Integrating Live Chat Into Your Demand Marketing Strategy
Live chat is a growing medium that many companies are turning to as a means to connect with prospects sooner and faster. It makes sense; the medium cuts down the time and steps needed for a successful information exchange between provider and prospect. It does double duty, educating prospects while accelerating sales, and so the tool has grown in popularity over recent years. According to Drift, “between 2019 and 2020, using a Conversational Marketing solution to schedule a meeting, purchase an item, or add yourself to a mailing list more than doubled.”
There are great chat best practices to follow that have been well documented by many, such as this best practice blog by Drift. You can easily learn about common link placement or putting a picture on your profile, and you can readily find answers to commonly asked questions. But when thinking about implementing a chat tool, the thing companies are missing is how to incorporate live chat into an orchestrated customer journey. By that I mean, how does chat work with both your engagement channel strategy and Demand Process to strategically meet a prospect where he or she is in the funnel? You can’t just plug live chat in, as tempting as that is. To succeed, you must integrate chat with Demand Process to orchestrate engagement through the funnel. Then you optimize and build Demand Process into your chat strategy.
Customer Support vs. Sales: Live chat strategy should be prepared to handle both
We’ve seen it many times before. Companies want to drive sales, so they add chat. Then, they get flooded with customer service inquiries or new qualified leads that they aren’t prepared to handle.
The reality is, whether you intend for your chat tool to drive lead acquisition or customer retention, it will do both, so you have to be prepared to route leads accordingly. To do this, you must have a full understanding of the complete customer journey, both pre and post-sale.
Pre-client chats should be supported in two ways. First, the questions asked during the chat should be aligned to important data points in the lead management framework that help better qualify that person. Second, the lead should be routed to the appropriate sales representative to identify need and move that person farther down the funnel. As an example, you might ask for a lead’s company size so that he or she can be routed to the appropriate rep. Without that thought process, you could be sending a potential enterprise customer to someone who manages non-profit accounts, which would be a major disconnect for that prospect’s journey.
Post-client chats can be support or sales related. But don’t focus only on the sales opportunities. Determining if a live chat is support or sales related early on by asking the right questions will allow you to route the chat to the appropriate person and process. Support chats need someone who can look at a customer’s account and be prepared to answer specific questions around their products and/or services (or take them to the right place to get those answers), whereas upsell clients need to be routed to someone who can explain product benefits, costs, etc. These are two very different conversations and it’s critical to support both through your chat strategy. Let’s not forget – support chats can turn into Qualified Leads, too. It’s important to also have a process to align support chats with sales when needed!
Chat Strategy should align with your existing data capture model
Chat strategy is more than link placement and routing. Like explained above, implementing live chat means you should be using your existing lead management foundation and incorporating it into your chat strategy and experience (don’t have a strong lead management framework? Read this page). It’s important to incorporate a data capture model that mimic progressive and accelerator form field data. Does your sales team route leads based on certain factors? Do you qualify based on demographic data? Do you score chat interactions the same amount as if someone had filled out an accelerator? These technical details matter to keep a clean, cohesive data capture model. Not only does this help you quickly route leads, but it also helps prioritize who to follow up with first. If you’re not sure how to do that, read Is Your Martech Stack Orchestrating Engagement or Just Blasting Outbound Emails?
It’s equally as important to note that not all people chatting are ready to talk to sales. You should incorporate questions that allow you to gauge whether or not a lead is ready to talk to sales. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking outright, “do you want us to contact you?”. If a lead answers “no” then be prepared with appropriate follow up content. Offer pieces that are relevant and use this opportunity to move the lead down the funnel. If you align chat activity with your content model and lead management model, you can help move buyers through the funnel and incorporate chat into the full story of their buying experience.
Connected digital experience and platforms is key
CMS, MAP, CRM, and Live Chat need to all work together to paint the digital picture and bring the live chat strategy to life. This also enables a seamless customer journey experience with a consistent feel and messaging. Digital platforms should work together to capture data needed for KPIs in the same way. You must be able to drive reporting from one place or platform and connect it all together (instead of tying in data from various platforms, thus not connecting total success in one place). All plug-ins offer their own reporting, and that reporting is great. However, when you have several different platforms, each with its own reporting, it becomes hard to see the full picture and opens the window for competing datasets to be used in reporting. CMS, CRM, and marketing automation can and should work together to deliver the chat experience that’s best for the buyer, as well as capture and share the data that drove those chat conversations so that it can be unified in reporting done across all platforms.
You should also capture channel and chat data in a way that you can report on chat influence and ROI, as well as overall channel influence (that is, what channel drove someone to the site before they clicked the chat button). At a minimum you should be tracking how many Qualified Leads and Opportunities (including Open, Closed-Won, Closed-Lost, and Closed-Out) were both influenced and sourced from chat. If you’re not sure what other types of KPIs to assign the tool, read Demand Marketing KPIs and Metrics You Should Monitor. It’s tempting to turn chat on and go, but if you take the extra time to align how to capture the channels that led to chat, as well as the act of the chat itself, then you are giving yourself the data you need to truly prove its performance.
Live chat isn’t set it and forget it. Live chat that connects the digital customer journey with your demand marketing tech stack allows for better reporting and insights that drive future changes and alignments to improve performance. There is always opportunity to augment playbooks and bot recommendations based on content performance. There is always opportunity to optimize chat experience and journey based on sales wins and revenue. First you integrate chat with Demand Process, and then you optimize and build Demand Process into Chat!