“The companies that are doing the best today, they all have this one thing in common,” says Dave Gerhardt, VP Marketing at Drift. “They’ve shifted to be real and authentic and human. People want to have conversations with that business.”
The last decade in marketing was all about putting up barriers to prevent people from talking to you, Gerhardt says. But there’s been a major shift in focus. Marketers have realized that the most important thing you can offer your customers is a frictionless customer experience which makes communicating with you and buying easy.
“It’s why conversational marketing has taken the marketing world by storm over the last year,” he adds. “Marketers are seeing amazing results, because when you remove the friction, you’re talking to people who are interested in your business.”
It’s because buyers don’t want to be marketed to or sold to. They want to buy, and they want to buy their own way. Enough information is freely available that customers are already armed and ready to make decisions without being pushed, and marketing and sales need to adapt to how people want to buy, and ensure that they’re handing those customers back their power.
“You have to be able to hit your numbers and do all the things you need to do as a marketing and sales person, but you have to do it in the way a customer prefers, which is an awesome challenge,” Gerhardt says.
Part of that is understanding that consumers today expect personalized answers and communication to happen in real time, but for most B2B companies, that has not been the case for a very long time, Gerhardt says. Potential customers are pointed to your website in order to fill out a form so someone can reach out later, or booking demo appointments with your next available salesperson for a date in the future.
But personalization changes the tenor of those interactions out of the gate, he says.
“Customers now expect a great experience,” Gerhardt says. “They don’t get wowed by little personalization features anymore. We think about using personalization not as a gimmick, but to really welcome somebody, really roll out the red carpet for people who visit your website.”
It should be based on whatever type of interaction that person is having with your business, he explains. If a customer has been talking to somebody on your sales team, you need to treat them differently than someone who’s visiting your website for the first time.
“If you were somebody who’s been talking to our sales team and is actively in a sales process and has talked to multiple people, that message will say something more like, ‘Hey, Dave, thanks for the great chat yesterday. Let me know if you have any questions about what I sent over to you,’” he says. “As you go further down the funnel, you can get even more personalized and really treat someone the same way you would treat them in store. You should be armed in the online world with the same type of stuff you’d pick up in an in-store experience.”
But you don’t ever want to fall into the trap where a customer, or potential customer, believes that they’re talking to a real person, he warns.
“We think about AI and machine learning as a way to augment what we’re already doing and create a better experience for people, not actually replace humans,” he says.
AI is also a powerful tool for eliminating what Gerhardt calls the “digital paperwork” that gets in the way of creating great experiences for your customers. Marketing and sales people tend to spend so much time trying to manage their inboxes, sending and responding to hundreds of emails a day, entering records into a CRM, sharing call notes, and more. It’s important work — but what a marketer is good at is getting the right people to your website. And what a sales person is good at is getting folks on the phone and having good conversations. That’s what each of them needs to be focusing all their time and energy on.
“There’s huge potential in using AI and machine learning to handle all that digital paperwork for you as a sales person or a marketer, so you can focus on the one-to-one personalized conversation and creating a great experience,” Gerhardt says.
Knowing how much personalization to offer isn’t mysterious either, he adds.
“People will tell you,” he says. “Today you can have such a close relationship with your potential customers as a marketer or a sales person. You’ll know what the line is. And people are not shy about responding to your chat or emails. They’ll share with you directly.”
To learn more about the personalization techniques that really resonate, how to back them with the AI technology that makes them spot-on and on-time, plus more, don’t miss this VB Live event!
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