MarTech Interview with Justin McDonald, Senior VP and GM of Conversational Marketing at Terminus

Justin McDonald, Senior VP and GM of Conversational Marketing at Terminus chats about the growing benefits of conversational experiences in today’s marketing sphere in this quick catch-up:

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Welcome to this MarTech Series chat Justin, tell us more about your role at Terminus and your journey before that, we’d love to hear about RambleChat too!

Following Terminus’s acquisition of RambleChat, I joined as the GM of Chat to oversee our chatbot product. After integrating it into the Terminus platform and aligning our team on conversational marketing, I inherited our channel applications, including advertising, web personalization, emails, sales experiences and chat. I was in that role for nearly six months when our ELT realized something really big was happening in the conversational marketing and sales space. We had an immense opportunity and we needed to structure a true GM and Go-To-Market structure to capitalize — so we agreed to put more muscle behind it.

I shifted my attention away from all our channels to instead drive the entire go-to-market function for chat. So really, I’ve had the opportunity to wear multiple hats at Terminus, including product development, sales, strategy, product marketing, and marketing to a certain extent, helping map specific goals to the growth of our chat solution.

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What are some of the best practices that can drive more unique/effective conversational marketing experiences, that you don’t see brands and marketers focus on enough?

When you have ads and chat operating within a single native ABM platform, you witness better data, more conversions, and a better customer experience. These coexisting engagement channels work together to optimize each other in order to create a flywheel of first-party data making the ABM engine even more relevant.  The two help improve each other over time which provides more value to our customers.

Brands and marketers can use chat to engage leads — rather than asking site visitors to fill out those ubiquitous forms. Plus, chatbots work 24/7 and don’t require breaks or vacations, so you can use intelligent chatbots with conversational marketing at any time.

Conversations happen in real-time; they’re scalable. Chatbots are scalable, too, offering instant access to support or answering questions based on existing data or buyer intent. To succeed, conversations need context and relevancy. They evolve as more information is shared. Chatbots should work the same way, too. That’s why they should integrate with CRMs, Sales Engagement Platforms and Marketing Automation, where they can access customer data — whether it’s a job title, purchasing history, contacts, typical requirements, the possibilities are endless. When the chatbot can access that information, the conversation becomes a lot more helpful to the buyer or customer.

Other ways to improve customers’ digital buying experiences include automating conversations that don’t necessarily require a human touch, like

  • FAQs
  • Content delivery (access to articles or whitepapers and other gated content)
  • Re-engagement (for infrequent visitors who might appreciate receiving a link to new content, for example).
  • Interest signals (especially for repeat or frequent site visitors).

Personalization also remains key, using customized hooks designed to engage buyers with a relevant greeting tailored to customer data from the MarTech stack.

Can you share a few highlights and learnings from some of the B2B industry’s best conversational marketing experiences you’ve come across!

The B2B companies using conversational marketing share several important characteristics. They focus on quality rather than quantity — when resources are limited, companies can segment audiences by identifying those that are more engaged, leveraging chatbots to interact with customers earlier in the buying journey and freeing salespeople to connect with qualified customers that have a greater potential to convert.

For example, Elevated Third increased its pipeline by 684% after implementing chat and ads. This digital agency wanted to increase engagement, generate more qualified leads, boost deal size, and increase its pipeline. The company incorporated a sophisticated chat playbook trained to field common questions and proactively engage prospects to start the sales conversation.

London & Company does a great job with lead qualification, one of the biggest challenges any company faces. Its clean, streamlined chatbot asks specific questions designed to better identify the visitor’s goals and send them in the right direction. Easy answering options also simplify the process of creating engaged conversations and providing first-party data.

How can marketers and salespeople use conversational technologies/account-based chats to improve how they drive messaging to a targeted audience?

Our society has become one used to communicating via messaging. It’s fast, easy and feels like a conversation (even if we’re talking to a chatbot). When a buyer or customer lands on a website in search of a specific product or service, why not make the process of finding what they need quick, streamlined and straightforward? Chatbots can help with that, removing the ‘human element’ from areas more easily automated while still building relationships and creating authentic relationships between the buyer and vendor.

Conversational marketing provides yet another opportunity to meet customers where they are in their buying journey. Done well, it drives value by delivering the right message at the right time, with the right information, to the right person.

We know that websites with a chat solution enjoy an 80% or more increase in conversions compared to websites lacking chat. Websites using chat as a CTA (call to action) within an outbound email see an average 255% increase in outbound email response rates. It all comes down to a conversational framework of engaging, understanding and recommending.

By itself, chat is a strong channel. But when you combine it with other channels like email, it becomes even more powerful. When you infuse a brand’s personality into the chatbots it’s using, you can deliver more consistent messaging — and that can increase engagement. Chatbots don’t have to be “business only,” either — they can entertain people waiting for data to load or a human to respond. For quick engagement and response, brands can program their chatbots for auto-responses based on a series of specific, commonly-used criteria. You can also use chatbots for FAQs, which frees up employees to focus on other tasks requiring more critical thinking and strategy.

But conversational technologies/account-based chats can also improve how marketers and salespeople drive messaging to their targeted audiences. Today’s more complex chatbots can infer content from detailed, complex queries and reply conversationally. They can interact proactively, targeting individual website visitors with custom messages.

Chatbots save visitors and salespeople valuable time by integrating with calendar, messaging and conferencing apps — so a chatbot can set up a call and send a link without any human interaction. To keep delivering those targeted messages, companies should use chatbots with API-level integrations that work with customer-facing applications like Slack, knowledge bases, e-commerce stores, marketing automation suites (eg. Marketo, HubSpot) and even social media accounts.

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When a prospective buyer lands on your website, chances are they’re exploring the products and services you offer. Conversational marketing can help generate more qualified leads, and it’s a lot more effective than making dozens of phone calls each week. You can program chatbots to ask qualifying questions according to various solutions you offer and the different personas of prospects.

A few thoughts on how you feel martech as a segment will move in 2022?

I think Martech as a whole is looking for innovation and areas for consolidation. I see a continued need in the market for tech stack consolidation that will ultimately translate into pressure for corporate dev and smart acquisitions within the space. I also believe that MarTech is starting to cater to the sales persona, and the marketers are not getting the innovation they need and require. Marketing automation has been around for decades and they’re looking for better ways to drive pipeline and operate in this post-pandemic digital world.

Some last thoughts, takeaways, digital marketing and martech thoughts, tips and best practices before we wrap up!

If you want to optimize your conversational marketing to take full advantage of its power, get creative, avoid formal language and incorporate a little fun — like emojis or other rich media formats as appropriate.

Leverage your MarTech stack’s database, using customer information to build relationships and keep the conversation flowing based on their responses in the chat.

Opt for transparency when customers engage with a chatbot, telling them it is in fact a chatbot — but then offer the right options for times when buyers have more questions or require further clarification. Use chat as a springboard to lead person-to-person conversations.

Monitor and adjust, according to data about engagement, drop-off rates and buying information to optimize the complete buyer journey.

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Terminus

Terminus was founded in 2014 out of a need to give B2B marketing and sales teams a better way to go to market. The premise was simple: since only 1% of inbound leads became customers, we set out to build a solution to help marketers find their next best customer and give them everything they needed to create a conversation with them. Since then, we’ve been working non-stop to build the best possible go-to-market platform for revenue teams, all while continuing to provide stellar customer service and GTM thought leadership.

Justin McDonald is the Senior Vice President and GM of Conversational Marketing at Terminus. Prior to its acquisition in April 2020, McDonald served as CEO of RambleChat, the leading account-based chat solution. With more than 17 years of experience, McDonald is a SaaS veteran with a proven history of organizational growth, revenue generation, product development and operational efficiency.

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