If you are a business to business (B2B) marketer, the chances are you have read Google’s research on micro-moments. You optimized your content for I-want-to-know moments. But are your salespeople arriving quickly enough when prospects want to talk to a human? This article is about closing time gaps between I-want-to-know and I-wanna-talk-to-a-human moments so you can convert more leads from your website.
Imagine 10 prospects are on your website right now. Each is typing her name, email, phone number and clicking ‘Contact me.’
Then what? iPhones will ding! Colleagues will knock on doors. By the end of the first hour, your sales people will people dial. And 9 out of the 10 prospects will hit ‘reject call’ according to this study from InsideSales.com.
I have a term for this; I call it lead decay.
Lead decay operates in the time gaps between I-want-to-know and I-wanna-talk-to-a-human moments. If you could close these time gaps, you could have a major opportunity to stop lead decay and grow sales. That is what a chatbot can do; this article shows you how.
How a B2B chatbot helps a real human
Step with me into a parallel universe –
You work in marketing for SureCourse Business Solutions, and I am a project manager in the marketing department for a bank in Dallas. Here is how your chatbot helps my bank become a customer:
The non-stop stories of hacking in the news have put my bank’s executives on edge. They establish a company-wide initiative to beef up cybersecurity. I am tasked with leading a communications project under the security initiative.
10 minutes before my first meeting with stakeholders, I type cybersecurity priorities into Google.
A search result from your website, “Cybersecurity Priorities for 2017,” grabs my attention. SureCourse just won my I-want-to-know moment.
The post recommends companies start by performing a risk assessment. I want to know more for my meeting in 10 minutes.
A question pops into my mind, “What threats could we be at risk of?” I scan the page and do not immediately see the answer. I’m about to click ‘Back’ and type my question into Google. Then – a chat icon pops up.
I type, “yes.”
Your chatbot grabs my attention by introducing SureCourse’s unique selling proposition – the size of its network.
I ask about the ransomware problem.
After explaining ransomware, your bot lists SureCourse’s solutions. I ask for an overview of Intrusion Prevention.
Next thing I know, I’m asking to chat with a live agent.
The live agent recommends that for a large bank, the best thing is to start with a risk assessment. She sends me an email explaining how to order a risk assessment from SureCourse.
In walks the VP of IT Infrastructure of my bank.
“I was just on the chat with SureCourse,” I say while closing my laptop.
“Really?” says the VP.
“Yes, and they offered to do a risk assessment.”
“I might have to take them up on that. Would you forward me that information?”
I forward him the email I just received from SureCourse’s live agent.
A month later, the VP of IT Infrastructure purchases the risk assessment. His department is considering a bid from SureCourse to perform the full cybersecurity overhaul.
Chatbot closes the gap between critical moments
You saw me read an article, have a question and almost click the ‘Back’ button because I could not find an answer on the page. This is not just the SureCourse website.
Earlier this month, Heather Johannsen from Texas Instruments spoke at Oracle’s Modern Marketing Mashup in Dallas. She said that Texas Instruments markets approximately 900 products. Look at the websites for Bank of America, ExxonMobil – or any company with a deep product portfolio.
These companies follow best practices for web design. Inevitably, there will be moments when people cannot find answers to their questions. These moments determine if a B2B prospect will convert to a sales opportunity or move on.
A chatbot saved the day in the story above. As I was about to click back to Google, the bot stirred up I-want-to-know moments. Then it led me to a live agent. As a result, I connected SureCourse with my bank’s VP of IT Infrastructure during a critical B2B micro-moment.
As great as chatbots can be, it is important to note that leads are generated without them every day. The current solution is to use web forms.
Let’s say there was no chatbot in the story above. I fill out a web form because I want a person at SureCourse to answer my questions. I type my name, email, title, company and phone and click ‘Contact me.’ Then I show up on a sales person’s list.
Six figure checks for cybersecurity procurements are signed by the IT department. My title is “Project Manager” in the marketing department.
A sales rep sees me on his list and thinks, “Not a priority. Let’s wait an hour or a day to pick up the phone and dial that guy.” By then, lead decay will have reared its ugly head.
As you can see, the status quo of relying on lead forms is expensive.
No matter whether you are talking to Adi Ignatius of the Harvard Business Review or Christie Pitts from Verizon Ventures or the guys wearing lab coats downstairs in your basement… I do not think you will find anyone who would disagree that the B2B marketers who implement chatbot technology today will be the ones leading the pack in the future.
Demo of a B2B marketing chatbot
Throughout 2016, I had a series of conversations with marketing leaders at some of Dallas’s largest B2B companies.
The conversations revolved around what, “What low-risk, high reward bet could we take in 2017 to grow revenue?” There were no conclusive answers. Then I put the pieces together –
In November 2016, professor Mark Schaefer published an article about how your marketing strategy is decided for you by your ecosystem. I took Professor Schaefer’s advice to mean that while there are lots of marketing channels to experiment with, only a handful can drive growth for a multi-billion-dollar company.
Laurie Fullerton shared that the top channels for B2B lead generation are still email and organic search. Both email and search point back to a company’s website. I thought, “What if the low risk, high reward bet we have been seeking all year was a chatbot on a company’s website?”
I called Kevin Karner at Drift, a live chat service. He said that an average of 20% of web visitors engage in chat; 5% of chats convert to sales. Then Kevin told me about a client who was having a lot of success with a chatbot. I wondered what a chatbot would look like on a large B2B marketer’s website like SureCourse.
This question led me to sign up for IBM Watson Conversation.
My first attempt was to have Watson answer open-ended questions. I quickly realized that it would take 1 to 2 years to build a chatbot that answers open-ended questions about a product portfolio with 200 products like SureCourse’s. Besides, answering open-ended questions can be risky at the beginning of the customer journey. Prospects have not done enough homework to accurately judge a product’s value.
To that end, I created a conversation that answers questions and guides people through the basics of seven products in SureCourse’s security portfolio. Here is the structure of the conversation:
- SureCourse’s unique selling proposition
- Problems (cybersecurity threats)
- Solutions (SureCourse products)
This video shows an interactive demo of the bot. The video does not contain sound.
- Here is a link to a PDF document with the chatbot’s full script.
- Here is a link to the live chatbot.
- Here is a chatbot tutorial from IBM’s Zach Walchuk.
Start with live chat to design your B2B bot
By now, you know that SureCourse is a fictional company and my chatbot is a prototype.
If SureCourse were a real company and they wanted to put my bot on their website, I would say no. Here is why:
I skipped a critical first step when I built the bot. I did not test the script with real users.
For a real deployment, I would design the conversation with live chat before coding the bot. Here are the steps I would follow:
- Install Drift chat on the website.
- Chat with visitors and guide them through the unique selling proposition, problems and solutions.
- Study the chat analytics and iterate through the bot’s script.
Another benefit of starting with live chat is you will generate metrics like:
- # of impressions
- # of chats
- # of interactions per chat
- # of leads
- # of sales
These metrics will help you forecast performance. Setting achievable forecasts will help you manage stakeholder expectations.
Stakeholders will not want leads to stop when they give the green light to build the bot. So, keep live chat going. Even if you are confident in your script, live chat will help you validate change requests that may come up during development.
Although my bot’s script was not designed with live chat, I believe the conversation structure (unique selling proposition, problems and solutions) will be effective in leading web visitors from I-want-to-know to I-wanna-talk-to-a-human micro-moments.
I have used this conversation structure on the front lines as a salesperson. Guiding prospects is more effective than answering open-ended questions at the beginning of the sales journey. This approach will work for your chatbot too.
If you are designing your first B2B marketing chatbot, you can use my research as a starting point. If you need help during your project, feel free to reach out to me via live chat at https://eisaiah.drift.com/e. If you could, once you finish your B2B chatbot, please share a link in the comments below so we can have another example to study.
Illustration: Elijah Grim / 99designs
Disclaimer: To illustrate the concepts in this article, I created examples that reference fictitious companies as well as real companies. All trademarks are property of their respective owners. No reference in this document is intended to imply an endorsement, favoring or connection of any kind between this document and the trademark owners.