A brief synopsis of how this blog came to be
As a millennial, the OG live chat will always be MSN. With its super cool emoticons and abbreviations, it was everyone's favorite after-school activity. BRB, reminiscing.
I still partake in live chats quite frequently, only now the abbreviations I use are SEO, PPC, and CPL. Incorporating live chat software on your business' website is a proven way to provide instant information and support, build customer relationships, and generate leads for your business (Instapage).
Those killer reasons are why Vendasta's marketing team refused to let our means of live chat lead generation fade away. In six months, our team managed to:
- Nearly triple the average number of live chat leads generated each month
- Bring in 4 new Vendasta partners
- Vastly improve our product knowledge
Read on to hear the details of our latest data-driven experiment!
Why you should have live chat on your website
If you don't already have live chat available on your business' website, here are some compelling reasons to start talking with your online visitors:
- 85% of consumers conduct online research prior to making a purchase
- 89% have stopped making purchases through online stores after experiencing poor customer service
With stats like that, it’s more important than ever to effectively engage with customers through your website. Live chat software is an ideal form of engagement and a valuable lead generation solution for your business. Here's why:
- 42% of consumers prefer utilizing live chat software online because it eliminates the need to wait for information (Inc.)
- 75% of consumers are satisfied following live chat interactions, while only 61% and 44% are satisfied following interactions via email and phone respectively (B2C)
The instantaneous connection offered by live chat software helps businesses provide their customers with the purchasing information they need as it arises, and that's not its only benefit. My co-worker, Adam Bissonnette, drives it home with this analogy:
“Imagine you walk into a store and no one working there asks if you need a hand or have any questions. In fact, they don't even say hello. You're probably far more likely to want to spend your money at the store down the street, right?"
We can easily apply Adam’s brick and mortar anecdote to the digital world. Your agency’s website serves as a virtual storefront, and live chat availability is the best way to greet your customers. Not only can it generate hot leads, it also helps build lasting rapport between consumers and your brand.
[clickToTweet tweet="Website #livechat can generate hot leads, and build lasting rapport between consumers and your brand." quote="Website #livechat can generate hot leads, and build lasting rapport between consumers and your brand."]
Vendasta’s live chat lead generation history
Historically, Vendasta’s live chat lead generation tactics have been owned by the company’s Distribution team. Sales Development Representatives (SDRs) worked regular live chat shifts. During these shifts, they chatted with online visitors about anything and everything Vendasta. Automatic greetings sent to site visitors helped the SDRs balance their daily calls with manning the digital storefront. Their efforts paid off and generated some high quality leads for the Business Development squad.
In August 2016, the team hit an all-time high:
- 3,066 chats were initiated
- 863 conversations continued after the automatic greeting
- 20 live chat leads were booked for presentations
3,066 chat initiations → 863 conversations → 20 booked presentations = 0.65% hello-to-book rate (HBR)
However, as Vendasta’s demand gen tactics gained traction, more and more inbound leads flooded SDR pipelines. This kept them busy dialing phone numbers, and live chat shifts soon fell by the wayside.
From September 2016 to February 2017:
- 3,275 chats were initiated
- 110 conversations continued after the automatic greeting
- 15 leads were passed on to the BDR team for presentations
3,275 chat initiations → 110 conversations → 15 booked presentations = 0.46% hello-to-book rate (HBR)
In summation, the five-month period following Vendasta's live chat peak did not go well. While nearly all (93%) of the live chat leads that were generated during this time went on to complete a presentation, and 14% closed successfully, Vendasta’s live chat lead generation efforts were undeniably dwindling.
Marketing tries out live chat lead generation
Based on the steady downward trend, something needed to change. All the relevant stakeholders agreed that having a means of live chat lead generation in place on Vendasta’s website was essential, but the SDRs were far too busy on the phones to have substantial, quality chats with site visitors.
Luckily, there’s nothing our marketing team loves more than a good experiment, especially one that can lead to a blog post.
As any group of analytically-inclined individuals (AKA data nerds) would, we set out to create a plan to conquer Vendasta's live chat and generate some awesome leads for the Distribution team. The takeover began in March 2017, and the plan went like this:
- Everyone on the team would have a weekly live chat shift. Like the SDRs, their role was to answer product questions and vet potential prospects.
- Once we had a lead on the line that was ready to move down the sales funnel, we would pass on their contact information to the SDRs for further qualification. A booked presentation was the ideal outcome in this scenario.
- Rinse, repeat, and track to make sure what we were doing was effective.
With a schedule and rules in place, we were ready to start generating live chat leads. We even learned a few things along the way...
It takes a village
In the early days of operation, we quickly discovered that we didn't always know the answers to a prospect's questions. To mitigate this, we created a Slack channel designed to answer questions that had us hooped. Whenever an operator needed help they'd jump in the Slack channel, and someone else would almost certainly save the day. It truly was a team effort to inform potential customers about every Vendasta has to offer.
Let them come to you
When SDRs were operating Vendasta's live chat, they relied on automatic greetings to trigger conversations. This was because they were also busy connecting with inbound leads. The greetings were unique to each operator, but most followed a similar format:
While this automation was necessary for multi-tasking, immediately offering a presentation could potentially overwhelm visitors, qualified or not.
[clickToTweet tweet="Forcing people down the funnel in your #livechat conversation may scare away your leads! Try helping before booking." quote="Forcing people down the funnel in your #livechat conversation may scare away your leads! Try helping before booking."]
For Marketing's ownership of the live chat, we decided to lead with assistance rather than sales. In other words, we chose to make our availability known without a demanding CTA. When visitors had spent a set amount of time on any page, a pop-up would appear over the chat window:
If operators did initiate live chats, they used open-ended greetings that allowed customers to shape the conversation to fit their needs.
When the automatic greetings were eliminated, the number of live chats initiated dropped considerably. This wasn't a bad thing, though. Since marketing took over the live chat, 1,170 transcripts have been created, and 53% of these conversations were initiated by the visitor. Customers were not afraid to ask questions as they came up, and eliminating the cookie-cutter templates sent to every single user provided a more accurate representation of the number of actual conversations.
Live chat lead generation results: what we've all been waiting for
When the Marketing team took on this project, we had one goal: improve live chat lead generation at Vendasta. We developed an operation plan, created support systems, and live-chatted our hearts out.
Here are the results of our experiment after six months:
By the numbers
The marketing team's first official live chat lead was passed onto the SDRs on March 30, 2017 (way to go, Dew!). In total, 55 leads have been passed on to the Sales Development team for further qualification. That's an average of 9 leads per month, which is just shy of three times the average number of leads generated each month prior to our takeover.
Breaking it down even further:
- Of those 55 leads, 65% were booked for a presentation
- 88% completed a presentation with the BDR team
- 4 of these live chat leads are now Vendasta partners, leaving us with a close rate of 14%
- 52% of these prospects are still active in BDR pipelines
[clickToTweet tweet="With the right guidelines and schedule, Vendasta generated 55 leads with a 14% close rate with website #livechat!" quote="With the right guidelines and schedule, Vendasta generated 55 leads with a 14% close rate with website #livechat!"]
Just in case you don't remember from earlier, the close rate of live chat leads generated by the SDRs from September 2016 to February 2017 was also 14%.
The main difference in our data compared to the SDRs is the booking rate of live chat leads. SDRs had an overall booking rate of 94% in the period prior to our takeover. Marketing's booking rate is 29% lower, coming in at 65%. So what gives?
Right now, my theory is that having Marketing pass leads that are ready for presentations to SDRs for further qualification is reducing the sense of urgency and introducing redundant vetting. Also, if SDRs aren't able to connect with live chat leads right away, that immediate opportunity is lost, and the game of phone/email tag begins.
This brings the opportunity to A/B test booking presentations through SDRs and directly through live chat to see which has a better rate. Sounds like another great blog opportunity... Stay tuned!
By the feels
This experiment offered our department a lot more than numbers. Our group is composed of three separate teams: Demand Gen, Content, and Brand and Buzz. The great thing about this project was that no single team owned it. We all took turns talking to prospects and helping each other out in Slack. It gave us all a common goal to work towards, and there was nothing more satisfying than celebrating a live chat win together.
Operating live chat can also occasionally put you outside of your comfort zone. There's a chance a visitor might stump you, and you know that the instant you leave to get a coffee someone is going to have an urgent question. It's all part of the fun, and I think it's safe to say that our marketing department has finally perfected their elevator pitch for Vendasta.
That's all folks
Well, for now. In the meantime, make sure you set out and explore live chat lead generation solutions for your agency's website. If you're not sure where to start, make sure you check out Vendasta's Marketplace for awesome website products, including live chat software. Building and maintaining customer relationships is an essential part of any sales funnel, and if there's anything Vendasta's latest experiment has proven, it's that if you build it, they will chat.