Generally speaking, people are suspicious of most online businesses - and the sad truth is that in the vast majority of cases they’re right to be. After all, it can be hard to build a relationship with a business without a physical location, the same way you could with a brick-and-mortar mom-and-pop store down the street from your house.

When people see a Facebook ad, a website banner, or a YouTube commercial, their first instinct, their very first impulse tells them to ignore it.

This is the problem that conversational marketing solves.

The objective of conversational marketing is to earn the trust of your audience by humanizing your business. Conversational marketing adds a level of transparency and accountability to your business that makes your customers feel safe communicating with you, buying from you, and eventually recommending you.

We’ll break down what conversational marketing is, why it’s effective, discuss the theory, provide examples of conversational marketing in practice, and layout some of its major benefits.

What Is Conversational Marketing?

Conversational marketing is a proactive marketing approach, one in which a business engages with its customers and prospects in real-time in the same way two people have a real-life conversation. This approach automates your customer engagement and ultimately shortens your sales cycle.

When Drift, a conversational marketing platform, coined the term in 2018, they defined it as "a one-to-one approach to marketing that companies use to shorten their sales cycle, learn about their customers, and create a more human buying experience.” This experience is often automated using sophisticated marketing automation and AI technology like conversational texts.

In short, conversational marketing is about enabling your customer to talk to your business the same way they could to a human.

Conversational marketing is an inbound approach. It solves a common dilemma in the marketing industry - one of balancing personalization with scalability.

Rather than outwardly promoting your product or service, you’re creating a platform for your customer to ask questions, solve problems, and learn more about you. Thus, having earned their trust, your prospect moves on to the next stage of the sales cycle and is one step closer to becoming a customer.

SMS marketing - enabling customers to engage with brands via texting from their own phones - is one of the first and more prominent examples of conversational marketing in action. However, conversational marketing is an umbrella term that also encompasses chatbots, organic social media, and customer success programs.

The defining feature of conversational marketing is the ability to personalize your interactions with your customer or prospect as much as possible.

What Makes Conversational Marketing So Effective

People would much rather do business with a person than they would with a logo or a robot.

Conversational marketing builds relationships with your customers that are genuine and authentic. Your customer isn’t dealing with you because they have nowhere else to fulfill whatever need or problem they’re having - but because you’re engaging them like you would in a real-life, human-to-human conversation.

Think of a customer support hotline.

Whenever you have to call customer support to fix your TV, sort out an insurance problem, or pay a bill, you call a number and expect to talk to a human.

Or at least, you expect someone or something that will solve whatever problem you’re having: why doesn’t your TV work? Why won’t they process your claim? Why can’t these people just take your money?

When you’re put on hold indefinitely, or worse, put them on a cold, unresponsive automated voice, what’s typically your reaction?

Impatience. Frustration. Anger. Even disgust. You’re a loyal customer, not a robot or a number on a spreadsheet. You hang up the phone, and you try a competing service instead.

Conversational marketing solves the digital-age version of this problem. Rather than wait for days or even weeks for your customer to get an email from you, your customer can pick up their phone, text a number, and get a response within minutes.

When customers can interact with your business quickly and easily, it makes them much more likely to trust you, to follow you, to buy from you, and to recommend you to others.

Not only that, but it gives your ideal customer, the ones most likely to use your product or service, the most direct line of communication to you. This way, you not only bring in more customers, but you also bring in the best and most qualified customers faster.

The Conversational Marketing Framework

Conversational marketing is still a relatively new concept, even within inbound marketing — in and of itself a very new field.

Much like inbound marketing, having a theoretical framework helps to digest the more abstract concepts of conversational marketing so you can understand how things like SMS marketing works.

The three steps to successful conversational marketing go: engage, understand, recommend.

Step 1: Engage Your Customers

More traditional and less interactive marketing methods involve giving your lead a form to fill out or an email to contact if they have a problem or a question.

The digital age has made people impatient, and access to a global network of information has led people to expect instant gratification. They no longer have the time and patience to wait for you while you schedule a demo booking.

SMS marketing enables you to start engaging with buyers using personalized messages targeted to them. This could include offering help to people browsing your store or your FAQ page or checking in on visitors who come to your website more than once.

Conversational marketing platforms can automatically respond to any questions or problems that can be easily answered or resolved. More involved situations can be directed to support staff with real-time messaging. Then, any qualified customers can be guided to the next stage of the funnel.

Step 2: Understand Your Customers

Empathy is the foundation for any healthy relationship, whether business or personal.

People want things fast, and they want them now. A study by the Harvard Business Review shows that customers now expect companies to respond to them within 5 minutes of initial contact. If they don’t, the odds of qualifying the lead decrease by 400%, and decrease exponentially with every hour.

Conversational texting makes you available to your lead the moment they need you in a way that says, “I’m here for you. How can I help?”

Automated SMS texts can also ask qualifying questions that your customers would have likely answered on lead forms or sales calls, to better understand what they need from you. SMS marketing can also filter out any easily resolved problems.

These questions should be empathy-driven statements, in the format of “If I’m hearing you right, this is your problem. Is that correct?” or, "If I’m hearing you right, it sounds as if you want to use {{your product}} to achieve {{customer’s goal}}. Is that accurate?”

After that, the automated SMS text message can recommend the next steps to take and move them to the next stage of the funnel.

Automating your engagement in this way frees up bandwidth for your sales reps while filtering out anyone who isn’t an ideal fit for your product or service.

Step 3: Recommend to Your Customers

Nobody likes being sold to. No one.

Whenever people buy products or services, they do so to fulfill a specific need. At the end of the day, your customers don’t care about who you are or what you do, but how you can help them.

Once you initiate a conversation with your customer and understand their needs, you can recommend the best course of action to take, whether it’s to download your ebook, buy this product or talk to this person.

Once again, your SMS marketing texts can help with this. Intelligent routing and AI programs can make sure that the customer can be directed to the appropriate support staff, that problems are troubleshot and questions are answered. They can also give your customer the content that solves their problem, learning more about them as they go and directing more relevant content to them over time.

Examples of Conversational Marketing

Conversational marketing is all about 1-to-1 relationships with your customers in a way that demonstrates empathy and builds trust.

Fair enough, but how exactly do you do that? How does a business create 1-to-1 relationships like this in a way that’s personalized to an individual lead yet scalable to tens or hundreds of thousands?

Here are some of the tools at your disposal when you engage in conversational marketing:

SMS Marketing

There are two types of conversational marketing most readily used by modern online businesses. Conversational SMS marketing, or conversational texting, is one of them.

Gone are the days when you can get away with putting your contact on hold indefinitely on the phone, or keeping them in the dark indefinitely while they wait to hear back from you via email.

This is the 21st century. Customers want to know that you’re listening to them. SMS conversational text marketing is the way to do that.

SMS conversational texts put your customers in front of your brand in a way that’s immediate and convenient for them. There’s a reason text messaging is the no.1 method of communication for millennials under 50. More interesting still, 82% of consumers enable text notifications on their phones.

That’s a signal that text messaging is how your customers prefer to engage with you. Conversational texting lets you make use of that.


Let’s come back to the problem of scalability versus personalization. Your customers want personalized customer service that’s tailored to them. How do you do that in a scalable way if you have thousands of visitors coming to your website a day, each wanting or needing different things? After all, you only have so many people and they can’t be available 24/7.

The solution? Chatbots.

Chatbots use natural language processing and AI programming to simulate a conversation in a way that’s almost indistinguishable from real human interaction. They can be supported by a team of real humans that engage with the prospects when chatbots can’t.

Conversational marketing bots are the most common marketing practice associated with conversational marketing - and for good reason. 62% of consumers enjoy using chatbots to talk to brands, and 60% of millennials already use chatbots to buy necessities.

They’re not just a great customer service tool - they can also gather information on your prospects - monitoring their questions and responses, and finding out what their common concerns are. These are insights you can use to make new content or offer new services that fulfill those concerns.

Customer Success Programs

Customer success is a new marketing trend, even in the context of conversational marketing which is itself pretty recent.

Imagine a customer tries your product, spends time interacting with it, reads the documentation. Maybe they’re confused by something or looking for a particular feature

Who is there to help them? The customer success manager.

The customer success manager (CSM) is the point-person for your customers as they interact with your product, making sure that they’re using it to its full potential. This in turn improves customer satisfaction in a way that makes it more likely for them to recommend you.

Benefits of Conversational Marketing

It’s often hard to quantify things like improved customer satisfaction and correlate them to dollars in your bank account. Rest assured, conversational marketing has real, tangible benefits that grow your business and your bottom line.

Here are just some of the ways it does that:

1. Automated Customer Support

Being available to your customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week is neither realistic nor feasible. When you aggregate your customer’s most common questions and concerns and train your chat or text bots to answer them, you free up bandwidth for your sales reps to respond to more involved concerns.

Conversational tools make you available to your customer or prospect throughout the day, whenever they need you. Even when you’re not working.

2. Lower Customer Acquisition Cost

Chatbots and conversational texts improve your customer experience in a way that positions you above your competition.

While other businesses in your niche are likely using slower or outdated methods of customer engagement, your automated texts, bots, and customer success managers are doing the work of qualifying your customers for you and making sure they’re happy.

When your customers are happy, they’re more likely to recommend you to their friends, their families, and people in their professional network. This generates the kind of word-of-mouth marketing that every online business strives for.

3. More and Better-Qualified Customers

People rarely have the patience to do something like fill out a lead form and are more likely to just ignore you or hit the back button. They are much more likely to respond to “hello, what can I help you with?” than a pop-up that says “sign here.”

Chat messaging is a great alternative to get on your customer’s good side, and get them to willingly provide their contact information so you can begin the nurturing process.

Conversational Marketing is the Future of Marketing

People are jaded and tired of traditional marketing approaches. They want to interact with brands in a way that makes them feel seen and heard.

It costs you nothing to get started with conversational marketing today. Sign up for an Emotive demo, and see for yourself what happens when you interact with your customers like people.