Solving The Conversation Gap: A New Funnel-Building Approach

Published: May 20, 2022

1greenWe need to talk about the “conversation gap” impacting today’s marketing and sales funnels. The conversation gap is the gap between customer expectations for personalized, 1:1 interactions and your revenue teams’ ability to meet them at scale. If you’ve ever been unsure if a lead is truly ready for a sales conversation, spun through seemingly endless sales cycles or wished you had more time and capacity to interact with every lead, then you’re likely dealing with a conversation gap.

Not so long ago, one-way automated email blasts were the only way to entice leads to jump the gap into sales-ready status. But with virtually no way to engage every lead 1:1 at scale and speed, marketing automation platforms (MAPs) alone don’t do the trick anymore. Today’s audiences need a more hands-on approach to catch their attention and move them down the funnel quickly.

Enter the “conversation qualified” approach to help close the gap through direct two-way dialogue, led by conversational AI.

When Yesterday’s Marketing Automation Only Goes So Far

For years, marketers have relied on lead scoring to evaluate when a lead is sales ready as a marketing qualified lead (MQL). We carefully watch engagement and tinker with points — a form fill here, a webinar there — to measure when we can slap that MQL label on and pass the lead to sales.

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I don’t mean this as a knock on MQLs. I remember when the metric emerged with MAPs two decades ago (you know, when flip phones were the hottest thing). It was a big deal, a real step-change in lead qualification. Before that change, we might expect a 1%-2% conversion rate, but by systematically scoring and driving sales readiness, conversion rates can grow 3X to 5X.

That being said, just like flip phones, marketing automation tools of the time only go so far and don’t meet current customers’ expectations. The digital generation today demands a highly personalized, white-glove experience, where you know them, respond quickly and can interact in two-way exchanges.

After all, an MQL who’s downloaded a lot of content and attended a webinar might not be ready to jump straight into a sales call — they need some back-and-forth to warm them up first. But previous tools aren’t designed to meet this demand at scale, which leaves a huge opportunity for businesses to set themselves apart.

Instead, everyone’s using the same standard automation, like one-way email nurturing sequences. That status quo limits companies to 1:many communications where they’re talking at a lead rather than with them — a far cry from a true conversation and certainly not the type of brand experience that buyers expect. There are huge business implications when the full funnel experience disappoints because companies are unable to directly interact with leads and deliver memorable, personalized interactions at scale.

High in the funnel, marketers relegate themselves to sending generic communication that neither builds rapport to move people forward nor provides a clear indication of who’s already sales ready. Overburdened sales teams then spend too much time sifting through an inconsistent list, while truly sales-ready leads get missed and the not-quite-there-yet group never gets ushered along successfully. You end up with a long journey from the MQL stage to the deal, during which extra resources are spent on the wrong leads, actual in-market leads are neglected and you miss out on revenue opportunities.

The Way Ahead: Conversation Qualified

Conversation qualified is a new funnel approach to close the conversation gap and optimize customer experience and revenue generation across the buyer journey. It’s driven by conversational AI that automates humanlike, two-way conversations at scale for 100% lead coverage. These conversations, driven and managed by autonomous AI assistants, not only build meaningful, positive customer relationships but also encourage prospects to raise their hand when they’re ready to speak with sales so there are no missed opportunities.

You can identify conversation qualified leads (CQLs), i.e., your hand raisers who have indicated they are ready to buy and provide not-yet-ready leads with a better, more effective experience to progress them further in the relationship with conversational AI.

Through machine learning and natural language processing, the AI assistants automatically understand incoming messages, decide on the next best action and promptly respond accordingly. They can hold conversations with leads at the top of the funnel and see who is ready to be fast-tracked to a CQL while delivering a memorable experience to every contact.

We’ve seen companies leveraging a conversation qualified approach triple their conversion rates because they can accurately identify and drive sales readiness across the funnel — raising the bar from yesterday’s marketing automation. The AI-led approach generates direct pipeline, conversion and revenue breakthroughs to benefit all revenue teams.

For marketing, AI assistants can nurture higher in the funnel than previously possible to create a memorable brand experience and surface the “hand raisers” — the highest, sales-ready opportunities — at a faster rate.

On the sales side, a conversation qualified approach scales outbound lead prospecting, finds the best leads and augments teams with digital co-workers so salespeople can focus on the priority inbound leads.

Finally, the conversation qualified approach helps customer success teams reach out to every customer to motivate engagement, retention, product adoption and expansion through personalized back-and-forth dialogue.

Conversational AI marks a significant leap forward for scaling and automating conversations without compromising experience. With this new conversation qualified approach, your marketing, sales and customer success teams can close the conversation gap with authentic, two-way exchanges that promise better buyer experiences, lead qualification, conversions and revenue.

David Greenberg is the CMO of Conversica. He has more than 20 years of experience as a marketing and GTM leader with deep expertise in building high-growth organizations that disrupt the “old way” of doing things. He is deeply passionate about leveraging technologies to create significant step-changes in the business. Prior to joining Conversica, Greenberg was the CMO at Act-On Software, where he was responsible for the overall strategy and execution of the Marketing and Product functions. Prior to this role, Greenberg has held numerous senior executive positions across groundbreaking organizations such as Jive Software, Airship and Liveops.

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