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How Conversational Marketing is Disrupting the Demand Gen Game 

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Today we're hanging with Kate Adams, Senior Director of Demand Generation for Drift. We're going to talk about chat bots, strategic implications of their employment in demand generation operations, and how you can integrate them into your marketing mix.

Posted by LeadCrunch on Thursday, May 23, 2019

Host: Dave Green & Jonathan Greene

Guest(s): Kate Adams

Topic: Conversational Marketing

Subtopic: Evolution of Demand Generation 

Duration: 20 minutes

In this episode of the Green & Greene Show, the LeadCrunch B2B podcast, seasoned marketing experts discuss conversational marketing and the evolution of demand generation with Kate Adams.   


  • Introducing Kate Adams, Drift’s Demand Gen Guru
  • What is the definition of a lead? 
  • MQLs vs. CQLs – Why Chat Qualified Leads Are So Valuable 
  • Why Your MQL Conversion Rates Aren’t So Great 
  • …and How Being Customer-Centric Can Fix That 
  • The Shift: Embracing the New Rules of Social Engagement
  • Interruption vs. Disruption
  • What B2C Can Teach B2B 
  • Customization, Not Control 
  • How to Get Started With Drift Chatbots 
  • Valuable Qualifiers: Conversation Leads vs. Exchange Leads 

Podcast Transcript


[0:00:00.0] ANNOUNCER: Live from deep in the heart of Galveston, Texas all the way to the gleaming shores of Jacksonville, Florida, it’s the Green & Greene Show. Here are your hosts, Dave Green and Jonathan Greene, ready to unlock the mysteries of scaling demand gen. The Green & Greene show is brought to you by LeadCrunch, which has reimagined how to find B2B customers at scale.


[0:00:00.0] JG: Hello, ladies and gentlemen. It’s the Green and Greene Show, mobile, the light edition. I’m Jonathan Green. That’s my partner there Dave Green. We’re in San Diego today. Lovely, beautiful San Diego with the embarrassingly good weather. I have no idea what these people are griping about, Dave.

[0:00:17.0] DG: I know. They should have to live in Boston in the winter, right, Kate?

[0:00:21.0] KA: Yeah. Nobody should have to live in Boston in the winter. I ask myself why I do that every winter.

Introducing Kate Adams, Drift’s Demand Gen Guru

[0:00:29.0] JG: We have Kate Adams here. She’s the leader of demand gen at Drift, a ridiculously experienced marketer with over 16 years of marketing experience in basically every facet, with deep experience in demand generation. She’s done startup work. She’s even done product work. We figured we’d bring her on. 

She’s a genius at all things related to conversational marketing and is well-positioned there at Drift to sort of lead that conversation. If you don’t know what Drift is, I would start there. Kate, tell us what you’re doing at Drift and what that’s all about.

[0:01:00.0] KA: Yeah. Thanks for having me, first off. I’m flattered to be here. I always, always love to talk to other folks like yourselves. In terms of what we’re doing at Drift, we’re trying to change the way businesses buy from businesses and get more conversations started. We created the category of conversational marketing. The problem we’re out to solve is, how do we just get more conversations started? 

I think there are so many marketers, including myself, prior to Drift, who have forgotten that the whole point of what we do is to start conversations for our sales teams. That’s the reason we run the ads and write the content and put up the pages and do website work and all the things that we do.

That’s the fundamental reason, and somehow, we’ve morphed that into this 12-step program of acquire the lead, add it to the CRM, put it into this other system, qualify it, then do an eight touch cadence to go get it to connect. 

This is as opposed to just connecting through conversations, having high-quality conversations with people who are interested in what we have to offer.

[0:02:14.0] JG: When you say it like that, it sounds easy. Not to be obtuse, but for those who don’t know and not to certainly oversimplify the business, Drift is a chat bot that’s highly integrate-able and highly functional and highly customizable. We use it here at LeadCrunch. We have it on our website. 

You can create custom cadences for every page that people land on, every piece of content that they engage with to get them off the page and into a conversation. It’s all really pretty sweet. We’ve had somewhat limited success with it, but that’s because we suck at it. We’re getting better every day at conversational marketing, but it’s very clear that it’s highly functional and that we will ultimately have a lot of success with it. 

If you don’t know what we’re talking about, that’s what we’re talking about.

What is the definition of a lead? 

[0:03:03.0] DG: Yeah, and you know, Kate, when we were talking right before this, you brought up something. Like you, I’ve been in demand gen marketing stuff for a long time, and I’ve probably interviewed about 500 salespeople, and their definition of a lead and marketing’s definition of lead often don’t really connect. You hit the magic word. 

They want to have conversations, ideally with people who are in their target market and whoever’s part of the buying process. That word “conversation” is key. Marketing throws so many leads over the transom and the poor SDR phones like crazy and doesn’t ever even get to talk to the person. Something’s broken about that. Do you want to talk a little bit about that thing were putting salespeople through, and customers?

[0:03:52.0] KA: I think what you hit the nail on the head there when you talked about sales and marketing lead definitions. Again, I think marketing has shifted towards this MQL, and that’s how we’re all measured. “How many MQLs did you get today? Don’t go home until you hit that MQL number. Keep going, keep going, get more MQLs, get more, get more, get more.” 

There’s a quote which says, “Show me how I’m measured, and I’ll show you how I act.” When we started measuring marketing on MQLs, marketing started just doing anything they could to generate more MQLs. For some marketing people, that meant changing the definition of what an MQL meant, getting that level of quality of alignment between sales and marketing. What does a marketing qualified lead really mean? What is that? 

MQLs vs. CQLs – Why Chat Qualified Leads Are So Valuable 

We think that MQLs are dead and that what’s going to replace those is CQLs, chat qualified leads, meaning people who want to have conversations. 

I’m sure we’ve all done it. Raise your hand if you’ve done this. I’ve definitely done it. “Oh geez, I’m really short on my MQL number. How am I going to get that over the top? Okay, I’ll just do seven more webinars this month and do everything I can.” 

Then we just started throwing webinar attendees over and we’d throw white-paper-download people over and we’d throw all these people into this bucket and say, “Best of luck.” That just doesn’t make sense. 

This is where you get into that paradigm of why SDRs are like, “Oh, they’re working. They’re so exhausted. Have you gotten through your 12 touches in 17 days?” You know what I mean. “Have you done all these things yet?” No. Let’s start to measure marketing on the number of quality conversations that they can start. 

[0:06:02.0] JG: Revolutionary. I saw a guy looking at a LeadCrunch ad in the newspaper, so I clubbed him over the head and took his wallet and entered him into our CRM as an MQL. 

[0:06:15.0] KA: Well done. How are those newspaper ads working out for you? 

[0:06:19.0] JG: Just messing with you.

[0:06:23.0] DG: Actually, we just got back, and your booth was right next to ours at Sirius Decisions. 

[0:06:29.0] KA: Oh yeah. 

Why Your MQL Conversion Rates Aren’t So Great 

[0:06:30.0] DG: Of course, they’re the inventors of the term MQL. One of the things you find out when you start to try to measure your funnel is that the conversion rates aren’t so great, from inquiry to MQL and from MQL to SAL and so on down the line. It’s all because of exactly this problem of putting too many people over there who aren’t ready to have a conversation.

[0:06:58.0] KA: Absolutely, absolutely. Instead of like at the top of the funnel, where we have thousands and thousands of MQLs we’ve generated, rather, we have 100–150 high-quality conversations like chat-qualified leads, people who really had a conversation who are serious about buying. 

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There are people on all our websites today. I think the stat is that demand gen marketers will spend $5.1 billion a year driving traffic to our websites. The average conversion rate for any B2B web marketing website today is like 1 to 2%, so 98 to 99% of those people are walking into a store today and they’re not converting. They’re not having a conversation. They are looking for information and they’re not finding it and then they’re taking off.

…and How Being Customer-Centric Can Fix That 

What are we doing to address that as marketers? I don’t care how much time you spend on your website and you make it look so beautiful and perfect. Every user is different. If they come to the website and they can’t find the information they need, why not provide them with an avenue to have a conversation to answer their question really quickly? 

It’s not just about changing how marketing is measured. It’s not just about increasing the overall conversion rate of your website. It’s about putting the customer at the center of every single thing you do, existing or future customer, and providing them with answers to their questions and the information they need when they need it.

[0:08:42.0] DG: Yeah. Letting them have a little bit of control over the experience. 

[0:08:45.0] KA: Absolutely. 

[0:08:46.0] DG: I think that’s actually really preferred. Let me ask you a question just as an old school guy. What is the inherent advantage of chat over, say, just a phone call? Could you have a phone number there? Why not do that?

The Shift: Embracing the New Rules of Social Engagement

[0:09:03.0] KA: I think messaging is essentially taking over the world. Most of the people use that thing in their pocket. I don’t have mine with me right now, but that little rectangular thing. They’re using it most of the time for text messaging or for messaging via their favorite social media apps or for something else. It’s why all the phone companies aren’t charging you for minutes anymore. They’re charging you for data because very few people are communicating that way anymore. 

In fact, I saw some report recently where it was like actually considered rude not texting before to ask if it’s okay to call. They consider that to be rude. That’s the shift we’re in. People don’t want to be interrupted. They don’t want you to interrupt them. They just want to be like, “Hey, here’s some information. Here’s a question. Answer it for me.” 

[0:10:03.0] JG: Yeah. I really think it’s generational. Increasingly, as boomers are beginning to move out of senior management into retirement and you see Gen X taking over those executive management seats, that means Gen Y is beginning to occupy functional marketing seats, like media buyers and things like that, people who actually end up consuming our products and services. 

[0:10:25.0] KA: Absolutely. Those buyers are going to grow up, right? 

[0:10:27.0] JG: They never have had phone conversations really in their life. I can do it both ways. Look, I remember I used to call girls on a telephone that had a rotary dial, and you had to like stretch that cord into your bedroom.

[0:10:42.0] KA: Yes, and you went around into the closet and it was real tight, and you’re standing there by the door. It’s kind of trying to hold onto the phone. 

[0:10:51.0] JG: Yeah, but millennials are not that way. They have never talked on the phone really, as a discipline. 

[0:10:57.0] KA: I have a 12-year-old daughter. She has never lived in a house where we had a house phone, never. I showed her that. The only reason she knows about it is we go to my parents or my in-laws and she sees one there. 

[0:11:09.0] JG: That’s craziness.

Interruption vs. Disruption

[0:11:12.0] DG: Yeah, I think the thing that’s really great about chat, personally, is it’s an incremental step. People will be okay if you’re chatting and then it’s easier just to have a conversation and talk real time because it’s too complicated. They want to have that escalation themselves rather than starting right off with somebody talking like that. I’ve heard the same thing Jonathan has from multiple people now that it’s kind of weird if you just call people randomly. You have to kind of start off with this other thing. It’s kind of like conversational dating with chats.

[0:11:50.0] KA: It’s interrupt driven. A phone call is very interruptive, and nobody wants to be interrupted. We were talking about disruptive technology. Does anybody want to be disrupted? I don’t know, but nobody wants to be interrupted, that’s for sure. 

If I’m in a flow of doing whatever I’m doing, do I want to pick up a sales call? “Yeah, how’s it going? Oh yeah, I did download your white paper four days ago. I vaguely remember that. I never got around to reading it.” That just very different.

[0:12:20.0] JG: Modern consumers are really audacious in some ways. They feel like they have the right to information on demand when they want it. If that information doesn’t meet their needs, they feel like they have the right to ask questions in real time in an on-demand context.

What B2C Can Teach B2B 

[0:12:37.0] KA: That’s the world we’re in right now. B2B has to start acting more and more like B2C. B2B is super interesting to me, but an entire organization doesn’t go buy your thing, right? It’s a person. It always is about people connecting with people. 

I feel we get lost in that sometimes. We think B2B is so different and what works in B2C will never work in B2B. I don’t find that to be true at all, especially here at Drift. It’s all about people and making connections and being able to have a great experience. You are totally right.  

Nobody wants to just be completely interrupted or be just completely taken aback. Think about the world we live in. Of course, they feel like they have the right to information. There’s Google, right? I can find any information I want now, and it’s all just a click away. It’s even like with voice search now. It’s just a button, then me saying words into this thing and the information is right there for me. 

[0:13:45.0] JG: Yeah. Perception is reality to some extent. I remember an anecdote one of my buddies told me where people were trying to engage his business with customer service inquiries on Facebook. His customer service person would jump on Facebook and say, in a somewhat terse tone, “We don’t do customer service on Facebook.” I remember telling him, “Wrong, you just did customer service on Facebook,” but not the kind you want to do.  

That’s what I love about Drift in particular. It’s so customizable that I can give people an on-demand experience that really is very deep and can answer their questions and guide them down a path and even curate content and do all sorts of things at their demand, which is fantastic.

Customization, Not Control 

[0:14:31.0] KA: Yeah. The other thing that I think is super interesting about Drift is it’s also about personalization and bringing in that personalized element into it. You can use your chat bots to greet somebody on your website for the first time, but you can also use your chat bot and teach it to know, “Hey, this is actually the third time this person’s come. The last time, this was the content they consumed.” It would be great, like your nurturing offer.

We just released key Marketo and Pardot integration elements that let you use your Marketo and Pardot lists to actually use for targeting on the backend. Dave, you mentioned Sirius Decisions earlier, and they say that the average B2B deal takes between 12 and 20 touches for that deal to close.

We like to think, as marketers, like, “Oh, well, that’s easy. I will send out 12 emails and I will send out three direct mail pieces. There’s 15. Okay, I need five more. Okay. Retargeting ads. There we go.” You hit it on the head, Jonathan. We are not in control of those touches. 

That person is coming back to their website when it’s convenient for them, not for us. We are not in control in any way. What we need to do is make sure, when they do come back and one of the touches is coming to our pricing page or is going to find out what our, what our new blog posts is, that we have the right information for them, that’s most relevant for them.

[0:16:10.0] JG: Right. Let’s bring it around. I mean, I’d love to sit here and talk with you all day, but time is money for me and you, right? This is Kate Adams. She’s a genius of all things conversational marketing. I’m going to ask you the question of the day, which is, “If I’m a marketer and I’m not doing this (because I’m obviously not as smart or good looking as anybody on this call) but I want to start, what would I do?”

How to Get Started With Drift Chatbots 

[0:16:35.0] KA: How you’ll start is go to drift.com. You can easily, non-ironically, come in and chat with us. Heck, you might even chat with me. You can also reach out to me at kadams@drift.com. I can hook you up with one of my most good-looking salespeople on my sales team. 

We’re not going to get in and just show you features and functionality. Let’s have a conversation about how you can get started at conversational marketing. I think one of the things is this isn’t just like flip a switch and, all of a sudden, you have 17 bots running on your website and the world just shifted for you.

Let’s crawl, let’s walk, let’s run, let’s set up some bots on your highest intent pages, like your pricing page, where you there are a lot of people there who want to have a conversation with you. Let’s start that conversation for you. Then, we can get some more sophisticated elements around ABM and around repeat visits and retargeting bots and all those things. Just go to drift.com.

[0:17:42.0] JG: Man, that’s insanely valuable stuff. Dave, what do you think?

Valuable Qualifiers: Conversation Leads vs. Exchange Leads 

[0:17:46.0] DG: It is. You know, Kate, we have our own kind of language for the funnel and the stage where we pass a lead over to the salespeople we call, not coincidentally, conversation leads. We wanted to everybody in marketing to know the difference between those and all the other leads. It’s a different thing. The Drift leads are all conversational leads as long as they want to talk to sales, right? We have a qualifier in there, but by and large, if they’re coming there, we assume they have high intent.

[0:18:17.0] KA: Yeah, and you know Drift can help you qualify, too. We’re not just going to pass over everybody who wants to have a conversation. We understand you don’t want to have a conversation with every single person, and we can provide you with an avenue to point those people to. You guys are reading my mind 100%, and you’re at the forefront of this if you’re already saying conversation leads that are ready for sales. Making that shift from MQL is where the future of marketing is going.

[0:18:46.0] JG: Yeah, we call them conversation leads if they want to talk and they’ve raised their hand and literally said they want to talk. The Drift bot is one way. I actually have landing pages that are like, “Hey, would you like a real human to walk you through how this works?” If they say yes, then that indicates a conversation. 

We call everything else exchange leads because they’ve literally exchanged their information for a white paper or eBook. We know that those leads are going to take an additional 12 to 15 touches before they’re ready for a conversation.

[0:19:16.0] DG: Then, we spam them to death, Kate. It’s a great strategy. 

[0:19:21.0] KA: Yeah, I know. I’m in the same boat. We’ve got to go fix that one, too, but we’ll get to that eventually here at Drift. 

[0:19:32.0] DG: We’re starting to move into changing B2B, and thanks for helping us out.

[0:19:35.0] KA: Yeah, thank you. It’s great to talk to you guys today.

[0:19:38.0] JG: This has been the Green and Greene show. Our video podcast is fire and everybody else is trash. I’m just saying you might want to subscribe and like the page and do all that stuff. You don’t have to, it’s up to you. But smart and good-looking people are doing it, so figure out where you fit in and that’s it. Thanks a lot, Kate. It’s been a real pleasure. I actually learned a lot, and that doesn’t usually happen, so thanks a lot. 

[0:20:04.0] KA: Thank you. 

[0:20:05.0] All right, guys, it’s a wrap. We’ll talk to you next time. 


[0:20:09.8] ANNOUNCER: Thank you for tuning in to the Green & Greene Show by LeadCrunch. Green & Greene think differently about B2B and want to start a movement to transform demand gen. If you have ideas for topics or would like to be a guest, send an e-mail to david.green@leadcrunch.ai. If you’d like to find more customers, visit our website to talk to one of our demand gen guides, www.leadcrunch.com.