Turning Up the Volume on Conversational Marketing

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

For many B2B SaaS companies, conversations are the ultimate success metric.

When customers directly engage with you, relationships are established and, as important, the sales journey is jump-started.

On this episode of Marketing Spark, Mark Kilens, Drfit's VP of Content & Community, talks about how conversation marketing gained momentum last year at a time when conferences disappeared.

Drift pioneered conversation marketing with the introduction of an AI-powered chatbot that attempts to engage, understand and recommend solutions.

Mark and I also talk about Drift's approach to content marketing, the importance of content distribution, and some of the metrics used to assess content marketing success.

Hi, it's Mark Evans and you're listening to marketing spark podcast that features conversations with markers and entrepreneurs in the trenches. As a BB SASS marketer, I'm surrounded by customer metrics, mqlssql, conversion ratios and click through rates. At the end of the day, I'm a big believer in conversations. A lot of business happens because you've connected with customers about their needs, interest and goals. When that happens, sales are a lot easier and faster. On today's podcast I'm talking with mark killings, VP content and community at drift, the pioneer and leader in conversational marketing. Welcome to marketing spark, Mark. Thank you, mark. Great to be with you today. Let's start by defining conversational marketing. What is it? What makes it so effective? Yeah, start at the top. I mean conversational marketing was something that drift created back in two thousand and sixteen. It's been around for a long time and has really gained a lot of traction. Conversational marketing allows you to engage instantly in a very hyperpersonalized way with your customers and buyers to ultimately create more pipeline and accelerate revenue. The key to it, though, is it's in service of creating a better buying experience, a better digital buying each fraens with that notion of like personalized messaging, personalized help, personalized assistance, if you will, to guide you, guide you through the buying process. So how does conversational marketing happen? I mean, obviously their chat bots, there are conversations, believe it or not, with real people. Maybe you can define the different ways that conversational marketing happens in the wild? It's another good question. I mean we we took a very hard look at what is the structure of a...

...conversation and we boiled it down to three things, and these three things really died a lot of what how, a lot of how we build product, a drift how we teach people to use conversational marketing and sales. What we call this is the conversational framework and it's three pieces. Engage, understand, recommend. So how do you engage one of your buyers or customers, like I said, in any very relevant, contextual, personalized way when they come to your website? We can we can unpack that if you want. How do you then understand a bit more about them. In the traditional sense of marketing mark it's like qualification, right, or disqualification, but it's really understanding more about their tent, the motivations, who they are, how are they feeling that day, all of those kind of signals, and you, at the same time, through a conversation, either with a chap bought and Ai, you know virtual assistant, or another human being I chat, are helping maybe them understand a bit more about your business or what you can offer them in that moment, just like a natural, natural conversation. You know what it would occur. And then there's ultimately like a recommendation, and there might be multiple recommendations through a conversation, but in a lot of these interactions with conversational marketing they don't last too too long. So the the recommendation typically is at the end of the conversation. At least you know it's like them. From a marketing perspective, it's like, Oh, a cult action, if you will. It's like what's the next best action we can help this person who's visiting our website looking at something? What's the next best action? Is it to maybe go to someone on the sales team. Is it's some more marketing type content? Is it as a support or service type inquiry? How can we recommend and guide them to the next best thing? So, if you think about it, just engage, understand, recommend the power in that framework. That's how that's the genesis of all things conversational marketing and sales. I love that framework. I love the simplicity and the fact that it really had identifies the key pillars when it comes to the customer journey. And I'd...

...like to circle back a little bit to engage because in my business, my position myself as someone who helps be tob sads, companies attract and engage. But the reality is engaging consumers these days is extremely hard. I mean there there's a study to suggest that they see a hundred thousand words or audio or ads or Social Media Day. So there's so much information coming at them that for a marketer it's a huge challenge trying to get someone to stop, even for a short period of time. Can you elaborate on the link between conversational marketing and engage and how do they work together the how do they allow companies to really pull in a customer? So you can start a conversation and get them down the buyers journey. I mean to me like in the way we think about it at drift, marketing these days is a function of building a relationship and building a strong trust bond, if you will. Like I likes, I think of it almost as like a chain. Right. There's links in the chain and what marketer should be trying to do is add more links to that trust chain. Right, and it's a sensitive chain, right. It can break it almost any time with really one bad engagement or interaction. So, from an engagement standpoint, what conversational marketing tries to do is it tries to not only empower the marketer and the salesperson but the visitor, to give them the power, to give them the power of the the buying process that they want to go through. Right, like they most people, and some of this comes from our state of Conversational Marketing survey that will talk, I'm sure, more about. Some of this comes from Garter or forester. There's many more people these days that really don't want to talk to sales per se. No, marketing and sales are some of the least trusted. You know, jobs right out there. So it's even more important to the common image. Is a minute ago, like about the trust chain and how you build that. So from an engagement standpoint it's like how do you make that...

...experience, typically the digital side of the experience, feel as relevant and as helpful to each buyer? So, from a marketers perspective, it's flipping the idea of your website to be very buy or centric and and understand who's coming to the website. Car sittion marketing helps you understand who comes to the website, where are they coming from and where are they in the purchase journey, that the buying journey, or the or the customer experience journey. How are you want to frame it? So where are they in that? And then what page are they on? So if you take those three, those technically four things, but it's the WHO, the where and the what that's going to help you then start to shape out how do you best engage with this person? But then a second thing has to happen as well. What what's what? Or are most successful customers? Do customers like adobe, OCTA, etc. They also then make sure that when one of those visitors comes to the website that we know is either in market or is out of market but qualified but might not be showing really, really high levels of intense they're still going to notify the sales owner, the account owner at the company, of that visitor, of that visit and and it's on then the salesperson to being able to know what to do in that situation. If they're free. Should they try to kind of jump into that you know, interaction and engagement and reach out in a really human, personalized way? Should they follow up the next day? Should they follow up in five minutes? So it's doing not only the Front End Change Management of what they experience of the website from an engagement standpoint, but it's also making sure the backend workflows of how you get your sales team now involved in these conversations. That's that's the key mark. It's both sides of that coin. The other angle that I want to ask you about is the fact that I think it's Gartner suggest that a customer has done about is about seventy weight, seventy percent down the path, down the buyers path, before the even touch a company, and they've done their research,...

...they've looked at other websites, they've looked at analyst research, they've checked out cap tero or Gtwo, so they their armed with a lot of information. So by the time they hit the website they're looking for something else or looking for some looking for engagement or something personal and relevant. I guess that's where conversational marking can really fill the gap, that final thirty percent that you need a customer to get before they made the purchase. You make a great point, I call I say it like this, conversational marketing and sales helps the empowered buy or buy. In a nutshell, that's a great way to explain the experience, for sure, hundred percent. Before we move on, I did want to ask you a little bit about drift. I mean this is a company that has had tremendous growth enjoys a very high profile as they set off the top. They're the pioneers and conversation of marketing. How did it get to where it is today? Like what was that moment where the company realized that Conversational Marketing was the path to success and provide a little bit like how did the company start? What was the original mandate? Yeah, the company started way back in two thousand and fourteen. Two Thousand and fifteen. That was those are the founding gears, David Cancel and alias Torres. You know, that's that's when they started it. It was not originally concede as like all conversational marketing. What David and alias the brilliant in many things, but what they're so good at is obsessing over learning from the customer. And we actually have a leadership principle, one of our eight at drift, that is that is called put the customer at the center of everything you do. So they just take from a product development standpoint. So first like product market fit, then eventually, like you go to market fit. But if you talk about product market fit, they take this lens of like let's learn through quick feedback loops from customers using these different ideas were spinning up and turning into something usable from from a software standpoint and see what steps. So they went through a few iterations. It started as almost like an HR thing. At one point there was like an anate, a tool for like your iphone...

APP. There's Louis called Anat. I think I use it for a little bit. Then they start to realize and messaging like so they're also really great at and what we do at drift is, we look at the trends that it out that are outside of almost anyone's control. It's like what's change in human behavior, which change and how we buy, like, how we live, etc. And how to then do those things apply in the context of BE THE BE? So there are some massive trends happening right the rise of mobile. That's been a trend over the last fifteen years. The rise of mobile really then finally allowed the rise of messaging to occur. I mean, I was using AOL Insto messaging mark. You know, I'm sure you use the how you're smiling way back in the day, but like it wasn't really in a every day way you could use, you to go to your computer sit down, like it was like, you know, to beat your house because a mobile, because then messaging platforms and technology tools were built on top of mobile. It's like, wait a minute, there's a whole new communication paradigm. So that's almost the genesis of like conversational marketing sales, where it's like everything now is becoming that much more conversational through the power of these digital technologies and digital platforms, and now businesses need to adapt to that because that's how humans are communicating. So that was really the starting point. I'll pause there, though, drift alongside hinds marketing did a survey that talked to more than five hundred marketers for their insights on conversational marketing. Talk about the highlights, some of the things that marketers told you, some of the things that were were surprising when you talk to these five hundred marketers. One of the one of the things that we've seen, and we've done the survey now for three years, so we actually have, you know, three years of data. It's really interesting to see how it's trending in these different directions. We're seeing a more and more. We're seeing more and more companies adopt conversational marketing solutions number one right, and I really think this, this pandemic that we've had to live through, unfortunately, was a trigger point, trigger event for more and more businesses to you something like conversational marketing and sales, because they...

...almost had like no choice to. So one of the stats was we asked the question around Ai powered conversational marketing, making it more accessible and more invaluable than ever before. How do you feel about that? Eighty two percent forty five people are finding, you know, that type of solution and AIPOWER conversational marketing solution to be very valuable to their sales and marketing strategy. Right. So that's like that's pretty significant. That's gone up a decent amount. And what's also interesting we talked, we talked about engagement. Like about forty five percent of the people surveyed, and this was like five hundred people in this last latest survey. It's a pretty big sample size. Do engagement rates increased over the last eighteen months and in the pandemic? So like so more people engaging through this digital buying sperience. So how do you personalize the digital buying experience? How do you make your how do you make your marketing and sales funnel, if you will, more buy or centric? What we're seeing through this data is more and more people are adapted adopting conversational marketing and then conversational selling to do just that. And what's interesting is also is like buyers expectation. So we ask questions to this audience about like the actual solution that technledge those things. But then how do you buyas BDB buyers? So we looked at a kind of both sides of this coin. And the expectations around quick and personalized experiences from these be tob buyers, mostly managers, directors and above. Those experiences and whatnot have grown by twenty six percent, meaning they expect more of them by twenty six percent year over year, and an immediate response, so when you're actually reaching out to a vendor, to your pointer on the seventy percent mark, when you're finally ready to talk to a vendor, is the last interesting stat they'll show right now. The immediate response has grown sixty four percent year over year. So more and more of these be tob buyers and decision makers are expecting immediacy instant response when it comes to reaching out to a vendor. And if you don't have that, guess what's going to...

...happen. was likely they're going to probably go to one of your competitors or they look the other way. Right attention spans to your point, I don't know if you ask this question, but I am curious about the disappearance of conferences and the impact that it had on conversational marketing. When you think about it, many BDB companies spent fifty, sixty seventy percent of their marketing budgets going to conferences. Why? Because they wanted to have conversations with prospects and customers. It was the way that it was an easy way for marketers to drive mql's. The sales guys could nurture leads, could connect with customers and drive loyalty and, as important, up cells. So what do you think the impact or the correlation was between the decline in conferences, and they may come back soon or not, and the rise in conversational marketing? It's a great question. You know, we've pivoted all of our events to be virtual. We're going to be back in person finally next year. But well we've done is we've integrated with some systems like on twenty four, another upcoming event platform called gold cast, and put the conversational experience in front of that. So there's a you can make the actual event experience more conversation. But before but before you even get them to the event, what markers had to do is pivot their channel mix. To your point, like an event is kind of a channel, right you that's where you can reach people. Now the channels are going to be much or have been excuse me, much more like digital based. So we see our customers using conversational marketing within their paid search and social strategy, within their organic search strategy, within the email strategy. Those are some great ways you can pair up because you know where the visitors coming from. You know they're coming from organic search, you know they're coming from an email, you know they're coming from an exact paid add and then you can serve up this really contextually rich conversational experience on your website page based off of again, like we said in the beginning of this podcast, who is coming to the WHO's coming to that page? Where are they coming from? Email, paid add, organic, etc. And then what are they...

...engaging with? In this case, your questions around. They're gaging with an event. Are they looking to sign up for the event? Are they looking to get more information about it? Are they looking for the recording? You can make it super easy to help them find and do exactly what they're looking for with that event. And then, furthermore, but the beauty of all this stuff is your sales tand we've empowered them, the sellers, to say hey, here's all of the people that you normally would have seen at this event, coming to our website, signing up for the event, attending the events. Here's what they did during the event, and giving them again those kind of behavior signals or signals of intent and being able to steal continue to the buying help the buy or buy through those, through those data points, versus the in person piece. I mean. So I think. I think it's a combination of both in the future, but it's really making sure that you can provide people. You keep going back to this real time idea mark the real time insights into what your buyers are doing. And I think the question I was asking was that when in person events disappeared, conversations disappeared, opportunities to have relevant, contextual, real time conversation disappeared. And I guess the answer. I'm looking forward tod conversational marketing fill the gap. Companies need those interactions, they need conversations. And did they turned conversational marketing last year? Well, I think they did turn a conversational market. That's what the study said. But you don't you don't as a market. You don't turn to the solution, you follow the buyer. The buyers shifted their shifted how they engage with companies, instead of going to these events, like I was saying, they shifted to digital channels, digital virtual events and whatnot, and you can use conversational marketing in those channels, with those channels, to create better engagement, create better experiences. So the short of the answer is a hundred percent yes. But I think the best companies, and now what most coupies are doing is saying, oh well, where have my buyers gone, you know, because there's no events, and how can I meet them where they are with conversational marketing? Let's shift gears a little bit and talk about drifts approach to content marketing. As the thep of content and community, I'm...

...sure you got a lot to say. First, I'm interested in how drifts content marketing, or it's approach to content marketing, has evolved over the past eighteen months. To me, content is always been king, but there has been no doubt that content has really stepped up as things like conferences haven't happened. Can you provide a little bit of context in terms of how drifts approach to content has changed? Yes, it's the timely question because I actually posted something today on Linkedin, today being the end of October. Things actually October twenty seven, for those interested in when we recorded this, but I posed something on Linkedin. That comes from we we love research, original research, a drift. We find it very insightful. So we did a another survey to about a hundred, I think was a hundred and fifteen marketing leaders, the vast majority of those people being director and above be to be marketing meaters, so vpcmos, director level, and the number one most important thing they say is they stay in the next five years. That they're like really, you know, focused on is content marketing. Fifty three percents of that, so HAP and they've actually's found that content marketing, as relates to like pipeline generation and the impact on it, went from like number seven on the list last year to this year, when we did the survey, was number one. So again I think it's this this event that happened with this pandemic, and it's made people realize, well, we need to be more helpful than ever on the digital side of things. We need to stand out somehow. We can't reach people in person, we can't go to the events, we can't go to the dinners, we can't do these field events, we can't do all these things. So how are we going to really really stand out? And honestly, content marketing is a differentiated for the brand. So we we just double down on it. We were always very heavy in the content marketing space. You know, I have a deep background and content. I was a spot for eight and a half years, so I know content pretty well. And drifts also started their brand as it's a very powerful from a very like powerful content marketing standpoint. What I mean by that is early days...

...what drifted, David cancel and in this case Dave Gerhardt started what I call a great cornerstone content asset in the form of a podcast. It's named seeking wisdom, and that that was really one of the ways. That also helped us not only grow the drift brands and make it stand out and make it unique, but also helps bring conversation marketing to the world through that Parrcus. You know, we wrote a book on the Category Conversation Marketing. This a whole book on it, at best selling business book on it. We wrote many books. This won't scale. As an example all these different, dozens of different ways of how to do marketing that doesn't technically scale but has really strong Roi. So I think our content game is always been strong. Now it's about, though, really making sure you're smart with your content and understanding to spend it impact of your content. So understanding. You know, all this time and money enough for you putting into your content. How is it really turning into the right the right needs, but really the right pipeline for Your Business? And how are you using content, more and more than ever before, to drive customer success? So we have a full life cycle content team hair mark and we have three overall content teams for maybe but three that focus on the content across the entire customer experience, so pre impost. So that's another thing. I think businesses have started to shift too as well during the pandemic. How do you think how to make sure the content is consistent across all the touch points? What has surprised you and drift in terms of how and we're people are consuming content? Linkedin, for example, has emerged as a great place to to get insight from lots of different kinds of people. But are there other platforms or other ways in which content has been delivered that caught you by surprised or emerged faster than you expected to me. Live streaming is super interesting. I mean a lot of these platforms have added live streaming, right, like Linkedin, live, instagram, I mean everyone now...

...has a live streaming component and a lot of that has been born out of the gaming space. Case. Now there's like live stream like online shopping. That's taken from the the TV world, right, like the almost like the live infomercial, if you will. The live component of content is super fascinating and a lot of people think will like is like as a Webinar content. I'm like, heck yeah, it is. That's what that is. Content like out of event, at the end of the day, is two things. It's like great content, hopefully it's great content, and it's a networking experience. Right, if it's, if it's more in person, right. But you know, from a virtual standpoint, your virtual event over the last at month really has hinged on your ability to create differentiated and highly valuable content for the audience. So that's another reason why I think everyone is doubling down on this and realizing if we did do this right and we really have a unique brand voice, we have a unique point of view in the market, we have some thought leadership. That's that to be crazy thought leadership, but we have something that is uniquely different. We can use this as a competitivedvante for our business and we can really like use this not only cross marketing but in sales and CS to add additional value to the actual product we sell. And you can charge a premium then right, and and your premium brained in that case. And that's where content has this effect. I think one of my recent podcast at taught to Ross Simmons, is a very well known bb content marketer. The thing that he talks about is not just content production but distribution and repurposing content to maximize ury. What is drifts approach to those, those two content pillars. You have to actually have a whole framework called, like the content repurposing framework. Literally, I have this completely laid out for my team. Use It all the time. It's four different ours. It's reuse, refresh, repackage reposition. So we use refresh, repackage, reposition all of your content assets, especially your corner cornerstone content assets, and I there's technically, my opinion, five, maybe six cornerstone content assets that at...

...least we definitely create a drift. We take that into consideration. You know, we do quarterly planning a drift. We have a just notion of integrated campaigns that we run really focused on the audience, the trigger event, what are the goals of the campaign, and then the the highest level messaging, and then we map out offers by channel to get that content, to get that in that great information out into the market. So so Ross is pointing. Your point is extremely important. Right. I'd like yeah, you can plan your content, you can produce your content, but if you don't think about promoting your content with deep collaboration with your demangion or, in our case, revenue marketing team, you're missing a significant part of the content marketing game. So yeah, we have these four hours and we use it all the time. It's how you atomize we kind of called the solar system strategy. Absolutely. Here's a tough question. How does drift quantify at the success of content marketing? Because obviously there's there's the standard Kpis and metrics that marketers and sales teams use is and then there's this whole dark social phenomena that a lot of people are talking about. So when you look at the success your content marketing efforts, how do you tell whether you're being super successful? How do you tell what's doing, what you're doing well and what's not working out? What are the different elements that you look at? It's really good question. It's something that's asked a law there's two ways at the highest lettle think about it, engagement and pipeline, and then what you look in the middle, and I can get two details of all of these things, but I'll just keep it simple. To start with engagement and pipeline, and what's in the middle of those two things is how many of those engagements. And an engagement could be a download of a book, a website session, a social media engagement. We have like literally, I think, eighty or ninety different types of engagements that we measure across our content community team. How many of those engagements, and some of them you can't identify her, but how many of those engagement that you can identify fit into your ideal customer profile? Basically are a quality engagement. So it's it. Then you get into like the nuance...

...of like, well, what type of model? Using first touch, last touch, multi touch attribution? We have a multi touch attribution model. That looks like that looks at a more tops down view of that model. We also have a bottoms up model, but it more ours right now is more multi touch attribution. There's no perfect way to go with that. To your point, like you just gotta pick one and stick with it for a little bit and figure it out. But the other thing that I think content market has failed to measure when it comes from the content from from a continent standpoint, is how is your sales team and C s team using your content? So we have a lolution called high spot and we use and so we actually see like on a weekly basis we have about threezero engagements with our content from our sales and CS team members in high spot. That's like twelve thousand a month. That's awesome. That means they're using this content to help people buy and learn more about drift and like be successful to drift. And ultimately what you want to see, you know, is your engagements growing quarter over quarter, year over a year, and then, therefore, if you have your revenue demand stuff dialed in enough, that should follow suit in many ways. A final question. David Council obviously has a very high profile and he creates a lot of great content, including the podcast. As you mentioned. HOW DOES DRIFT LEVERAGE DAVID? How does he manage his time in terms of creating high value content at a time when obviously he's He has other priorities and he stretched in different directions. You know, what's your strategy, your content strategy, when it comes to David? They, I mean David in anyways, is like the quasi chief marketing officer, if you will, or any CEO, any great CEO, should be like the chief salesperson, the chief marketing officer, you know, he's like selling right, the sound the business. So we do as much as we can to support him in that endeavor. So, just as an example, there's a big web summit happening in Portugal early November, next week it is. He's going to be speaking on that right at that. So my team helped him and some someone on our communications team build his presentation. And then what are we going to do with that? We're going to repurpose it, right, can you package it? It's...

...right, it's like. So that's an example. Right. We have someone who does ghostwriting to help him take his ideas and really scale them out right. So I think that's really important. Many companies do that. If you don't do that for your executives. Now I think you're a hundred percent. You have someone that helps them right. They have amazing ideas. Are Brilliant people in many ways and there's something to be said that a content marketers job. It might not be the best term, but you're almost acting as a broker right. You're helping take someone's ideas and wisdom and knowledge and experiences and share them with someone else. That's why I see it, not just for David but alias. Alias has this American Dream podcast and American dream newsletter. I see that with Katie or Cmo, I see with anyone who doesn't amount of to be executive level. People are drift contribute to our content and our customers contribute to our content all the time. That's what a great content market it does. They actually don't create a lot of the original content. They help in the facilitation of bringing those other people along and helping them share what they know and getting into the right hands. One tactical question when it comes to pulling content out of an executive like David. Is it a matter of sitting down with him for half an hour or an hour and saying, what are you thinking? What are your big ideas? What kind of opinions do you have? Where do you think the industry is going? And simply recording his conversations and then repackaging them in a blog post or knee book or some kind of content asset? Is it as simple as that? They tell you what they want to say and they say it, so you just package it up properly. Is that? Is that a simple way of doing things? One way of doing things? It can be. What we found to be even more successful, and I've seen this at with drift house spot, is get give them something to react to, right, and then you can ask some questions about that. But like, give them something to react to and then maybe you've to come back with something else then and then, like that's the basis for like the contents and the questions and what they're going to share with you. But that's the tactical thing, I think. You know, give them something and also, I mean in our case, like we're really...

...leaning hard into the whole whole conversational space, conversational marketing, sales comes shall commerce even, and the the leader of the business. You know, it is going to have to be the person who really sells the vision right and sells what makes your company uniquely different. So, like how do you then organize that within a campaign across your marketing team? So our tactical thing also is like have a campaign. We use briefs. How a campaign level brief that then can take all the stuff that your executives are saying, in our case David in, use it across these different channels. So, like you got again to your point of a promotion. Think about the whole journey in what you're doing with your executive. Don't think just linked in. Yeah, he's got linked in strategy, does things on twitter, but, like you know, he's got a he's got a newsletter. Then we do every every Saturday, called the one thing. We've branded that. We use a lot of a seekings and podcast content still. So it's like I think you got to take you're got to be tactical and how you approach it, but you also have to like create a plan. Final question. Where can people learn more about you? And Drift, I mean driftcom, driftcom Adrift Insider. We like to think of it as like the number one place marketers and sales people can go to learn. It's a free community. We have a ton of almost everything's, you know, not gated. You got to sign up for an account to get some of our more exclusive contents of our more, you know, indepth courses and classes, but it's all free. Drift inside or drift OCM, slash insider. And then, yeah, you can just follow me on Linkedin, twitter. You can text me. Got My phon number, nindred seventy eight two to six, six nine sixty five. You can't call that number. It's only for texting conversations. After all, right, messaging, but shoot me a text, happy to talk to you. Thanks to everyone for listening to another episode of marketing spark. If you enjoyed the conversation, please leave a review, subscribe by Itunes and spotify or your favorite podcast out and share via social media. To learn more about how I help bbsass companies as a fractional CMO for Gigick, advisor and coach, send an email to mark at marketing spark dot code or connect with me on Linkedin.

I'll talk to you next time.

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