Conversational Marketing - Right Idea but Let's Think Bigger

Ed Marsh | Mar 5, 2018

What's old is new in industrial marketing

Introduction to SignalsFromTheOP


Guide to episode

  1. Is Conversational Marketing new?
  2. Is it the right term?
  3. What do buyers want?
  4. What's the value to us?

Transcript follows

I am Ed Marsh. Thanks for joining me for this episode of Signals from the OP, where I talk about issues that I think have strategic implication for industrial manufacturers and their revenue growth. Today, I'm talking about a buzz word, which I don't do often, but this buzzword that's gotten a lot of attention lately is conversational marketing. Now, nobody has really defined it. I'd say that Drift has not only kind of originated the use of the term, but probably done the most toward defining as anyone, and they say it's about real time, one to one conversation with prospects.

I would ask, my quick reaction is because Drift talks about online chat, I would ask, can it be a conversation if there's no voice? If it's not two people using their voices, connecting to each other? And I would further ask how is this different? It's this hip new thing, but how's it different than picking up the phone and having a telephone exchange?

So, let's kind of unpack this. I think there's a couple problems with using a term that includes marketing. First, it's not just about marketing. It's about helping prospects. It's about helping buyers and customers, and it's about helping throughout the life cycle, so we need to be talking about not just conversational marketing, but we need to be talking about sales and service, and I would say even some kind of end of life sorts of questions. If I've got an old Kindle that I want to get rid of, I've got to be able to have a quick dialogue and figure out how do to so. How to get the label, where to send it to, etc.

"Real-Time" or just not asynchronous?

Second, and probably, I would say, the most important point that we're talking about here is whether this is synchronous or asynchronous. So, it may not be completely real time, although I think that's what Drift envisions, but the important point is it's not like a kind of classic email exchange where somebody sends something and then a couple days later you get this message back. So, maybe conversation in the right time, maybe it is, maybe I'm being too picky or finding a distinction without a difference. I'm more inclined to call it dialogue, and I think it's important in a couple ways. First of all, it means it's about fostering a neutral exchange, a back and forth exchange of information, and that's almost always a better way to ensure better understanding and better communication.

We're also communicating in shorter bits. So, when you have a long email versus this back and forth, you've got fewer assumptions embedded in each message, which leads to fewer misunderstandings, and of course, you also miss that whole problem where nobody reads points, bullet points three through five in an email, right?

I would say, third thing, Drift just kind of inherently, because of the nature of their product, they embed in this the assumption that this conversation is about online chat. And that's certainly an exciting and interesting and effective medium for many kinds of buyers in many situations, but it doesn't have to be that. It could also be conversation or dialogue with a device, like Alexa. Or with a person, over the phone, or with an AI engine that makes recommendations to you based on what you've done and what you've liked. It could be by voice. It could be by telephone. It could be by video. It could certainly be by online chat, as Drift kind of envisions it and has created it. It could even by an exchange of questions and answers with a bot.

So there's a lot of different channels and media, and so really, conversational marketing isn't about online chat for prospects. It's about this premise of a dialogue, a consistent exchange near real time, with people, for better communication. I think that's the bottom line, and if you've ever gotten an email back, a reply back two days after you send something and you say, "Whose question are they answering?" Or listening to a voice mail that left you no better off than before you started listening to it. I think that illustrate the problem with asynchronous communication that we the opportunity to fix with something that's more real time.

Destination - Better communication

So real time, or near real time dialogue, I believe, is where we're headed. That's kind of the means by which we can solve for a lot of business problems. And I would say that's probably ... I would attribute a lot of the success of Slack to the nature of the platform that really is about fostering this real time exchange in dialogue, rather than bouncing emails back and forth, replying to all, you're part of the community. It's like standing there being part of the conversation. You chime in when you need to, listen when you need to, so it's that real time sort of communication.

I think that Drift is doing a great job getting people to think about how to lower barriers to real time communication with prospects. I'd say let's broaden it. Not just conversation, not just prospects. Let's broaden it to solving for the best results for everyone interacting with their business, and further, interacting with our products and with our services. So I think we've got an opportunity to broaden the thinking, maybe it's not just bots and conversational marketing. Maybe it's about more real time dialogue across all kinds of platforms so that we all have more fun and more success working with each other.

If you like this kind of a contrarian or sometimes cynical look at issues that you hear getting talked about around business, revenue, growth in this kind of digital age, I welcome you to subscribe to my Signals from the OP video blog. You can do that at Thanks for joining me today, I'm Ed Marsh.

Let's chat.