Businesses know they need to attract leads—but that’s not an end goal in itself. The real objective, of course, is to convert leads into customers. But before you get prospects to sign the dotted line, businesses need to engage prospects, educate them, and build rapport. This takes time and attention.
But therein lies the rub. It’s easy to personally engage a small number of attentive leads—but what about leads that are slow to engage or even high volumes of leads? How can Marketing and Sales teams quickly and effectively scale lead engagement?
The truth of the matter is that better lead engagement starts with Conversational AI.
The Capacity Challenge and What to Do About It
Finding leads to target isn’t the problem for most companies. You can always do a little more leg work to dig up folks to go after or deploy technologies that recommend target accounts. But the goal of Marketing and Sales today is to shift from lead generation to lead engagement.
Incoming leads, like those who attend a webinar or download a piece of content, tend to respond best when your brand is fresh in their minds; typically within 5 minutes. Yet the vast majority of companies fail to respond promptly to these leads. Similarly, lead follow-up might take as many as 8 touches before the lead is ready to talk to a Salesperson but most Sales Development Reps will only make two attempts before calling it quits.
And who can blame them? It takes a lot of time and effort to chase down leads with personalized communications. And many leads will never engage. Speed, persistence, and personalization matter. But with only so many hours in a day, Marketers and Salespeople are forced to choose where to put their attention.
This creates two problems:
- Potential opportunities are left unengaged, untouched, and unqualified
- Employees feel like they need to rely on gut feelings, which are hardly reliable
So, what’s the solution? If better lead engagement requires prompt, persistent, and personalized outreach that business professionals simply cannot provide, what alternative is there? The answer is Conversational AI for Marketing and Sales.
Conversational AI helps scale personalized interactions across email, SMS, and website chat. By promptly and persistently delivering personalized conversations at scale, Salespeople save thousands of hours of manpower. This time saved can be spent on high-value activities that only business professionals can provide; like establishing lasting relationships, navigating pain points, and providing guidance on how to best use your offerings.
Better still, AI Assistants built for revenue teams autonomously recognize and elevate handraisers to the notice of your Sales team. Thus giving customers the attention they need while simultaneously accelerating opportunities through the funnel. It’s a win-win.
This kind of conversation-based lead engagement is a far better strategy than traditional lead scoring. Why? Because lead scoring only offers an estimation of how likely a lead is to convert based on past experiences. Clicks, downloads, and webinar attendance can only tell you so much—and often what seems like a hot opportunity is really a low-quality lead. Conversational AI, on the other hand, kicks the guesswork in favor of generating a real rapport with your contacts.
Conversational AI can even work in tandem with traditional Sales Engagement Platforms and Marketing Automation Platforms. While some organizations worry that dual streams will inundate a lead, the evidence shows otherwise. That’s because leads recognize automated messages (inviting them to download a piece of content or join a scheduled webinar) as different from personalized touches from a Salesperson or AI Assistant inviting them to a Sales meeting to answer questions.
If you want better lead engagement, consider leveraging AI Assistants from Conversica, the leading provider of Conversational AI for revenue teams.
Want a deep dive into the capacity challenge facing Sales teams? Check out our eBook, The Sales Capacity Challenge: Never Miss a Sales-Ready Opportunity Again.
By Jen Amundgaard
This is the second part of a two-part article. Part one discusses what to do with your lower-quality leads. Part two discusses how you can work with your Conversica Customer Outcomes Manager to achieve the best results.
Once you have completed the three steps of evaluating how you’re targeting lead segments, studying the lead quality report, and identifying the sources of your lowest-quality leads, you should have a good sense of what’s broken. Now is the time to reach out to your Customer Outcomes Manager (COM) to share what you’ve learned and create a strategy for improving your results.
Your Customer Outcomes Manager has worked with many customers in different industries. They are happy to share best practices and help wordsmith to improve the targeting of your outreach. As you create your plan, note that different metrics can indicate different strategies.
Example indicators include bounced emails, invalid emails, unsubscribes, spam complaints, and do not email requests. Let’s look at each of these now.
“Email Bounced” (as a status that we apply to a lead) can indicate any of the following:
- A temporary issue such as the user’s mailbox is full. Note that when Conversica encounters a temporary issue, we retry delivery up to three times before considering the email a hard bounce.
- A permanent issue such as the mailbox not existing. For example, sometimes people will enter email addresses like “[email protected]” to get past a web form to access your content.
- The lead’s mail server has classified your domain as a spammer and refuses to accept your messages.
A high rate of bounced email addresses typically indicates very old or very busy leads and we recommend that you either call them or simply disqualify these leads. If these leads were acquired recently for cost, you could download a report of them from your Conversica dashboard and seek compensation from the source.
“Invalid Email” (as a status that we apply to a lead) means that our third-party validation platform has identified your lead as too risky to email. If you have a high percentage of invalid emails, we can explore options for adjusting risk settings to make sure that we’re maximizing Sales opportunities while protecting your domain’s deliverability. The cost of validation is one we bear in order to ensure that we can continue driving amazing outcomes for our customers.
“Unsubsubscribed” (as a status that we apply to a lead) indicates:
- Emails are being sent to leads who haven’t asked or don’t remember asking to be contacted by you.
- Leads haven’t opted-in to receive emails from you recently.
- Our email content is inaccurate or feels irrelevant.
- Leads are receiving too much outreach from your brand.
- For leads with addresses provided by Gmail, this can also indicate that your lead has marked our email as spam. Gmail automatically unsubscribes users who report spam, and they send the complaint to us as an unsubscribe request.
A high rate of Unsubscribes typically indicates that the leads we’re working are either too old or are receiving too much contact from your brand. We recommend that you evaluate all outreach efforts to these leads and consider pausing your nurture, drip, and phone outreach while Conversica is active with these leads.
You could also consider setting a younger maximum age from opt-in. If leads don’t remember opting-in to receiving your emails, or don’t remember expressing interest in your brand because their need was met ages ago, they’re more likely to unsubscribe from our emails. It is always best to start with your youngest leads and work your way back to your oldest leads while keeping an eye on your Unsubscribes. At some point, there will be an obvious point of diminishing returns which indicates to all the oldest you can go without launching robust nurturing to re-educate your leads before sending them through Conversica again.
Finally, you should compare the content of our emails with the data you have for these leads to make sure that the emails we’re sending to them reflect what you know about them. With older leads, it can help to add reminders of who you are and your value proposition or competitive advantage. These leads need you to remind them of their pain points and how you’ll alleviate them.
“Marked as Spam” means that your leads are communicating to their email providers that our emails are spam. They’ve likely clicked on a link or button in their email Inbox complaining that our email is Spam. To be clear, this is not a button we provide, but a button provided by their email provider or browser.
Sometimes this means that the data we’re receiving from your CRM or MAS isn’t accurate. If this is the case, we’ll likely receive responses from leads saying things like “My name is not Janet; it’s Bob” or “I have never downloaded anything from your site ever — you have the wrong guy!” In cases like this, we can ignore lead names in your data and our AI is able to use generic greetings. This solution isn’t likely to perform as well as highly-personalized emails, but is certainly better than risking too many spam complaints. We see this happen in situations where, for example, your reps are making typographical errors or your leads are entering false names to access your content. We’ll partner with you to get to the root of the problem and work to resolve your data quality.
“Do Not Email” means your leads are taking the time to send personal notes to your Intelligent Virtual Assistant requesting removal from your list. This indicates that they believe your Intelligent Virtual Assistant is a human and respect your brand (this two-way dialogue helps to protect your domain), but simply do not want to receive further marketing.
You should treat these as you do unsubscribes, opt-outs, or do not email requests and remove these leads from all of your other marketing and sales efforts. On our side, Conversica will add this email address to our internal suppression list for your account and cease emailing this lead at this address again on your behalf.
We’re in This Together!
When you hire one of our Intelligent Virtual Assistants, we become partners and we will do everything we can to flag for you opportunities to improve your success.
We all prefer if these opportunities come in the form of hot leads who want to speak with Sales. But we are also here to help:
- Point out opportunities to clean your data: Were you recently hired and inherited a dirty or suspect CRM? Do you need evidence to demonstrate that a serious cleansing is required?
- Improve your workflows: Are there multiple points of leakage in your funnel? Are you wondering why leads from Content Syndication or a specific vendor just don’t seem to perform well?
- Protect your domain: Ever wonder why your customers report that your emails are going to their Spam folders or are placed in a less-prominent folder in their email browser?
Each of these pieces is critical to our joint success and your success overall.
As we reach out to engage your leads and contacts, we do so at a pace that far outstrips what your humans ever could (i.e. two BDRs can handle—at best—3,000 contacts per year; a single Conversica Intelligent Virtual Assistant could easily and adequately handle that volume in less than a week). Thus, if we’re reaching out to unhealthy leads, your domain will feel the impact of this much faster and earlier than if your humans alone were reaching out.
As a good partner, we alert you when we see signs that you need to take action to avoid the negative consequences of emailing low-quality leads. At a minimum, we need to offset the bad with the good, so we recommend that you never have more than 25 percent of your weekly lead volume constituted of cold or low-quality leads. It is possible, though risky, to continue working lower quality leads as long as the majority of the leads you work are high quality.
Inherent in partnering with you is a commitment to sharing the risk and remediation process together. As we work to improve lead health, we’ll improve your overall inbox placement, your data, and your ROI with Conversica. We want to improve your ROI with Conversica and we want to improve your ROI with all of your other marketing efforts as well.
Now, let’s make some money together!
Marketers can’t afford to be static. They need to adjust their processes and strategies to what’s happening in the marketplace. This means adjusting the consumer demands, cultural changes, economic conditions—but it can also include changes to the technological landscape.
Privacy and security are hot topics for consumers, and some of the biggest names in tech are adjusting to public needs and expectations. When companies like Apple and Google change their policies on pixel tracking, Marketers need to take notice and make appropriate changes to their tactics.
Let’s explore what’s happening with email pixel tracking for open rates, what that means for Marketers, and how Conversica helps companies get the most out of their email marketing and lead outreach.
Open Rates Are Dying: What’s Happening Now?
Google and Apple provide users with the ability to block email senders from using invisible pixels to track email open rates. This is part of a larger effort to put consumers in control of their data. Keep in mind that this doesn’t change the effectiveness of the email. It just impacts the ability of the sender to track, report, and act on opens once tracked via pixels.
Yes, some Marketers dislike this change. They fear losing open tracking for A/B testing and send-time optimization. But the fact of the matter is that click rates, response rates, and conversion rates are all far better indicators of success than open rates ever were. Marketers ought to see this as a blessing in disguise. The end of pixel tracking puts an emphasis on direct engagement with content to determine success and trigger the next step in the campaign.
Engagement Rates, Not Open Rates, Are the Way of the Future
While savvy Marketers can pivot to meet the moment, there are some potential drawbacks to recognize. Without open-rate data to gauge performance, it’s even more important to reduce risky behaviors that can land you in the spam folder.
Best practices include:
- Writing personalized greetings
- Using an individual sender in the “From” line
- Including a signature and contact information
- Avoiding excessive punctuations or red-flag words in subjects lines and copy
No matter what kinds of changes Apple, Google, and others choose to roll out, good email copy and clear calls to action will never go out of style. Relevant, engaging, and useful content is what people want to find when they open an email.
A Bit About Link Tracking
Link tracking is exactly what it sounds like—the ability to track link engagement. Link tracking opens the door to new ways of analyzing your lead activity and campaign performance. This gives you insight into what engagements drive the most value, so you can make informed decisions about where to focus your marketing spend.
Here are the benefits of link tracking:
- Link tracking provides direct insight into a prospect’s interest and can inform the next best action to convert a lead quickly.
- Engagement rate is a better indicator of success and interest than open rates ever were.
Admittedly, link tracking is nothing new, and a lot of businesses use it already. If this applies to you, that’s great! You’re ahead of the game. But if you haven’t embraced link tracking yet, now is the time.
Link Tracking for Conversica Users
Link tracking is just one of the capabilities Conversica introduced to ensure Marketers get the data they need to succeed. This includes measuring the effectiveness of campaigns; as well as comparing how often scheduling links are clicked by leads vs. how many appointments actually get scheduled by the leads that are clicking on the link.
With link tracking from Conversica, you can measure the effectiveness of your Conversica AI Assistants’ engagements by recording when leads click on a link in specific conversations. With this information, you can better understand which links generate the most activity and compare the results against your website traffic or appointment scheduling data to see how Conversica performs against your other marketing channels.
Here’s how it works:
- When you use a link variable in a conversation, Conversica replaces that link with a codified version.
- When a lead is sent or clicks a link, Conversica registers the link traffic.
- The lead’s experience is not affected and they are directed to the original link destination in real-time.
- The link sent and link clicked data are available in Conversica dashboard reporting and the lead manager.
Yes, open rates via pixel tracking are shrinking in relevance. But that’s no problem for savvy Marketers.
Want a deep dive into more tips for Conversational Marketing? Watch our webinar: How Conversational AI for Marketing and Sales Enhances the Digital Buyer Experience and Closes Gaps in Your Sales Process.