Conversational marketing exists to help businesses be more human. How, then, can artificial intelligence—viewed by many as technology designed to replace us—augment our human abilities to better connect us with consumers in a more personal, meaningful way?
For one, the demand from consumers for conversations is huge. A Twilio survey found that 90% of consumers want to communicate with businesses through messaging.
On the business side, conversational AI adoption is rapidly on its way. By 2020, Oracle predicts that 80% of businesses will use or plan to adopt bots.
At Marketing AI Institute, we believe the future of marketing is more intelligent and more human.
Conversational marketing, which is increasingly infused with AI, unlocks opportunities for marketers and salespeople to better meet prospects where they are and become more human.
A 2-Minute Definition of AI
Before we dive into AI’s application in conversational marketing, let’s review the basics of AI. You’d be surprised how far the basics can take you, especially when you start using AI for conversational marketing.
If you ask 10 different experts what artificial intelligence is, you'll probably get 10 different answers. But one simple definition comes from Demis Hassabis, CEO of DeepMind, an AI startup acquired by Google.
Hassabis calls AI the “science of making machines smart.” The technology is given the ability to see, hear, speak, move, or write, and to improve at these activities over time.
In each application, as it exists today, AI makes predictions using data. AI tries to predict what a human will do next or it attempts to predict what is most likely to get a human to do the action we want them to do, based on its programming.
Consider a few examples in your daily life:
- Voice assistants, like Alexa, “hear” your words, process them, then respond and take action.
- Netflix tracks the content you watch, knows what millions of other users consume, then serves you content recommendations based on that data.
- Google Maps views your current location and destination, then predicts the quickest path between the points, factoring in road conditions, traffic patterns, and more.
Each example of AI considers hundreds, thousands, or millions of data points to make its predictions.
These AI solutions also get smarter over time. When Alexa misunderstands your command or you choose a movie Netflix served you, the tools now have more data points to use to make better predictions about the right answer in the future.
In marketing, we constantly try to predict what consumers will do or try to guess what we can do to get them to act. As humans, we rely on instinct to make those predictions.
AI makes predictions based on huge amounts of data; data that humans do not have the capacity or capability to analyze and understand. That means that AI has the potential to not only make more accurate predictions than us (since it uses much more data that we do), but can also do so faster and at scale.
And that’s what we aim for, right?
How AI is Used in Conversational Marketing
How can marketers unlock the potential of AI today in their conversational marketing programs?
If you’re reading this, odds are you have a small chat box hovering in the lower right corner of your website with a message such as “Welcome! How can I help?” or “Hey there! Any questions I can answer for you?”
For most of us, these online chat tools were our introduction to conversational marketing.
Teams often are hesitant about chatbot adoption due to the perceived time-suck of answering queries at all hours of the day.
AI turns this potentially time-intensive activity for sales and marketing teams into an asset that augments your capabilities in less time and provides a greater experience for customers.
For the Consumer
Companies activating conversational marketing want (and need) to be customer-centric. Before thinking about scalability or lead gen, how does AI help chatbots not provide a horrible experience?
We’ve all experienced this.
Companies like Drift, HubSpot and Frase are reinventing chatbot perceptions and effectiveness with AI, enabling consumers to:
Get answers instantly. What percentage of your chat inquiries are repetitive or have been answered by someone on your website? For example, Frase is a company that uses AI in it’s Answer Engine Platform to find answers on your website. When a visitor submits a question to the chatbot on your website, it searches your site for the answer, and delivers a response.
Chat with your brand 24/7. Is someone on your team willing to work 24/7/365? We didn’t either until we added a chatbot to our site. Conversational AI solutions (in the form of chatbots) make your brand available to provide resources at all times, benefitting your consumers.
Receive a personalized experience. Ideally, salespeople would tailor each sales email and phone call to the person they’re selling to. Unfortunately, that requires access to a visitor’s data and is often time-intensive for your team. AI solutions help by referencing a site visitor’s past actions and all available information when interacting with them via chatbot, email, SMS, or messenger. This helps us achieve the 1-to-1 personalization humans cannot achieve at scale on their own.
For the Marketer
With conversational marketing, we desire 1-to-1 interactions with each person who engages on our site. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible. AI can expand our reach and help us focus on the consumers that most need it.
In conversational marketing, AI can:
Qualify leads. Bots can be told (or even learn) what a disqualified lead looks like, and only pass the qualified leads to sales. This strengthens your relationship with the sales team and saves you time.
Provide 24/7 availability. Just as consumers want access to your brand 24/7, you want a lead generation source that is available at all hours of the day. AI-powered chatbots can provide resources, schedule appointments, and collect email addresses and more on leads.
Improve response times. Most teams don’t have the capacity to sit and wait for messages to come in. With chatbots, answers to simple questions can be provided by the bot, and only high-value customers will be routed to the marketing or sales team to engage.
For the Sales Team
Chatbots often come to mind first when discussing conversational marketing. However, other channels—including email, SMS, and messaging apps are being integrated by AI platforms.
The platforms doing this—including Conversica, Exceed.ai, and Automat—create what they’ve coined “AI sales assistants.” These assistants can engage in human-like, two-way email, online chat, or SMS conversations that engage leads.
What’s the benefit of this?
For companies with too many incoming leads to count, AI scales sales outreach. Leads that are dormant, less qualified, or of a lower priority can now be contacted by an AI sales assistant, creating sales opportunities that would have otherwise been left alone.
Studies show that several touchpoints are necessary to effectively convert. Unfortunately, most sales reps (63%) give up after reaching out one or two times. AI sales assistants, however, can email leads promptly, professionally and persistently in a human-like way, showcasing those best-selling practices.
With large datasets and sentiment analysis, AI solutions can analyze emails to identify hot leads. From there, human salespeople can contact the lead and proceed as usual.
How to Get Started with AI for Conversational Marketing
If you work in conversational marketing or want to better utilize messaging in your marketing and sales efforts, AI can likely help. That means now is the time to get started with AI, no matter your skill or comfort level.
To do so means you build a potentially insurmountable competitive advantage. To delay means you risk getting left behind.
Good news, though:
There are two ways to accelerate AI adoption in your career and your company.
The first is by accessing our free Ultimate Beginner's Guide to AI in Marketing.
The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to AI in Marketing is a free resource with 100+ articles, videos, courses, books, vendors, use cases, and events to dramatically accelerate your AI education. It's based on the years we spent on research and experimentation—and you can access this knowledge in a fraction of the time.
The second is by attending our Marketing AI Conference (MAICON).
MAICON brings together top authors, entrepreneurs, AI researchers, and executives to share case studies, strategies, and technologies that make AI approachable and actionable for marketers.
Last year's event brought together 300+ marketers, including attendees from 12 countries and 28 states. The conference is simply the best way to learn how to adopt AI, straight from marketing leaders already using the technology.
Tim Anderson was formerly a consultant at Ready North. He joined the agency in February 2017. Tim graduated in December 2016 from the University of Mount Union, where he earned a degree in marketing with a minor in communications.