Conversational Marketing Strategy at B2B SaaS

At Okta, I manage the chat program on the website – it is used by the web marketing team to engage visitors and route qualified conversations to global inbound sales teams. This post contains some of my thoughts.

PS: Thank you Drift for recognizing me as a Top 50 Conversational Marketer in 2019.


The Goal of Conversational Marketing

There are plenty of articles on why conversational marketing is important to any business. For example, this one from Neil Patel.

In the context of B2B SaaS, the goal of having chat is plain and simple — to generate pipeline by capturing interest on the website.

Companies do this by leveraging automation to qualify site visitors from conversations and route the qualified conversations to an inbound rep directly with the added benefit of providing an option to book a meeting directly.

Conversational Marketing has been the subject of a lot of hype in the last few years because of how well it has performed as a great lead capture medium.

At a high level, here are a few reasons why it has become an essential medium:

  • It provides an additional medium to forms and phone to engage with prospects. As a medium, chat is a way to engage that many younger prospects are increasingly familiar with.
  • It is expected to be quick. Prospects expect an instant, real-time response.
  • Combining both, it ultimately reduces the friction to understand the product, engage with the company, and buy.

Conversational Marketing Strategy

Knowing it is important for the business, this section will unpack the drivers of a chat program designed to capture interest on the website.

Bot vs Human Response

A playbook is the core part of any conversational marketing software provider – the primary purpose is to automate the qualification process and craft a tailored message to the site visitor to generate a conversation.

It is set up by a marketer using a set of qualification questions in a decision tree format (think of if this, then that -type logic).

The set of qualification questions are automatic, meaning the bot will give instant responses to site visitors without them waiting for a real human.

Only if the conversation is qualified (and a business email captured), will be routed to the inbound team.

It is critical for the inbound team to respond within 2 minutes, ideally within 30 seconds, to the qualified lead. Without this alignment, the program will not be effective.

Drift has also launched a product called Drift Automation, which enables marketers to rely less on a decision tree format of the playbook, but more an open conversation with machine learning to provide a better answers to the site visitors’ questions with a goal to driver more conversation and more conversions.

Playbook Optimization

Once companies have bought into the concept of conversational marketing, it is likely that most sales and marketing webpages would have the chatbot, unless there are certain pages where you’ve intentionally decided not to.

The question then becomes how to iterate on and optimize the playbooks. One approach to Playbook Optimization is ACP – Audience, Content, Playbook.

  • Audience – Who is the target audience? What is their intent?
  • Web Content – What is the content of the webpage that the Drift bot is triggering?
  • Playbook – What is the Drift bot saying? Is the response helpful?
    • The bot should first engage the site visitor, then try to understand what the site visitor is looking for, and then finally to recommend next actions.

All of these aspects are important to ensure the playbooks are relevant for site visitors to engage and generate outputs. And there is a certain brand element you’d want to maintain while crafting the responses.

Chat Metrics

KPIs are important in any program or campaign. In regards to chat, I look at the metrics two ways:

First, the metrics that can be obtained within the software: # conversations, # email capture, and # meetings booked.

Second, the metrics that map to your business’ Sales/Marketing funnel: MQL, SAL, SAO.

The difference the first and second groups of metrics are essentially an external vs internal views of the business. It is important to look at both to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the program across other dimensions such as segment and geo.

The key is to connect the two groups of metrics to measure the impact of chat to stakeholders in your organisation.

If you are in Enterprise SaaS, the pipeline or opportunities sourced from chat are likely to be smaller in deal size than your global average. Why? Chat as a medium is typically more compelling for prospects from smaller sized companies and less effective for larger, true enterprise companies who favor more formal sales processes (like traditional RFPs). However, when looking at total pipeline sourced from chat, the smaller ACVs of lower segments could be balanced out by volume.

The other thing to look out for is the % of conversations best handled by sales vs support. Not only will you need to find a way to route some conversation to your support team, you’ll also need to find a way to measure this quantitatively and qualitatively to ensure alignment between your various front-line teams.

Final Thought

Any chat program should align with the incentives of your inbound team. (i.e, counting towards their activities, meeting booked and opportunities count). It doesn’t matter how sophisticated of a chat program you build; ultimately the prospects’ experience is defined by the human touch they receive at the end of their chat journey. Ensuring sure you design that human component appropriately to complement the technology will make or break the final impact you can derive from a chat program.


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