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Marketing

The Key to Conversational Marketing is Showing Up

Jason Feller

This year I joined a few of the Salted Stone team members at HubSpot’s INBOUND conference, and the biggest takeaway for me was just how much you can accomplish by simply showing up...

   

 This was the central theme (often described obliquely with the term “conversational marketing”) that underpinned every keynote and session I attended.

What Does “Showing Up” Mean in This Context?

It’s simple: It literally means showing up. It means being available, and quickly responding to people (i.e. leads, site visitors) when they want to talk. At this point you might be groaning and inching your cursor towards that X on the browser tab, but I’d urge you to take a minute to reflect on how effectively you and your company are actually showing up.

Odds are, the answer will scare you. It certainly scared HubSpot Vice President of Marketing Jon Dick, who shared the following statistic during his session, titled: “You’re Go-To-Market is Killing Your Business, and You Don’t Even Know It”.

"HubSpot missed out on 40% of potential sales meetings in Q1 simply because their reps failed to show up."

More specifically, the sales team failed to identify which representative should connect with a lead, causing a missed opportunity to host an introductory meeting. If this is the reality for one of the best marketing and sales organizations in the world, it may be true for your business too.

Thankfully, there are a host of new apps, products, and solutions to help you do a better job of showing up. It all starts with making sure you give people ways to contact you that are easy and comfortable for them.

An Easy Way to Connect

Obviously, the first step in showing up is to ensure that interested site visitors can connect with you. It’s no longer enough to set up an inbound call center, publicize your phone number and stop here.

Conversational

Some people prefer text message communications; others are still going to call that number in your email signature. If you want to really be available, you need to enable omnichannel communications, so that folks can contact you through your website, via chat services, on social media platforms, through email, direct mail, blog comments, or at in-person events. Before you go further, run a quick audit of your contact options:

Website

  • Does your website have a live chat feature or an automated chatbot?
  • Is your contact us page and/or request a demo page easy to find?
  • Do you have an option for people to book a meeting through the site? How many of these CTAs are there, and on which pages do they live?
  • Does your website list a phone number and a working info@ or hello@ email address? Is it easy to find?
  • Does your website have your physical/mailing address listed?

Social Media
  • Do you have a profile on all of the major, audience-appropriate platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest)?
  • Do your profiles have visible contact options? A phone number? Email address? Physical address?

Review Sites
  • Do you have a profile with a direct link to your website, a ‘Contact Us’ CTA and comments enabled?
  • Are you set up on all the relevant sites? We typically recommend establishing Yelp, BBB, and Google Business profiles for B2C companies, and Capterra, Clutch, DiscoverCloud, AppExchange for B2B companies. 

Pro tip: use a tool like Yext to make sure all of your listings have accurate and consistent information.

Quickly Responding to People

Now that you’ve given people the opportunity to get in touch with you, the next step is to... wait for it... show up!

This means responding quickly to each form of outreach that you receive. There is some flexibility for how quickly that response needs to be depending on the channel, but (of course) sooner is always better, unless the person reaching out has asked to touch base at a specific time.

Here are general guidelines for response times based on a compilation of expert opinions:

  • Live Chat: 15 seconds or less. This rapidly growing communication platform generally demands immediate attention.
solutions_chatbotsWhen you don’t have someone available to answer live chat, set up an automated response that can, at the very least, collect the person’s information, provide a time when someone will be able to respond, and notify a rep.  Alternatively, connect your chatbot directly with a meeting scheduler app and allow the contact to find a time that works for them. If that’s not possible, the chatbot should direct the contact to a “schedule an appointment” page.
  • Contact Form or Request a Demo: 15 minutes or less. Contacts generally have a bit more patience waiting to hear back after a form submission than they do with a live chat – but not much. Best practice is to have form submission notifications sent immediately to an assigned person and for that person to reply to all submissions (excluding obvious spam) as quickly as possible.

    The person replying doesn’t have to be the primary sales rep, but should be able to at least handle a basic introductory call and schedule a follow-up meeting as needed.

  • Review Site Comments: According to ReviewTrackers 2018 Online Review Survey, “53% of customers expect businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week.” Shockingly, 63% of customers say that a business has “never responded to their review.”
  • Voicemails: Less than 24 hours is typically preferable. 

  • Postal Mail: 1 day. All postal mail should be replied to within one business day. Whether the response comes via phone, email, postal mail, or social media will be dictated by the letter that was received.
  • Email: 5 minutes or less. This one has been hotly contested, but 90% of businesses today are not adhering to this Golden Sales Rule — so responding in this window may just set you apart from the competition.solutions_conversational-marketing

    In 2011, the Harvard Business Review conducted initial research proving the efficacy of this 5 minutes or less rule. In 2018, Drift conducted a follow up study which found that “only a small minority– just 10% of businesses” were responding within HBR’s established lead response time frame.
  • Social Media Direct Messages: The quicker, the better. Social media platforms are designed to make response time faster than other modes, so long as companies can keep up. Facebook will note how fast a company usually responds in their messaging portal, and even rewards companies who respond in under 15 minutes 90 percent of the time with a “Very Responsive to Messages” badge.

    In order to remain responsive after work hours, make sure social managers have all social media mobile applications installed, and set to provide alerts when direct messages are received, directly on their phones.  
  • Social Media Comments: Similarly, social media commenting moves quickly, and should be regularly addressed. Hubspot recommends setting up a system of hourly, daily, and weekly monitoring of different streams, pages, and inboxes to keep an eye on mentions, comments, and replies.

    Community managers can set up monitoring streams with phrases like “[Brand name] + awesome” and “[Brand name] + worst” to track sentiment, strike up conversation, and stamp out small fires before they become big problems.

Post-Introduction Follow-ups

Giving people an easy way to contact you and then quickly responding to them is a great place to start, but showing up doesn’t stop there.

Meeting

Imagine that you were interested in a company’s products or services. They made it easy to reach out and you were delighted by their fast response time. The person you spoke with initially provided some great information, but you needed some additional details that required follow-up correspondence. If you either never received that follow-up correspondence or it took a very long time to hear back, odds are good you’ll never engage with the company again.

How long exactly that follow-up correspondence takes will depend on the complexity of what is needed and what time of day and week it is, but a specific timetable should be provided on that initial correspondence and must be adhered to.

If the company needs additional time to provide the requested information than originally expected, then the contact needs to be notified immediately and given an update.

When in Doubt: Stay Visible, Timely & Reliable

There are plenty of extremely challenging and difficult aspects of running a business, but it’s always important to remember how much success depends on simply being available when prospects, customers, and potential partners want to talk.

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With so many variables that impact success, it makes sense to focus on what you can control... and that’s showing up.

Want to learn more about conversational marketing? Check out our blog post about chatbot applications, and remember to reach out to me when you're ready to talk strategy.
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