Bots on the internet get a bad rap. Often, you hear about them being involved in hacking incidents or trying to influence people on social media. But chatbot technology has been quietly growing and improving over the years.
We’re long past the days when conversations with chatbots were full of stilted non sequiturs. Today’s chatbots are still quite obviously bots, but they’ve gotten much better at both maintaining natural conversational flow and understanding the discussion their human interlocutors are trying to have. By and large, customers prefer talking to real, live human customer service representatives over dealing with automated systems.
But here’s a fun fact: customers also really like talking to chatbots. According to a 2017 survey, 57% of consumers like getting information from a chatbot when browsing a company’s website. 47% are open to the idea of using a chatbot to make a purchase. Marketers have realized that chatbots can do much more than field frequently asked customer service questions. They can also play an important role in lead generation.
For example, once upon a time people would call a live operator to get the local time and weather. Now, there’s a bot for that. In fact, voice bots can provide the same experience, faster, and with increased accuracy as they can connect to multiple data sources for simple queries like time and weather.
Retailers and other companies that sell direct to consumers have known this for a while, and the consumer chatbot field is already fairly overcrowded territory. The good news is that B2B sellers haven’t all jumped on this bandwagon yet. This means there’s still a chance for creative and forward-thinking companies to be pioneers in the realm of B2B lead generation chatbots. Let’s learn more about how chatbots work and how to set one up for your business.
How Chatbots Work
While customer service chatbots are often found on a company’s website, social media is a great place for lead generation bots to live. In the early stages of the buyer journey, potential customers are most likely to stumble across bots in connection with shared content and social media posts. Facebook Messenger is one of the most popular and effective platforms for chatbots, but the preferred platforms of your customer base is the deciding factor in an ideal bot location.
Once a bot is live, it can work on converting your leads, no matter where they are in your marketing funnel. At the very top, an invitation to connect with a chatbot over Messenger (or Slack, or WhatsApp) can be more engaging than sending leads to a contact form.
After a prospect agrees to receive messages from the chatbot, you’re off to the races. The chatbot can serve as a “landing page” that can interact with the lead, field their questions, and gather qualifying information about whom the customer is and what, exactly, they’re looking for. It can also deliver marketing automation content; pushing targeted, tailored messages that keep you on the prospect’s radar and address any concerns that might have sprung up.
A B2B chatbot might send out a quick survey, which can even take the form of a simple conversational inquiry. It can inform leads about upcoming webinars or other events, and automate drip campaigns to nurture leads who have progressed further down the funnel.
Chatbots can integrate with your CRM system, sending appointment reminders, product tips, and other relevant content. They can even schedule appointments and provide directions. When customer service questions arise, nobody is better-positioned to take them on than the chatbot. It can effortlessly provide answers to simple or common questions while routing more complex inquiries to human customer service agents.
If your business needs lead generation chatbots to help you engage and convert customers, the next step is to hire somebody with an advanced degree in artificial intelligence programming.
We’re joking, of course. You don’t need a developer to get a chatbot up and running. There are all kinds of tools and out-of-the-box solutions available. Visual chatbot editors can help you spin up a function chatbot in a matter of minutes, even if you’re a marketer who’s deathly allergic to coding.
Some platforms, like Facebook, offer their own botmaking tools. However, it’s often faster and easier to get started with third-party botmaking tools. In the next section, we’ll go over some tools we like for various messaging apps. All offer reasonable pricing, are easy to use, and include solid technical support for your botmaking endeavors.
So you want to build a chatbot?
When it comes to B2B botmaking, you have many options, some of which are platform-dependent. Here are the main platforms and botmaking apps to consider.
Let’s begin with Facebook. Their Messenger app offers a lot of functionality for chatbots, and more importantly, you can’t find a more widely-used platform.
ZoConvert is one tool that can create a Messenger-compatible chatbot within a matter of minutes. A ZoConvert bot can map chat answers to customer attributes that get fed into your CRM, creating qualified profiles to help you segment and target your leads. When the initial chat ends, the bot can launch a retargeting campaign to follow up with leads and deliver dynamic, personalized messages.
You’ll also probably read a lot about Chatfuel and ManyChat if you research Messenger chatbot solutions. They’re also both good tools, giving you many options to shape a “voice” and personality for your chatbot.
In some B2B industries, you might find Facebook to be a somewhat deprecated platform. Where are the business people hanging out? Slack, of course! Slack has a fair number of integrated tools for creating bots, but you’ll soon find their capabilities quite limited. They’re more like automatic reply scripts rather than true AI bots.
If you want to really engage with leads on Slack, you’ll need to power your bot with a solution like Zapier. The best part is that it can link up via API to other apps that you use. This allows your bot to access information from outside the Slack ecosystem when it’s conversing with leads and customers in a team chat.
Around the globe, WhatsApp is an extremely popular and widely-used messaging app. If you’re interested in reaching clients outside the United States, a WhatsApp bot may have a much better reach than Facebook. This is especially true if you’re looking for business in India, Europe, South America, or Africa.
To set one up, and access the WhatsApp Business API, you need to be a commercial WhatsApp user. WhatsApp’s official solution partners (including Facebook) can help you with this step.
The bot maker we recommend for WhatsApp is MessengerPeople, which offers a simple and intuitive interface along with a robust suite of bot-building options. MessengerPeople works with Facebook, Telegram, and other popular chat apps, too.
This bot-friendly messaging platform has built-in support for marketing bots, allowing you to make sales and receive payments directly through the app. They’ve set up a dedicated bot API specifically for this purpose. Telegram bots can also integrate with external services and run games and widgets built in HTML5.
The bot building process is well-documented on their website. However, if you have questions, they’ve set up a special bot — cheekily named The Botfather — who can help you figure it all out.
Finally, let’s look at a chatbot that can work with the live customer service chat on your website.
There are several chatbot options for your website. However, we like Drift because of its B2B focus. According to Drift, you can use their Chatbot on your website to increase the number of leads coming in from it. However, what we really like is their ability to help qualify leads. Drift can be particularly valuable when used in conjuncture with other marketing channels to enrich data on prospects while they are already in the funnel.
Naturally, this can come in very helpful when integrated with you CRM and provide sales teams with that edge they need to close the deal.
Leveraging Your Chatbot
If you build a better chatbot, will the world beat a path to your door? Maybe, but it’s important to remember the strengths (and limitations) of chatbots — and leverage them where they’re most effective.
This tends to be at the top of the funnel, because:
- Lead questions tend to be relatively simple and predictable.
- There’s lots of basic qualifying data to be gathered.
- There’s little danger of the chatbot running out of material and going around in circles.
A well set-up chatbot will be able to detect when it’s time to hand a lead off to a human salesperson or customer service rep for intelligent assistance of the organic variety. At the same time, don’t be too quick to whisk a lead away from a chatbot they’re having fun with.
Chatbots can potentially sense when leads are giving terse, strictly-business answers and when they’re having some fun testing out how the chatbot responds to them. In the former scenario, the AI can mirror their no-nonsense approach. In the latter one scenario, the chatbot can engage the lead with playful or humorous content to keep them interested and build up some goodwill.
B2B marketing means you’ve constantly got your hands full.
Chatbots represent a beneficial automation that can help your leads and customers receive accurate information, answers to basic questions, and direction to any necessary lead follow-up. They provide efficient and personable coverage of your most important social media and messaging channels, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Chatbots also don’t require an expensive development team to set up.
When you’re ready to up your B2B lead generation and customer service game, don’t be afraid to ask for help from our chatbot friends.