Live Chat Enters the B2B Marketing Conversation

Live Chat Enters the B2B Marketing Conversation

April 2022 | Digital Marketing

Live chat has become an essential part of the B2B marketing mix. It's become more than just a tool for lead capture and customer service.

Conversational marketing has been a hot topic for a while. Like many new tactics, it emerged in B2C marketing as a way to increase eCommerce sales. Live chat provides a mechanism for online retailers to connect their customers with the products and services they're looking for. Common queries can be automated using a chatbot, while more complex questions can be directed to a human sales rep for a more considered answer.

In B2B, chatbots first saw widespread adoption as a customer service channel. They allow customers to directly engage with support teams, providing a bespoke service while bypassing the frustration of overworked account managers and overburdened telephone support queues. Indeed, web chat is now one of the most popular ways to reach customer support among both businesses and consumers.


In recent years, Drift have pioneered the concept of conversational marketing. In doing so, they adapted the obvious benefits of chatbots and live chat to B2B marketing. New ways to get prospects in front of sales have been opened by the deployment of chatbots on company websites. The ability to route leads to their account manager for a live conversation is often pitched as a key differentiator for B2B chat applications. Meetings can be booked in their Outlook or Gmail calendar if the relevant sales rep is unavailable.

Typically though, telemarketing agents are the people on the front line of any B2B live chat capability. There are both cost and efficiency benefits to this. Training every sales rep to accept and use live chat is always a challenge, even before the substantial licensing costs that come with equipping the average enterprise sales team. A more frequent approach is to enable direct routing to the allocated rep only for key target accounts, where any possible interaction might have a bigger impact on the business.


The other key B2B use case for chatbots is as a data capture tool. The theory is that contacts are much more likely to hand over their personal details in a two-way conversation than through the typical website form. That does require the proper structure and incentives to encourage conversion. Just as with any other data capture channel, contacts will only provide their email address in return for a strong offer.

A properly structured playbook will have a lower abandonment rate than a form, provided details are collected in the right order. Start with less identifiable information such as name and then company name. Only request email address at the point of conversion, when the contact is already committed to registering for whatever content or event is being promoted. It's important not to make the contact realise how much information they're giving out. If the chat script is too long, that will lead to higher abandonment rates compared to traditional forms.

For this reason, chatbots are not a direct replacement for web forms. The only form use case they definitively can replace is contact us forms, simply because they cut out the middle man and allow for a real-time response to customer requests. When it comes to asset downloads or event registration, they are very much a supplementary channel. Most contacts will find the traditional web form a much easier and more natural experience simply because it's the expected behaviour. From a user experience perspective, enabling data capture in a chatbot only makes sense if the user is already engaged with the bot for another reason. It eliminates a potential drop-off point from the journey.


Marketers need to first get users engaged with the chatbot. The main reason for that is content discovery. Users often struggle with even the best designed website navigation, simply because you know your product portfolio far better than they do. In an ideal world, a chatbot would be able to direct users to the best content for any relevant topic. AI is being trained for this purpose, but hasn't reached the level required to do it yet.

In the meantime, a strong chatbot script highlighting the most important content for common queries is a valuable component for any B2B website. If that content is gated, then integrating the registration process into the chatbot removes a barrier to conversion. It also allows topical campaigns to be quickly promoted on the homepage without taking up real estate that could be better used for more valuable information.

Banner Photo by KOBU Agency / Unsplash

Written by
Marketing Operations Consultant and Solutions Architect at CRMT Digital specialising in marketing technology architecture. Advisor on marketing effectiveness and martech optimisation.