Marketing is all about the message and how you connect with an audience so that your copy resonates. Many business owners tend to concentrate where they employ marketing, how they implement it and the cost of getting the message across without first thinking about the way they will connect with customers. Learning more about your customers, understanding their needs and anticipating their questions are key factors that allow you to use the latest innovations in digital marketing and get the most reach without spending big.

It is no longer possible to rely solely on the organic reach of your Facebook posts as the ever-shifting Facebook algorithm heavily encourages spending in order to reach your social base. A counter to this that is evolving right now is Messenger Bots. Easy to set up and extremely cost effective, you can use a bot to answer customer service questions or guide a site visitor toward becoming a customer. However, in order to create a successful bot, it needs to be robust enough to react to questions in a human way. A bot can only answer with responses you provide it so the first step in creating one is to think work on how you communicate with customers, the process you use to convert leads and how you use the power of human conversation in your marketing.

The power of conversation

In every deal you do, in every sale you make, a part of the process always relies on having a Human to Human conversation with your customer. The entire sales pipeline has stages which need to be strictly adhered to for the best chance of success. A common mistake new businesses make is pushing a sale too hard and too early without first earning the trust of the lead. Another name for trust in this model of sales is pre-qualification. In order to push an offer, you first need to pre-qualify. The steps you should follow to convert are:

1. Choose your outcome (consumer focus or partner focus)
2. Start a conversation
3. Provide value
4. Follow up and pre-qualification
5. Next steps (providing your offer)

The goal is to meet the requirements of step 4 in order to be able to get the final step. However, if you get to pre-qualification and don’t meet the requirements, it means you need to jump back a step or two and continue the conversation until you met those conditions. If you skip pre-qualification and provide your offer too early, there is a high chance you will burn that lead permanently.

The most important step here, and the one that is important to creating effective messenger bots, is ‘start a conversation’. Most business deals are made in the initial conversation. Whether it is a casual coffee or a formal meeting, that human to human interaction allows you to create a first impression, talk about your business and get to know your customer in ways that email never can. It also gives you a chance to build trust and show that your business is worthy. During that conversation, you will need to show your value, talk about how you can help solve a problem and what services you have that might be advantageous to their needs.

After a meeting, you can follow up with email, a phone conversation or further meetings to garner interest and see if you have met the pre-qualification requirement. If you think that they are ready, then you can make an offer and provide packages or pricing. However, if they aren’t over the line yet, show more value, have more conversations and keep doing so until they are ready.

This is the same process you need to follow when creating a Messenger Bot. Essentially, you are going to think ahead and pre-empt the questions that a lead will have in order to push them through your sales pipeline. Again, it all starts with a human conversation. When interacting with your bot, it should feel like there is a human on the other end. If you are Dominoes Pizza and someone says ‘I like meat’ to your bot, it should be able to respond with the types of meat pizzas that are available based on that keyword. If the bot responds with ‘Do you want to order a pizza’ or the dreaded ‘Sorry, I didn’t understand that’, the customer will instantly feel like they are talking to a computer and balk at continuing the conversation.

The language of your bot should be natural, it should sound like they are talking to a person and there should be enough pre-programmed responses to ensure the bot doesn’t get confused. You should program the bot with a clear conversation progression that will hand-hold a lead through your pipeline while periodically checking for pre-qualification. Once met, you can either let the bot handle the sale or take over and manually close. This is just one example of how a bot can be used to automate elements of your sales process. However, messenger bots can be quite powerful in other areas of marketing as well.

What is a bot?

Facebook messenger has over 1 Billion active users and is the most engaging marketing channel with 80% open rates and x4-10 CTRs compared to email. By using messenger bots you can instantly connect with users, direct to their phones and at a very low cost.

Once you set it up, your Messenger bot will appear on your website as a chat window which visitors can open to get instant automated answers to questions. This can be used as a customer service tool or it can be used to guide a site visitor through your sales pipeline. However, you can also use messenger functionality to capture leads, provide automated subscription services or push new offers. A Messenger bot can have a sequence just like an email campaign which can be as long or short as you want. Many chat bots also give you the option to manually take control of the live chat or will notify you when human intervention is required.

When setting up a bot there are a number of growth tools that can be used to capture leads and set up how your marketing messages are sent to your list. You can also set where a bot is seen on your website, which pages it will lead people to and any methods you employ for following up a contact and reaching a final sale.

The brilliant thing about bots is that they allow you to have a conversation with 1000s of people at once and provide 24/7 interaction with your business. They are also a new technology which smaller businesses can be nimble enough to adopt before the big brands overuse it. One of the reasons it has such a high open rate is that the big brands haven’t had a chance to misuse it and there is still trust in it.

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How a bot can help your business

This will depend greatly on your business and what services/products you provide and once you start building your bot, you will likely find some uses that you never thought possible. However, there are some fundamentals that apply to most businesses that we can run you through to help paint a picture of how you might use it.

Customer service – This one is pretty obvious. Once you have a live chat window on your site, visitors are going to want to use it to ask questions. It helps to be able to think about all the frequently asked questions and load your bot with answers that not only assist the user but also push them to pages on your site that provide them with a path to solving their problem. The great thing about using the bot for customer service is that it is also capturing the lead at the same time.

Lead capture and sales – You can also load your bot with answers that will push visitors through your sales pipeline with conversation that shows them the value of your business and how it can solve their problems. You can build in steps in the conversation that check for level of visitor interest and try and convert or it can be used to capture their details so you can follow up later with further messaging. The key to using a messenger bot for sales is making sure that the conversation is as human as possible. This means that you need to know your visitors well so you can make sure the bot always has a scripted answer and never falls back to its default responses.

Direct marketing campaigns – Once you have captured a lead or have a subscription list, you can use Messenger bots for direct marketing. This is the arena previously occupied by newsletters and would serve a similar purpose. Newsletters can be a great way to let your list know about new services, products and sales or a way to direct traffic to your website or blog. The difference here is that email newsletters tend to have low open rates of 14-20% and whereas Facebook Messenger is over 80%. Not only that, but Facebook is more likely to provide instant delivery as the majority of Facebook users have Messenger on their phone.

Subscription services and content delivery – You can set a bot to push content to specific contacts within your list. If your business has a subscription model, you can set the bot to only send certain information to certain subscribers. If you have an eBook that is sent monthly, the bot can send it as a downloadable .pdf to whichever customers you want. If you do a weekly video, you can send it direct to your list so they can open it on their phone. Audio files can also be sent if you have a podcast you want them to listen to. Your messages can contain images, call to action buttons, links and even functionality that will let users call a telephone number of your choosing. If you have content that you currently send via email, there is likely a way to adapt it for Messenger that will see a higher rate of interaction.

Alerts – If your business has time-sensitive elements like sign-up dates or live video streams etc., a bot is a brilliant way of informing your customers about crucial timings. It can also be used to let them know that a limited offer is about to end or that pre-sales for an item has opened up. The possibilities are endless for the types of quick alerts you can send.

The main takeaway here is that Messenger Bots are extremely versatile and can not only be used as a highly effective conversation tool but also offer a wide variety of other functionality that can be a boon to your businesess.

How to use a bot

This is the million dollar question. The first step is to sign up for one of the bot services. Most have a free option which has enough functionality for most businesses. Power users can opt-in for the subscription version which tends to have more options but the base version will fit our purpose fine.

A couple of bots services to look into are manychat.com and chatfuel.com , both of which have examples of their bot running on their respective homepages.

Once you are signed up, the next step is to connect the bot to your Facebook page. Keep in mind that bots only work with business Facebook pages and you need to be an administrator of the page to connect your bot.

Each bot program is a little different so we won’t be able to give you a step by step on how to set up your bot but they tend to be quite simple. There are also many videos on youtube showing how to create a basic bot and others that go into more advanced features.

However, before you actually start building your bot, you need to have a think about what you want it to accomplish and how you foresee it achieving that goal. We recommend creating a flow chart that will list out the possible questions a visitor may have, the answers your bot will provide and the progression of what questions might be asked next. Work out how each possible conversation may play out and how you want to guide the conversation to a favourable conclusion. Remember, the human to human conversation style that you might have over a coffee and go from there. Include basic chit-chat in there as well before you hit the marketing side of things.

You want your bot to act as human as possible so the visitor thinks they are talking to a human. If they ask a basic question like ‘how are you’ you want the response to be ‘Great, thanks. How are you doing’ rather than ‘Sorry, I don’t understand that’. Think about the little questions people ask each other out of politeness and have responses built in. ‘How is your day going?’ ‘Not bad at all, thanks for asking. What can I help you with?’

If your flow chart is complex enough you can create a bot that will work under most circumstances and allow you to automate a key part of your business. You can also set notifications to that if the bot reaches a point it can’t continue, it can inform you that human interaction is required. This can be scripted as well so the bot says something like ‘Sorry, I don’t have that information available to me at the moment, can we email it to you’ That way you are capturing a lead while also letting the customer know to expect your email. The bot then sends a message to you letting you know to email the lead. These points of human intervention also need to be thought about the built into your flow chart.

When you are happy with your flow chart and your bot is built, you will be provided with some lines of code that will need to be included in your site, usually included in the header. If you don’t know how to do this, contact your site administrator. It is quite simple and should only take a few minutes.

Conclusion

As a startup, you have the advantage of being able to adopt new technologies faster than the big brands. Facebook Messenger is the latest marketing tool to hit the scene and has proven to be extremely effective. However, it isn’t something you should jump into without first being prepared. Once you have your sales pipelines in place and have learned what makes your customers tick, you can build a bot that will start a natural conversation with visitors to your website and help convert them into customers. It’s a brave new world…