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Chatbot marketing (also known as conversational marketing) has been the go-to approach to advertising for some time now. We've all had a chance to experience it in different ways and with different outcomes.
There are a lot of bloated articles online with strategies, tips, and tricks about this miracle marketing method.
But we all heard stories, too, from our family and friends where they were frustrated by a bot not being able to understand them. Or maybe you experienced it yourself.
Are we that sure that this technology is the only way forward?
Let's dive into the good, the bad, and the ugly of marketing chatbots.
Chatbot marketing basics (skip if you already know what chatbot marketing is)
Let's start with the most essential terminology. The very basic definition of a bot is a computer program that automates specific tasks.
In marketing, bots help you by automating your sales funnel, mostly the top of it. We can find many examples of different areas where they come in handy. For example, a bot can provide your customers with product offers based on their browsing history. Or it could help them by offering assistance with payment methods. How about checking the status of a flight or an ordered package? Anything like that can get automated easily, and that’s where bots shine the brightest.
Bots are an artificial face behind the robotic revolution. They make the whole process more humane, familiar, and pleasant. Most importantly, they are relentless workers, offering a helping hand at the exact time your customers need it. So, what is a marketing chatbot compared to an ordinary bot? A marketing chatbot performs specific marketing tasks, brings a face to your sales funnel, and is always there for customers in their time of need.
Chatbot marketing strategy
A chatbot marketing strategy is a plan for your artificial workers. Just like live agents, your bots need to know where and when they should show up, and have a precise script to follow.
Setting up a strategy like that takes effort and a serious time investment to kick things off. Luckily, we don’t have to sail in uncharted waters. We can learn from the pioneers of chatbot marketing and list the good, bad, and ugly truths about this endeavor.
Chatbot marketing benefits
There is a good reason why using chatbots for marketing got so popular. They are considered to be very efficient tools and when deployed responsibly, they can become you and your customer's best friends.
Let's start with the benefits chatbots bring to our businesses.
Chat is a well-established communication platform and chatbots fit into it naturally
Customers are familiar with marketing chatbots and expect them to show up on business chat lines. Facebook Messenger popularized them and soon after many companies started implementing automated assistants all over their platforms. It was a bumpy road, but in the end, bots became a staple of digital marketing.
Chatbots are cost-effective
They fulfill the work of a dozen live agents and cover graveyard shifts with ease. Automated chats can massively help with live agents' work and boost your team's productivity and happiness. Agents free of mundane work can focus on complex tasks, develop new skills, and find better ways to handle their jobs.
They increase lead generation
Bots engage and qualify leads, open conversations, collect data, and filter queries. They are a vessel for many front desk mechanisms. Like a multitool, you can use them in many different ways and boost different stages of your lead generation funnel. Have a quick watch on how you could set up a lead generation bot in 30 minutes!
They boost engagement
You can run them on almost every popular platform, for example, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, Instagram, websites, emails, SMS, and even phone calls. Software providers fill the market demand by providing plug-and-play solutions on the spot. You'll easily find a bot suited to your needs. Witty pop-ups and engaging responses are welcome on any channel.
Bots nurture and upsell users
They can automatically offer help to those in trouble, present new and interesting features, offer guidance, fun quizzes, or schedule meetings. They can fulfill many useful roles that customers appreciate in modern business.
They are expert trackers
Bots can shine a light on any information stored deeply in your databases. For example, they can track on demand: orders, reservations, system statuses, and pretty much anything you and your customers may find useful.
Conversational bots serve as news feeds
They can showcase updates and news to visitors, like a digital journalist. According to the newest trend of conversational marketing, advertising works best when it's done in a more natural, dialog-like way.
Marketing automation myths
While chatbot marketing can help increase your company’s profits, it needs to be done right to get positive results. Let’s clear up some of the troublesome elements and myths.
Chatbots are cheap, don’t require a salary, and are a one-time investment
You need to pay your devs and provider subscriptions and set up a proper bot in your own time. The easiest path would be to buy a ready-to-use tool, but it will still take some time to fit it into your business.
Automation fits any business
Bots fit into a business where automation can really shine. The more complex the task, the better suited it is for a human to handle it. Still, most businesses can find a way to implement a bot successfully, but it never looks good when it is forced.
Chatbots are a fun and interactive way to engage with businesses
The conversations are robotic, and you can’t really mask that. But they are CONVENIENT, and if kept to the point, they will be praised by your customers.
Chatbots make a natural start to a customer journey
They need to be crafted with care to be such an easy and solid start. Remember those situations your friends complained about? When they get frustrated with the bots? You want to avoid these situations as much as possible. Otherwise, some of your clients may leave the chat emptyhanded, and may even discourage others from using it in the future.
Thankfully, it’s not all dark and grim. The bots are a great boon to everyone when implemented with thought and care. Spend some time planning and experimenting, and you will make your customers happy.
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Chatbot marketing how-tos
So let’s see how to do it the right way. We’ve grouped the best marketing examples and guidelines you can follow in your bot setup.
Avoid open-ended conversations
The more complex a query is, the bigger the chance it will crash your bot. Use closed questions or present customers with pre-written responses, even buttons. It contributes massively to bulletproofing automated conversations.
Make your bot accessible
Let it greet your customers with a big smile and show them it is available. The visibility of the bot will let you measure its success faster and iterate it to make the most out of it. A couple of our favorite ways of promotion are:
- Presenting your bot in your list of customer support channels. Or showing the available channels through the chat itself.
- Adding an animated call-to-action that triggers the bot.
- Implementing a bot on social media channels.
Avoid spamming with auto pop-ups and messages
There is nothing more infuriating than getting swarmed with notifications and unwanted information. Our brains are already overcrowded with constant distractions. Don't add to that experience. Keep the noise to a minimum and provide the right information at the right time.
Define measurable goals for chatbot marketing
Don't let your bots run amok. Make their goals clear and easy to follow. Each bot should have a specific use case and you should strive to make it fulfill it precisely. Bots with clear intent and proper execution are best received by customers and contribute to your digital marketing success.
Allocate your bot
Find the best spots to implement automation. Make sure it's always relevant, fits the situation, and does not feel forced. You don't want marketing messages to pop up on a helpline or show up elsewhere out of context.
Craft your bot’s voice and personality
Creating a persona for marketing chatbots should always be considered. Having an engaging conversation with an interesting character can bring some humor and good feelings into a mundane business conversation. This conversational marketing trend proved to be what customers enjoy.
Always test, review, and optimize
It is uncommon to get the expected results with the first implementation of your marketing chatbots. That's why it is essential to give yourself some space for testing, reviewing, and optimizing your setup. Let it grow organically and you'll surely achieve your goals.
Map customer journeys
Having a clear map of your customers' steps can help with analyzing and tinkering with your digital marketing strategy. That includes the part your chatbots play in the sales cycle. Give it a little bit of time, and document the steps along with notes, comments, and iterations. It'll make a solid foundation for your future bot development.
Don't disguise your bot as a human
It is generally good to give your bot a persona, a face customers can relate to. This may be especially tempting in conversational marketing, where natural communication is desired. However, by making your robots too human, you may accidentally make customers believe your automated assistant is a real person. This facade will never last as they will eventually find out that they are speaking to AI, and this will instantly make them feel deceived. Transparency is key in building trust between customers and your brand, so make sure your bot contributes to that.
Don’t use bots exclusively
Bots don't do well alone. They need human partners to thrive. This is because some customers prefer human contact when doing business. If a customer does not want automated help, we should respect that and prepare our channels accordingly. A bot can still assist by leading a customer to the right person, for example, a support or a sales agent. If you want to avoid frustrating customers, diversify your contact options and let the automation enhance them rather than replace them.
Great news! A lot of companies use chatbots for marketing purposes. We can browse their bot implementation stories to learn from their successes. Let's see what they did to end up with marketing automation that does its jobs well.
Nike implemented its automated assistance on its helpline. It covers night shifts while the live agents recover. The virtual assistant can track your orders and refunds, accept a return request, and cancel orders already in motion. For quality assurance, the Nike team reviews night shift chats and improves the quality of the bot based on them.
LEGO uses a marketing chatbot Ralph to help parents find the perfect LEGO set for Christmas. It asks questions about kids' ages, preferences, and interests and then provides a display of products fitting the criteria. The robot assistant shares links and directions to official LEGO stores where parents can go and grab the desired gift for their kids. All of that is sprinkled with season-related GIFs and humor. The perfect conditions for families to get into the Christmas shopping mood.
Mailchimp’s bot works like a knowledge base. You can ask it for articles, links, or general information about the topic that interests you at the moment. It covers all kinds of knowledge fields, like support, sales, how-tos, and company info. You also get auto-generated suggestions while typing, which can really help with pinpointing your queries.
Reserved implemented a chatbot on their store’s website. It helps customers with standard topics like order statuses, returns, and complaints. Additionally, it can help with passive sales by listing ongoing promotions and helping you with gift cards. In the event of trouble, the bot will offer you a transfer to a live agent in your local store.
Sephora’s bot helps you by providing access to makeup tutorials, product reviews, ratings, and professional assistance with beauty queries. It offers advanced features like “try on looks,” which uses a customer's phone camera in "selfie" mode to show them a simulation of desired products directly on their face.
It is hard to question the robots' rise to power in the marketing field. They found their place in many sales-oriented areas and proved to be marketers' little helpers.
However, the whole point of automation is to make things easier for us while keeping the same quality of service. With a human assistant, you can feel safe that there is an accountable person on the other side of the screen handling your issues. People are flexible even in the face of errors - they can mitigate them instantly or find different solutions for customers. Even the most elaborate robots can’t reach this level of flexibility. By setting up automation, you are guaranteed to make someone unhappy more often than with human assistance.
This is the ugly truth about bots. We should be aware of it and always consider it when deciding on automating marketing processes. You need to weigh the pros and cons, check how much the human touch matters to your customers, and decide if it is worth replacing it with a robot.