• Why chatbots are a huge opportunity
  • Learn how to use a chatbot for marketing B2B tech

What are chatbots?

A chatbot is computer software that communicates with customers on websites, apps or on social networks via text-based messaging – answering questions and holding conversations.

Chatbots are often (but not always) powered by artificial intelligence (AI). Early versions used pre-programmed responses to answer users’ questions, but chatbots now have access to vast data sets which they can intelligently use to find the appropriate answer. What’s more, chatbots programmed with machine learning capabilities are able to learn as they chat, so that they can solve customer problems quickly, efficiently and realistically.

Chatbots have entered the mainstream. The recent increase in chatbot use can partly be explained by the surge in the popularity of messaging apps. There are approximately 1.9 billion combined Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp users, and this is estimated to grow to 3.6 billion within the next 5 years. Messaging apps are already the next ‘big’ channel for businesses to start using to reach out to their customer base. And chatbots look set to be the key to this.

Chatbots in action

Let’s look at a few examples of chatbots in action:

  • The Disney film, Zootopia, created a chatbot for Facebook Messenger which allowed fans to interact with Judy Hopps, the main character from the film. Fans could simply chat with Judy or they could ask her questions to help them solve challenges.
  • Insomnobot–3000 from Casper, a mattress company, was created to interact with customers during the night, with no other purpose than to keep them company. On the website, it states that Insomnobot–3000 is “a friendly, easily distracted bot designed to keep you company when you just can’t fall asleep. Extra chatty between 11pm-5am.”

Chatbots for marketing: the opportunity

  • 47% of people would buy online directly from a chatbot
  • 37% would rather buy online from a Facebook page than a company’s website

The real advantage of using chatbots for marketing is the personal experience. Think of it in comparison to a Facebook ad – a piece of content presented to thousands of people at once. The same messaging has to communicate to all these different people who may have very different reasons for being interested in your company, especially if you provide a wide range of IT services.

A chatbot gives every single customer that your bot interacts with a unique and personalised experience, but it allows you to do so in a completely automated way – without using up the time of customer support, experts and technicians. Your chatbot can address the customer’s specific needs and direct them to where they need to go. Here’s a list of the ways this can be applied:

How to use a chatbot for marketing B2B:

  • Pushing out content

Chat mailing lists are the new emailing lists. Chatbots are a direct channel to people interacting with your brand. You can tailor content towards an individual’s specific interests or problems – rather than signing up to a newsletter with a variety of content, a chatbot can ask a customer what actually interests them. If a customer is interested in SharePoint migration, for example, the chatbot can surface relevant content on Office 365 or SharePoint 2016.

What’s more, reports suggest that communicating with potential customers this way drives higher open and click-through rates. In 2016, CNN was one of the first to trial something like this – creating chatbots to help people find news items that would be of interest to them, developing an on-going tailored content service.

  • Offers and promotions

Much like the example of Zootopia above, you can use chatbots to build interest around a promotion – perhaps you’re releasing new services in the build-up to the introduction of the GDPR. You could use a chatbot to interact with customers who have questions about data protection. The chatbot could give your customers tips on GDPR compliance and guide them through the experience. Rather than waiting to hear from one of your GDPR experts, who is working out on site that day, the customer could receive an instant answer to their query.

  • Improved CX

You can use chatbots to help guide customers through their experience of using your products and services. Slackbot is a good example of this – helping Slack users with any problems they have.

You can also use chatbots to provide quick and easy ways for customers to purchase your products or services: Dominoes has a chatbot, Dom, that helps users order a pizza in Facebook Messenger.

When it comes to B2B, businesses are often under pressure to research the options, figure out which one best suits their needs and then present a business case to stakeholders to get sign off. Using a chatbot to help them understand the benefits of your product and how this fits their specific requirements could be the difference between them choosing your product over a competitor’s.

Where to get started: building your bot

Embarking on your journey into artificial intelligence may seem daunting at first but building a chatbot couldn’t be easier with the tools now available.

1. Use in-house developers (or hire them) to build your bot from scratch – and use help from a trusted bot service framework. Microsoft’s Azure Bot Service offer a bot-building environment that lets you “build, connect, deploy and manage intelligent bots”. Some tools like Facebook offer simple-to-use built-in tools for developers to get your bot up and running in Facebook Messenger. What’s great about the Azure Bot Service is that you can take advantage of Azure’s Cognitive Services to infuse your bot with the latest in AI technology. It also lets your bot integrate with a wide range of websites and apps such as Cortana, Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business, Slack and Facebook Messenger.

2. There are other places to go to build a bot. Bot-building services such as Chatfuel and Chatty People have proved popular and can be used with little to no-coding experience.

Now that chatbots are becoming more mainstream, you should think about how they could compliment your marketing strategy. For other great tips on how to market your IT, explore our site or contact us today.