Conversational marketing: The art of conversation

In an age of the consumer, mass communication and consumption of disposable information, marketers face the challenge of offering consumers a unique, engaging dialogue. As the way we interact with each other changes, it poses the question, have we lost the art of conversation? With the proliferation of digital channels where we are swamped by volumes of ‘Big Data’, how can marketers rise over the cacophony of competitors to make their voice heard?

Conversational marketing is about moving beyond what is said. It is considering all the available information (buying behaviour, location, declared and inferred interests) and presenting a contextual proposition that elicits the desired response. For marketers the art of conversation revolves around seamlessly combining the right data, right channels, right products and the right services into a cohesive marketing message.

It can be argued that marketers have long been conversing with consumers, but broadcast messages and mass marketing campaigns are losing their appeal; marketers cannot directly attribute revenue and consumers do not feel valued as individuals. Marketing strategies have already adapted to offer personalised outbound campaigns as marketers utilise tools to segment data and present offers based on predefined rules.  However, conversation is a two-way dialogue, and marketing communications must now adopt this same principle. Harnessing the power of inbound interaction further enhances the relationship between brands and consumers. Empowering both anonymous and authenticated users with a personalised experience through outbound and inbound channels (web, call centre, social, mobile, interactive devices) creates further reassurance that the consumer needs and interests are understood.

This back and forth relevant interaction between a brand and consumer serves to build brand confidence. With every interaction, positive or negative, insight can be gained. The concept of conversational marketing is the ability to process this insight and present it back to a consumer, showing them that they have been listened to. Through this approach a brand can ensure their messaging is heard above the noise of competitors, building brand loyalty.

As technology evolves the  prerequisites of conversation remain the same; quantity, quality, relevancy and manner are unchanged. It becomes the speed of response, and the mode of delivery of that response that must adapt.  Marketers must ask themselves, how, when and where should I engage with my consumers? As consumers travel a more complex purchase journey, over multiple platforms/devices the most appropriate channels of engagement must be identified. Combining existing and emerging channels to create the right channel mix ensures the right message can arrive on the right device, at the right time.

The art of conversational marketing reflects the balance between action and reaction, by both brand and consumer. Ultimately it is the application of marketing technology, combined with the acceptance that consumers desire personal, mutually engaging and loyal relationships, even in a digital age.

Neolane is the sponsor of the DMA’s Technology Summit on 30 April: www.dma.org.uk/techsummit

By DMA guest blogger Sam Ledger, Marketing Communications Executive, Neolane