If your company has an active inbound marketing campaign then you probably have to handle a lot of leads.
You probably also know that handling leads properly takes up a lot of time, so it isn’t always the most efficient practice to have expensive salespeople managing and qualifying leads, especially at the first interaction.
So what can you do?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning(ML) may have the answer, with lead management systems becoming the go-to for businesses that want to scale their inbound sales pipeline.
In this article, we’re looking at lead management system Conversica and comparing two alternatives, Exceed.ai and Drift to help you decide which is right for your company.
The problem with lead management
Engaging with customers quickly is really important as it can be the difference between a qualified lead and a customer who buys from your competitors.
In a study a few years ago, Harvard Business Review showed that companies that get back to inbound leads within an hour are seven times more likely to convert the customer and 60 times more likely if they leave it for 24 hours.
Now let’s be brutally honest here – if you don’t engage with your customers quickly enough, they aren’t going to take the initiative to follow up with you a week later; they are going to engage with, and most likely buy from, your competitors (assuming they have a faster response rate.)
When considering the costs of attracting inbound leads it seems preposterous given that companies on average spend $80 on attracting visitors but only $1 on converting them to customers.
The statistics tell the story – 80% of marketers who use marketing automation software say that they receive more leads from their marketing activities and of those 77% report increased conversions.
In other words, they make more money.
Conversica is one of the oldest lead management tools out there so you would expect it to be more fully-featured.
The system includes different messaging options such as SMS, email and chatbots and these can each be customized according to the use case.
It will engage with the customers initially, qualify the leads and pass them on to salespeople and/or schedule appointments with integrated calendar links.
Conversica automates data entry of new leads and updates your CRM system is able to report on sales pipelines and manage leads through your customer contact and sales process.
It does have its downsides and like many enterprise-grade systems it is difficult to customize and users report that the UI is not as intuitive as it could be. The AI also comes in for a fair bit of criticism with an unnecessary haste to push the customer towards an appointment and being overly persistent.
A much more modern alternative, Drift has a cleaner interface and has the ability to add a customized live chat into a customer’s existing forms.
Drift automatically brings in visitor intelligence that changes the way that chatbots interact with them and provides background to human sales and service representatives, allowing them to tailor their approach.
One neat feature that we haven’t seen elsewhere is the ability to integrate chat responses with video calls. Given that we are all Zoom and Microsoft Teams experts these days this is a winner!
Drift video integration
Drift also provides conversational marketing, meaning that potential customers get a more tailored experience with their chatbots than the Conversica offering.
Unfortunately, users report difficulties in getting the email response functionality to work properly and that the AI system takes a long time to learn. They also complain about the quality of the reporting that is available.
Our second Conversica alternative, Exceed.ai is a fully-featured lead nurturing system that is built around a true ai engine.
This means that rather than using pre-programmed scripts the interactions are all human-like responses and are tailored to the situation.
Exceed.ai has an excellent chatbot, SMS and email channels and integrates with the vast majority of CRMs through their open API.
Exceed.ai also includes the ability to run event follow-ups and automate subscription renewals and can reactivate cold leads after a predetermined time or on specific re-engagement events.
A particularly valuable feature is the ability to look back at past leads in your database and then re-nurture them to find sales opportunities that may have been missed or that have reactivated due to changing circumstances.
The UI is as clean and user-friendly as you’d expect for a modern system and customization is very extensive and is appreciated by customers.
Support and backup
Conversica tends to regularly get good marks for correcting faults in the system and users are complimentary about its support team being able to help, where they can. However, what they can do is limited by how much customization is available within the system and the points at which the user needs to pay more for new functionality.
Drift has grown very rapidly and this seems to have affected their response times to service calls. Users report that the company rushes out updates that aren’t fully tested which then go on to break other aspects of the system that their support people then have to deal with.
Drift does have an excellent and active blog, they produce events such as webinars and they have a very active user community, all of which help new adopters.
Exceed provides plenty of online resources to help customers and there is a wide variety of different ways to consume information including their blog, videos, webinars and podcasts to help people get used to their system.
Their helpdesk also gets positive mentions from users but as yet there’s no sign of a company-sponsored community.
One of the most important questions that any buyer is going to ask early on is how much this is going to cost.
There’s no point in spending time researching a system only to find out that it is out of your price range.
By the same token, the old adage that “you get what you pay for” is never more true than with enterprise-grade software.
Conversica is at the pricier end of the scale, with packages starting at $2,999 but rising rapidly when you want to add in any customizations and use cases.
You’ll pay more for all sorts of different functionality (additional use cases are a hefty $1,000 each) and the final bill could end up being more than the buyer initially intended, which makes Conversica a tool for only the big boys.
User comments on review sites also point up something of a sticking point with some – the system has standard prices that can then be bartered down, so it is difficult to really know what the typical user will end up paying.
I’m a big fan of transparency here and this is one area that Drift really lets itself down.
Using the chatbot on their site proved to be somewhat problematic, with stock answers simply telling me what wonderful features they include in their plan but not actually answering the question set.
It appears that pricing is based on the goals of the company that is purchasing the system. This means that one company could end up paying more than a competitor in the next building and would never know. That may make many business owners and executives uneasy.
The one positive for Drift is that they do offer a free version, but as is usually the case with these it is feature limited.
In the same way, Exceed.ai doesn’t publish their pricing on their site but a query brought a rapid response from their bot that passed me straight on to a member of the sales team who gave me the numbers immediately.
Exceed.ai starts at $1,950 per month but includes many more functions and leads as standard than the other two systems. On pricing, Exceed haven’t gone for a free subscription level, but instead have decided to compete by having a clear pricing structure and including many features in the basic bundle.
One of the things you must add into the pricing is the amount of internal time and resources required to get the system up and running. There’s no point in buying the cheapest system if you end up spending a huge amount of time before you see any return.
In this respect, Conversica struggles and often extra paid-for help is needed to get all of the functionality working. Drift and Exceed.ai are much better in this respect with users reporting that Exceed in particular has a very quick and almost entirely user enabled set-up process.
Conversica lead management alternatives – summary
Conversica is a very capable system but it is clear that there are issues with a lack of customization and price point.
Buyers will also need to be certain that they are able to dedicate the resources to getting it up and running.
Conversica pros and cons
- Capable of managing very high volumes
- Has been around for a long time
- Stable platform
- Very high price
- Lack of user customization flexibility
- Time (and expense) to implement
Drift Pros and cons
Drift is a good alternative to Conversica that has a great feature set and superb support
- Good UI
- Video chat integration
- Support community
- Free pricing option
- Reports of buggy updates
- Opaque pricing
Exceed.ai pros and cons
Exceed.ai is fast gaining a reputation as a provider of human-like response methods and a modern and responsive system for companies of all sizes.
- Many more features included as standard
- Great customization
- Excellent UI and usability
- Speed to implement
- Reports of update downtime
To summarize, Conversica is good for global companies that have a high number of leads and don’t require extensive customization, but Conversica alternatives Drift and Exceed are great where time to implement and having extensive feature sets is important.
For other businesses that need great software at a more realistic price, the best alternative would seem to be Exceed.ai with its excellent feature set, good support and clear pricing.
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