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Head of marketing and live chat expert | Better Sign Shop

Head of marketing and live chat expert're good at marketing your customers' businesses, but what about your own? Sean has answers on questions about marketing your shop and getting more from your website with live chat.


Q: Do you get mad when people miss the á in your first name in emails? 

A: This is one of my absolute pet peeves! My dad’s from Ireland and he’s always been hardcore about retaining the original Irish spelling of Seán, so it’s been instilled in me. The irony is there’s a word in Irish spelled ‘sean’ but pronounced shan - it means old. 👴

Q: As Head of Marketing, what does your average day look like? What types of stuff do you work on daily?

A: Love this question! I’m responsible for all the messages The Chat Shop sends out into the world, so I’ll spend about half of my day executing activities I’ve planned.

I like to get my hands dirty with writing emails, blog posts and creating video content as well as keeping our CRM up to date and ensuring our live chat process is optimized

The other half of my day I usually spend planning. It’s really important to understand data in marketing, so I’ll dive into GA and search console and strategize how to get even more traffic from keywords or create more buzz around a topic on LinkedIn I know performed well.

Data’s your friend!

Q: What's been the most successful marketing strategy for you all at The Chat Shop (aside from the obvious one of live chat)?

A: Good question and very, very timely as I’m doing a big review of our activities from the past 12 months currently!

Leveraging social media has been a core strategy recently for us. LinkedIn and Facebook (AND Instagram!) advertising enable any company to reach out to their audience before that audience can even get to your website or office. Social has totally disrupted the buying cycle, especially for B2B which relies on demos and conversations and numerous followups. If you haven’t used Facebook or LinkedIn advertising for prospecting or retargeting, I definitely recommend looking into them as growth tools for conversion or awareness building 🙂

Q: I'm curious what Sean's thoughts are on which chat software is the best all around solution for a small-to-very-small business. What about Facebook Messenger, is this a no-no?

A: This is a super question and I have a few ways to answer it! The software on the market at the moment is typically very same-y. Keep in mind most SaaS solutions (chat and FB Messenger included) are just trying to get you to buy the widget and put it on your site.

Their messaging will promise different things, but as far as functionality goes, there’s not a clear winner. It really comes down to what your goals are and if the software can help you meet those (open API, integrations, etc).

Facebook Messenger’s a great option for testing a widget on your site, but keep in mind the functionality of Messenger is different from live chat generally: 

  1. It’s a messaging solution, which means consumers won’t necessarily treat it as a platform for immediate response; they’ll go on, see it’s got Facebook branding, and expect it to work the same as a Facebook Message to their friends (eg that you’ll pick up the conversation when you get a chance). 

  2. Facebook will automatically detect a user’s profile and give your company that information. This is a super risky move if you’re in regulated environments or if you want to collect contact details because…well, Facebook is going to give you more than you need to do business which can be considered a dodgy business practice.

Q: What are the big differences between selling via email and selling via chat?

A: Time is the key differentiator between email and live chat. Email is completely asynchronous as a customer contact channel, right? So, you’re used to spending 5 minutes on an email, sending it, and not receiving an answer (no matter how urgent your query) for 24 hours.

Live chat is a synchronous, real-time tool that enables human-to-human exchanges. It requires a live person representing your brand to have the right information for your website visitor delivered at the right time (eg IMMEDIATELY) with the right tone to encourage a goal completion.

So while both of these channels are text-based and require a similar skillset and brand knowledge, live chat is going to need a quick and effective typist with a comprehensive knowledge of your company, services and pricing to sell effectively.

Q: How can a small shop (5 employees or less) manage live chat on their website. It seems like a lot to take on?

A: Good question!

If you have 5 people on your team with ambitions to turn that into 50, live chat is a great tool to get you there. However, live chat as a channel requires a human investment (either from your existing team, a new hire or an outsourcer), alongside the software investment!

My recommendation to smaller shops is this: Treat live chat the same way you would any other marketing tactic for business growth. You’ll put money into your website, Facebook ads and a company phone before seeing a return on any of those investments. Take the leap with live chat too!

Q: What kind of results to businesses that aren't traditional e-commerce retails seeing with chat support?

A: Live chat really works across industries and regardless of the platform a website is built on.

Let’s take your setup for example and apply some of the results you could expect from live chat. You have a contact form on your site that brings in 5-7 inquiries per month.

With live chat (ahem…good live chat), you can expect 50% more inquiries. So instead of an average of 6 inquiries per month, you’d typically see 9 inquiries per month (this is one of the promises we make for our clients).

The actual impact on the business then depends on how many of those leads turn into paying customers! Assuming you close about 30% of the leads that come in, you’d probably see an uptick in customers fairly quickly with a corresponding uptick in your revenue!

Q: We currently use chat software but sometimes can't get to the chat. Unfortunately probably 50%. Would you consider that to be more detrimental than if we didn't offer live chat? Or if we just set it to message us settings.

A: 50% is a big number to leave on the table! But it’s nothing I’ve not seen before and in fact I’d say you’re doing a better job than 90% of the people who ask me a similar question!

You’ve said you’ve got two front counter people and our operations manager

So you’ve got some good, dedicated team members on it who probably juggle a few different tasks throughout the day, right?

Turning chat off or using it as a messaging tool all the time likely isn’t going to be a good option for you as it’ll drive down the leads you are already getting through the channel. I’d look at two things:

  1. When your users are visiting the site. Check your Google Analytics and chat archive history for when you’ve got visitors ‘shopping’ on your site. Make an effective plan to have live chat available when your buyers are on your site.

  2. Have a conversation with your team about their schedules and how they collaboratively and consistently can operate on live chat when your buyers are on your site.

You can usually set a schedule within the live chat software to turn on and off automatically; when chat is out of hours, set up a catch-all message/ticket form in the window so you’re still able to capture some leads.

Q: What is the best software tool or app to use for live chat? What do you recommend?

A: If you forced me to choose one, I’d have to go with

They’re such a good, cost-effective solution that I really can’t fault them. They’ve been around for about 10 years and really helped live chat as a technology to grow.

At The Chat Shop, we run most of our outsourced service on’s technology because it allows us to build bespoke solutions for clients on it so easily - overall a great tool!

Q: At a minimum, what kind of web traffic do you need to make adding live chat worthwhile?

A: This depends a lot on your strategy because it’ll influence how many of your website visitors interact with live chat. It also depends on how your website traffic behaves and how they find you (eg - do you have a lot of traffic looking for a job or a lot of traffic who returns multiple times before converting).

On the face of things, I’d say monthly traffic needs to be at minimum 500. Once you are driving 4 digit traffic to your site though, that’s when you’ll see live chat really pick up the pace and generate substantial leads.

Q: If I hire someone in-house to run live chat how much should I pay them? What’s the going rate?

A: Pay’ll vary by where you are in the world (and by US state). If you’re considering hiring someone in-house just for chat, have a look at local pay scales for a customer service representative or a sales executive and work from there!

A word of warning: Don’t hire offshore or choose an outsourcer who has an offshore chat team. Your buyers are expecting a conversation with you and are expecting to build a relationship with your company. Don’t invest in an offshore solution because it’s cheaper; it’ll compromise the great things live chat can do for you!

Q: What are the biggest mistakes to avoid when starting out with live chat?

A: The single biggest mistake is forgetting you’re human! Live chat is just another way for humans to connect in real time, so don’t write canned responses, don’t copy and paste from a word doc; treat the website visitor you’re talking to as a real person!

Q: Once you implement a chat strategy, on average how long does it take to start seeing results from it?

A: It really depends on how long your buying process is, but I have a stock answer that might give some guidance:

Give it a full quarter! It’s pretty much the same as running paid media or PPC (Adwords, Facebook, etc) - you need a significant amount of time to understand it!

Q: Are there any metrics out there that show how many people get annoyed by pop-up chat windows and abandon the site, vs how many lead to productive conversations? I know personally sometimes I get annoyed by them, and other times I appreciate them. With any change like this there's always a fear that it'll just irritate a customer and they'll leave. Is this a valid fear or not?

A: Definitely a valid fear! I would say the strategy for the popups that bother you aren’t fantastic because any live chat proactive message should feel natural for your journey as a buyer.

This really comes down to data. With live chat you need to explore things live average time on page and bounce rate for key pages from Google Analytics, and then tailor your proactive message to encourage conversion and not irritate based on that data.

As a key metric, you want to aim to convert at least 30% of your chat interactions into leads or sales. At The Chat Shop, we target ourselves much higher than that, so we want to ensure proactive chats are relevant to the journey and appear at the right time with the right message.

I hope that answers things in a roundabout way!

Q: What’s the difference in price between 100% managed chat services (like yours) vs doing it myself using our own staff?

A: It’s usually cheaper to outsource than it is to operate in-house. If you’re paying for a chat license + training materials + company knowledge creation + your time putting all of that together + hiring someone to run chat + aligning chat with all of your other activities then you’re really looking at more than the cost of the average annual salary you’re paying the person who’ll staff the channel.

Outsourcing brings everything together under a bundle fee. The Chat Shop is at the top end of the market, but we’re typically still a cost cutting measure for people who come to us after operating the channel in-house!

The cost difference can be anywhere from 30% to 80% based on how your business operates and how your buying cycle works!

So, as an example, a customer service rep might cost $25,000-$50,000 based on their level of experience and where you are in the world. A managed provider is going to charge based on your chat volume and land you less than half of that cost if you’re running a site with tons of traffic!

Q: You mentioned managed chat services. What do they typically provide and what could someone expect from one of them? is there a knowledge gap that you have to overcome there so they are able to answer incoming questions, or how is that handled?

A: There are several managed providers on the market (including ours, shameless plug for The Chat Shop!).

Typically, an outsourcer is going to provide the software, the branding, the company knowledge and training, and the agents behind your live chat. Some of the things to consider when you’re looking for a live chat outsourcer are:

  1. Onshore or Offshore agents - make sure the company isn’t underpaying a team offshore to scrape a few more dollars out of you. Keep your agents onshore to give your website users the best possible experience.

  2. Optimization services and account management. If you’re outsourcing, you’re looking for an expert! Don’t just go for the cheapest option, go for a company that is able to work for you to get the most out of live chat and implement a strategy that works. Don’t be afraid to ask for case studies!