Are Chatbots the Next Big Thing in Lead Generation?
“Geeks want machines that do things without asking. But what makes good AI is good communication with the user,” Fred Brown, Founder and CEO of Next IT
The search for the next innovation in lead generation is an epic ongoing quest. Businesses will try just about anything to find their next customer. Which has recently led marketers to ask the next inevitable question, “Can chatbots get me leads?”
The answer, it appears, is a resounding maybe.
Chatbots were created to build connections with your prospects in the most efficient way possible. Now that chatbots have proven their worth, businesses have been presented with endless opportunities to explore and improve their customers’ experiences.
Here’s an explanation of the different types of chatbots and what their functions are:
Chat as Chatbots
These programs tend to be less focused on business functions and more on entertainment. They generate responses based on relevance to a user’s input text. A great example of this would be Microsoft’s Tay, which was created to communicate with an audience of 18 to 24-year-olds. Though Tay received significant engagement upon launch, it was quickly pulled after spouting offensive remarks.
Triggered Task Chatbots
These are essentially keyword response systems. You see them commonly in apps like WeChat, where users can interact directly with the chatbot interface to do things like order food, buy movie tickets, or hail a taxi. These chatbots are simply another way to push the “order” button.
Interactive Information Access Chatbots
In the same way as Facebook Messenger bots, interactive information access chatbots serve as a tool to share your brand’s content. They are more conversational in their communications with users. The goal of this bot is to provide a relevant answer to a customer’s potential questions in the most “human” way possible.
Complex Task Interaction Chatbots
Slackbot and Apple’s Siri are examples of complex task interaction type chatbots that combine search, triggered task models, and chat as a chatbot type. The difference between these and triggered task chatbots is that they have the knowledge of tasks, the information needed to perform them, and the ability to track information that you’ve already provided to them to create a more dynamic conversation.
While Apple’s Siri can be seen as a triggered task model chatbot, it also follows the design of a search type bot as it uses search engines information to support conversations. Search chatbots base their tasks and responses on an assigned set of keywords. These keywords are tagged by your bot as the specific task it needs to accomplish. Search bots only support limited interaction because they tend to “forget” what they just told you as soon as the response is provided.
Now that you know the types of chatbots, there’s still an important question that needs to be answered: “Will these chatbots get me more leads?” The answer depends on how well you can maximize their capabilities and support their limitations.
How Chatbots Can Help With Lead Generation
Think about your primary digital lead generation channels for a second (i.e., website, blog, content offers, subscriptions, etc.). These are all predominantly one-way communication channels that don’t allow for user interaction. Wouldn’t it be better to create conversations rather than simply broadcasting messages?
That’s the beauty of chatbots. They facilitate two-way communication without the need for a real person to be present (or at least until something goes wrong). This means your brand’s conversations can now be scaled more effectively without losing that personalized touch.
Because leads are easier to convert when they’re followed up with quickly, the speedy nature of chatbot responses are hugely beneficial for lead generation. It lessens the amount of time spent on individual prospects, which maximizes your time saved.
Chatbots also have the ability to classify prospects according to how likely they are to become leads, so you have a good idea who you should be focusing your attention on.
There’s no doubt that customer data helps businesses make informed decisions. It improves your knowledge about your customers, which helps you understand how to approach prospects in the future. With the ability that chatbots have to classify customer information according to their responses, you’ll be able to gather more accurate data, so your future communications with that customer are more contextually relevant.
24/7 Content Sharing
Your bots don’t just work between 9am and 5pm on weekdays; they operate all the time. This means that customers and prospects don’t have to wait until working hours start to get responses from your brand, which is especially valuable if they’re located in a different time zone.
This ties directly into the point about swift action. If your brand can follow up promptly to any request no matter when it comes in, you’ll be sure to reduce wait times and improve your chances of conversion.
Having a database for everything helps your business maximize time saved since all sessions are documented, which then make follow ups a breeze. This aids your lead generation efforts as it simplifies the process of qualifying leads and handing them over to the sales team. Not is the process more efficient, but also, potentially, more effective for sales conversions.
One of the main goals of chatbots is to improve efficiency in your business, but it doesn’t mean you won’t experience hiccups once in awhile. Your business should be aware of these obstacles to prepare the necessary contingencies.
Limitations of Chatbots
At times your chatbot may encounter instances where it won’t pick up on the language of your customer. Occasionally, individuals use terms and keywords that may imply things your chatbot knows about, but in a way that your chatbot isn’t used to.
For example, you’re selling SEO services. A customer who isn’t well-versed might refer to it as better Google rankings. Your chatbot should know that SEO and better Google rankings are the same in this particular context. To counter the potential language barrier, take note of common words used by your target market and familiarize your bot with as many as possible, or use natural language processing.
Many people are still not accustomed to chatbots. Your customers might even view them as spam. That’s why you should learn how to maximize the potential of chatbots without abusing them. Your chatbot should primarily help users accomplish a specific task (submit an inquiry, find content, get responses to questions, etc.). They shouldn’t be seen as promotional tools for your brand or product.
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Chatbots have only recently gained recognition. They’re still relatively new and glitches will most likely pop up from time to time and may inconvenience your customers. However, these glitches can be seen as opportunities to improve your chatbot and the overall customer experience.
As organizations continue to explore various B2B marketing solutions, chatbots will undoubtedly become the norm when it comes to effective online communications. They’re cheaper, quicker, and more scalable than their human counterparts (customer support representatives). But don’t look at them as replacements, consider them as tools to complement your current (human) processes.
Modern customers now expect more from brands than ever before. When used effectively, chatbots can bridge the gap between customer expectations and the actual service provided, making them an extremely valuable tool for businesses in virtually any industry.
Chatbots are just one of the new technologies sweeping across the B2B marketing landscape. Download our FREE whitepaper for 50 more actionable ideas to improve lead generation!