In my previous article, I introduced the main functionalities of chatbots and a few practical ways you could use them to reach your marketing and wider business objectives. Today, I’ll be diving one step deeper into the next step…automation!

It’s all well and good to set a chatbot up across your website, but the real magic happens in the follow-up, specifically the opportunity for you to create genuine value for your prospects or current customers based on what they were interested in.

Now, imagine if you could automate this process (including emails & the exact content you serve them) without you having to manually intervene? What would this do for you and your business? More time, freedom and predictability?

It would essentially help you make your organisation money while you slept in the form of opt-ins and sales.

But what exactly are the steps to creating a chatbot?

Step 1) Setup & Branding

Step 2) Your Burning Question To Create Intrigue & Next Step

Step 3) Creating The Flow & Getting To The Desired Action

Step 4) Collecting & Organising Your Data

Step 5) Selecting Your Audience

Step 6) Automating The Follow Up

Before we get into the 6 steps, let’s take a step back to answer a few questions so we can hit the ground running! Sound good?

chatbot
Chatbots can be an extremely effective way to acquire new customers and re engage with existing ones.

3 Key Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Begin

A house is only as good as its foundations and the same is true for any marketing process you automate. Knowing where and what to build is a lot more straightforward once you have a plan in place, and by answering these questions, you will be ready to get to work!

1) Who will the chatbot target? Prospects or existing customers?

A bit too easy a question to begin? Well, believe me, it’s not, and instead of throwing a generalised chatbot on your site that offers minimal value, you need to be specific and purposeful with who gets the honour of having it bestowed on them.

Okay but seriously, you do need to know if you are going to target completely cold prospects who have visited specific pages or existing customers who are on an FAQ page regarding your product or service.

Of course, you can do both, however, make sure you have a compelling business case for both if you are going to invest the time and resources.

2) What role will the chatbot play in the buyer’s journey?

First things first, this is a very watered down explanation (we can talk for hours about journey mapping), however, in the context of your chatbot and the process you choose, you should know the steps it takes to get from A to B.

For example, if we take the prospect to customer process, how do you drive traffic to your website? Once they are there, how can they opt into your email list?

Once they are, is it solely contextually relevant emails they will receive until they book a meeting with your team or are there times where you have sales reps contacting the prospect via phone etc?

Whatever the journey comprises, you need to know how your chatbot fits into it as well as how it can add value to the process at specific steps.

3) What data will be collected throughout the chatbot session? How will it be stored and utilised?

Once someone engages with your chatbot and you achieve the desired outcome (an email opt-in for example), you will have very valuable data at your disposal that you can use to create immense value for each and every prospect or customer and subsequently build on.

The challenge here is what data you collect and how you store and utilise that data. For example for prospects, you will want to collect at the minimum their email, name and organisation name, however, you might also want to ask a couple of other multiple-choice questions to better get to know the current stage of their buyer’s journey and likelihood to buy.

customer journey

Automating Your Chatbot – A Practical 6 Step Process

Okay, I am going to assume that you are now reading this because you answered the questions above already…right? Well regardless, this is where the fun begins so I don’t blame you for wanting to read on!

I’ll take you through a simple 6 Step Process using one of my favourite tools, Hubspot, when creating a chatbot on their platform that I have used time and time again.

Step 1) Setup & Branding

You will want to ensure that you begin every chatbot setup from scratch. I like this approach simply because you get complete control over each and every step.

Now, when you go to create a chatbot, you are given the choice of Facebook Messenger or your website. For simplicity, let’s choose your website.

From here, select the default inbox, click create and bam! You should see a screen similar to the one below.

Now from here, you will want to click the “Display” tab at the top and choose your chat avatar and name as well as the behaviour.

As a general rule, I would put a photo of a key employee (CEO etc) and their name, as well as set the behaviour to show the chatbot at 7 seconds time on the page.

This is a safer bet to assume that the visitor on the page is engaged with it as opposed to someone who has bounced straight away (within 3-4 seconds).

hubspot chatbot
Your welcome message is critically important as it’s the first interaction that your visitor will have with your chatbot.

Step 2) Your Burning Question To Create Intrigue & Next Step

The key here is to ask a question that gives you the best opportunity to achieve a click (achieved through your own research).

What I mean by that is that you aren’t trying to get any data at this point, you simply want to get your prospect or customer to click on an option to find out more, based on the question you asked.

Examples of this could be asking if an existing customer wants to obtain a “cheat sheet” about how to get the most out of a product or service if they are on an FAQ page or if a prospect wants to find out “7 Never Before Revealed Tips” on a topic you are an expert at.

Whatever it is, you need to craft it in such a way that people stop and at least read your initial message, and not just close it automatically (which they do if they see a simple “Reach out if you need any help!”).

hubspot chat
The key in this step is to prompt a message to the user that is not only highly relevant, but also creates enough interest to get them to engage.

Step 3) Creating The Flow & Getting To The Desired Action

Now as a disclaimer, you will need a Hubspot service professional subscription to create chatbots that can go to an action based on the response. This means if someone clicked a specific response button or said a keyword, then you can go to different actions that are contextually relevant.

If you do have this subscription, then the following example diagram can be implemented within the platform. This diagram is a good example of how to build out the logic of each response and see the branches of conversation that are possible down on paper.

As you can see from the image below, the fictitious online store has done a great job at displaying what the exact chatbot action items are, what the next steps will be based on the query prior and the desired actions based on the previous steps.

chatbot workflow
Your chatbot doesn’t need to be this complex, however, you should set it up so that each user can control their journey.

Step 4) Collecting & Organising Your Data

Once you have created a logic flow map similar to the one above and have implemented it within Hubspot (or your chosen equivalent platform), you will then want to ensure each piece of data you collect, is saved to its own unique property field.

Using the example screenshot below, we can see that the response of this chatbot step, will be saved to the prospect’s “Contact Name” field. You can create and save any response to any data field that either exists or you create.

We can also see from this other example below, the data field concerning the number of employees at the prospect’s organisation has been saved to a unique data field, to be used in future communications.

Both of these examples are important as the data you collect will determine what you send to the prospect. For example, an online design software company that targets a prospect who works at an SMB of 25-100 employees, will send content regarding how their software is easy to use for their one in house designer.

On the flip side, they would send a prospect who is part of a company with over 1,000 staff members content centered around how their whole design team can co-create digital assets across one platform.

conversion rate optimisation
Capturing personal data fields is a crucial step within your chatbot setup and flow as it is how your anonymous website visitors will become opted in subscribers.

Step 5) Selecting Your Audience

This final part of the process is two-part, with the first being the exact audience you target. The main two are in the form of specific website pages and displaying to existing contacts within your CRM (Say existing customers).

Now using the first example below, we can see that this company wants to target everyone on their domain, except for those who have visited URL’s that contain “blog” and “learning hub”.

Similarly, within Hubspot, there are hundreds of combinations and parameters you can use to segment an audience (maybe this is another article for another day), however, let’s use a fictional audience called “Prospects & Decision Makers”.

As per the image below, this segmented audience has been selected to be shown the chatbot, whereas the audience “Sent Webinar EDM To Prospects” has been selected to not be shown the chatbot.

The point is, regardless of both being broad examples, I wanted to illustrate a point that you should put thought into how you want to specifically segment your audience when it comes to the target audience you identified in our first question and two practical ways you can do it.

target market
Your chatbot can be displayed to everyone who visits your website, or a select few who are part of a specific audience within your CRM. As a general rule, the more personalised and specific the use case, the better the results.

Step 6) Automating The Follow Up

By now, you want to take everything you have achieved up until the opt-in or the desired action, and send the prospect or customer a relevant email and information based on what they were interested in.

Within Hubspot, again if you have a paid subscription, you can set up workflows to send emails on repeat and automatically to prospects or customers who engaged with your chatbots. This is where the true power of automation comes into play which we have been discussing together!

Similarly to segmenting lists, there are multiple options when it comes to setting up the parameters for your workflows.

A good way to start is to set up 3-4 different initial emails based on the prospect’s company size and the piece of content they opted in to (if this is your goal to turn website visitors into prospects) and use these as the parameters.

From here, you can create if/then branches to determine what next email to send the prospect, based on their behaviour (i.e. an open, click or reply). Try to implement a time delay of about 3 days before a prospect gets another email from you.

By the end of the process, you might have up to 15 different emails, however, they will all be personalised and contextually relevant to the recipients.

Conclusion

Phew! That was a long one but it was worth it!

By now, you should now be comfortable with knowing why you want to implement a chatbot (or two or more) within your organisation based on your answers to the three key questions as well as how to implement your first one using the practical 5 Step Process I went through.

Remember to always ensure you have a business case as the core reason you are investing in optimising or creating a chatbot. Whether it is to increase existing customer satisfaction or generate more leads, it will make it much easier to justify to your team why you are going down this route.