Bots in Marketing

Featuring conversational marketing manager, Connor Cirillo, and conversational marketing strategist, Brian Bagdasarian.

 
 
  • - Hey there, and welcome to today's master class on bots in marketing. Today's class is presented by HubSpot Academy, HubSpot's official learning resource and worldwide leader in inbound marketing and sales education. Head to hubspot.com or academy.hubspot.com to take advantage of our brand-new learning format lessons, as well as free certification courses and tools to grow your business and career. I'm Jorie Monroe. I'm an inbound professor at HubSpot Academy, and I teach conversion rate optimization and analytics. For those of you that don't know, today I'm joined by two men that have bots on the mind. First we have Connor Cirillo, who's a conversational marketer on HubSpot's marketing team, working on our bot strategy and how it supports HubSpot's marketing, sales, and services organizations. We also have Brian Bagdasarian, who comes to HubSpot through our acquisition of Motion AI, where he continues to play an integral role in evangelizing this amazing new technology, and not just how marketers can use it, but how to use it as part of the inbound growth strategy. So during this master class, we'll be answering your questions as well, so feel free to comment on this Facebook video or tweet us at HubSpot master class and I'll get to as many questions as I can. So to start us off on kind of a strong foundation, I have to ask you guys, how do you define a bot? And let's start with Brian.

    - Okay. That's a great first question. A chatbot, which is what we're talking about here today, is an automated system that is able to have and replicate conversations with live people across a variety of different messaging channels. It can be via something like Facebook Messenger, it can be via SMS, web chat, and other ones which we'll get into. But I see bots as, really, they're conversational agents that are there in place of where a live person might normally be.

    - That makes a lot of sense. What about you, Connor? How do you define a chatbot?

    - Yeah, so I largely agree with what Brian said. It really is just about a program that can simulate that conversation. How can we make it feel like a person's there and still give all that great experience of what the benefits are when there is real people there? But with chatbots, it becomes easier on businesses and we can find the experience, as we'll get to, for users, it can be even better when you're able to automate things tastefully. So it really is just that system that can really automate part of a conversation.

    - So it's sort of like bots have been around for a while. I'm pretty sure there were some even as far back as AIM, if you guys remember. So what's changed, really? Why is this only becoming a thing in marketing now, it feels like?

    - I mean, I'll take that one first, I guess. Chatbots have been around as long as there has been any sort of automation. A really early version of a chatbot was the old phone trees, of press one if you want to speak to this and press two. And that evolved over time. What's happened now with chatbots as we see them online is Motion AI was one of them, and there's a bunch of other great ones out there as well. We created platforms that allowed a normal person, a marketer, a salesperson, a non-tech person, to be able to create models of these conversations and then implement them in just a few clicks. And as we are now doing that here at HubSpot, it's opened up this otherwise very in-depth technology to people that really need to be using it and should be using it and wanna be using it.

    - And Connor, what about you? From your experience as a marketing manager, why is this a technology that's taking off now?

    - Well, what's really cool, as Brian said, this kind of stuff has been around. The want to automate things and create better experiences, that's been there as long as we've had this whole internet thing. But what's super cool is in the past two or three years, the technology to really automate this stuff has become much easier for marketers to access and for small businesses to really start getting their hands on. It used to be you needed to be an absolute wizard to do this stuff, and now it's as simple as building a website, writing an e-mail, all the other marketing things that small businesses now are able to do. The ability to do this bot stuff has become that easy, and the technology has become better at a lower cost. We are really just seeing this big paradigm shift of the costs coming down to do this, the barriers coming down. What's also really cool is we see the rise of messaging. The way that we talk to our friends and family is through messaging. It's not about e-mailing each other anymore, but we use social media and we then message each other to build those relationships. That's what marketers and businesses in general, that's the end goal, is you want to build real relationships with customers. This concept of bots actually just lets you do that more and it matches the way people are already talking.

    - Yeah, and that's definitely something that we hear about a lot more. There's this conversational vocabulary that keeps popping up. Brian, can you speak to that a little bit more?

    - Yeah. There's something that we were talking about yesterday about this, and if you think about going back to when people first started communicating with each other, that was on a one-to-one basis. Some of the earliest messaging out there, there's an example I like to use. The guy that the marathon was named after, he ran 26 miles to deliver a message and then he died. So obviously it was a very one-sided conversation. But the point is we went from one-to-one relationships, all of the technology, all of the other means of communicating, these other channels that are out there, what they did is they were put in place because time became the dominant restraint. You didn't have enough time to communicate on that one-to-one relationship. Well, what's happened is now with chatbots and messaging itself, what we're able to do is return back to that purity, to that establishment and maintenance of a one-to-one relationship. Everybody wants to feel like they matter. Everyone wants to have a personal experience, a personal relationship with the brands and companies they love and trust, and messaging and chatbots is what is allowing that to now come back, come and happen, and that's why we're here.

    - Right, and Connor, I hear word on the street is that you compare chatbots to coffee baristas. What's that all about?

    - When I'm talking to a lot of small businesses, they go, "Great, this is so cool. "I love it, I can build better relationships "that matter more to my users. "Awesome." But it still feels very abstract, and so the way I like to ground it is through thinking about going to order a cup of coffee. When you walk into a Starbucks or Dunkin', I'm a Dunkin` guy myself, they say, "What would you like? "How can I help you?" And you'll make your order and there might be a little dialogue back and forth. Maybe they need some more information, but I just find that's such a great way to understand, look, we have conversations every day. We talk to people every day of our lives, and I think the coffee barista is a great example of, there's a lot that goes on inside that conversation that, when you really break it down, matters. So with chatbots you would talk back and forth with the user. You'd get information, you'd use that information to personalize it, and it's the same way that it would be with a barista. I'd order my coffee, they would understand the flavor I want. Conversations aren't new. It's just that the way that they're taking place and the things that we're doing with them really just has opened up a new whole world.

    - Definitely. So it sounds like a little bit like there's a lead generation play there, but Brian, I hear that you, on the other hand, kind of compare bots to bartenders.

    - I do.

    - So what's that?

    - Okay, so to start with, I totally agree from the establishment of that transactional thing, because that's a big part of what this is all about. This is about conversational data collection. But when you start to talk about bartenders, if you think about the best bar that you've ever been into, I don't mean the nicest, I don't mean the fanciest, I just mean the one that made you feel like, wow, this is really comfortable. What probably happened was, when you walked in, that bartender, who, if you think about it, you really probably talked to similar to how you talk to Siri or Alexa, you just made your order, did your thing. But what they did is they made you, for that moment, feel like you belonged, feel like you had a relationship with them. They were friendly, they were inviting. They were literally the personification of that establishment's brand. And that's why you went back the next time. The fact is, that bartender probably has no idea who you are, but for those few minutes, he made it feel like he did. And that's where with a conversational growth strategy and with your chatbots and as you start to figure out what is the persona or the personality of my bot, you start to look at, well, with inbound, we create these personas and we market to them. Well, now we have the ability to start to figure out what kind of persona do they respond to. And we're able to do that. So a bartender, we don't talk to them any differently than we do Alexa or Siri, often. But at the same time, we take away a personal experience that really has value.

    - Okay, so we got some themes of lead nurturing there a little bit more. So it sounds like bots are this exciting new opportunity, but really, before people dive into implementing a bot on their website, for example, what are some things that they might want to consider? And let's start with you, Connor.

    - The first thing that people should do is just think. A chatbot should really be good at doing a few things. You should focus on making it really, do fewer things better, is the way I like to say it. So I tell teams to think, step back, and breathe. Look at all the things you're doing in your business on a marketing side, the way that you're acquiring users, the way you're nurturing them. The way you're putting them in touch with sales. And just really make sure you understand all the different things that your marketing and sales organizations are doing. And then it's thinking about, okay, well, if I could have a one-to-one conversation, if I could put all my real people in front of them and talk to my users face-to-face, what would become a better experience if we could do that? And from doing that exercise, and you can whiteboard it out with your team, you can sit down yourself, you'll start to understand, oh, wow. These are specific functions and these are some of maybe the few things we should start to think about. There's also a planning side of it, too. Once you say, great, lead generation's a thing that we know is gonna be a better experience through a conversation, you start to plan it out and understand, to Brian's point, what persona will people respond to. If you understand who your users are, and you should, and we have a lot of ways to figure that out, well, what comes next in understanding what things they might look to do? You keep in mind the goal that they're trying to accomplish, the place that they're trying to do it. You keep all that context in mind, and you'll start to have a really good plan for how to make a very delightful experience. And then the third part is starting to actually build the stuff, but as we'll get to later, similar to the growth-driven design certification, building bots and conversational marketing is a very iterative process. The way that when I talk to someone and then I have that conversation with them a second time or a different person, you take away different things and you change maybe the angle that you take just a little bit. This is much the same way. What's cool with bots is once you're having these conversations and hearing what users say, it's all about really looking at what people wanna hear. Do people get confused? Do they wanna do different things that maybe you do or don't support? It's really about thinking first and spending, I would say, a huge chunk of your time there. Also plan a ton, too, and understand really what you think might happen. And then a third piece is just build and iterate over time. It's not a set-and-forget channel. Where you build amazing relationships is when you take a very iterative and ongoing development to it.

    - [Jorie] Awesome.

    - Yeah. Actually, there's a slide for this that sort of outlines, in a very simple fashion, of this idea that one of the first things when I came over from Motion that I had talked about, which was the Three Laws of Bots.

    - [Jorie] Yes.

    - [Brian] Everyone loves this.

    - [Jorie] It's very I, Robot.

    - I know, it's like the Three Laws of Bots. Essentially it's this. The Three Laws of Bots, it starts off with a very simple statement. A chatbot should be easy to both create and use. And that's really important, is that a chatbot itself, not only is it something that I should be able to access easily, but I really, if I'm creating it, we wanna make sure that that ability is available. Not just to a tech person. You shouldn't have to increase head count. The second one is that a chatbot should provide a tangible net benefit. It should streamline a process, and it should make essentially life easier. If it doesn't do that, then it's probably not a good place for a bot. The third thing, because we are HubSpot, is that holding the first and second laws true, it also needs to be within the framework of inbound. And if it hits all three of those things, if it easy to create and use, if it does streamline a process, if it does provide tangible net benefit, if it does make life better or easier, and it still fits into your overall inbound strategy, well now you've got a solid bot that fits into your conversational growth strategy. And that's where we're going, back to that one-to-one relationship. So when you start to think about what you should do with bots, start to think about, what are the things in your business that you have to do over and over again that are a conversation, but don't necessarily require a person to do that? Because then you're able to empower the people that you hired for their brains to use them and not just become automatons. 'Cause you can build that.

    - Definitely, and I think that's such a good point, is kind of remaining that helpful, human, and holistic, while in the meantime removing the human from the situation. I think that's something to definitely consider when implementing--

    - It should be seamless.

    - Exactly. But something that you said, Connor, I want to double down and I want your insight in too, Brian, is when you have this think stage. I hear this question a lot of, I really think bots are exciting, I wanna get started, but what are some questions that you think people should ask themselves in terms of determining the best use cases for bots? What specifically should they be asking themselves?

    - Well, to Brian's point they should be asking where it adds value, where these things, provided it stays true with the Three Laws of Bots, which I think is a great guidelines for all this stuff, you want to understand where you can add the most value and where it becomes a better experience. So lead generation is one that I really love and at HubSpot, we've kinda leaned on a lot. It's been our bread and butter use case. What we found is that we spent a lot of time thinking about, how do we market, how do we try to reach people, and what we found is that at the end of the day, if we're collecting information in and out and there's inputs and outputs, I know I need your e-mail and you can get this webinar as a result, we realized that can be a conversation. It doesn't have to just be a web form, and we tested that a bunch and said, you know what? That's a great example, where people actually really enjoy being talked to rather than just being hit with a wall of information. If they can kinda can be chatted with, then it's, conversation's a very normal way for us to exchange information with each other, and we found that, oh, by thinking about more of, maybe that's a great use case and following those steps that fit in with the Three Laws of Bots, we found that that's a great use case that makes a great experience that makes everyone's life better. So I just tell people to, yeah, just spend a lot of that time thinking through things and don't be afraid to test stuff.

    - [Jorie] Awesome.

    - You know, I look at it as this way. We all know what a marketing funnel is. We all know what funnels are in general. If you think about a conversation, you can have a conversation that's like a Russian nesting doll, and that outer one is the overall funnel conversation. You want them to go from A to Z. But if you open up the Russian nesting doll, there's another one and another one and another one. What we start to get into is, we can start to collect information. There's this idea of conversational data collection. There's a series of blog posts coming out later on this week--

    - [Jorie] Check out the user blog.

    - Check it out, you're gonna love it. But what we're doing there basically is we're talking about this idea of, well, you don't have to get all the information up front. And if you are able to engage and reengage and collect information over time, what you're able to then do is start to track where people branch. And we do that normally in conversations. Think about the sales process. It's not usually, hey, do wanna buy this? Yeah, I do. Awesome! High five! Doesn't work that way.

    - We'd love if it was.

    - It's free. But the reason we exist is that it isn't. So when you start to look at, where do things like bots start to fit in, you have to start to look at it from an overall conversational growth strategy. And you start to look at, what elements in my process and what other smaller, bite-sized pieces of that process would I in my ideal world just be asked? Asked and answered. And if that says very easily, this feels like a great conversation point, that's where it should live. Because at the end of the day, your bot or your bots, 'cause you're gonna have a lot of them, they should be replacing small elements and be able to hand off when they go outside of that small bit of knowledge. They're really good at doing one or two things very well individually, but you build a lot of little individual pieces. They're like Legos. And you get to build a really cool spaceship, if that's what you want to build. Or you build whatever you want that works for you.

    - Definitely, so it sounds like there's a lot of optimization to consider.

    - Absolutely.

    - To kinda switch gears just a little bit, what's the difference between, in your opinion, conversational UI and other different types of UI that people might be interacting with? I know that's a favorite question of yours. Let's get into the meat of it.

    - Sure, okay. We have UI and UX, we all know what those are. User interface, user experience. Well, now we're talking about conversational interface and conversational experience. What this means is that it fits in with everything else. They don't stand alone, necessarily, but it's a different set of constraints. Think about this: if you asked a chatbot, where do I change my password, or they said, how do I change my password, that's two different questions. And a bot is able to understand the difference. Where do I change my password? They're gonna want to know, where do I actually go on your website to do this? How do I change my password, is that actually asking for help? They're looking for the steps to do that. Just that alone is something that doesn't have to be done by a person anymore. Because you understand the question. A bot can do that. So when we start to look at things like conversational UX, we have to look at the channel that we are talking to them in, the messaging channel. It's all messaging. Doesn't matter what it is, it's all messaging. The messaging channel they're communicating with is gonna have certain strengths and certain weaknesses. The bot or the agent, doesn't really matter, but the bot is gonna be able to leverage the up side of that, and they're gonna be able to then not have to do deal with the downside. They can just change channels. If I'm on Facebook Messenger and my bot's on Facebook Messenger, there's certain information I don't ever have to ask them, like their name, 'cause that's gonna be given to you from Facebook. That means that it's one less question to ask. People don't like answering the same question over and over again, and if you already know it, that's awesome. You ever walked into a store that you buy stuff from, and they say, hey Brian, who you doing? Makes you feel special. Your bot can do that already. That's what we start to come in on, is this idea of conversational experience is really about creating a personal connection and a personal relationship with the bot, with the person, because at the end of the day that bot is the personification of your brand.

    - Awesome.

    - That's my spiel.

    - I think he hit it right on the head. That's great.

    - That's awesome. Very cool, so you both have been interacting with bots for a while now, and do you have any examples of bots that really stood out, those interesting use cases that you've seen, or just common use cases people can use?

    - Through one of the more common ones, I find that a lot of people go to businesses of all shapes and sizes, verticals, with some of the same questions, like particularly on small businesses I find I ask a lot of restaurants, "What time are you open?" And for whatever reason, a lot of restaurants don't make it easy to figure that out. That's something where I don't really want to have to call. I don't want to pick up the phone or hunt through Yellowbook. I just wanna message and say, hey, are you guys open at eight today? Like an FAQ or just basic information about the business, that's been, I'd say, one of the more common use cases that really applies to most businesses, I don't care who you are or what you're selling. People wanna know stuff about you, and as Brian said, exposing that through a conversation is actually, it's a perfect fit. On the general side, an FAQ, ask questions is great. For more B2C and B2B use cases, coming from a B2B background, lead generation. One of the coolest things I saw was that people are willing to talk to software. That's not a weird thing that you have to teach people how to do. Everyone knows how to send a message. Everyone likes getting value out of businesses. This whole shift and everything that we're doing is about how do we make that easier and more seamless, as we've all talked about today. So yeah, people are willing to talk to your business. That's I think one of the coolest things that I figured out, is it doesn't really matter what you're selling. People of all ages, demographics, buyers, not buyers, know how to send a message and if you give them a great experience, they'll do it with yours.

    - So it's definitely about having that 24/7 helpful presence on your site. Definitely a good use case. But I know process is something top of mind for Brian, so Brian, what are some use cases that you've seen that really stand out?

    - I'll kind of answer that in two parts. The first one is, some of the most effective bots that I've seen are bots that handle things that we normally as marketers and salespeople and business people can kind of forget about because we get busy. Onboarding is a huge one. If I don't have to go through a series of forms, and there's been a lot of attempts, like multi-step forms and this, that, and the other, I just hate forms. But it's a part of what we've had to do up until now. If I can have a conversation and there's information collected in that's active data, that's stuff that I'm being asked, and there's certain information, passive data, that is not having to be asked because they're getting it somewhere else, I'll have that conversation. That makes it really easy. But now as a business, I'm able to look at that as, okay, well, that conversation had a start, middle, and end. It's transactional. But I'm getting information that I can use in a relational matter. It's related to this person, to that conversation, to that kind of idea. One of the things that I... I kinda talk about a lot, and you guys know this, is this idea of, and we've all done this, right? We've all called up a customer service line twice, asked the same question twice to two different people, totally different answers. It's frustrating. Well, with a bot you can standardize your answer, you can standardize your information. With a bot, unlike a form, you can also contextualize it. You can understand, how did we get to this point in the conversation? What have I already learned? What do I still need? Then you can optimize it. You can deliver the information that's most important back to them to move them forward and nothing else. You can prioritize it. If they need more they can ask for it rather than having to just say, here you go. And at the end of it we can personalize it. Now they're having a personal interaction, a personal relationship with that chatbot, that is, like we said, the personification of your brand for that moment. And what we've done there is, if you look at the numbers, it makes SCOPP. We've now applied a scope to the conversational growth strategy that we're doing with our chatbots.

    - So just to review, what's SCOPP again?

    - So SCOPP is, and I forgot to put the slide on this, is standardize the information, contextualize the conversation, optimize for the answer that's being asked or the statement being given, prioritize what information they might need next, and personalize how you deliver it. It's what we do every day when we have conversations. And the fact is, there's no reason why our bots can't do it as well, because it's part of the conversational growth strategy.

    - Definitely. And I think it's something definitely to consider, that bots, again, aren't a complete replacement for all of the elements on your site. It's definitely something to augment and substitute for pieces that might just not be optimized for the jobs to be done of the visitors to your site. It seems like bots are really getting a spotlight, especially towards the end of 2017. For both of you, what did 2017 teach you about bots that you might not have learned before?

    - You wanna go for that one first?

    - You wanna go, Connor?

    - As I said, people are willing to talk to bots. People are willing to talk to software. If you make a great experience, people will interact with it. People, you don't have to teach them how to do it. It's not like when you build a new website or build a new app. People have to relearn how to interact with it. With messaging it's this kind of common denominator of, we all know how to do it. And if you build conversations that feel good, that accomplish great jobs to be done in a very simple but helpful way, people are willing to have those conversations. And I've seen that, I've worked with B2C companies, B2B companies, more like lifestyle brands, and across that, if your customers are people, they know how to send a message. You build a great conversation, and they are okay interacting with it.

    - [Jorie] Interesting. What about you, Brian?

    - The biggest thing I've seen, having come from being part of the team that built Motion, saw that scale, and now being part of HubSpot, is you've heard me say this conversational growth strategy, conversational growth strategy, over and over again. And the reality is that to really kill it when it comes to your chatbots and that growth strategy, you need a conversational growth platform. Here at HubSpot we are in a very unique position where we have all of the elements. This is a data-driven game. The more information that you have before the conversation starts and ends, and then the more that you have after it ends, and how that all ties into the rest of your marketing efforts, the rest of your strategy overall, it's just gonna make it better. To use chatbots, which is kind of like this piece that is the building block among other things, and tie that into a conversational growth strategy that you then go and implement on a conversational growth platform, that is a pretty nice little picture that we got there. And going back to my Russian nesting doll, chatbot, strategy, platform. Again, here at HubSpot we are in this really cool position to be able to provide all of these tools that allow you to collect, use, analyze, and then apply the data that we have and the data that we're getting in new and different ways and do it in a way that goes back to that idea of a personal one-to-one relationship with every single person that is interacting with us. And that's a pretty awesome place to be.

    - You have a word, paboi.

    - Yeah, I call it paboi, which is put a bow on it. When you paboi something, and that's what we're doing here. Chatbots, if you haven't been part of this, if you haven't tried building them, coming up in May we're gonna start having the HubSpot version of this out there, that's one piece of it. There's an educational side to this: learning what we're talking about. And we're gonna be teaching. The three of us are collectively building this right now, is on the ideas that we're talking about here and how you can start to learn these and apply them, and how that fits into your overall strategy. When you put a bow on it, it's 'cause it's all in a nice box and the HubSpot conversational growth platform is a pretty nice box.

    - Yeah. Definitely. So we've looked back, now let's look forward. In 2018, how do you see the role of bots in marketing change?

    - Companies will start to adapt it more. Companies across the board will start to understand more that their users are people, their people message, okay. People will start to make those connections. You will see as a more high-level trend the way that we talk to our friends and family and the way we talk to businesses will blur. This whole conversation more of an ongoing thing, where I can build a relationship with people that just goes on forever and it gets better over time with the data that I learn, the value I get. It'll become the same way with businesses. One thing I find with marketing e-mails, for example, is when I get one in my inbox, even if it's great, I kinda know it went to me and a bunch of other people and innately I'm a little bit disconnected from it. But with my Messenger inbox, for example, I know that every message I get, it just feels a little more special because that's a place I go to hear from my friends and family. And businesses will start to tap into that. They'll understand it's important to build a real relationship and not just be on this channel for the sake of it. But over time they'll start to see, particularly as the platform rolls out and more uses cases start coming out about it, that you can build an incredible relationship, an incredible one-to-one relationship, which at the end of the day is what everyone wants. And it's gonna be amazing. This is the year things really pick up.

    - One of the things that I think is really gonna be huge here is it's sort of just a piece of how messaging, like you were saying, works. Back to your e-mail example, if I get 10 e-mails from a company and I've never really read any of them, I might scan over the headline, but I don't open them. If that 11th e-mail could be the greatest e-mail on the planet, I'm probably not gonna read it. But every one of us I know here and in this room and that's watching at home, or at work, hopefully...

    - [Jorie] You never know.

    - You never know. Flex time. But that all of us do is we all kinda walk away from conversations sometimes. But the thing is, if I'm texting somebody or if I'm messaging somebody and that conversation has a natural end to it, I'm still gonna respond the next time they message me. Because I don't have that same sort of... Message blindness that starts to form with other forms. You call me all the time, I'm not gonna answer your phone call anymore. If you are really, really smart about how and when you engage in a conversation, and that bot is how you're doing that, or a live person, we'll say a bot, you're not gonna get that same message stagnation that I think sometimes can end up happening. Because we have already been programmed, ourselves as people, to be really cool with just picking up the conversation. The ability to not only initially engage, but reengage via chatbots, is going to be massive.

    - And I feel like I need to put a little disclaimer out. If you're worried about your e-mail marketing strategy, definitely check out the e-mail marketing certification over at Academy. I know Courtney does a great job at teaching users when to send the right e-mail at the right time. So just disclaimer, chatbots are great, so is e-mail. We gotta think about an omni-channel experience, if you will.

    - That, just real quick.

    - Omni-channel. Go.

    - Okay, just real quick. That's part of, I didn't say that. Remember I said it's all messaging?

    - Yeah.

    - Okay. E-mail is part of that.

    - Definitely.

    - The more that your e-mail messaging can be somewhat conversational in nature, those are the ones that we read. The ones, like you said, don't feel like it went to everybody else, but said something to me, I'm gonna respond to. Conversational growth strategy is not just about chatbots, it's not just about live chat. It's about looking at all of the ways you communicate and applying them, which is why you're gonna get the opens, why you're gonna get the responses, and why that omni-channel experience where the conversation may cross a bunch of different channels, it's still conversation.

    - Definitely.

    - And if can add a PPS to that, these channels work best together. All these channels, when you're using them together and being deliberate about the use cases and the who and the what and the right message and the when, that's when you see everything kinda, we have an expression at HubSpot. One plus one equals three. That's when all the work you're doing starts to really start to pay off in spades, and you see returns that each of these platforms themselves, you really couldn't get. But we've seen with certain e-mails, there's certain things that it just makes sense to e-mail based on the context. So if it's your account data or financial information, there might be people who might be weary in certain cases of messaging, and that's totally okay. That might not be the right channel. But for a lot of other things, it is the right channel. So I do tell people, it's about making sure they all work together. Your strategy should be how you live across different platforms, and there's a lot of fundamentals, as Brian said, in the conversational growth strategy, that applies really across everything you're gonna do on the marketing side.

    - And that really comes down to this, and then we can move on, is a great conversational growth strategy is about understanding these omni-channel experiences, but it's really about delivering the right message with the right information, the right time on the right channel every single time. And that means sometimes, like you said, e-mail's gonna be better, live chat might be better. It might be better just to send them to a webpage that's been personalized. It depends on what the situation is. It's still all messaging, it's still all conversational. It doesn't mean it's always back and forth, it just means that we are continuing the conversation.

    - Definitely, and I think it also requires alignment across your marketing, your sales, and your services team. You can learn more about sales enablement on the sales enablement cert, but it's really about also sharing that data and sharing that experience across teams to really create that great and holistic experience from when a visitor comes in as a lead to when they close as a customer. And I think that's a really important piece. If you take away one thing from that, definitely kinda creating that consistent experience. Just in general, if you guys had to offer general advice for someone that's new to bots, that's trying to get started with bots, in terms of technical skills or what they should consider, any general advice for someone trying to get into the waters?

    - Sure. Draw a flowchart.

    - Flowcharts.

    - Draw a flowchart.

    - [Jorie] Interesting.

    - The Motion thing was it's, if you can draw a flowchart, you can build a bot. And we're doing that with what's gonna be the HubSpot platform as part of this. If you are able to map out like a choose your own adventure book how a conversation should go, and don't try to put it all into one conversation. Know the beginning, middle, and end of that conversation, what are you trying to do, what are you trying to accomplish in that piece of it. You can always have another one. Have that flowchart. Then at some point you're gonna end up to either they did it or they didn't do it. Depending on that that may end that conversation. It may shift channels. It may wait until some other action happens and then goes from there. That's the first thing. So start to look at the flows of how the back and forth is gonna go. The second thing is look at what things right now, like we said before, may be a bit of a time suck as far as just simple follow-up stuff. You can have a live chat conversation, then switch them over to a bot. It doesn't have to be a one or the other situation. Bots are really good at doing things that take time but don't take a whole lot of thought process and where consistency is more important than complexity.

    - Awesome.

    - That's my thing.

    - Definitely. And Connor, I know you have this saying that's like, take 300,000 steps back or something. What's that all about?

    - I say have a 30,000-foot view. The way we have conversations feels so natural. The way I'm talking to each of you right now and the way I'd interact with anyone else, we do that automatically. But when you zoom out and really start to think about, okay, what goes into a conversation. I say something, you say something. I can infer, I can contextualize. I can continue it later. It's hard, I know, for some small businesses at times to understand to create conversational marketing. Awesome, but they don't know exactly, well, how do I build it? The flowchart's the best place to start. Conversations are natural. It's just about you have to think about the things that go into it, the stuff that you do every day, and just really being deliberate about, okay, if I was trying to get someone's e-mail, what was the right way to say that based on the channel I'm in, based on what I know, whatever the case may be. My more general advice is I have two myths I want to dispel that I think are very important in this space. One thing I get asked all the time is, well, does this have to replace all my people? Is Skynet here, is the Terminator here? And the answer could not be a more resounding no.

    - [Jorie] Bots are not taking over.

    - Bots are not taking over. Bots enable your people to be better. In sales, bots might be great to help qualify, of like, hey, there's inputs and outputs. I know I need some information that I can pass to my team. You can have the bot automate that, because that's repeatable and predictable. But then there are some sensitive things, like the sales process or customer service, where you would like to have a real person in there. This technology, conversational marketing and a growth strategy, work together when you have bots plus people. That's how you, again, get that one plus one equals three. Great line. The other piece to it is some people get scared that it's AI and that I have to have all this really in-depth technical skills in order to build this stuff, and you don't. You need a flowchart, you need to read a pick your path adventure book, and understand that in a lot of cases, logic trees and just going, well, if this, then we go this way and if that, then we go the other way.

    - [Jorie] Like workflows.

    - Like workflows, like you're already familiar with doing. This stuff isn't new and scary. It's just packaged in a different way that when you look at it, it's really a lot of the same stuff you've been doing. There's little tweaks here and there. So it shouldn't scare ya. You shouldn't have to worry about replacing your staff. It will help you be better and help your people be better and really help your business run better. In the end, gives a better experience to your customers.

    - So it's personalization, it's automation, but it's still people.

    - It can be, if it makes sense to do.

    - Right. That's awesome. I think we have some time for some questions from our audience members. Also be sure to keep popping them in the comment section. We have one from Ashley that is: "Do you guys have a specific timeline "for when HubSpot's bot building platform will launch?"

    - Officially, no. Unofficially we are looking to sometime around May for our partners, and then it'll be rolling out from there. But just stay tuned. You'll see it coming out on the various blogs. Trust me, there will be an announcement.

    - Awesome. We also have another one that says, "Once the customer is interested in purchasing "what you have to offer "after engaging a conversation with him on Messenger, "do you bring the communication back to e-mail?" This is a good one. "Do you keep contacting them via Messenger?" That sounds very much like a, when do you choose which channel, kind of question.

    - The goal is to keep a consistent experience. If people engage with you on Messenger, that means they're probably comfortable engaging with you on Messenger. You use good judgment, you understand, look, if you would talk to me here, then maybe it makes sense to keep the conversation going here. There might be other times where you can give people the preference that sometimes people might discover you through one channel, but actually go, oh, I found you through a form I filled out. But I would really love just to chat with you more ongoing. Letting people pick their path and decide what's right for them as much as you can, that's really the way you figure it out. Again, keeping in mind context, but my rule of thumb is, keep a consistent experience. If someone raises their hand of they'd like to engage with you on one channel, continue to do that until they really decide that it's not for them.

    - Yeah, really there's another fun acronym that you're gonna learn. There's this idea of time to live. Which if you come from a DNS standpoint, that's not that. Time to live is something that internally we talk about, which is how long between when I send the message will I wait to get a message back. Something like writing a letter by hand, very long time to live. I have no expectations that I'm about to get a response. Live chat is shorter. What that means, though, is I'm expecting less information back in a live chat or from a chatbot. What that also means is depending on how much information you need to give them, depends on how to best deliver that. If it's a lot of information, don't deliver it over Messenger. It's too long to read. Give them a taste of it. That means basically optimize and prioritize the information. Give them the option of where they can find more about it and then cross your messaging channel over to where the next thing is. If I need a long answer, there's nothing wrong with saying, hey, I can e-mail that over to you, or do you want to just go visit the website? That's totally cool within your conversational growth strategy. It just means that you're switching channels. You're still continuing the conversation.

    - Awesome. Now we have one from Anya. Hi, Anya. "What do you recommend for a small business "who wants to get started with bots "but is a little bit resource or time poor, "from both a prioritization and a platform standpoint?"

    - Yeah, I think the first piece of that is if you want to get started, is to spend that time thinking. Spend the big bulk of your time realizing, okay, maybe we don't have a lot of resources. Maybe we don't have all the time to build this stuff, but what would be the most impactful singular biggest thing we could do that would help move the needle and create a better experience for our customers? I would spend a lot of your time there. It might be a marketing use case, it might be a sales use case, it might be a support use case. There's not one that's better than the other or one you should start with first, but it's really what's most impactful to your business. Don't let anyone tell you what that most impactful use case is. You should understand from the pain points you feel, particularly if you're strapped for resources, what things do you spend the most amount of your time of your day doing that are repeatable and predictable? And a conversation might be a good fit there, so I would tell people to think more.

    - Think more, and think about your buyer personas for sure. We have another one from Daniel. "Do you think it would make sense "for a B2B IT services company to distribute content "like a newsletter via Facebook Messenger "instead of e-mail?"

    - Yeah, so this is one that we've done, too. If people want to consume your content there, let them. If that's the place, it doesn't matter what their level is or what company they're in. If that's the place that's more natural for them to consume it and then they're more likely to read it and build a relationship with your company, then do it there. Have the option for both. In some cases we've had, okay, do you want this PDF via e-mail? I can e-mail it to you or I can send it to you right through Messenger. Really, don't let one channel rule it out. I know one of the big criticisms I hear is, oh, well, Messenger and messaging can't work for B2B. That could not be farther from the truth.

    - Oh my God.

    - Could not be farther from the truth. Businesses of all shapes and sizes get value out of it. A newsletter could make a ton of sense on Messenger. It's about knowing your audience.

    - And actually, to that end, one of the things with that is you gotta look at what content you're distributing and where it is, because with things like Facebook Messenger, you have the option to go a lot more granular. Don't just send a big thing. Oh, here's what's going on. No one likes reading the Christmas newsletters that people send out person to person. No one wants those. What they do want--

    - Um, I think those have value. I love those Christmas letters.

    - Okay. My point is, overall, the beauty of using Messenger to distribute that sort of regular content update is you can do things like deliver it in a carousel, where you can say, hey, here's the five things that we thought about this past month, and you can show them a little thumbnail and a click and they can go through it. What that also means is you can figure out which ones they click on. That becomes important conversational data. Because now you know what they did and didn't read. When they click on that they're gonna go off your channel. They're gonna go onto your website. There are ways that we're working on to be able to pick that back up and you can see what they clicked on to go out there. That also means is, okay, well, if this person only ever reads our tech updates, then maybe try paring it down in that iterative process to only giving that person that and giving them the option of wanting to know more. If you have great content, 'cause that's really what it is. If your content is awesome, people will want to read it. Messaging and using Messenger to do this allows you to understand who was reading what when, 'cause remember: it's about delivering the right message for the right person at the right time with the right information every time.

    - Awesome. It looks like we are running out of time, so that might be all the time we have for questions. But we'll make sure to browse the comments that you've had in the livestream, as well as on Twitter, for all the questions that we couldn't get to. Again, thank you, Connor and Brian, for joining us. And thank you for tuning in. I'm hoping that we've all learned a lot today and thanks for being engaged students with this class. We'll see you next time.
  • Connor Cirrillo
    Connor Cirrillo
    Conversational Marketing Manager
  • Brian Bagdasarian
    Brian Bagdasarian
    Conversational Marketing Strategist
  • Jorie Munroe
    Jorie Munroe
    Inbound Professor

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