The bedrock of growth of any organization is its sales and marketing team. Every business needs engaged customers who are abreast with the company’s latest offerings and the value that they can derive from the company’s products. It’s the sales and marketing team which creates an opportunity out of these prospects, or more aptly creates customers out of leads.
Traditionally, a progression from a contact to a Marketing Qualified Lead to a Sales Qualified Lead to a paying customer has been seen as a linear process. A new concept of Conversation Qualified Leads has become increasingly popular for two reasons:
- Conversation Qualified Leads extend the traditional marketing and sales funnel, but also quite often reflect the reality that there is no funnel at all, meaning that a contact has become a paying customer without being a Marketing or Sales Qualified Lead
- The latest advances in AI-enabled chatbot solution now allow sales and marketing teams to scale conversation-driven lead and customer generation very efficiently.
Let’s take a closer look at this new phenomenon.
Communication between the marketing team and potential customers is focused on a broad range of topics. It’s the widest end of the sales funnel. Customers of all ‘hues’ come in via a variety of channels, both online and offline and enquire about the services.
This enquiry forms the first interface of leads with the company, and it’s the marketing team which handles these enquiries. The leads at this point in the sales funnel are called MQL, or Marketing Qualified Leads. These MQLs come in a large number and a portion of these customers actually end up buying the product after interacting with the marketing teams.
In the earlier days, i.e. prior to Internet-enabled marketing, customers had very limited information on their hands. In the best-case scenario, they would have product brochures delivered to them via postal mail. In the more common scenarios, the customers had to visit the company’s stores or outlets. And in many cases, the product information received via print, radio or television mediums was all they had.
One of the limitations of traditional marketing communications was the inability to customize the message as per end customers. It was, and still is in the case of traditional industries, a case of one message being doled out to all. In the end, the message aims to please the most number of people among the prospects. As a result, the undecided or the fence sitters were ignored. This was a clear loss of potential revenue.
The first step of interacting one to one with the customer started online with live chats. A customer would open the website of a company, read information present and then start a conversation with a representative. Traditional live chats, however, were limited in their applicability due to the sheer size of manpower required. Due to the simple reason that the number of prospects is generally huge when compared to the final conversions.
Enter chat bots – one-to-one conversations with the capability to scale
With Artificial Intelligence(AI) and Machine Learning(ML) coming of age, computers started getting good at communications. And once they started matching humans in their conversing capability, chat bots literally burst on the scene. The sudden and mass acceptance of chat bots lies in their being inherently low cost while at the same time constantly improving with ML and AI.
So, now with chat bots, each customer gets to talk to a company’s virtual representative one-on-one. With the capability of chat bots to smoothly transfer ongoing conversations to an actual human expert, makes their integration in marketing operations very smooth. With chat bots, all customers get a personalized experience upfront, get all their questions answered without even realizing (in most of the cases i.e.) that the employee they are conversing with is an intelligent agent and not a real person.
Chat bots provide more value than simple conversation tools
The ability to chat live is the first step of customer engagement. But chat bots core being a software provides unparalleled advantages. These include the ability to continue conversations from where they ended earlier and that too across channels. So, a customer who is qualified with a high-score for lead conversion is treated uniformly with the same focus across all channels – whether there is a human or an agent interacting with the customer. Unified communications bring in a whole new level of customer engagement.
From MQL to SQL – The entire sales funnel gets the advantage of chat bots
From Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) which form the broadest end to Sales Qualified Leads (SQL) which are the opposite narrowest end of the sales funnel, chat bots can help engage a customer across the entire range. An SQL is a prospect who is almost sure to purchase the end product and is dealt with by the sales team.
Not only does the increased levels of customer engagement via chat bots, as the lead moves from being an MQL to being a SQL, ensures low drop off during this journey, the rich data which the chat bots generate specific to the prospect allows the sales team to close the deal much more efficiently.
Chat bots have already made their presence felt in online customer facing interfaces. With the improvement in AI and ML models, the bots are becoming more and more human like in their interactions. Chat bots are now not only saving millions in lead generation to customer acquisition cycle, they are also in the process optimizing and enhancing the entire marketing and sales setup of agile organizations.