So, what is a chatbot and how can your business benefit from one? Sit tight! We’re about to unpack everything you need to know.
What is a chatbot?
A chatbot is an automated messaging system or computer program that interacts with your customers on your behalf. Chatbots are integrated into the back end of your website and pop up as a chatbox on the front when a visitor reaches your website.
Welcome to the future!
In 2001, A.I. might have spurred images of a young Haley Joel Osment. Jump forward 18 years and A.I. (artificial intelligence) is at the heart of modern-day advertising and marketing. In marketing, the role of artificial intelligence is to anticipate the customers’ needs and provide the information or resources they need to make a purchase decision.
If you’re trying to get your head around how artificial intelligence is used in marketing today and how you can leverage it in your business, start with understanding and using your own chatbot.
How does it know what to say? Chat
Your chatbot is prepopulated with a series of questions, answers and resources to help your customers through their purchase journey. Think of it like a smarter, more engaging FAQ channel. The prepopulated list of questions and answers is meticulously mapped out and tells your chatbot how to behave or respond when certain actions are taken, or questions are asked.
More advanced chatbots and virtual assistants can be customized to do a lot more than handle customer queries. They can be integrated with booking systems and other communication platforms enabling people to make reservations and purchases.
Chatbots for the hospitality industry (hotels and restaurants)
20 years ago, you might have found Trudy or Kenneth at a desk answering the phone and taking reservations in a dusty old reservation book. In 2019, you’ll find Trudy and Kenneth enjoying the finer things in life while their chatbot takes care of bookings and reservations for them.
Benefits of chatbots for hotels and restaurants
Here’s what you can expect from effectively implementing a chatbot on your hotel or restaurant’s website:
Best chatbots for the hospitality industry
Our recommendations for chatbots in this industry are Trilyo, HiJiffy and LivePerson.
Chatbots for the retail industry
Simplicity makes sales. If retail brands make it easy for their customers to buy from them, they will! Chatbots help retailers make more sales by providing customer support and customized suggestions to shoppers, increasing the chance of a sale.
Benefits of chatbots for the retail industry
In retail, some of the benefits of implementing a chatbot include:
Best chatbots for the retail industry
IBM Watson Assistant, Bold 360 and LivePerson.
Top 3 best chatbots in 2019 and 2020?
There are hundreds of chatbots available to you. Some paid, some free. Some basic, some customizable. Here are our top picks for chatbots in 2019 and 2020.
The thing we love most about LivePerson is that it is suitable for all industries. Text messaging, Google Rich Business Messaging, Apple Business Chat, Line, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Google AdLingo can all be integrated into the chatbot.
Designed for the needs of enterprise brands Inbenta has a simplistic interface and can handle simple demands with a high level of intelligence. The best feature Inbenta has to offer is the ability to detect when the conversation needs a human to step in.
IBM Watson Assistant
Suitable for big brands and businesses, Watson Assistant has been designed by IBM, the leader in A.I. solutions. This chatbot is a lot more advanced and recommended for larger businesses who require more extensive support and chatbot capabilities.
Regardless of your personal views on talking to a robot, customers set the demands and don’t really have a preference when it comes to dealing with a robot or a human, as long as they get what they need*. Your business could very well be a chatbot away from better customer support, happier customers and more sales. So, what have you got to lose?
Now, they prioritize local search over everything else.
What does that mean? In short, it means that creating compelling local content isn’t optional. It’s as necessary as oxygen. You’ve got to show potential customers that you’re part of a community – and that means that you’ve got to think about more than giving out your address.
The Basics of Local Marketing
I’ve already written a lot about local marketing, but I think it’s important to include a summary of how to optimize your website and content for local search. Keep these pointers in mind:
Tips for Creating Local Content
Once your site is optimized for local searches, it’s time to focus on creating local content. That means more than simply putting your local keywords into general content. You’ll need to show casual visitors to your site that you’re a part of a local community.
Here are some pointers to get you started.
What is the Intent of Your Content?
One of the most important things to remember when you’re creating local content is that every blog post or social media update you write should have a clear intention that’s related to your business.
What do I mean by that? Simply that you can’t waste time blogging about things if you don’t understand why you’re writing about them. Sometimes the intent will be clear. You own a hardware store and blogging about predicted winter snowfall might help you sell some shovels and snowblowers, or at least some Ice Melt.
At other times, though, the intention may be a bit harder to pin down. There’s nothing wrong with that but make sure you don’t skip this step. If you’re creative enough, you should be able to find a way to tie any piece of content you create back to your business.
For example, say you want to blog about a local charity event, but you can’t figure out a way to connect it to your business organically. Instead of giving up, you might consider donating a portion of your sales to the charity or collaborating with other local business owners on a fundraising effort.
The key here is to make your local content relevant to your business and to your target audience. You can still share general content, too, but local content is a must if you want your business to grow.
If your free consultation offer isn’t blowing up your calendar, there are things you can do to get it on track.
Why Offer a Free Consultation?
Why offer a free consultation at all? The short answer is that if you are someone who’s an expert in your field, time spent talking to you is valuable. People will want to take you up on your offer.
Some business are naturals for the free consultation offer. I’m talking about:
The main reason to offer a free consultation is that it gives you an opportunity to connect one-on-one with your prospects. You’ll have the chance to build a personal connection and demonstrate what you can do to help them.
What Should Your Offer Look Like?
Let’s start with what your free consultation offer should look like. One of the biggest mistakes I see business owners make is not defining what their free consultation is. Here are some examples:
Should the Consultation Be Your Only Lead Magnet?
The next thing to consider is if your free consultation should be your only lead magnet. You might be thinking that since it’s the most valuable thing you have to offer, it should be enough to capture every lead. But think again.
A consultation requires personal contact and a big mental commitment to you and your business. Some of the prospects who visit your site may not be ready for that kind of commitment. They may need to be romanced a little bit, first.
I suggest offering tiers of lead magnets. For example, you might offer:
Build Your Authority
There’s a scene in The Princess Bride where Westley explains the theory behind taking the name of the Dread Pirate Roberts. As he puts it, “Nobody would surrender to the Dread Pirate Westley.”
My question for you is this: Are you as well-known as the Dread Pirate Roberts or are you more of a Westley?
If you’re a Westley, then you’ve got to work to increase your authority and name recognition to make your free consultation offer something that people will respond to. You can do that by:
Structure Your Consultations
Let’s say you’ve got people signing up for your free consultations. That’s great news – but it’ll only help you if you make the consultation worthwhile for them. Here are some pointers.
I truly believe that offering a free consultation is one of the best ways to attract new clients – if you do it right. The information here will help you to avoid mistakes and convert like crazy!
The numbers don’t lie. Here’s what we know about automation:
#1: Marketing Emails
This one’s obvious, but I’m always shocked at how many small businesses don’t have an active email list. Since one of the biggest excuses business owners make is a lack of time – and believe me, I get it – there’s no excuse not to embrace email automation.
The beauty of email automation is that it’s truly a “set it and forget it” proposition when it comes to new subscribers. Unless you make major changes in your business, your introductory email sequence will work for years. And adding new emails is a snap.
#2: Lead Nurturing
Lead nurturing only works if it’s consistent. You can easily use automation to streamline your lead nurturing process and ensure that nobody falls through the cracks.
For example, automation can:
#3: Repeat Sales
If you have customers who order from you regularly, it’s essential to stay on top of those orders and send reminders as needed. One of the beauties of automation is that you can use it to set reminders and send your clients prompts to place their regular order.
Automation can also be useful for other parts of repeat sales, including creating invoices and sending collection reminders. These things will ensure that you most loyal customers know you care about them and value their business.
On a related note, you can use automation to remind customers when they abandon items in their shopping cart.
#4: Client Appreciation
Once you attract a new client, it’s important to let them know that you value their business. But as you know, it’s all too easy to get distracted in the course of a busy day and forget to touch base with your existing clients.
With automation, you can create a welcome series of emails to ensure that new clients feel appreciated and valued. You can also set reminders to follow up regularly, thus minimizing the risk of losing a client because they think you’ve forgotten about them. You can even use automation to remind you of clients’ birthdays, so you can send them a card or email wishing them a happy birthday.
#5: Customer Support
We live in a service economy and that means that customer service is hugely important when it comes to attracting and retaining customers. Automation can help you do the best possible job of serving your customers and giving them what they need.
For example, setting up a customer service chatbot is easier than ever before. Chatbots can handle simple customer service requests such as password resets and address changes. They can also, if programmed properly, make product suggestions and redirect customers to self-service options when it’s appropriate.
Scheduling (and remembering) appointments can be a real hassle when you’re busy – and most business owners are! Automation can help you by automatically adding events and appointments to your calendar. Then, it can send you reminders before your appointments.
The same is true of appointments with clients. You can use automation to schedule the meeting and then, use it before the meeting to confirm the appointment and minimize the chances that anybody will forget to show up.
#7: Collect Customer Data
Collecting information about your customers can help you do a variety of important things, including:
#8: Build a Referral Database
Referral business is valuable because the leads you get from referrals are likely to be highly targeted and relevant to your business. It’s a must to build a referral database that allows you to track your referral sources and make good on any incentives you’re offering to encourage referrals.
For example, you can assign referral codes for online referrals and track them as you receive calls or emails. Then, you can use automation to thank your referral sources and in your lead nurturing as well. You can also automate the referral process by making it simple for your existing clients or local business partners to direct potential customers to your website.
Automation is here to stay – there’s no question about that. The question is what will you do with it? While there are many potential answers, I think the 8 suggestions here are the best ways to use automation to your advantage, attract new clients, and make your business both efficient and profitable.