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John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Mike Yan. He is the CEO and co founder of the messenger marketing platform known as ManyChat. So Mike, thanks for joining me.
Mike Yan: Thanks for having me.
John Jantsch: I wonder if you could give me a little bit about your origin story, how you…I do a little research obviously for these, and your work history on LinkedIn is a little brief. I’m almost guessing this is one of your first kind of big ventures?
Mike Yan: We actually have been doing startups for over… Close to 10 years. So for the nine years we’ve been doing different projects and it’s anywhere from eCommerce to entertainment, consumer websites, to kind of like a mix between the messaging apps and a almost entertainment app. And then went into messenger marketing.
Mike Yan: And the reason we started on messenger is because in 2015, Telegram Insta messaging app, similar to Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, just popular in different countries, opened up their API in 2015, and we saw an opportunity to help 65 million monthly active users, be connected with businesses they want to be talking to and help those businesses achieve better business results by using this new channel.
Mike Yan: Because, at that point, it was 2016, nobody was talking about bots. There was… Like nobody had any idea about how big this was going to get. So we started with that. And yeah, in 2016, transitioned to Facebook messenger because Facebook messenger opened up your API, and now very honored to be the number one platform on Facebook messenger. You know, we power over 800 thousand Facebook pages in over 190 countries around the world. So…
John Jantsch: So the growth has been pretty astronomical, then, from… I actually followed ManyChat from the very beginning, and tinkered around with it because I tinker around with everything, as part of doing this. Not only has the platform changed, but certainly the landscape has changed, hasn’t it, in terms of how people are using chat and bots?
Mike Yan: True. That’s true. People started… People thought about chat bots at first as this shiny new thing, as this, kind of like a toy, that’s interesting, but not very valuable. And when everybody… When every other company was building chat bots for the sake of building chat bots, we were actually… We came up with this term “messenger marketing” and now it seems like everybody’s using it. But if you go to messenger marketing.com you will actually reach our blogs.
Mike Yan: We believe that messenger is a great way to actually drive business outcomes and to help you with marketing, with sales, with support, to help you convert better, and not just, “Hey this as something fun, that has this novelty, but doesn’t have any value.” And that’s why I think… I think that’s the part of the ManyChat success.
John Jantsch: Well, so my first experience with the bot at all was… I don’t even remember the company… But I ordered something and they communicated through Facebook messenger with me about the… When it was going to get there. So really a service kind of a function. And this is a few years ago.
Mike Yan: Yeah.
John Jantsch: How are people using it? You mentioned some of these things, that you can use it for marketing purposes. I also see a lot of really bad uses of it, I mean, that I think are kind of annoying. You know, unfortunately marketers ruin everything. Right? But, what are some great uses of… If you were talking to businesses in different industries, how would you tell them to use messenger bots? Cause I think it’s pretty easy to abuse them too.
Mike Yan: Yeah, it’s true. I think the marketers will abuse any channel that they get their hands on. I think this is a bit of a generalization. I would say bad marketers will abuse any kind of that they get their hands on. If you think about a marketer’s job, and a marketer that has good intention, their job is to understand customer needs, and to match the customer needs with the products that the business has, if there is any match, and to create that value, that transaction where somebody wants something and they get it and they feel empowered and they feel like they’ve achieved, they moved closer to their goal, with the help of the product or service that the business provides. I think it’s all about that communication.
Mike Yan: So when you think about good marketing, it’s based on… It actually follows similar… People think that marketing is this… Like some really esoteric type of discipline that you have to learn, that is really complex. It’s really not. He just wants to be helpful to the people that you’re talking to. You have to figure out what are their needs, and you have to present your products and services in a way that actually speaks to that. And actually given the fact that your products and services can address those. So you should… I think that chat marketing, specifically, creates this… It just becomes a more intimate and personalized channel, where businesses start to understand, that actually it’s more like friends talking to each other. And it’s more… Marketing is much more about understanding what the customers like.
Mike Yan: You’re, for example… Let me give you an example. You’re talking about the best uses of marketing. Usually when people think about the bad use of marketing, they think about spammy deals, for example, things that people don’t want. But actually, turns out, there is a cohort of people that actually really, really want those daily deals.
Mike Yan: So the question is, not about the content itself. The question is always about the match between what the person wants, and what the marketer and what the business does, in terms of their communication. And those people who really, really want one of those deals, they will be actually angry if one day they did not receive their daily deal message.
Mike Yan: So it’s more, much more about segmentation and it’s much more about being smart about who you message, what that message is, what the channel is, what the timing of the channel is. And I think that’s why ManyChat is so powerful, is because we, in comp… Like we started with messenger, but right now, just a few months, like one and a half months ago, we’ve announced that we actually going beyond messenger, we’ve just added SMS. So text marketing. And we also added email, because those are the two of the biggest channels, marketing channels that’s we see in the world right now. And people are… Our users are… A lot of them are using email in this mass marketing, and we under… We saw that it’s actually becoming… It’s actually really hard to merge those systems, and to make sure that they are working together as an orchestra. Like playing their notes at the right time, if you have different platforms.
Mike Yan: So we decided to build a omnichannel platform, that allows you to seamlessly go from one channel to the other. But the fact like… Our origin from messenger allow… Like, we’ve been born into the interactive world. So when we went into, for example, SMS marketing, we instantly were much more capable than even the best of breed solutions. Because the best… When people thought about this mass marketing, usually it’s a one way communication. So you have a message, you send it out. Maybe there is segmentation, maybe there is something that allows you to send us a message at the right time. So maybe there’s some triggers, but that’s like the furthest that you’re going to get. But what about inter activities? How about actually having a conversation with a person, and not only a manual conversation but also an automated conversation? And yeah, that’s something that wasn’t done there before. And then, but the more important part is how do you actually also triangulate between these channels?
Mike Yan: So say for example, you have something to say to your people. You can start with an email. Email is usually noninvasive, because usually people do not check their email at the point of receiving it. People expect that you can check your email, not that often as messenger. Messaging apps and text messaging are much more invasive because people usually respond to those notifications faster. So if it’s an irrelevant notification, then actually, let’s say, it creates more frustration for the customer.
John Jantsch: Yeah. Cause we feel like we have to respond to that.
Mike Yan: Exactly. Exactly. So how do we decrease that? How can we, for example, communicate with people who want to be communicated through email, and communicate with people who want to be communicated with a text messaging, and the ones who want to be communicated with through Facebook messenger, differently? And how do we make it easy for the business to do that?
Mike Yan: And given the fact that there is many more channels that are coming up. So WhatsApp is coming up, Instagram is coming up, iMessage is coming up, Google RCFs and also the cross carrier messaging initiative that’s coming up. It used to be that you could be doing only one channel, only one digital channel, that has direct marketing, which is email.
Mike Yan: And now you’re entering into this world where 2.5 billion people around the world use messaging apps and is the de facto standard, of how people talk to each other. How does a business and SMB thrive in this environment where there is all this complexity? And we believe that our mission is to simplify that by bringing all those channels into one place, and by helping the SMB just by saying, “Hey, you don’t need any other marketing automation platforms or direct marketing platforms. Or all your customers are inside ManyChat, no matter what the channel is. And you can create beautiful orchestrated campaigns, where it actually respects the choice of the channel with a customer, but is easy for the people to not get swamped by messages and also it reduces your costs and increases our line.” So yeah, that’s, that’s how we’re thinking about this.
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John Jantsch: So let’s talk a little bit about the conversational aspect. As you said, a lot of these are automated. We probably all have gone on and the little bubble pops up and says, what do you need today? And you tell it what you need and then you… And hopefully in a very fluid conversation. But I also see a lot of those that don’t end well, that they haven’t been written well, they haven’t been thought out, and it’s… So, where do you strike the balance between this idea of a bot, if you will, and a human being responding.
Mike Yan: So I think it’s up to the business to decide what they want to start with. Some people actually start with a full human agent, and some people start with a full automated solution, and depending on what their task at hand is… So if you’re, for example, if you’re doing lead generation, I would start with an automated solution because lead generation is something very, very repeatable. You can ask the same questions. Basically it’s filling out a form through a chat interface, which is more interactive and more engaging. Like the… Usually the convergence to actually filling out the form go higher, when you use a chat interface. But then when… If you are doing something that has a much more diverse in terms of what the customer intent is, then you can actually go out and start with live chat. And this is a really good point because, for example, what we do, we don’t believe ads in one way or the other.
Mike Yan: Like I think that the best customer experience is created with a mix of automation and human touch. And it has to be because automation is really, really helpful when it works, when it’s responsive, when it actually does what you want it to do, and it gets you to your desired results.
Mike Yan: A human agent is a great addition, when you have a certain question and you want somebody to talk to, that can understand your specific inquiry and can help you out, and for more complex queries or just sometimes you just need a person to talk about the thing that you have at hand. And so I wouldn’t say that there is a specific path that you should take as a business. I think there is… You should look at your task that you’re trying to solve, at your goal, and ask yourself “How is that… Like, what is the best way to solve that?”
Mike Yan: And, and again we are seeing in terms of our customers, we have both solutions on the platform. So we do have the automation part, obviously, and we do also have the live chat part. And we see that from our customers, is that, people usually automate the things that are easily automate able, and then they also go through the live chat, when somebody, for example, for some reason, somebody could fall out of the conversation flow. They started to type something, they ask a question or something. That’s actually, at ManyChat, that will open up a conversation and, as an admin, you’re going to be notified that somebody is outside the automation and you should pay attention or maybe respond to them and bring them back into the flow, or actually continue the flow manually. And so we tried to reduce those costs. We tried to make sure that things that could be automated are automated, but then also give you the option to do human manual responses.
John Jantsch: Well, I think you made a really good point that people need to really, I think, focus on. Automation, when it works, is a beautiful thing. When it doesn’t work, it’s really irritating. And so I think that that’s… I think people need to understand that. Tell me a little bit about AI’s function in this. I mean, are we in a world… Because a lot of the responses are, that are currently available are, it’s almost like a database. I mean they’re built in, pre-written, so they can only respond to a certain thing a certain way. How far are we away from a world where a chat bot for example, can understand the intent of a question, and make its own answers up.
Mike Yan: Yeah. So I don’t think that the chat bots will be able to… So first of all, the chat bot can already understand the intent, that just depends on the technology. So, ManyChat tends to [inaudible] dial workflow. So you could actually use something like Dial-A-Quote from Google, that understands the intent of the person and can be much more flexible in terms of how you set up those automations. So it’s not just like rigid keywords, where “Hey, this is… If this word is mentioned, then reply with this message.” It’s much more if the person’s intent is close to… Like asking about the working hours, then respond with this message. But you’re still responding with a message. What you’re talking… When you’re talking about actually responding with a message that is generated by the AI. So, that’s actually further… So there is already a artificial intelligence model that can generate… Like they can generate a picture, they can generate music, they can generate text.
Mike Yan: So there is already a lot of progress technologically in that. It just doesn’t feel like… There’s not a lot of use case for that, at this point, for types of FAQ questions, or let’s say for types of asking questions about a certain missing information. So for example, if you’re, if you have an AI model that gets reservations. So an AI model is just a really fancy way of saying like, if there’s a type of algorithm to, for example, take reservations, automatically, the person could say, “Hey, I want to book a table for two people.” Like okay, so we know that you need it for two people, but we don’t know the dates. We didn’t know the time. So now we need to ask for the missing info. So you have the intent, you need those two parameters to start asking, “Okay, what’s the date, what’s the time?” And also maybe for some other additional info, like an email or a phone number to reach out to the person.
Mike Yan: So, and for those types of things, you don’t really need a generative model that will actually… You can actually static program those texts. And staying with the FAQ, once we know what question you’re asking, it’s actually… You don’t need a different response every time somebody asks in a different way about the working hours. Are you open today? Are you open right now? You can actually respond with the same message of, Hey, we work from this to this, et cetera, et cetera. So you don’t need to generate that message. But I think in the future, in a few years, there are a lot of cases to make chat bots more natural in terms of what they can be talking about, and to make those conversations more unique, that will also listen to the context of the conversation. And in that regard, yes, those models will be very valuable, and I think it’s a matter of a few years to actually be implemented. So in terms of capturing intent, that’s available right now in terms of generating texts, I think we’re a few years out.
John Jantsch: So if you’re a small business, and I’m sure that a lot of small business owners are hearing a lot about this, and they’re thinking, is this for me? How would you tell somebody who maybe was… Maybe not as digitally savvy, who’s thinking, “How can I try this out?” Where would be the first place that you kind of say, “Hey, here’s a use that just about every business could use?”
Mike Yan: That’s a great question. I was wondering, if we went into this AI wormhole and I’m wondering, are the small businesses even interested in the technological details of this? I think all of this seems very complicated and very techie, et cetera. Like, the simple fact is, that 2.5 billion people are using messaging apps. Everybody is using text messaging. Every b… In the U S for example, 55% of people use iPhones, and iPhones have not only text messaging but also iMessage installs, which is a messaging app. If somebody was wondering what are… What is the difference between those green bubbles and blue bubbles. So, the blue bubble means that you’re sending this over data and not over the carrier. And basically, that’s a messaging app that’s just built into the messages application. And actually, what I’m trying to say is that, all your customers are using messaging apps and most… Probably you’re also using messaging apps when you’re talking to your friends and family, your children, and your colleagues.
Mike Yan: Slack is growing really fast. Microsoft Teams is growing really fast. Those are the two messaging apps for the work force. So, the number one thing that businesses have to realize is, messaging as a form of communication, is here to stay, and it’s growing rapidly. So that’s number one point. And now the question is, “How can my business benefit from adopting messaging apps and chat as the channel of customer communication?” Let’s say, I’ve been using email. Should I be starting to use SMS? Should I start using Facebook messenger? And what is going to be the benefit? And to be honest, for different businesses, it’s going to be a different use case. Most businesses actually, will have to start using messaging apps in the next three to five years, because all the consumers are going to expect that they can actually message the business on any platform.
Mike Yan: Like you know how everybody expects that you have a phone, and you have a website. It seems a bit strange to a lot of people, but it’s actually, for me, it’s not even a hypothesis, it’s a fact. In three to five years, everybody is going to expect every business to be able to text any business. You, as a consumer, you’re going to be pissed off, when a business will not have an option to text them, and to not have a phone conversation, because phone conversations are actually, in terms of their popularity as a customer communication channel, they’re dying. They’re very much declining. And the reason, if you look at the data, I can send over some links of the research, but if you look at the more senior people, their approval, like their preference for voice communication, is 60 something percent. It’s really high.
Mike Yan: But if you look at the people from 18 to 34, their preference for voice is 20%. So it’s three times lower. And the same goes… And the same transition happens for text, but other way around. The text communication for people 65 and older, is 20% preference. But for people… And this one actually covers two age groups, so it’s not from 18 to 35 it’s more… It’s from 18 to 44, and their preference for text communication is 61%.
Mike Yan: So as a person, you want to be able to chat with a business, but that business has to be responsive. That business has to be able to reply fast, automate some of this stuff, manually process the other stuff. And you’ll be doing all of this because you don’t want to live like… You don’t want to be wasting your time being on the line with a business that is scrambling to answer all the phone calls.
John Jantsch: And I think phone support is actually gotten worse too, maybe because of this. But, speaking with Mike Yan, he is the CEO of the messenger marketing platform ManyChat, and you heard it here; Three to five years, you better be in the text game, or you risk the… You run the risk of being obsolete. So Mike, tell people where they can find, and I know you’ve got lots of great resources and education there as well, but tell people where they can find out more about ManyChat.
Mike Yan: Sure. So if you go to ManyChat, M A N Y C H A T.com, you will find we have a free plan. We can start building out your messenger and SMS automations and chats. And we have a great beginner course on YouTube. It’s free for everybody to watch. It walks you through how to build this out, what is it for, et cetera.
Mike Yan: And if you’re somebody who is not like into the whole marketing thing though, that’s back to the question, “Why are you listening to this podcast?” But, maybe you just want to be… Stay on top of the technology stuff. Then we have a bunch of agencies who are really, really good at building out of these types of experiences, and you can also find a partner that will build this out for you. And we have a list of certified experts on the websites and you can talk to them, you can ask them all sorts of questions.
Mike Yan: So I would go to ManyChat, either find a partner or just register for a free account and go through the YouTube course. It’s all free. And once you’re convinced, then you can actually convert to a Pro account, and it’s going to be… We’re very aggressively priced, and because we want to build the most ubiquitous platform on the market, that’s why we start with… Even the Pro plan. We have all this stuff for free, but if you convert to the Pro plan, it’s like $10 a month.
John Jantsch: Awesome. So thanks for stopping by, Mike, and encourage people to check out ManyChat; We’ll have the links in the show notes. So hopefully we’ll catch up with you next time I’m out there on the road.
Mike Yan: Thank you. Thank you.