I mentioned in my last blog post that I have been exploring chat bots (or simply, bots) and how their usage can enhance our daily lives, our working lives and our marketing efforts.
Bots have been around for as long as there’s been any form of automation, one example from 1972 shows a bot conversation with a psychotherapist and a paranoid schizophrenic. Phone calls with ‘Say 1 for X and Say 2 for Y’ (known as IVR = Interactive Voice Response) are early examples and both have evolved and improved over time.
The technology for us to be able to easily create and manipulate bots is what has really changed and developed in recent years, and barriers like cost have also lowered. You no longer have to be a tech wizard to use bots and there are many companies that are available to help you.
Modern day bots are an automated system that are able to have and hold conversations with people e.g. on Facebook Messenger. Bots are comprised of any text, images, video files and audio files. They are conversational elements that are in place of a situation where you would expect a live person to be; think of them as a programme that can simulate a person – but not completely replace one. Bots can be as simple for you to create as it is to build a website or even to send an email.
Why Use Bots Now?
The demand for messaging has improved. Asian countries are well up and running with the idea and use of bots with the likes of Line and WeChat, whereas we have been must slower in the West. However, there is now a mass market here with over 1 billion users on Facebook Messenger.
We use messaging apps to talk to our friends and family, and so it stands to reason that we can also build better relationships with our customers through messaging than we can through email. This is just one of the real selling points of bots.
Relationships have always been built around 1-2-1 conversations, but time eventually became a limiting factor – it became almost impossible to have all of the important conversations you needed. Everyone wants to feel like they matter, and messaging platforms and bots allow us to return back to that. Conversations can be completely personalised to your users with the bot that you build.
As a marketer, chances are you have already created your target personas. Well, your bots can be built with them in mind and can be the personification of your brand for the entirety of the conversation with your customer.
Once your bot is having these conversations you can figure out what they really want to hear. You can collect the information from your conversations (it is conversational data collection) and use them in your other marketing efforts. Do your customers get confused by your product? Do they need help or are there specific areas where you can make adjustments to your bot or even in your business as a whole? Bots are a useful 24-7 presence on your social media or your website.
How to Build a Bot
A bot works best when it is good at a few things; they should help you to do fewer things better. Through my research, I’m finding that every bot creator tells you to think about what you want your bots to do before you dive into creating anything. As with most things, you should plan before you act and it may even make sense for you to use a flow chart to plan how you want your bot to work and to respond to certain messages.
It’s also important not to leave your bot once you’ve created it and pushed it live. You need to keep improving and iterate over time. If a bot doesn’t make life easier in some way, you probably don’t need a bot there in the first place.
HubSpot are in the process of building their own bot creation platform and they defined the following as The 3 Laws of Bots:
- A bot must be simple to both create and use.
- A bot must serve a purpose, streamline a process, or provide a tangible net benefit to both the user and the owner.
- A bot must be aligned with the ideals and concepts of Inbound, while staying true to both laws 1 and 2.
How Should a Bot Work?
Bots should handle small elements well and then have the ability to hand-off to a real human when they reach their conversational limit. We will always need a human and personal touch.
Within your business, what situations do you have where a conversation takes place but you don’t necessarily need a person to be able to do that? Consider where you can add value and how you can make it a better experience for your customers.
You should know the difference between different questions too. For instance, “where” and “how” to do something are 2 very different questions that your bot will need to understand.
- “Where do I change my password?” = where on your website do I go to do this?
- “How do I change my password?” = what are the actual steps I need to take to do this?
People don’t like talking to strangers or to keep asking the same question over and over again. Similarly, no one actually enjoys completing forms. Both of these can be eliminated with conversational bots.
Your FAQs and common business information are great places to start with your bots, you just have to build them into conversations using keywords to illicit the desired response.
Building Bots into Your Marketing Strategy
Bots can become part of your conversational marketing or your conversational growth strategy. The conversational experience is about creating a personal relationship and connection with your customers through the bot.
If you send a message of “hello” and the bot responds with something similar to “Hey Nikki, how you doing?” then that is a question that will instantly make your customer feel special. Your bot can do this at every instance of their conversations. They can create more positive connotations of your brand on your behalf.
Have you ever had the frustrating moment on a phone call to a company or even in person where you receive different answers to the same question from 2 different people? Bots allow you to standardise your conversations and begin to optimise and personalise them too.
The best part of building bots into your existing marketing strategy is that people already know how to have conversations so you don’t need to teach them how to use and interact with bots. Messenger has a consistent UI and puts tasks in a familiar and easy to use manner.
Furthermore, you can message your entire Facebook audience using Broadcasts. People have to opt in to receive Broadcast messages from you, but you mustn’t spam people. You also don’t have to deal with the problem of organic reach that Facebook posts now experience.
Marketing emails are sent to many people, and although it’s possible to address the recipient by name, they often still feel impersonal. People also don’t read all of their emails (or at least scan through them), but they do typically read all of their messages. Messaging instantly feels more personal, private and direct. When used correctly, messaging helps brands to create brilliantly personal relationships with fans.
It’s Time to Start Using Bots
Bots work best when also combined with other marketing tools, they should not be relied on solely.
A great conversational growth strategy is about delivering the right message, with the right information, at the right time, and on the right channel, and doing so every single time. It’s important to use the right tool for each situation, it’s not always bots, email, social media, or SEO, but whatever the format it should always be conversational in nature.
Bots are good at doing things that take time but don’t take a lot of thought, and which need consistency. They produce real-time interaction which results in higher engagement and increased conversions for your business.
Bots are not about to take over the world, but they do enable people to be better. They are about personalisation and automation, but it is still about people. Bots are far more than just a gimmick, they are much more relevant and most effective when they can grab, and also keep fans’ attention.