You see chatbots everywhere. But you probably don't realize that today's chatbots barely scratch the surface of what's possible.
Artificial intelligence is quickly changing how we think of conversational marketing, or marketing via chatbots across websites and messaging platforms.
Today, we think of chatbots as relatively dumb, mildly annoying pop-ups on a site that ask us how we're doing or if we have any questions.
But the reality is that the most forward-thinking companies are using chatbots powered by sophisticated AI to:
- Learn from your human reps' best conversations and deploy the most effective elements across automated chat.
- Automatically answer questions on websites.
- Contact, qualify, and follow-up with leads 24/7 across chat, messages, and email.
Make no mistake:
Conversational marketing is getting a lot smarter thanks to AI.
In this article, we briefly explain what AI is and why you should care about it in your conversational marketing. We then examine use cases for AI in conversational marketing, as well as vendors to investigate.
What is artificial intelligence (AI)
Artificial intelligence is an umbrella term that covers several different technologies, like machine learning, computer vision, natural language processing, deep learning, and more.
At their core, though, all of these technologies help machines perform specific cognitive tasks as well as or better than humans.
For instance, AI-powered computer vision systems in self-driving cars are able to identify obstacles just like people do, allowing the machine to take the wheel.
Your favorite voice assistant, like Alexa or Siri, understands your words just like another person, then responds in kind—all using AI.
Amazon and Netflix use AI recommendation engines to offer up products and movies you might like, making assumptions about your preferences just like a fellow product or movie enthusiast might.
While there are a ton of complexities to different types of AI, all you really need to know right now is that “artificial intelligence” describes many different types of smart technologies. And many of these technologies can have a serious impact your marketing career and performance.
That’s because AI isn’t just automation, though it may include elements of intelligent automation. AI takes things a few steps further.
These technologies analyze large datasets. They don’t just crunch numbers, though. They use advanced computer science techniques and superior computational firepower to extract insights from data. These insights can then be used to make predictions, recommendations, and decisions.
In the process, the most advanced AI systems actually learn to improve their predictions, recommendations, and decisions as they make more of them.
Why AI is relevant to conversational marketing
Intelligent automation makes chatbots possible. With traditional technology, you can add a bot to your site that asks questions and gives automated responses.
These are the chatbots we're all used to. But AI makes possible a much more robust type of chatbot, one that can actually interpret what you ask or say, then offer contextual responses in an automated fashion.
This type of AI-powered conversational marketing means, with the right tools, you get truly intelligent bots working 24/7 to engage with and qualify visitors to your website.
Some of the most sophisticated AI conversational marketing tools can even learn from the most effective conversations your human agents have, then use what works best in their automated conversations with prospects and customers.
Thanks to this power to augment and improve sales performance, McKinsey analysts writing in Harvard Business Review estimate that AI can create $1.4 to $2.6 trillion of value in marketing and sales.
Use cases for conversational AI
Smart chatbots are one of the top use cases for AI in conversational marketing.
AI-powered bots can automatically engage with site visitors in real-time. They can answer questions people have by "reading" the content on your website and serving it up when it's relevant. They can even schedule sales meetings at the right time, once they determine a conversation has progressed to a suitable handoff point.
AI email assistants
Conversational AI is also used to conduct two-way email conversations with prospects. These emails look like they come from a human, but actually come from a sophisticated AI-powered bot that "understands" what's being said and determines the right response.
That means companies can use AI to engage cold leads, automate engagement with less qualified or lower priority leads, qualify more leads and hand them off, and execute consistent follow ups with prospects.
AI messenger assistants
Across sites and messaging platforms, conversational AI makes it possible to have personalized conversations at scale.
You can deploy AI messengers to engage one-to-one with consumers about specific products and services or to offer recommendations on what to do or buy next. You can even use AI for customer service conversations and updates.
AI messengers then learn from these engagements about what consumers want and need.
That produces highly personalized conversations (and, eventually, conversions) across web properties, online stores, and messaging platforms.
Vendors that offer AI tools for sales
Now that you know what AI can do for conversational marketing, you might be wondering what solutions out there actually do it.
Drift is a conversational marketing and sales platform with $107 million in funding. The company streamlines how marketing and sales happen using conversations across chat, email, and video.
Artificial intelligence is a key ingredient in the company's solutions. Drift Automation uses AI to mine past conversations with buyers, so your on-site chatbots can answer buyer questions. Machine learning also helps these bots automatically qualify leads 24/7. That means marketers and sales pros free themselves up to pursue higher-value tasks.
Frase is an AI platform that tells marketers which questions prospects are asking, then helps them create content around those questions. The tool can actively create content briefs on any topic, as well as catalog and respond to site visitor questions.
Companies big and small are currently using Frase to research content faster, drive SEO results, and build smarter content strategies based on actual consumer questions.
Conversica is another major player in the space, with $87 million in funding. The company provides an automated AI assistant that engages your leads in conversation. The AI assistant conducts conversations with leads, further qualifying them before they talk to a rep.
This type of intelligent automation provides a number of benefits. Human reps are freed up to actually sell to people who are interested in a product or service, rather than wasting a lot of time talking to people who aren’t qualified. Every lead gets a follow-up, since the AI assistant can scale easily.
It’s a perfect example of how machine and humans can collaborate in sales to unlock even more value.
Exceed uses AI to engage with every sales lead that enters your pipeline, using human-like, two-way conversations by email and chat.
The result is identifying and securing customers faster and more efficiently through completely automated contact, engagement, follow-up, and lead qualification.
Meera.ai is a conversational AI platform that helps brands engage with consumers at every stage of the buyer journey.
The solution can interact empathetically with prospects and customers, automatically contact leads, and create one-to-one personalized experiences for each site visitor.
As Chief Content Officer, Mike Kaput uses content marketing, marketing strategy, and marketing technology to grow and scale traffic, leads, and revenue for Marketing AI Institute. Mike is the co-author of Marketing Artificial Intelligence: AI, Marketing and the Future of Business (Matt Holt Books, 2022). See Mike's full bio.