What Is Conversational Email? A Short Intro to Emails That Drive a Conversations – At Scale

Written by Billy Attar

Marketing emails have come a long way.

What started out as simple email blasts are now AI-powered, fully automated, interactive conversations – otherwise known as “Conversational Email.”

Let’s talk about why conversational emails are necessary before we get into what they are.

The evolution of email from email blasts to conversational email

Buyers prefer conversations

Today, buyers prefer 1:1 communications (always have!).

They expect to be treated as a person, not a lead. So it’s important to talk to your leads not at them.

What does this mean? It means your emails must be authentic, personalized and relevant. In fact, 75% of business buyers expect personalized offers and 70% consider a personalized experience to be crucial. Even more important, 65% will switch brands if they don’t get personalized communications.

Buyers prefer immediacy

Pace is important to a conversation.

If you can’t respond fast enough, the buyer loses interest. Convince and Convert found that 64% of consumers and 80% of business buyers expect real-time responses. This trend is forcing companies to adopt new conversational technologies like…

Conversational marketing platforms

We’ve already started with conversational marketing, but chatbots are just the beginning.

Chatbots work well at accelerating the lead conversion process, but they’re incomplete without email since the chatbot is just the beginning of the buyer’s journey.

Conversational Email

Most business is done by email so this has to be the medium you use to converse with leads. But how do you have email conversations at scale?

Up until now it’s been impossible. Marketing automation is one-way and can’t do anything when a lead replies to an email. You can hire SDRs, but that’ll never scale enough (and would be really expensive).

Luckily, artificial intelligence (AI) makes it possible to combine the scale of marketing automation with the conversational emails an SDR sends.

Platforms like Exceed have made it possible to automate 2-way conversations with leads. Conversational email platforms can understand a lead’s reply and then respond accordingly because they use AI.

This makes it possible to give lead’s a much more personalized experience. It’s also an immediate experience since there’s no waiting for a sales rep to reply.

Automate conversational email with AI email bots

How to write emails that start a conversation

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  1. Keep in mind that you’re writing to a person – personalize, be natural, be authentic
  2. Your leads only care about one thing: what’s in it for them
  3. Write in the first person, “I” not “we”
  4. This is not a marketing email – don’t make it fancy or use marketing jargon (violates lesson #1). Keep your email plain text and to the point.

Pay close attention to #4. I can’t tell you how many great marketers treat conversational email copy as if it were marketing email copy – too much text, not personal, too well designed (ie not authentic) and too long.

Your SDRs and sales reps have been writing conversational emails for years, learn what works for them.

Targeting

Years ago at a previous company, I took my first steps into outbound email. I found a good outbound drip email platform and requested a demo.

When the sales guy started walking me through the platform, I noticed there was no A/B testing feature. I’m a marketer, so of course I asked “what gives?”

He told me to stop thinking like a marketer. 

That’s key to getting more replies. Your copy should be good, but it’s less important than your timing and targeting.

You’ll get more replies if you reach out to the right person at a time when they’re looking for a solution. Your copy needs to be clear and relevant to get the job done, but not more than that.

On the other hand, if you reach out to the wrong person or your timing is bad, the greatest copy in the world won’t help.

But you should test… Test your subject, copy and cadence. There’s always room for improvement, just don’t forget that your message needs to be highly relevant to the email recipient.

When should you be conversational?

When does it make sense to automate conversations with your leads?

  1. The type of conversation should be repetitive 
  2. You have a next step to take if the lead replies 
  3. There is a human hand-off at some point in the conversation
  4. There are limited directions for the conversation to go

Here are the business scenarios which meet our criteria:

  • Request demo follow-up and qualification
  • Free trial upgrade emails
  • Re-engaging leads in your CRM
  • Reaching out to leads with improving lead score (you can do this instead of sending alerts to sales reps)
  • Qualify low scoring leads (ex: don’t disqualify a lead because they used a @gmail.com address)
  • Outbound campaigns
  • Asset/ebook download & webinar follow-up
  • Rescheduling meeting no-shows
  • Conference invites & follow-up

Where does conversational email fit in your marketing & sales stack?

Conversational marketing’s goal is to quickly convert marketing leads to sales opportunities.

It needs to act as a bridge between marketing and sales and to create a smooth transition of leads. Your conversational email platform should be owned by marketing but it needs to be aligned with how sales works.

You’ll have to understand what qualification questions to automate, how and when to hand-off leads to sales.

The conversational email tech stack

Here’s how the typical marketing lead workflow looks when using conversational email:

Conversational email lead qualification

*If your company has SDRs, use conversational email as a way to pre-qualify leads before getting the SDRs involved. You’ll immediately increase your SDR team’s productivity.

**If your company doesn’t have SDRs, conversational email platforms can act as your automated SDR team (that’s our setup at Exceed).

Conversational email is also a helpful tool for sales. Each rep can have his or her own AI SDR that follows-up with unresponsive or meeting no-show leads. This way the rep focuses on closing deals while the AI SDR chases leads for them.

Conversational email sales process

Recap

  • Buyers prefer conversations
  • Leverage technology to scale conversations
  • Sell to people, not numbers
  • Iterate
  • Use conversations to move leads from marketing to sales

For more about conversational email and to see some examples, check out our recent webinar.

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