing professional in your organization, how can you alter your approach in order to see a positive ROI with your marketing efforts? The answer – conversational marketing.

In this article, we’ll go over what conversational marketing is, why it matters for you and your organization, and how you can experience the results with implementing the tool into your marketing strategy.

What is conversational marketing?

Since the inception of Agentology, we’ve always considered ourselves as thought leaders in this space. This is why we’ve partnered with Drift to take this concept to the next level. 

Conversational marketing is a feedback-oriented approach to marketing used by organizations to develop customer loyalty, drive engagement, grow the customer base, and – most importantly – grow an organization’s revenue. 

Conversation marketing is based around the idea of communicating with customers in the natural and seamless way that they would like to be communicated with. This is the key point to conversational marketing – communicating with your customers in the way they want to communicate. This can take many forms and it extends to phone calls, texts, email, Facebook Messenger, Slack, and more.

Why conversational marketing matters for your organization

As we’ve mentioned before, cold-calling used to be the foundation of any marketing strategy. The best way to garner attention to your product or service was to hammer the phones and announce what you had to offer to anyone who would listen. Of course, this model is slowly dying. As mentioned above, less than 50% of people answer the phone when receiving a cold-call. 

On the flip side, did you know how often people are using text as their preferred form of communication? Research indicates that US smartphone users send and receive five times more texts than they make and receive calls. Furthermore, according to the Hootsuite blog, there are 1.3 billion Facebook Messenger users sending 8 billion messages between businesses and people every month and Messenger receives 70-80% open rates (compare that to the 20% open rates with email).

The way our marketplace is moving is actually quite ironic. In a day where everything consumers desire is instantaneous, the space for tailor-made human interaction is slowly diminishing. This is why conversational marketing can set your organization apart from the conversation. Whether it’s a business communicating with its customer base or a friend consoling with another, everyone wants to be heard and understood. This understanding comes in the form of communicating on the recipient’s terms. 

Understanding this outlines the basic principle of adapt or fall behind. When a customer feels listened to, they begin to trust you. 

When a customer trusts your organization, you build loyalty and the increased chance that they will come back to you and recommend your services to their network. 

How conversational marketing pays off for your organization

Companies that align with conversational marketing prosper in their space. A recent study by Twilio concludes that 66% of consumers now prefer to reach brands or be reached by brands, through messaging apps like Facebook Messenger. Moreover, 63% of those surveyed, say their messaging with businesses has increased over the last two years. Finally, just over two-thirds expect to increase their messaging with businesses over the next two years. 

The direction in which consumers are going when communicating with businesses is clear. Your organization should be headed in that direction as well. If you aren’t convinced yet, let’s just let some of the numbers do the talking.

As the technology in the marketplace gets faster and more customized to the customer experience, these statistics will continue to reflect the benefits of conversational marketing

Conclusion

Conversational marketing is the way of the future. As consumers get savvier with their spending they will require your organization to adhere to the way they wish to conduct business. As a company, one of your main goals should be to educate and build trust. 

The days of the “pushy-salesman” are gone and you now have the opportunity to reach the consumer at a relational and trust-building level. So use the conversational marketing tools available to you and reach your customers their preferred way.

Is speed-to-lead slowing down your sales cycle?

Is speed-to-lead slowing down your sales cycle?

How long does it take your sales and marketing team to follow up with a lead? The response time is, for most companies, an average of 47 hours. In an environment where buyers want immediate attention, that kind of delay just won’t cut it.  In addition to essentially wasting expensive leads, it can label your business as being unresponsive and neglectful of customers. Companies that perform best at converting leads into customers are those who prioritize speed and have a process for engagement. They also recognize the value in focusing on acquiring the right kinds of leads. Here’s the good news:  every company has the ability to make this happen, but it takes focus and dedicated help to coordinate all the necessary efforts.

Basically, slow response time is ruining the ROI for most companies. But lead engagement is not a one-and-done type of endeavor. To be successful with speed, companies outsource lead engagement as a way to optimize conversion rates. 

As any business leader knows, investments in creating leads constitutes a large part of marketing budgets. Great care is taken by smart businesses to identify target audiences, using the right marketing tools/channels, and then qualifying those leads to be worked through the buyer’s journey. With that in mind, however, speed is only valuable if the follow-up is done intelligently and in context. Buyers want a quick response, but they also want to know they are understood. No successful sales call ever started with, “So, you’re interested…how come?” 

Smart sales and marketing teams know how to use information about prospects to turn both speed and background information into important tools. For example, data about email open rates, response to CTAs, or other positive top of funnel engagement may reveal patterns that enable marketing campaigns to be more focused. Additionally, with a workflow to get leads into the hands of SDRs, and providing contextual data about those prospects, SDRs can respond not only with very little time lag, but will be equipped with data to make their follow-up more targeted.

Speed to lead matters – it REALLY matters!

Immediacy is critical; according to a Velocify survey, lead conversions are 391 percent higher if you call within a minute of an online inquiry. Waiting an additional minute drops that to 120 percent, and if you wait an hour, it drops to a low 36 percent. The evidence also tells us that 78 percent of customers buy from the first vendor that responds to their needs. It’s clear that speed-to-lead is a critical factor is converting leads into customers. Consider the results of a Harvard Business Review study about the habits of marketing and sales teams. Their analysis of responsiveness of sales leads is revealing, and it demonstrates how, with some effort and discipline, organizations can beat the competition in making customers out of their lead generation activity. Note these findings:

  • 37% of companies in the survey responded to leads within one hour.
  • Almost a quarter (24%) took more than one full day to respond.
  • 16% took one to 24 hours to follow up on leads.
  • 23% of companies simply didn’t respond.
  • And, perhaps most telling of all, the average response time for all companies was 42 games.

The discipline and process of following up

Having a framework for acquiring the right leads, coupled with a dedicated, rapid response framework, is a crucial competitive differentiator and a way to automate much of your marketing and sales operations. But all the effort that goes into creating leads must be coupled with an effective follow-up discipline. 

The key to managing rapid lead conversion is not simple, but it demands a hyperfocus on follow-up. But follow-up isn’t just a matter of picking up the phone it requires a dedicated team that is experienced at things like process, scaling efforts, and effectiveness at building personal relationships.

The follow-up process has to be done in a continuous, supportive way across both sales and marketing teams. There need to be response time SLAs for each step in the process, and both sales and marketing have to agree to the type of information they will share to ensure the next step in the process is, for the prospect, and improvement over the previous step. 

Consistency of messaging in the communication and content assets you deliver to a prospect gives the impression that your company wants to help that person become better educated. Remember that a lead is a person, and people aren’t interested in being contacted by bots. There’s a reason why marketing and sales refer to the notion of nurturing a lead. It truly is an effort to build trust and demonstrate supportiveness for the leads you’ve acquired. 

The entire lead generation effort has to be focused on getting good leads and turning them into qualified prospects rapidly, and in a repeatable fashion. It’s not easy coordinating all the necessary components that make an effective lead engagement process, which is where outsourcing can help choreograph all the necessary elements, including:

Prospect intelligence and scripts: Understanding customers based on their market, buying capacity, personas, and their intent are all data points that have to be understood and put into context. Then, there has to be a system for creating sales scripts, follow-up content, and other assets that will make every contact with the prospect meaningful to them. Analyzing this data is time consuming. Writing and updating scripts is an art. It’s best if companies can find a partner who can take on these tasks to free them to focus on top of funnel and deal closing activities.

Scalability: this is where most teams make costly mistakes. Most equate lead volume with a need to hire more salespeople, or with adding more tools to their technology stack. But in reality, a proven lead effectiveness solution makes the entire process more efficient and able to scale as lead volume and velocity increase. An outsourced partner can qualify and respond to leads so your team can emphasize messaging and identifying the right channels. As you grow, your partner can increase effort without a huge impact on your sales and marketing costs.

The personal touch: in most sales organizations, an increase in lead volume can lead to rote, perfunctory follow-ups. Many companies rely on chatbots or impersonal engagement which leaves prospects without any feeling of connection to your company. It happy all too frequently: it’s easy to lose the personal touch as people work new leads. But companies need to ensure that customer service is not lost and that actual relationships become established between prospects and the company. When lead qualification and follow-up is handled by a third-party, it is done by people who are not burdened by the minutiae of other typical corporate tasks. For the most part, these people can emphasize vetting, follow-up, and analysis of their learning from interactions with prospects. That data can be put back to work to ensure better future targeting.

Getting speed, leads, and relationships right

In a recent episode of the Power Agent Podcast, real estate agent Jesse Zagorsky lays out the importance of speed-to-relationship, and why it’s among the most important and powerful parts of the job of sales. He explains that while speed is important, ultimately the differentiator for any sales person is the ability to quickly develop a relationship with the prospect. In a competitive, fast-moving world, companies and individuals need dedicated, focused help to be able to create relationships that can lead to closing business and recurring engagement.

Why sales leaders are turning to marketing for help with revenue goals

Why sales leaders are turning to marketing for help with revenue goals

An organization’s sales and marketing teams tend to be at odds with one another

Theoretically, the two should work seamlessly together: one is charged with generating and handing off the leads, while the other is responsible with securing and converting those leads into a customer. 

So then why are so many organizations losing out on countless leads that could turn into potential sales? 

Sales team and marketing teams should be coordinating their lead strategy day in and day out, yet they still experience drastic lapses in missed sales. For the most part, they’re not even aware of how much these lost leads and opportunities are costing their organization. A recent study by Forbes noted that an estimated 71% of an organization’s internet leads are wasted! Their findings noted that the biggest reason for this high lead-loss statistic was due to the delay in response. Furthermore, our research indicates that during the marketing-to-sales handoff, 55% of leads are lost and result in time and money wasted. 

Simply put, just because your marketing team generates and gathers the leads doesn’t mean they will be a “lay up” for your sales team to capitalize upon and close. 

In this article, we’ll show you how the sales/marketing relationship is changing, the cutting-edge ways savvy sales professionals are utilizing marketing to boost their results, examples of those results in the real world, and the strategies you can adopt now to see the same results in your organization.

Forward Thinking Sales-To-Marketing Alignment

We get it, as a sales professional, you get many leads from your marketing team. At times it can be frustrating to get so many leads because it’s hard to decipher which leads to pursue. Of course, time is money and with inefficient lead processing you are losing out on opportunities. 

What are forward thinking sales professionals doing differently?

These sales gurus are aligning their efforts to work with their marketing team rather than against or in isolation. As mentioned above, one of the most important facets of the sales to marketing alignment isn’t always if the lead is “good” or not but how quickly it is responded to. In fact, you are 3X more likely to convert a lead if you incorporate a smart cadence (instant response + strategic follow-up). This can be a huge opportunity for your organization. The 2018 State of Inbound Marketing Survey conducted by Hubspot found that 1 in 4 organizations noted that their sales and marketing efforts were “misaligned” or “rarely aligned.” Furthermore, that misalignment is costing organization 10% or more in revenue loss annually. 

If your organization is “misaligning” sales and marketing efforts, how can you expect that you’ll be able to respond to the lead first? Plain and simple – you can’t. 

Let’s take a look at how your sales efforts can benefit from sales-to-marketing alignment.

How Sales Can Benefit From Marketing

When your sales and marketing efforts are properly aligned, your organization will experience increases in revenue. This idea was highlighted by the Harvard Business Review

“[…] There is no question that, when Sales and Marketing work well together, companies see substantial improvement on important performance metrics: Sales cycles are shorter, market-entry costs go down, and the cost of sales is lower.”

Here are some specific ways marketing can better support sales and thereby align the two groups:

Content Marketing collateral

B2B marketers are creating more content than ever in order to get information pertaining to their product or service out in front of potential leads. Once a reader becomes a lead, however, that content strategy disintegrates. 

Once a reader/visitor becomes a lead (through landing page conversion etc), the content strategy is generally abandoned for a sales-specific approach. Often times, a lead can feel “duped” or misguided when this clunky handoff takes place. 

Much of the strategy behind the content is to inform and educate; however, this becomes lost in the handoff. As a better alternative, many sales professionals remain in the educator role before becoming the “pushy” salesman. Organizations with a tightly integrated sales and marketing operations experienced a 24% increase in growth and a 27% increase in profit growth over a 3 year period.

Follow up cadence messaging and automation

As referenced above, it’s important to respond to a lead instantly. Forward-thinking sales professionals are integrating automated response technology into the marketing-to-sales handoff in order to experience the higher conversion rate associated with doing so. 

There is technology in the marketplace that responds to leads instantaneously, in the preferred manner of the lead. 

What do we mean by this? 

Well, have you ever taken into account how your leads prefer being contacted? 

  • Do they prefer email correspondence? 
  • Do they prefer SMS? 
  • Do they prefer a phone call? 

The Messaging Consumer Survey Report notes that consumers in India, South Korea, Singapore and the United States prefer SMS over voice calls for their customer service needs. Progressive sales professionals know and understand this, and they’re now integrating it into their follow up efforts

Proper lead qualification

There’s a difference between a marketing qualified lead and a sales qualified lead. 

A marketing qualified lead is someone who is looking for brand awareness or education on a specific product or service (a lead closer to the top of the sales funnel). 

A sales qualified lead is someone who has decided they are going to purchase and need to choose which business to give their sales (a lead near the bottom of the sales funnel). 

Dynamic sales executives have different ways of implementing a lead scoring system into their organization. That way, they know which leads are ready for instant response and which might be higher up in the funnel. Every organization’s lead scoring will look different but here are some of the highlighted variables:

  • Demographic information
  • Company information
  • Online behavior
  • Email engagement
  • Social engagement
  • Spam detection

When you can score your leads, you open yourself up to focusing resources on the more valuable leads your marketing team handed over. In fact, a study conducted by Marketing Sherpa study showed organizations using lead scoring had a 77% boost in lead generation ROI over those not using scoring.

Your Sales and Marketing ROI increases when you align

Sales professionals who strive to align with their marketing compatriots experience higher ROI. In fact, Marketo notes that sales and marketing alignment can help organizations become 67% better at closing deals. That’s a drastic supercharge to your sales force’s efforts. 

What was once two different elements of an organization working in isolation (though thinking they were working in unison) is drastically changing. Sales leaders that take it upon themselves to use tools that allow them to qualify the leads that come their way are experiences in overall sales conversions as well as revenue for them and their organization. 

Sales and marketing don’t need to point fingers any longer as to who is responsible for the lost sales. They need to align and watch their ROI soar beyond what they thought was possible.

Why not inbound SDRs?

Why not inbound SDRs?

Does your organization employ one or many Sales Development Representatives (SDR) to help with your lead qualification endeavors? If so, do you know how much it’s costing your organization? 

The short version of the answer here is: too much.

Many companies (including multi-nationals such as Salesforce) have employed SDRs into their lead qualification strategy in recent years. A well-employed SDR team can be an invaluable asset for your organization. Like stated above, for some companies, it has radically changed the game for them.

But is it a strategy worthy of pursuit for your organization? Some organizations don’t have the resources like the “big guys” listed earlier. If this sounds like your organization – our reasonings point us to “no” and let’s show you why.

In this article, we’ll go over why your organization is paying too much for SDRs, why SDRs are ineffective for your sales & marketing strategies and how you can use other tools and strategies with your lead qualification endeavors that bring your organization a better ROI. 

What is an SDR?

It’s important for us to first define what an SDR is before we dissect why and how it’s taking away from your lead qualification strategy. According to RingDNA, a Sales Development Representative is, 

“a type of inside sales rep that solely focuses on outbound prospecting […] Unlike quota-carrying salespeople, SDRs don’t focus on closing business. Rather, SDRs focus on moving leads through the pipeline […] This enables closers to spend more time selling to qualified leads and unburdens sales executives from having to engage in prospecting.”

SDR Problem 1: No One Wants To Talk To Them

Like stated above, SDRs aren’t your traditional sales representatives. An SDR is responsible for qualifying the leads for the closers so it can be a seamless lay up from lead generated to a confirmed sale. An SDR is charged with “chasing down” a potential lead and warming them up for a close.

Today’s consumers don’t want that type of consumer experience. Today’s consumer isn’t looking to communicate necessarily the way an SDR is going to operate.

Today’s consumer operates differently:

A potential customer wants a consumer experience catered to them. It’s important to consider their preferred means of communication. Do they prefer to talk over text? Do they use Facebook Messenger? Do they use email?

You get the idea.

The problem with an SDR is generally, they are employed to follow a “one-size-fits-all” script that entails driving phone calls in the hopes the potential customer picks up then to hammer out their call script in hopes they’ll offer interest and ultimately be handed over to the sales representative who can close the deal. 

How do your customers want to be contacted? It’s important to have a “smart cadence” when attempting to contact and responding to your customers. What do we mean by “smart cadence?” Smart cadence is the ability to map out, from the first attempt at communication, what the best means of communication will be for the respective customer.

Think of smart cadence as a tailor-made communication experience for each individual customer. This isn’t something you get with the one-size-fits-all approach of an SDR script. 

SDR Problem 2: They’re too expensive for your organization

Do you know how much the average SDR will cost an organization? 

According to Payscale, the average SDR with 5-9 years of experience earns an average total compensation of $45,587 based on 118 salaries. Expand that number out to how many SDRs you need to fulfill your lead qualification strategy requirements and you’ll see very quickly how much money you’ll be spending on employing your SDR fleet.

SDRs, while they can be effective and help more seamlessly aid in connecting the bridge between sales and marketing, are often too expensive for an organization and they don’t cater precisely to the communication needs and desires of your future customers.

So what is your alternative?

Why you should outsource your lead qualification services

Instead of hiring a team of SDRs to help with your lead qualification strategy, we recommend outsourcing the service. There are many reasons why this is the best route for your organization and we’re going to lay out the best reasons for you now.

Unlimited time window

Unlike a full-time SDR, when you outsource your lead qualification services, you open your organization up to the ability to respond to and contact your potential leads 24/7/365

Your internal SDRs will only be able to work their leads while they are on the clock. When you outsource the service, you will have the ability to reach your leads when it’s convenient for them.

Instant communication

As good as a human representative is, they are limited. Again, like stated above, your internal SDR can only respond to a lead when they are in the office. When you outsource the service, you open your organization up to being able to respond to your leads instantly. Research shows that when you respond to leads first, you are 3X more likely to convert the lead

Save money

Hiring full-time SDRs is expensive.

Outsourcing your lead qualification strategy is cost-efficient. 

For a fraction of the price, you can have both human conversation as well as automated technology working around the clock for you so you don’t miss out on another lead. 

Bridge the “gap” between marketing and sales

Our research indicates that 55% of all leads are lost during the handoff between marketing and sales. 

This is unacceptable.

Losing those leads is amounting to your organization losing money. With a dedicated outsourced lead qualification service, you can trust that your leads are going to be responded to instantly so they stay warm. Furthermore, your leads will be responded to 10 times over the first 5 days and continuously nurtured over the following 6 months so your marketing team can focus on what they do best and your sales team can focus on what they do best. 

And then let the lead qualification service do what they do best – bridge the gap between the two. 

4 Marketing to Sales Failures that are costing your team big money

4 Marketing to Sales Failures that are costing your team big money

There is a disconnect between marketing and sales teams in almost every company, and it is a killer for lead generation and qualification. The reality for most fast moving businesses is that marketing and sales teams operate with different goals and fail to identify how to best support one another. In fact, according to Forrester, only 8% of companies have strong alignment between their sales and marketing departments. Neglecting to align planning efforts and capitalize on opportunities leads to execution misfires and wasted effort. It also negatively impacts revenue.

Marketing is tasked with creative product and brand messages that are baked into the brains of prospects. Through content, email, digital channels, and other sources, marketing is trying to capture the attention of potential buyers and turn it into a hot lead. Yet, while marketing is doing this, they may not be taking into account the needs of sales.

 

1. Poor marketing and sales coordination creates bad leads

This is the essence of the disconnect; marketing needs to create messages and content that are consistent with the goods and services that sales is actually selling. Unless there is a disciplined effort to bridge marketing and sales, a company may be targeting the wrong people and wasting time trying to convert bad leads. Changing this dynamic can have a huge impact; research from Marketo indicates that aligning sales and marketing can help generate 209% more revenue from marketing efforts. Clearly, it’s worth the effort.

In the absence of effective lead qualification, go-to-market teams measure for quantity, not quality. But this just burdens sales development teams with more work, much of which may be wasted effort. So even if marketing creates more leads, if those leads are poor quality, the entire buyer journey is misaligned. The objective should be for a system where marketing creates effective content to engage the right audience, and for sales to increase velocity in closing those leads. Bridging that gap is the key to getting the most out of both marketing and sales efforts.

 

2. Improve sales and marketing communication

A great deal of the inefficiency between marketing and sales has to do with communication; mostly because there isn’t any. Poor communication creates two sales killers that can cripple a company’s lead conversion efforts; lack of sales and marketing communication costs companies almost $1 trillion every year, according to Salesforce. The rapid nature and the increasing sophistication of buyers means that companies have only a short time to attract those with short attention spans. To educate and transform leads further down the buyer lifecycle requires an effective strategy for communicating WHAT content needs to be created, WHERE it should be populated, and to WHOM it should be delivered. 

For starters, the sales and marketing teams can start to put their heads together around prospect objections. If there is a process for cataloging those objections, sales can provide that to marketing, along with context, and marketing can begin to develop a content strategy that addresses these objections. With that vantage point, they can build corresponding content assets, and should do so in a way that demonstrates the product and its value. Doing this will provide enough of an introduction to the product/solution, which will help sales; they won’t have to start at square one. The important thing here is to show, don’t tell; give the prospect a reason to want to know more. This can be most effectively done through highly visual ebooks, blogs, and infographics. Marketing should also create videos, podcasts, and other highly engaging formats for demonstrating products and how they work.

 

3. Outsource for lead conversion

With effective processes for collecting feedback and generating content, it’s surprising how many organizations still fall short in converting leads. This hand-off can become a black hole, but disciplined companies have figured out how to outsource. Consider it this way: marketing understands the prospect audience, can find them, and then engage them, and once this starts moving in a continuous motion, they will be in a better position to move these leads to sales. 

The middle stage of lead response includes smart and targeted follow up, nurturing, and conversion is time consuming and takes constant iteration and improvement to be effective. But by being focused, a solution like Agentology works leads into opportunities that can be delivered, with background and intelligence, to salespeople who are most effective when they are closing. 

The outsourcing stage of lead conversion is optimized through integration of backend CRM and marketing automation tools so the right customer data is being worked. The integration of these apps and data sources builds trends and other informative data points that help both marketing and sales refine their processes.

 

4. What sales and marketing alignment looks like

In an ideal world, sales and marketing teams sit together, communicate constantly, and use lessons from each other’s worlds to inform their efforts. The reality, however, is that speed is critical and we often act before we have all available (or necessary) information. Yet, efforts to improve the relationship between these two teams can have incredibly impactful benefits. Marketo says that sales and marketing alignment can help your company become 67% better at closing deals. So it’s clearly worth the time and effort to find a way to make this work.

You can do this by finding days to share data, campaign strategies, and messaging information. Try using informal lunch-and-learns, or regular stand-up meetings. Consider a “buddy system” that pairs marketing and sales people together in a tag-team effort at knowing and servicing prospects. Help these teams accentuate the positives, outsource time consuming tasks, and build your company into revenue-generating, customer-first, leading brand.