We need to talk about Conversations. And Conversions. (And Covers? And CVs? Wait, this joke is going too far, let’s stop it).
Conversational marketing is not something new. We have been hearing about it for a while and it has been evolving a lot over the past few years.
According to Drift, the company that originally coined this term, “conversational marketing is the fastest way to move buyers through your marketing and sales funnels through the power of real-time conversations. It builds relationships and creates authentic experiences with customers and buyers.”
Those conversational experiences can take different shapes and be launched in different channels, going from chatbots and intelligent assistants to social media platforms and website pages. They can also exist as part of your online advertising campaigns, not only to provide a more engaging and appealing journey but also to increase the return on your advertising investment.
In this article, we will show how you can start running conversational ads, how they can improve your paid results, and go through some real examples and expert opinions.
What is Conversational Advertising?
Conversational advertising is about using automated conversations in online advertising campaigns that lead the target audience to perform a set of actions through a real-time personalized journey.
The target actions are defined according to the campaign objectives, which can be related to generating brand awareness, increasing sales, or generating leads from prospective buyers.
Yes, we can literally say that paid conversations can drive paid conversions.
These automated conversations happen in messaging interfaces mimicking a natural conversation between users and brands (usually represented by a chatbot). The conversation guides users through predefined paths according to the options users pick along the interaction. While these are usually rule-based flows, some bots also leverage artificial intelligence elements (such as natural language processing) to generate a more humanized and sophisticated experience.
The messaging interface where the conversation happens can either be part of the ad itself or accessible by clicking on the ad (when users arrive at a conversational landing page or a messaging app). That depends on the advertising platform, and the type of campaign used, as we will explore in the following sections.
How Does it Relate to Message Ads?
You might have heard about message ads before, and you’re wondering if they are the same as conversational ads. That depends on your interpretation of message ads. The most common ones that pop to people’s minds are:
- LinkedIn Message Ads – where we can send sponsored direct messages to LinkedIn users, and they can click on the message’s call-to-action inside their LinkedIn inbox.
- Facebook Messenger Ads – they work similarly to other Facebook ad formats but are shown specifically inside the Messenger app (in the Chats tab).
While conversational ads mimic a natural conversation between brands and users, message ads are static ads that do not provide that dynamic experience. They are named as such simply because they are displayed inside the messaging interface of their platforms (usually the messaging inbox), but they don’t provide the same kind of conversational interaction.
Even though users can click on those ads, they usually only provide a single call-to-action and have a single goal in mind, while conversational ads adapt to the different paths users pick and their intended actions.
Why are Conversational Ads Important?
Let’s face reality. Consumers are becoming tired of online ads competing for their attention. Even though the term banner blindness was coined in 1998, users never ignored ads as much as they do nowadays, and that’s because of how saturated the digital advertising space is today. It’s not a surprise that technology such as ad blockers has been on the rise over the past few years.
Besides saturation in quantitative terms, the digital space also suffers from a lack of differentiation and uniqueness. If we spend some time scrolling on our social media feeds, we will notice that ads are becoming very similar to each other, both in visual elements (colors used, illustrations, etc) and in the wording used in the copy.
The lack of originality by some advertisers can be a good opportunity for others. Those who invest their time and resources in creating disruptive creative assets will more likely see their ads getting higher engagement and interaction rates.
That’s where conversational ads come in. Not only their distinct format can catch users’ attention more easily in the first place, but also their dynamic experience can lead to higher conversion rates. In order for them to deliver results, we still need to do a good job of planning the campaign, defining the right target audiences, and crafting a compelling value proposition. If we nail those elements, conversational ads can skyrocket our results.
Without further ado, let’s jump into the different types of conversational ads and how they work.
How does Conversational Advertising really work?
There are different ways to run conversational campaigns. You can either leverage conversational ad formats provided by the advertising platforms or use regular ad formats together with conversational landing pages and messaging apps.
Conversational Social Ads
Social media advertising plays a huge role in the digital advertising landscape, and it looks like it is still growing. According to Hootsuite, in 2022, social media will account for 33% of all digital advertising spending, and annual social ad spend will reach $134 billion, representing an increase of over 17% year-on-year.
The biggest social media companies understood how powerful conversational experiences can be and saw the opportunity to leverage their own messaging interfaces to offer new advertising formats and increase their ad revenue.
LinkedIn Conversational Ads
As LinkedIn presents them, these allow you to start quality conversations with professionals through a choose-your-own-path experience right inside your LinkedIn inbox.
In this ad format, users can pick through multiple options along the journey, and—for certain objectives like lead generation—they can even accomplish the final goal (filling a lead generation form) inside the ad itself.
Besides providing a visually appealing experience, LinkedIn wants to ensure that users don’t quickly suffer from ad fatigue and ignore the ads they receive in their inbox. As such, users can only receive a sponsored ad in their inbox once every 30 days. This means that, while users see many ads in their feeds, they will only get one ad in their inbox for a long period. That’s a rare opportunity for advertisers to stand out from the crowd and grab users’ attention.
As Metadata.io shared in their LinkedIn Conversation Ads guide, there are some best practices you should consider to ensure you get good results:
- Define the right target audience according to your objective. Take the best out of LinkedIn’s ultra-specific targeting options (like job titles, work skills, and others) and generate an audience with enough size for the ads to generate results (at least 50,000 members).
- Define the right daily budget and bid amounts.
- Choose the right sender of the messages. You can use anyone with a LinkedIn account (with their permission), so make sure you pick someone who will resonate with your audience and make sense in the context of that campaign and respective value proposition.
- Get your first message right. Think about this like an email and its subject line. If you nail it, most likely, the users will open it and engage with it.
- Test & optimize. As always, in every campaign, you should test the different elements (sender, copy, paths, options, etc.) to see what’s performing better and what should be replaced by new elements.
Many B2B advertisers—including Silvio Perez, Head of Performance Marketing at Metadata.io—have been sharing phenomenal results when it comes to pipeline and revenue generation coming from those campaigns.
Facebook & Click to Message Ads
Meta owns two of the most popular messaging apps in the world, WhatsApp and Messenger. It would be weird if they didn’t leverage their own messaging capabilities and interfaces to help businesses communicate with their users.
They not only allow users to engage with company accounts in messaging apps, but they also allow businesses to start conversations at scale through advertising. Facebook Click to Message Ads can be shown in Facebook and Instagram feeds (like the standard social ads), but clicking on the call-to-action button prompts users to start a conversation which can take place in Messenger, WhatsApp, or Instagram Direct.
This format provides some pre-defined options for users to pick when the conversation starts, but it also allows users to write their own questions and have a conversation with a company representative.
Last September, Facebook announced they would invest even more in personalized experiences like these, so we can expect more conversational features to be launched in the future.
Facebook & Click to WhatsApp Ads
As shared earlier, Facebook Click-to-Message Ads also work with WhatsApp. This means that businesses can use Facebook Ads to get users to start conversations with them on WhatsApp.
Besides the obvious benefits of engaging with those users, there’s more to it. Antony Chacko - the founder of Alpha Marketer, an agency specializing in WhatsApp marketing - believes these campaigns are an easy way to buy and own your potential buyer data at scale.
Using Facebook to WhatsApp Ads together with WhatsApp automation can be a very powerful combination. By leading users to start a conversation with your WhatsApp business account, you can lead them to a WhatsApp chatbot that presents multiple options, rich content, and other elements that create an engaging experience with your brand.
Conversational Display Ads
As mentioned above, banner blindness and ad fatigue are serious threats to your engagement and click-through rates. But that effect can be felt even more in display advertising, as these ads are usually shown on pages very crowded by content and attention grabbers. So if you want to stand out, your display ads need to be really original.
Instead of creating a traditional display ad using a static image, you can incorporate a conversational assistant into a dynamic banner, making the banner itself interactive and allowing for a conversation to happen right there (instead of driving users to another page).
These are the so-called chatbot banner ads.
Depending on the audience you are targeting in those campaigns (either cold audiences that don’t know your brand yet, or re-targeting users that have already visited your website), you can create different chatbots with different goals in mind.
Since some display advertising networks allow you to define the specific web placements where your ads will appear, you can also create chatbots that are customized according to the content of the rest of the page. Thus, providing a more contextual experience for the web visitor and likely resulting in higher interaction & conversion rates.
Conversational Landing Pages
What if you want to provide a conversational experience without using other ad formats and channels that don’t provide native conversational features?
There’s a simple solution for that! You can replace your traditional landing pages with conversational landing pages. This means you only need to create one conversational page, and then you can use it in multiple advertising channels and campaigns.
While standard landing pages usually present sales copy and a single call-to-action button or a lead generation form, conversational landing pages engage visitors through a chatbot-driven interaction. They are greeted by a bot and pulled straight into a conversation.
Creating a chatbot for your conversational landing page is very easy with Landbot’s code solution for web chatbots. If you don’t want to build your bot from scratch, you can also use one of our pre-built conversational form templates.
After you build it, you should test it and compare it against your static landing pages. Arora Project, a growth marketing agency, started A/B testing between standard landing pages and conversational pages made with Landbot, and the difference was staggering.
They ended up turning off almost all their lead generation campaigns that were going to traditional landing pages. With conversational pages, their number of leads skyrocketed, and they were able to decrease their cost per lead by 30%.
If you want to take a step even further than using a conversational landing page, you can also build conversational apps and use them as landing pages.
A conversational app provides better user experiences by combining text-based messaging with visual UI elements such as buttons, carousels, calendars, maps, videos, mini forms, and others. You can adapt them according to your use case, such as lead generation, bookings & reservations, eCommerce transactions, or product recommendations.
Building a conversational app without having to code is now easier than ever, thanks to no-code platforms like Landbot.
What’s the Future of Conversational Advertising?
It’s hard to know exactly how conversational advertising will evolve in the future.
But as we continue to observe the growth of messaging apps, we can expect more conversational ad formats and features to be launched by major advertising platforms.
Another aspect that can evolve is the conversations themselves. While we have been focusing on written communication, automated voice communication is also growing as a form of interaction between brands and consumers, especially thanks to virtual assistants such as Siri and Alexa.
We know that voice search and conversational AI are already changing the SEO landscape. Will it also start impacting the advertising landscape?
Let’s see what the future holds, but we believe that conversational advertising is here to stay. In the meantime, check out some trends and predictions about the future of conversational marketing.