After a decade of customisation in marketing, conversational marketing is now all the rage. In a Twilio Survey, it was reported that nine in 10 consumers love communicating via messages with brands. But what is conversational marketing? Essentially, it brings a brand and its target customers into a conversation with minimal human interaction. With the technology available today, though human-less, the experience can be just as customer-centric. As evidence of this evolution in marketing technology, it has been said that "conversations between users and companies inside Messenger have a 30% better return on investment than retargeting ads on the web." (How Messenger will threaten advertising on the open web, Business Insider Australia, 27 July 2017). In this article, we highlight the key steps to take in setting up conversational marketing capabilities as part of your online advertising efforts: 1. Up close and personal with your target audience Unlike face-to-face conversations, there's probably very little time to get to know your customers well, apart from conversations to identify their needs and preferences. Doing some homework with your digital marketing agency to create the buyer persona of your customers is an important first step. Imagine a customer's facial expression when your bots communicate in a tone and manner they are familiar with. It immediately creates a connection - and that's the power of conversational marketing. 2. Response times matter Have you experienced that awkward pause in a conversation? It can be annoying. In a 2015 survey by InsideSales, it was reported that five minutes is all we have to convert a lead. Fast forward to now and you'll agree that people have grown impatient. That five minutes have shrunk dramatically. Promptness in response is critical. They must mimic the flow of a normal conversation (see discussion below). 3. Set up a conversation flow One of the benefits of knowing your customers well is being able to design the conversation flow. It's also called the conversation tree. However sophisticated the technology may be, it cannot pre-determine the flow of a conversation. This is where the creativity of marketers meets the wizardry of technologists. Setting up the flow to make it appear natural is the challenge. Jumping straight to Buy Now! after the initial introduction isn't going to take the conversation any further. 4. The right chatbot matters The right chatbot can make or break your conversational marketing strategy. Its importance is underscored in this survey by Aspect Software that reads, "65% of consumers feel good about themselves and the company when they can handle an issue without talking to a live person, and 61% think that chatbots allow for faster answers." If you're looking to explore the use of conversational marketing, speak to your digital marketing agency today. With the technology associated with conversational marketing getting better, online advertising will change. Facebook and Instagram advertising, for example, will grow more targeted and effective with a shorter sales cycle. We reckon social media advertising to grow your business will have a new narrative, one with a greater ROI.