Many of the repetitive tasks of lead generation, data collection and interpretation, targeted email campaigns, and content curation now fall under the umbrella of marketing automation. Thanks to cleverly designed pieces of software, marketing teams can improve their reach and target their message more carefully. And now, with chatbots becoming more fluid, reliable, and human-like, a new vista of possibilities is opening up for marketers.
According to Forbes, the world of automation and chatbots is set to see some fresh twists in 2018. In 2017, 35.6 million Americans used voice-activated assistants at least one time each month — a 128.9% leap from 2016 that is projected to spike even higher in the coming year. HubSpot recently acquired Motion.ai and promises that “soon, anyone will be able to build a chatbot to communicate with customers on their terms — no technical skills required.” It’s a bold claim, but falls a little flat since Chatfuel, ManyChat and a dozen or so other chatbot builders were claiming quick chatbot building options throughout 2017.
That said, as Hubspot and other chatbot builders are claiming that chatbots will better enable businesses to “engage, convert, close and delight their customers,” marketers are on the edge of their seats, waiting to see what new tools 2018 might bring. Based on the current trends, here’s our inside scoop on useful blends of marketing automation software and chatbots that you can expect to see in 2018.
Revisiting Chatbots in Your Automation
1. Lead Generation
In a world of so much data and digital noise, it can be tough to track down the consumers you want — the people who need you and your products as much as you need them. You can collect big data and filter it and try to implement your findings; but when it comes to real, tangible leads, a new kind of chatbot might be your best friend.
Companies often rely too heavily on venues like the traditional landing page for lead generation. The marketing department crafts a tasty bit of information or a clickable blurb, and when users click the link, they are dumped onto a landing page that blasts them with product sales points or draws out their contact details. Unfortunately, those landing page leads often prove to be weak and unqualified.
Why not try a new approach? Use your data collection software as you typically would to identify the demographic for your target audience; and then, instead of bringing them to a sales-driven landing page, engage their interest by introducing a perky, helpful chatbot. With bot builders like Chatfuel to create the chatbot and tools like Zapier to help you identify healthy leads, you can gain some excellent traction in your 2018 lead generation campaigns.
2. Data Collection
When you implement chatbots throughout your website and social media venues in 2018, you’re going to find that you have a lot of new, fresh information coming in from your customer base. How can you harness all that valuable data and use it before it goes stale? Tools like BotMetrics, DashBot and ChatMetrics help you analyze bot functions and conversations so that you can improve the customer’s experience and draw helpful conclusions about your marketing efforts.
First of all, you can use the information from your chatbot conversations to make the bots better. With a combination of automated tools and human eyes, look through chatbot logs and identify keywords and phrases that clients actually use. This way, you can customize the triggers and responses of your chatbot so that it seems even more human-like and intuitive. You can also incorporate those often-used phrases and keywords into your marketing campaigns and online content to improve SEO and to connect better with customers.
As you review chatbot logs and interactions, you may discover some surprising things about your target audience. You might find that some product elements that aren’t being communicated effectively. Maybe you’ll discover that the name of a product is too long or complicated and that all your clients call it something else! All of this can inform your marketing strategy for 2018 and beyond.
3. Constant Customer Support
Maybe you haven’t previously had the resources to provide quick responses and 24/7 support to your clients. With well-designed chatbots, you can offer the illusion of constant contact to your customers, for less than the cost of 24/7 human support staff. Use your marketing automation tools to collect data about high-traffic times or periods when you experience higher support call volume, and lay out a plan that leverages human presence and chatbots to create a helpful customer service experience. Your current automated systems can be immensely helpful in creating the data library that a chatbot needs in order to function seamlessly.
Sprout Social (screenshot below) is one of the leaders in customer support via social media. In 2017 they brought the world a platform for building an automated Twitter chatbot, for the purpose of 24/7 customer support, and in 2018 are planning to expand that to Facebook Messenger and other platforms.
4. Customer Involvement
Some companies are beginning to use chatbots more heavily in their social media scene. For example, a company might set up a Facebook Messenger bot that offers quick replies directly to customers who comment on a Facebook post. A customer who asks a particular question or mentions a specific product might receive a swift automated response or an email followup. To accomplish this kind of immediate and intimate connection with the customer, you can blend the services of a good chatbot with your email marketing automation software.
5. Successful Sales
What if someone encounters a chatbot on your website, engages with it, and then leaves without making a purchase? Take that important interaction via the chatbot and follow up with a special offer or discount email to entice your wandering client to come back and buy! Thanks to automated email software, you can set up your system to email the discount to all customers who interact with the chatbot and fail to purchase. Those clients will be surprised and pleased that your company noticed and pursued them, and they just might come back to buy your product or service.
6. Customer Loyalty
Merging the use of chatbots with your automated marketing systems can have several positive effects, including a noticeable improvement in customer loyalty. Think about the impact it would have on your clients if you were suddenly able to provide 24/7 support, respond to their Facebook comments immediately, send them followup emails with incentives, and offer them quick, convenient answers to questions whenever they stop by your website. Coupled with a quality product or reliable service, that kind of interactivity and engagement can create a powerful bond between consumer and provider.
One cautionary note: Be sure that the chatbot you select is well-designed and capable of effective communication with your clients. If you skimp on the cost of a ready-made bot or curb the development time of a custom-made chatbot, you’ll end up with a version that replies awkwardly, doesn’t fulfill the needs of customers, and fails to pass the baton to a real human when the conversation goes beyond its capacity. Invest the money and time up front so you can roll out a bot that operates smoothly and serves your company’s specific needs.
The Future of Chatbots and Automated Marketing in 2018
According to the American Marketing Association, chatbots are going to be vital players in the future of market research. Stay tuned for more developments as the growth of chatbots in marketing continues into the new year, and look for some unique ways that you can stay on the edge of the curve by integrating chatbots with your existing automated marketing tools.