By Chelsea Boice

2018 has been a big year for marketing. From virtual reality to voice search, this year has brought forth some powerful technological advancements to help brands better connect, engage, and convert buyers.

If you’ve been keeping up with these trends, then you’ve likely heard a bit of buzz around chatbots. These AI-powered tools have been all the rage for a few years, but since Facebook introduced their messenger chatbot in 2016, the number of brands eager to include them in their marketing stack has been steadily growing, with 2018 bringing more third-party bot platforms.

Ready to take the plunge and incorporate a bot into your marketing strategy? Here’s what you need to consider.

Identify the Opportunity

Chatbots offer a wide range of uses for brands, from automating simple internal tasks to providing more convenient interactions with their target audience. However, chatbot technology is still relatively new—and at the moment, there’s only so much we can program chatbots to do—so the right opportunity and a clearly defined end goal are necessary for a chatbot to prove beneficial to your marketing strategy. Here are some examples of how chatbots can make great additions to your marketing stack:

  • Convenient Conversations: Chatbots make interactions with your audience extremely convenient and timely. Not only can you can be the first to reach out to prospects with relevant information, but you can also provide immediate responses to their questions, all in real time. This is key because brands face a 10x decrease in the odds that they will make contact with a lead after the first five minutes.
  • Qualifying Leads: The responses and questions you craft for your chatbots should be more than just an interaction with your audience. Each response your chatbot uses should be linked to a qualifying score to help your marketing and sales team keep track of those showing interest in your brand.
  • Streamlining Purchases: Chatbots provide a powerful advantage to e-commerce businesses; they can help make the path to purchase simpler and faster by acting as a shopping assistant that helps customers zero in on specific products—from pizza to flowers—based on their needs and preferences.

The above are only the beginning of what we’ve seen brands do with chatbots. More and more organizations are adopting chatbots as part of a larger experience, rather than a single use case. Whichever route you choose to go, you’ll need to identify the right opportunity and have a clear goal to achieve the best ROI.
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Location, Location, Location

Chatbot placement is key to the chatbot’s overall success, and selecting the wrong channel could mean alienating important segments of your target audience. This is why it's important to identify where your audience frequents—from specific social media platforms to messaging apps like Slack or WhatsApp to your website—and where you think the message will resonate better, in order to ensure that your chatbots have their time to shine in the location where they’ll be most useful.

Talk the Talk

Chatbots will, by default, become an extension of your brand, so every word and interaction that comes from your chatbot must match your brand’s tone and overall message. Furthermore, tapping into your buyer personas can give you a better idea of how your target audience speaks, as well as what their needs and challenges are, ultimately helping you build your chatbot’s interaction criteria and responses while creating a more conversational tone and thus creating a more natural conversation between your bots and your audience.

Dig a Bit Deeper

How will you know if your chatbot is successful? Many may look at the number of messages or users as the clear indicator of whether your chatbot is useful or annoying to your audience. As with any marketing activity, you’ll need to dig a bit deeper to get a better idea of what’s going on.

  • How is your chatbot being activated? If you have a chatbot already set up, use the questions that your bot is currently being asked, to set up goals. For example, if your users come to the chatbot with FAQs, use that as a basis for programming your bot's responses. If there's a misalignment with what your visitor wants and the bot can provide, you'll end up hurting instead of helping your relationship with your visitors."
  • How many interactions are users having with your bot? Pay close attention to whether the the conversations are continuous and consistent. If they’re not, your chatbot may not be providing efficient, helpful answers.
  • Is your bot getting confused? When designing your bot, you likely added a response or step to hand off to a human for when it doesn’t quite understand a user’s question or answer. Be sure to measure the number of times your bot shows these confusion triggers so you have a better idea of how to adjust your messaging to better serve the user.
  • Is your bot meeting its initial goal? Your chatbot’s goal completion rate depends heavily on the purpose of your bot. Be sure to measure your bot’s performance against the goals created when identifying the initial opportunity for adding a bot to your marketing strategy in the first place.

The results of these simple questions can help you determine whether or not the chatbot is actually useful not only for achieving your goals, but more importantly, for answering your audience’s questions.

Final Thoughts

Chatbots and similar AI technology may seem like a novelty, but as they become more conversational, users will become more accustomed to them as part of their digital experiences. Be sure to consider the above aspects of chatbot implementation to ensure chatbots are beneficial to your brand and its audience.

Are you using chatbots? We’d love to know how—share with us in the comment section below.

Photo by Charles Taylor from GettyImages
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Chelsea Boice

About the author

Chelsea Boice Chelsea is an Associate Consultant at SmartBug. She previously worked as a freelance Digital Marketer supporting B2B and B2C organizations with inbound, email, and social marketing campaigns. She currently resides in Maryland and she received her B.A. in Mass Communications from Towson University. In her free time, she enjoys traveling and indulging in true crime podcasts. Read more articles by Chelsea Boice.