How to build a better bot and get started with conversational marketing

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher December 2, 2019
Gartner reckons that in a couple of years from now, enterprises will spend more on chatbot creation than traditional mobile app development. Some tips on how to spend that money well...


Marketers are focused on improving engagement on their websites. What will make a website stand out from all the competitors is the question they are asking. Is it more information on products and services? More informational content? Better navigation and architecture? Better conversations?

As Meghan Keany Anderson, VP Marketing at Hubspot, said in a video:

Everything is getting more urgent, noisy, now obsessed. But if you can break through, you have the opportunity to make a real conversation, a personal one, with every one of your customers.

Many believe that the future of marketing is conversational, as in, we need to have more real-time conversations with prospects and customers. These real-time conversations are not just about using chatbots, but it is a primary approach. Phone, live chats and messaging (as in Facebook Messenger and messaging tools), are others. (Mathew Sweezey talked about other ways in his podcast series on the future of marketing, which I mentioned in a recent column.)

According to Drift’s 2019 State of Conversational Marketing, the two biggest problems with the online experience is that people can’t get answers to simple questions, and they find the website hard to navigate. While email and phone remain the top two preferred customer communication channels, online chat is following closely behind, in part because it can provide answers to simple questions quickly, and it offers support outside normal service hours.

I wanted to understand more about what makes a chatbot a good way to talk with customers, so I took the Drift Certification in Conversational Marketing to learn how to implement conversational marketing using chatbots, and this is what I learned.

Building a better chatbot

First, to build a good chatbot, you have to know the five W’s:

  • Who are you engaging with? Segment by visitor types such as anonymous, known, target account, and others.
  • What page are they on? Break down your website pages in page types and build conversations around those page types.
  • Where did they come from? Where did the visitor come from (or referring site)
  • Why are they here? Once you know the who, what, and where you can start to understand why they are there, by asking specific questions. Based on the visitor’s answers to your questions, you will know how to route them, if at all.
  • When do you engage them? The when part isn’t up to you, it’s up to the visitor.

From here, the course covered the Conversational Marketing Framework. With a clear understanding of who, what, and where, you leverage the framework to figure out the why through a three-step process: engage, understand, recommend.

Engage is about starting the conversation. If you don’t know the visitor, you’ll want to ask them a question, something that is meaningful to both them and your business. The trainer in the video suggested looking at email subject lines or your website headings to get ideas for an opening question. To engage the visitor, think about a pain point you can mention. If you know the visitor, then you’ll want to acknowledge them personally. If you don’t know them, but know where they came from, you can ask a question specific to the reason for their visit.

Understand is asking the questions that help you qualify, route, or disqualify the visitor. The key is not to ask too many questions - 2-3 is the suggested number.

Recommend is the final step, and it involves providing one of five main types of recommendations: Chat with a BDR, Meet now, Schedule a call, Guide to more information, and Nurture.

A few other key takeaways from the courses (and if you are new to chatbots and conversational marketing, this set of five videos and the certification is worth looking at it):

  • Don’t put the same chatbot on every page. Design a chatbot for each page type, such as high-intent pages, educational pages, and the homepage.
  • Have a clear brand voice and make your value proposition part of the conversation.
  • Don’t give the visitor an easy way out and always have a clear CTA and a fallback CTA.

The last point I’ll share is also critical. Train your SDRs and BDRs on chat best practices. That way, if a visitor is routed to them, they’ll know the best way to engage and ask questions to drive the conversation for the better.

My take

According to Gartner:

By 2021, more than 50% of enterprises will spend more per annum on bots and chatbot creation than traditional mobile app development.

With the continuing advances in AI and machine learning, chatbots will likely play a bigger role in creating conversations on websites. Brands that want to adopt this technology and approach need to build a good strategy and be prepared to adjust it as they learn what works for the visitors that are coming to their site.

Personally, I would rather click a button in a chat window then fill in a form, but if that chatbot is asking too many questions or offering content that isn’t relevant to my needs, I’ll have no problem ignoring it.

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