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John: The bots are coming and they will take no prisoners. Today we’re going to talk about chat bots with Ben Beck on this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is a topic you need to tune in for.
This episode of the Duct Tape marketing podcast is brought to you by Active Campaign. This is really my new go-to CRM, ESP, marketing automation, really low cost. Any size business can get into it, starting at like $19 a month, you can keep track of your clients, you can see who is visiting your websites, you can follow-up based on behaviour. Check out active campaign, there will be a link in the show notes but it’s ducttape.me/dtmactive.
Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, this is John [00:01:06] and my guest today is Ben Beck. He’s an entrepreneur, marketing consultant and author of the weekly [00:01:12] monthly column on the clear voice blog. We’re going to talk about a topic that is trending, maybe it’s past trending in some circles but maybe you’ve never heard of it. We’re going to talk about chat bots, you’ve certainly interacted with one I would suggest, maybe you didn’t know you did but we’re going to talk about it because I think it’s going to be something we are going to see, it’s going to become a part of our lives, certainly in marketing and technology. So Ben, thanks for joining me.
Ben: Yeah you’re welcome. I like that you said chat bots are trending, I was writing an article the other day and included just a screenshot from Google Trends about chat bots and there’s just this huge spike in early 2015 that just keeps going.
John: Yeah you’re starting to see the internet marketers that are creating courses on how to do chat bots for lead generation, so that’s usually a sign that something is on its way up. So let’s start, I actually found you a blog post that you wrote about chat bots and that’s really what I was — myself I was thinking what I wanted — I needed to learn more about this, I want to get my audience [00:02:18] about this and boom there was your article, so that’s why we’re talking today. But what is a chat bot in the simplest terms tell us what it is even?
Ben: Yeah so a chat bot is generally an artificially intelligent driven computer conversation that can happen through a number of ways, the most popular ways is Facebook Messenger but you’ve also got chat bots that are working inside of Slack or via text message.
John: In Skype, there’s Skype bots.
Ben: Yeah. These chat bots they’re generally question based, you go in and ask a question and it gives you an answer and they’re trying to make them conversational, trying to really make it feel like you’re talking to a human and that’s one area chat bots kind of fall short still is making it seem like it’s a full human interaction. But they do have a lot of other valuable uses and like you said, there’s a lot of people starting to use them for internet marketing.
John: Yeah because the A.I part is still pretty simple right? I mean it’s like oh if I hear this word I think you’re after this. But again, it’s like a lot of these things right? Garbage in, garbage out, they’re only as good as what you write from a script point aren’t they?
Ben: Exactly and there’s you know the scripting can be really tough because you’ve got to think of all the different questions people might be asking and you put in a question and then your potential answer can come up and you can make it a little more human like and say hey, sometimes I want to give this answer and sometimes I want to give this answer and we can dynamically insert a keyword, maybe we know what their name is already from earlier in the chat and so we’re going to insert their name there. So there’s things you can do to make it more conversational, but yes, like you said the A.I is — it’s still rather simple and thus it’s hard to make it seem like a human.
John: Well I think one of the challenges for a lot of organizations also is they jump on this kind of social media when it first came out, you know brands were like we have to be in it but they didn’t know how to be in it really and I think that bots will be the same way, it’s like all of a sudden wait, we lost our brand voice and you know — I love some of these bots that I interact with and they’re kind of sassy you know, they clearly like — somebody has gone through and said no, this is our tone this is how we talk but then I’ve also seen others that you know, all it is is an advanced version of an auto responder basically.
Ben: Yeah and you know I think any company that’s going to do a chat bot, they need to have their culture, whether it’s sass or humour or whatever it is they’re inserting into that chat bot, it needs to be there because it’s you know — it’s so new it’s like wow I’m chatting with a bot and I can’t believe this company has one. And so you’ve got to make sure it’s a very positive interaction and a lot of that can be done with you know — hey I’m a surfer dude, I’ve got a [00:05:11] I’m building a chat bot for and they run promo beach resort it’s a family fun centre and it’s got kind of a beach/surfer type theme, and so the chat bot we’re building for them is based around David Hasselhoff and he’s got lots of fun surfer lingo that he throws in there. So that’s a way we’re really trying to connect to their brand, to the bot to make sure it’s congruent and just a good interaction.
John: I think there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity in that. So you just described one use for it but talk about some of things you’ve seen. What are some of the categories of ways you’re seeing businesses use these?
Ben: Yeah great question. There’s a lot of companies out there in the retail space that are starting to jump on board and one way — I believe it’s American Eagle that are doing this, after you’ve completed your purchase they’ve got a little module on the thank you page that says hey, do you want to be [00:06:09] of updates on your order and it’s got a little connect to Facebook button and you click that and it actually authorizes their Facebook Messenger chat bot to be able to give you updates and it’s worked really well for them because they’re — as soon as the order has processed they give you an update through Facebook messenger and as soon as the order has shipped they give you that update and it’s actually a conversational bot so the person can send a question back and it will give them an answer. And one way they’ve really leveraged that for marketing is a few weeks after you receive your order the chat bot reaches out again proactively and says hey, just want to see how you like those pants you know, do they fit well? And from there the chat bot can then send them to leave a review or it can even show other products that they might be interested in buying. In the retail space it’s been good to kind of manage the order side of things and I’ve seen other companies use them for lead gen. So for example you go on and you’ve got some real estate questions, you can start asking this bot real estate questions and after it has answered a couple of questions and maybe you say how do I know if I can sell my house by myself or I need to use an agent? And the chat bot responds and says hey that’s a great question, how about I give you a guide that can help you determine that? And they it clicks their email address and their name, and it sends the guide off to them and you’ve got a lead in the system for the real estate company that built that chat bot. There’s lots of ways you can use it.
John: So let’s throw a little cold water on this which I hate doing right in the middle because I’m kind of pumped about this and so I want people to explore this and learn about it but at what point — right now we’re in this kind of “Oh look, I got an email.” You know, you may not be — you may not be old enough to remember that back when people were like, “Oh cool I got an email!” Now of course we’re just like [00:08:12] with it and so at what point do people start saying yeah this is really cool I can interact with this thing and then they open up Facebook and they have 737 messages and it just becomes another email.
Ben: Yeah that’s a great question. I think you’re probably going to see that and I hate to say it, but it works that way with anything, the emails, our phones are dinging all day long and you see the notifications coming up and it just becomes noise. I think we’re going to see that with chat bots again too but thankfully I think we’ve got five, six maybe 10 years of runway before it gets to that point just because the chat bots right now to be able to interact with you, you have to create an interaction with them first. I think that Facebook, and [00:09:01] Skype, whoever it is, whatever platform it is, they’re going to be really good at maintaining that acceptance of privacy. So I don’t think you’ll have any proactive chat bots going out, I can’t see Facebook doing that.
John: I don’t think you’re giving the spammers enough credit Ben.
Ben: I hope not!
John: Alright so the original post I referenced actually said something like build a chat bot in 10 minutes. Can a truly effective chat bot really be that easy?
Ben: You know so depending on what you want to do. The 10 minute claim, that’s how long it takes to build one that’s super basic and [00:09:41] and there’s a tool called chat fuel and they only integrate with Facebook Messenger but that would be a really basic bot such as something — potential visitor of your — if you have a local business and a potential visitor and says what time do you open, it can give hours, it can give directions, it can give some basic product information maybe show them a menu, that kind of bot you could easily build in 10 minutes if you’ve done it before. But you know the [00:10:10] example I threw out there, I’m working with them we’ve jumped into their Google Analytics, we’re making sure that the bot is very robust, answers the kinds of questions that they want to and even though they are a local business I’m going to put anywhere from five to 10 hours into that chat bot for them.
John: Yeah. So let’s go with — I’ll use a very kind of down to earth example, someone you might not think of and there’s a lot of businesses that like duh, they need to have a chat bot because that’s just technology and that’s how people want to interact with them but let’s say a remodelling contractor that would put together — maybe they would traditionally put together a sort of questionnaire about somebody’s style and taste and based on those answer they’d kind of say, “Oh, here’s the information you might want to interact with.” Could you see designing something like that in a chat bot where somebody’s — based on their responses you would funnel them into a whole sort of path of information?
Ben: Absolutely that’s a perfect example John. So let’s say you’re doing a new build construction, you’re working with a general contractor, you’re choosing things, he’s got a big questionnaire that he’s had people filling out up-to-date or to date he’s been having [00:11:21] filling out just a paper form. What if there is a chat bot? And you could go in and start a dialogue with this chat bot and it says what kind of home are you looking for? And you put in rambler versus two-story versus town home, and then it gives you different styles, you can have Tudor style you can have more farm house style, you can choose the exterior style and the way you’re choosing this is it simply shows you a picture, it shows you a couple of pictures side-by-side like you’ve seen in the Facebook ads where it’s a carousel of images, you can do those carousels in a chat bot and they simply click an image and based on what they’ve selected you can have logic in the chat bot that’s really simply to build and it takes them to the next image where they select and you can add specific tiles they want on the floor or specific cuts of granite that they’d like and you can do that all through a chat bot and it would be in my opinion, I think it would be a lot more enjoyable and easy to do versus using a paper form.
John: So I’m sure you’ve run across this, I have seen examples of it and I haven’t necessarily interacted with this but are there ways that this can go horribly wrong for somebody that sets up a chat bot and they think they have some A.I in there and based on a response it gives a total inappropriate answer?
Ben: Absolutely. So just a few weeks ago when Microsoft — they had just released one of their chat bots — I don’t remember the name of the chat bot they released but within hours it had been hacked so it was saying vulgar and inappropriate and racist things. And so they had to pull it down and they rereleased it a couple of days later, they released a new bot with a new name where they think they’ve plugged those holes, but that can happen and that’s why — unless you are Microsoft or a big company with a lot of budget, I would recommend you don’t try to make it sound like it’s a human you know, make it clear up-front that it’s a great experience but they’re still chatting with an automated assistant, let them know up-front so if the A.I does fall through which it’s likely going to unless you have a really big budget for this, you don’t look bad.
John: So how much programming really goes into it? Is the toolset out there now where it’s kind of drag and drop? Or do you have to have some programming knowledge or ability?
Ben: Yeah so I — my background was in development, my undergrad major was. But I have been able to launch these things without touching code and there’s two platforms I recommend for that. The first one is Chatfuel and I’ve already mentioned they’re a Facebook Messenger only platform, that one is completely drag and drop. Very simple, if you’re a small business or if you have a local business presence you’re trying to build a chat bot for I recommend that. There’s another one called API.AI and that one too that’s just click and drag, very simple. But they do have an API element to it so if you do want — if you’ve got your own database and you want to hitch your database and dynamically look up information and serve that information to the chat bot then you want to go with a tool like that and you could have your developer do part of that and have your marketing guy or your operations guy build the rest out.
John: So where do you think this fits today I mean we already talked about the potential for it getting noisy but right now I mean should everybody be at least considering this as part of their online marketing strategy?
Ben: Absolutely yeah I think they should at least consider it, talk about it. My main employer is called [00:14:50] and they do software for [00:14:51] and in the [00:14:54] space it’s a very sophisticated space, long sell cycle, they are some of the least likely individuals to potentially use a chat bot inside of Facebook, that’s kind of what we’ve seen. We don’t use emojis in our marketing messages we’re very clean in what we do. However we’ve even talked about launching a chat bot that [00:15:13] administrators at universities could use to go in and ask questions about filing pre-award content with [00:15:20] and how do I do this. So we’ve talked about using a chat bot and we haven’t gone there yet because it’s going to be a very robust chat bot and we’re going to need a dedicate some real resources to build it, but even in that instance I think it will — it would be beneficial for our company.
John: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast is brought to your by Thriveleads. This is a tool that we use on the Duct Tape Marketing website thoroughly for content updates, for slide in boxes. Actually we even use the visual editor for all the pages and landing pages that we design so go check it out at ducttapemarketing.com we’ll have a special line in the show notes for today and check it out.
So let’s talk about lead generation. People get — no matter — customer service that’s great, engaging with clients that’s great you know but nothing gets people excited — more excited about some technology than the fact they might actually close more details or generate more leads. What are you seeing people do in that category?
Ben: I actually haven’t seen a lot done there and I think it’s a blue ocean space you can really expand into it. Most of the companies that are doing chat bots are more customer service focused. Uber has one, [00:16:38] has some really robust ones. I haven’t seen a lot of people doing it for lead gen so I think there’s a lot of potential there.
John: I mean even if that lead — it might not be that it’s going to — I mean unfortunately I do see some people talking about building lists on Facebook so you can go back and send direct messages to those people that have subscribed through that path. But to me I see it as such a great sorting type of thing, for example, if I’m going to work — you know I’m a marketing consultant and if I’m going to work with somebody or try to understand their business or try to understand what course or solution or even set of training I might give them knowing they’re a B2B business that they mostly want local clients, I mean there’s a handful of six or eight questions which would allow me to actually kind of go, “Oh okay here’s your curriculum.” And I think that — so you might not look at that as strictly lead generation but I think it’s a way to really personalize a lead generation experience.
Ben: No that’s a great point John. So you’ve probably heard of [00:17:47] right? Remarketing yeah in the [00:17:51] advertising space if you can find out — like you mentioned, this person fits a specific segment, maybe they live in this geography and they are B2B and less than 40 employees. So they fit into a specific segment, you could use something like [00:18:05] to advertise an upcoming webinar that’s customized just for that segment. Then you can do other things. So the conversations that are being captured in a chat bot, you can type that back up to your marketing automation sweet, whether it’s Hubspot or [00:18:19] or [00:18:20] whatever it is and you can categorize people into different buckets for further outreach, in that regards there’s a lot of strength there.
John: What are some of the — if somebody’s thinking this is great I need to build one. What do they have to do first right? Because I know people listening here are going to sign on and create an account with Chatfuel right now, but what are some things they need to be doing before you know as far as on the wall or on the whiteboard you know what do they need to do from a planning standpoint before they just start creating this thing?
Ben: One of the most important things is that you understand what your buying persona is and not just your general persona but you need to know who your [00:19:03] group is, who really is exciting about using your product and then try to build a chat bot that speaks to that love group but in a way that you can win a swing group so the swing group are the people on the fence, not quite sure what to — what to think of your company. If you put your love group messaging in front of that swing group you can usually get them across. And some ways I’ve found that you can figure out who your persona is, there’s tools out there like Google Analytics, you can pull up Google analytics and it will give you demographic profile information on people that are hitting your site and that’s useful.
John: Or even hitting a specific page on your site.
Ben: yeah. Exactly. Yeah and so you can build out some good customer profiles there. So yeah, you’ve got Google Analytics you can take a look at your Google Analytics information and one thing I would really recommend doing, there’s — Google Analytics has a click map where you can pull up the overlay and it will show you what people are clicking on on your homepage, on internal pages and that will give you a good idea of what questions people have when they come to your website so where are they going and you can use that to kind of build out your first base of questions. And then another big step that I’ve seen chat bot builders doing to further build out there kind of their artificial intelligence, what questions are going to be answered is they’ll go to websites like Quora and they’ll just search for whatever their topic is. And they’ll go through Quora and see which questions have the most answers and which questions tend to be trending and they’ll build all of that into their chat bot logic as well so you need to get a good idea of first your persona and then second what questions they’ll be asking.
John: Yeah and maybe if you’ve developed — taken the time to develop useful FAQ’s section or just looking at all the questions that you tend to answer in your sent email all the time I think is — those are a couple of great places to — you’re essentially delivering the same information but just in a different format sometimes aren’t you?
Ben: Yeah and FAQ’s are great to go to and if you have employees, go to your front line employees and interview them and say hey what questions are you getting? Another valuable thing that we’ve found from talking to front line employees is you can ask them what kind of inside jokes or jokes they’ve had with customers and can use that to build humour into your bot so no matter what business you’re in, there’s generally industry specific jokes or industry specific lingo that you want to make sure you’ve got in your chat bot.
John: So you have mentioned building some of these for clients, is that something you’re actively pursuing as additional business?
Ben: It is yes so I — my consulting really focuses on the [00:21:51] space and it’s up until three or four months ago it’s been focused mainly on marketing automation. But over the last couple of months I’ve been writing these articles on chat bots and getting a lot of people reaching out to me for consulting opportunities so I’m doing chat bot development now.
John: And where could somebody find Ben Beck the chat bot builder?
Ben: The best place to find me so hit me up on Twitter, my Twitter handle is [00:22:19] Ben or you can just drop me an email [email protected] so as [email protected]
John: Awesome is that URL yours or is that a…?
Ben: It is. A buddy I went to college with, we’ve done a lot of business on the side together so roi.me is our own little brand, ROI business solutions is what it’s short for.
John: If nothing works out for you I bet you can sell that URL.
Ben: I know we probably could.
John: So Ben thanks so much for joining us and again this is one of those topics that if this is just the start of your education, go out there and do some research on it and hopefully we’ve given you some resources and tips, so Ben, thanks so much for joining us and I don’t know I may make it through Salt Lake City sometime this Summer on my way to a national park or something.
Ben: Nice. If you do give me a call and I’ll take you out for lunch or dinner.
John: Park city, we’ll do some skiing or —
Ben: There we go.
John: Or we’ll get on bikes and ride down in the Summer, have you done that?
Ben: Yeah that would be nice, it’s very easy when the lifts take you up and then you ride down.
John: I hiked up that one and we had all these crazy maniacs riding by us so I know exactly what you’re talking about. Alright thanks Ben, take care.
Ben: Thanks John. Bye now.