Kati Manninen, March 29, 2019
By now, chatbots have proven their value as a customer service and problem-solving tool. Managers are beginning to see them as a way to scale up their business-to-consumer marketing efforts, answering the most common questions from customers and guiding them to complete sales without the need for human intervention.
Much less obvious is that chatbots can also be great at providing the right content for nurturing leads in the B2B sphere.
Typical B2B customer journeys, of course, differ vastly from those in the B2C world. The nurturing process is generally longer and more complex, with far more information exchanged in both directions. And, except in cases of easy, low-risk decisions, the customer will nearly always want to interact with a live sales representative before making a commitment.
What, then, is the role of the chatbot in this long and complicated decision process? Actions can vary, but they usually involve undertaking what a human marketer would otherwise do: keeping potential customers engaged, collecting and providing information, and gently propelling the lead toward maturity.
The chatbot intervenes at strategic points along the customer journey providing help. For example, if a contact has downloaded certain content at an early stage in the sales process, the bot can propose the next appropriate content facilitating the reader’s progress on the journey. Just as critically, the chatbot is also designed to ask users questions about their needs and where they are on their buying journey. Of the various ways to track decision makers and their interests, by far, a CRM system offers the most complete picture. CRM information, when available, should be integrated into the chatbot conversation as much as possible. With this information, the chatbot can provide the most appropriate content, while the user is given more control.
Effectively integrating the chatbot into a company’s B2B marketing process requires understanding the customer journey as a whole. At Nortal, we start by analyzing our clients’ data, then working with their sales and marketing staff to design the end-to-end customer journey. Based on account information from the chatbot conversation and other data sources, we utilize intelligent rules and design the chatbot closely tailoring the content to the lead’s interest.
As mentioned earlier, the typical B2B customer will want to move from chatting with a bot to conversing with a human before the deal is done. This can be organized in several ways. For instance, the bot can offer the customer a click-through button asking to have a live sales representative start a chat within a specified time. Or it can open a calendar application to schedule a call at their convenience.
Whatever the option used, it’s vital the transition be both smooth and quick. All the relevant customer information collected from the chatbot conversation has to be provided to the sales representative before the discussion continues. Equally important, the contact has to happen without delay. A Harvard Business Review study found that by trying to get in touch with potential customers within an hour of a query companies are almost seven times as likely to have a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker as those who did so even an hour later.
The lesson here is that B2B chatbots can be a useful part of the lead nurturing process. When designing an effective marketing strategy, the wider customer journey, and all the interactions surrounding it, must always be taken into account.
If you would like to discuss how Nortal can help you integrate chatbots into your marketing plan, feel free to get in touch.