B2B marketing is one of those disciplines that never wants to stand still, and with the recent rise in the number of chatbots that are providing new marketing automation capabilities, there is yet another trend that we must all be aware of.

So, let’s begin by answering the most pressing question ­– what are chatbots?

What Are Chatbots?

Chatbots are add-ons for existing messenger platforms that have the ability to provide automated, intelligent responses to questions from a business’s online customers. The idea is that the chatbot will mimic a real human being in conversation, and furnish the customer with the most appropriate answers to any questions he/she may have.

From a B2B marketing perspective, deploying chatbots means that customers can make useful and engaging contact with brands around the clock, and enjoy a seamless user experience even out of normal working hours. Indeed, when using chatbots, the B2B marketing team knows that its customers will have direct and instantaneous access to information as and when they need it, whilst simultaneously cutting down on the man-hours required to staff and manage a direct messenger service.

Don’t People Hate Talking to Robots?

It’s true that most people want and expect to talk to a real person on the phone, but this isn’t necessarily the same for online communication. Indeed, recent research reveals that many consumers are already quite comfortable – and indeed quite positive – about using chatbots to communicate with companies, articulating a number of benefits that the technology facilitates.

Research like this helps us to identify chatbot opportunities within B2B marketing

Taking the top four answers from the survey, we can see that consumers believe that there is much convenience to be enabled through the deployment of chatbots – 24-hour service (68%), quick answers (64%), instant responses (51%) and overall convenience for the customer (50%).

As we read down the list, however, we understand that consumers don’t really believe that chatbots are able to deal with more complex issues, such as registering a complaint (28%) or receiving detailed answers to queries (14%).

That being said, a separate question from the survey – one that asked consumers what they think the most useful applications of chatbots would be – reveals that, aside from being able to get quick answers (46%), 40% would be happy to use chatbots to track down the right human being to talk to (and thusly solve their more complex issues).

Many of these uses could easily be integrated into a B2B marketing strategy

The results suggest that chatbots would be equally useful in automating similar B2B marketing initiatives, too. Providing customers with a permanently accessible communication tool – one that can answer simple questions quickly, and forward more complex concerns onto the most appropriate human representative (just as quickly) – is a universal advantage, and B2B marketing players are quickly beginning to realise that chatbots needn’t be the reserve of B2C.

Uses for Chatbots in B2B Marketing

In practical terms, we need to ask ourselves – how, exactly, could chatbots be used to improve B2B marketing practices?

Well, there are numerous occasions – and, at their heart, the improvements come down to one of the most fundamental purposes of all inbound marketing initiatives: the education of end users.

As a tech company providing a digital solution for B2B customers, you will of course be employing a range of inbound marketing techniques to provide users and potential users with the essential information they need to get the most out of your product. Which is to say that you will be producing a significant catalogue of content that answers the most important questions that your users have.

Chatbots can just as easily be deployed to answer those questions. For example, your B2B customers could consult your chatbot about a specific product, feature or upgrade of your service, and the bot will “happily” and instantaneously conjure up the most relevant answers. The bot could even let customers know about pricing options without the customer ever having to consult a salesperson – and what a boost in productivity such a thing would enable.

Alternatively, the chatbot could direct the customer towards some of that brilliant B2B marketing content that you’ve already invested so much time in creating. A lot of websites now include search bars to aid users in locating the most appropriate content that answers queries that they may have – chatbots have the ability to do this with much greater accuracy and indeed “friendliness” for customers.

Indeed, in this vein, chatbots could also be used for lead generation.

Here’s a scenario – a prospect comes to your website and wants to know more about the additional features you offer in your premium tier solution. So they consult your chatbot, which says “No problemo – we’ve got a guide outlining all the relevant info you need. Tell me your email address and I’ll get it sent to you immediately.” Boom – the lead is captured.

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Chatbots Create Personalised Dialogues with Customers

Already we’re seeing chatbots being put to good use in the B2B space. Last year, accounting giant Sage announced the beta launch of its new chatbot Pegg – a “smart assistant who lives where you work and lets you manage your business admin through your favourite messaging apps”.

Pegg helps Sage’s small business customers with their accounting. Rather than heading online or even opening up the Sage app to fill in the details of business-related monetary transactions – perhaps you’re a freelancer who’s just been paid, or an exec who has just spent some dosh on a business lunch – users can just message Pegg with the amounts, and the chatbot will do all the necessary filing.

Pegg is a great example of a B2B chatbot adding value to customers

Notice the personal touch and – most importantly of all – the personalised data that the chatbot is putting to use. Indeed, when it comes to the B2B realm, chatbots are extremely useful for streamlining business processes. And they do so accurately. As Daily FinTech describes the rising chatbot phenomenon:

“Chatbots […] have the ability to create a dialogue with a customer that’s personalised, real-time and, more importantly, actually effective. No more worrying if that real-life customer support agent actually processed your form or actioned your request, or if that payment you sent through actually made it to your supplier. That’s the magic of automation – it just happens.”

Unlocking a New Era of B2B Marketing

It’s true – the magic of automation is beneficial in so many ways in the realms of B2B marketing. Whilst chatbots are busy handling all the simple queries from customers – all whilst gathering actionable consumer data, improving accuracy, and keeping an active and personalised online presence for the company around the clock – B2B marketing teams are freed up to generate new ideas and create new marketing content that will continue to improve lead generation and conversion rates. It’s no wonder that Oracle reports that 80% of companies will be using chatbots for customer interactions by 2020. Chatbots are set to be one of the most transformative elements of B2B marketing in the coming years.

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