As messaging applications have become a way for brands to reach consumers, chatbots have become increasingly more important. Carrie Gottschalk has proven that chatbots can be part of your marketing initiatives and help push your customers seamlessly through your sales funnel. Especially as they become more sophisticated and versatile.
Chatbots can perform tasks that are both simple and repetitive at a much higher rate than would be possible for a human alone, and still provide a seamless user experience for customers.
Rich: My next guest is a highly recognized influencer within the social media industry, and has been at the forefront of the social media revolution for 10 years, paid social media for 5 years, and has managed over $12 million in ad spend working with large clients, Shari’s Berries, Wyndham Hotels, And TedX Mile High.
Her extensive experience in domestic and international markets, she’s known as a skilled social media strategist, advertiser, and has also gained a strong understanding of digital performance metrics, with a good portion of her experience in e-commerce, direct response, and performance marketing. I’m very excited to have with me today, Carrie Gottschalk. Carrie, welcome to the show.
Carrie: Thank you! How are you doing today, Rich?
Rich: I’m doing just fine and dandy, thanks for asking. Now Carries, share with me a little bit about how you got to manage so much ad spend for some really top notch brands? What was your journey like?
Carrie: So I have been working in social media for as long as I can remember. And the second that I got the opportunity to start running ads and when they came out on the platform, I just kind of fell in love. From there I worked for agencies and now I work independently with a variety of clients. Focusing on the e-commerce side has allowed me to have larger budgets when it comes to selling products online.
Rich: And you’ve been focusing a lot on chatbots lately. Why is that?
Carrie: Yeah. So being in love with Facebook advertising, once they opened up the Messenger destination I started to learn how to advertise in the Messenger and then became self-taught on how to build out the bots within Messenger to help with conversational skills.
Rich: And where have you been focusing your attention? You mentioned a lot with e-commerce, is that a big focus of the chatbot market that you’ve been involved with?
Carrie: Actually there’s been a wide variety of clients that I have been able to work with outside of e-commerce when it comes to chatbots. Because what I’m finding is they work extremely well for lead generation with clients and I’ve been seeing higher performance metrics with Messenger than opposed to in landing pages.
Rich: Interesting. I want to talk a little bit more about that, but is there a difference between chatbot marketing and chatbot advertising? Because you were talking about how you do it with Facebook ads, so where do those two spheres overlap?
Carrie: Right. So you can build a chatbot for almost any business page, but you need to draw users to it. So it’s not a “if you build it they will come”. If you build it, you then need to advertise it to grow that subscription base, and then to be able to have those conversations inside the platform.
Rich: Ok. So in the same way that we build our email list we’re building our chatbot connection, and that often will take some sort of marketing and advertising dollars.
Rich: Alright. So when we first chatted you mentioned that you were using chatbots a lot for conferences and events, which obviously my ears perked up over that. Can you tell me a little bit more about how you’re using chatbots to promote events and conferences?
Carrie: Yeah, of course. It was really exciting when I first heard about chatbots in 2017, I then needed a client to test them on. Luckily that first client that I got to work with was TedX Mile High and I asked them if they’d let me build a chatbot for the event. That event took place in the fall of 2017 and had over 5,000 attendees.
What I did is I used the code – kind of similar to a QR code – and I set that up on billboards around the event and had them opt into the chatbot organically and use the bot as a user guide for the event.
Rich: Ok, let me pause right there. So you’ve got posters handing up and you put a QR code on there. Do you remember what the call to action was to get somebody to pull out their phone and use the QR reader?
Carrie: Yeah, it was “let this be your guide for today”. And because TedX focuses part of technology our attendees were really curious to see the new technology. So it was actually a really fun experience. Some people would walk by the poster boards and have no idea what to do, but then all of a sudden 2 or 3 people would start scanning the board and then everyone would want to scan it and I’d have crowds of 20-30 people at a time then trying to opt in and experience this new way to get an attendee guide.
Rich: Interesting. So this was not necessarily for getting attendees in the first place, but this was about creating a better, more robust experience for attendees once they were there.
Carrie: Correct. But then you’re able to use that audience and nurture them throughout the year to resell tickets to the next event.
Rich: Oh I like that. I like that. So you did that and obviously so you had all these attendees built in. Tell me a little bit about what the experience was for the attendees once they kind of engaged with your chatbot.
Carrie: It was really fun to watch just to see how people would interact, how they would use it. A lot of the bot was considered button-based navigation, so they could click on the information they wanted. But to see them also texting questions or ask questions which plays into the natural language processing site of the bot, the first round went pretty well, we had about 50 questions scheduled in. By the fourth event coming up this year we’ll be doing it, we now have over 200 questions scheduled in. So over time the bot has been able to get smarter in automatically assisting the attendee.
Rich: Can you give me some examples of some of the questions that people were asking that you were able to respond to?
Carrie: Yeah! So people would ask, “Where’s lunch?”, “Where do I get food?”, “When is the after party?”, “Where are the restrooms?”, “Can I buy this person’s book?” So just general questions about what is going on at the event that we were able to guide them through without having to go to a real human on the ground at the event.
Rich: Oh, that’s fantastic. And so these were pre-programmed questions that you put in the questions and answers for originally?
Carrie: I anticipated as many questions as I could for that first event, but obviously there were more that came in. So at each event they has someone on the computer answering the live chat portion, but also recording what all of those questions were in an Excel sheet, so that after the event we could program them in for the next event so that they would be automated and not have to go to that real person.
Rich: I absolutely love that. Did you learn anything else from this first year of using chatbots at the event?
Carrie: Definitely. There are so many ways to use it and we saw a lot of different areas of opportunity. If you run events you know that lunch can get slow and the lines can get long, and we started to program the menus into the chatbot so that people could speed up the lunch line. We also were using the broadcast feature to send out a message when it was time to go back in the sessions, so it also worked as a form of crowd control which helped out event stay on pace, which can be challenging sometimes.
Rich: Absolutely, I hear you on that. So over the years have you started to use chatbots as a way of selling tickets to first time attendees as well?
Carrie: Yeah. So now what we’re doing is we’re kind of doing an early bird to our early bird where we are offering our chatbot subscribers early access to the discounted pricing. So they will opt in and say they want to be the first to know, so we put them on a list and we tag them and then the second tickets come out – not to the public but in private – we send them that link first. And we usually convert a pretty high number of ticket sales because of that.
With that we also provide value throughout the way so that we’re not marketing to them. We’ll ask them if they want to be the first person to know who our speakers are, or we’ll let them know that we have a special contest for them where they can sign up and give us their email to be entered to win a backstage pass for a speaker rehearsal or something unique to that audience so they find value in the bot and it’s not just trying to sell to them.
Rich: That’s a good point because right now I think a lot of people are saying chatbots are so cool, but the bottom line is we are going to see people just get sick and tired of them so we need to continue to provide value at all stages.
Carrie: Correct. And it’s fun, too, when you use it and when you talk to people, it’s actually the opposite of how we’ve been taught to write for marketing. But the informality of how you address people actually plays to the benefit of the platform.
So an example of that would be when I did the early bird ticket sales push, I followed up a day later wi th, “Oh hey Rich, by the way I forgot to mention this to you yesterday. Would you be interested in this opportunity?” So it sounds more like I’m texting a friend than I’m marketing to you.
Rich: So the language we use can be more informal it sounds like, but also it should be representative of the bran I’m representing, too.
Carrie: Correct. And we have so many people responding, “Thank you so much for thinking of me .” So the less they know it’s a bot, the better I guess. We don’t want to trick people, but they feel like there’s more of a connection there than just someone pushing out an email to them.
Rich: Absolutely. So have you talked to other event planners, are you finding any other best practices when it comes to promoting an event or actually staying in touch with people during or after the event?
Carrie: Yeah. So I built bots for Social Media Day Denver and other conferences, and it’s been a useful tool not only for the attendees but now it also plays in as a benefit for speakers because the speakers can offer value after their sessions to the users to then opt in to the speaker’s bot and get their personalized information and slides or whatever it may be. So there was kind of value all around within the event not only between attending it but to who they’re listening to and talking with as well.
Rich: So let me make sure that I understand this. So is this related to the events chatbot? So there’s somebody standing on stage and saying I’ve got the slides and if you want them just go to my Facebook page and engage with the chatbot? What’s the exact process, what does that look like?
Carrie: It’s the exact same as the eventbot, it’s just a separate link to go to the speaker’s bot then. So the bot can play on both sides of the event, not only just for the event but also for the speakers as well.
Rich: I’m sorry if I’m being slow here. So you’ve got, let’s call it the “TedX bot”, that you created. So when the speaker is up on stage is he or she directing people to your bot and then they can get information from that speaker, and then the speaker gets the information? How does that exactly work?
Carrie: They can opt into the speaker’s bot as a completely separate bot so that they the speaker gets access to the attendee as a subscriber and the speaker can then send out their own information to the person listening.
Rich: And that makes a lot of sense. Usually when I’m up on stage at the end I want to collect those business cards or email contact or something like that, and I usually have some sort of giveaway like slide or a template or something like that. And you’re just finding that there’s a lot of good engagement on Facebook there. And with our type of audience, chances are they’ve got their smartphone right there so it’s not too difficult to open up the Messenger app and just sign up right there.
Carrie: Right. And it allow for the attendees then to have an even better experience with the speakers. So a lot of the times you’ll see attendees get their phone out and take photos of the slides or something that they’re really interested in, especially if it’s one individual speakers. So this allows them to then more personally connect with that speaker and get the information sent automatically to their phone so that they can spend more time listening and engaging with that speaker, than trying to quickly take down notes or snapshot photos of the slides.
Rich: Yeah, and I love the idea about telling them about changes in the calendar or the schedule for the day or saying, “Hey, we’re all meeting out for drinks and appetizers after the event and this is where we’re going to be”, so I can broadcast that out. The chatbot can talk to people and respond to questions, but also I can use that as a live broadcast tool as well?
Carrie: Yeah. So we’ve had after parties with the TedX events and sometimes they’re outside and it rains, so if that happens I can send all the attendees a message that said, “We moved the location to here”, to make sure no one gets left out of where we’re going if there is a change in the schedule like that.
Rich: And I assume that just like texting or email that if somebody is just getting too many messages, it’s easy enough for them to opt out.
Carrie: Correct, yup. So all anyone has to do ever is click “unsubscribe” or “stop” and they’re opted out.
Rich: So let’s say that someone in the audience right now is on stage at a future event, what exactly should they say to opt into their chatbot messaging?
Carrie: So I recommend for the speakers is once they close their speech they use their very last slide to engage and say, “By the way, if you want all of this information you can just opt into my bot and it’s here for you. If you have any questions for me, let me know ”. So it’s also a good way to follow up and act further past that on stage interaction.
Rich: Besides the QR code, literally where do we want to send people to? Is is a URL that we can share with them, do we tell them to go to our Facebook business page?
Carrie: Yes. So there’s multiple entry points. You can send them to a mini link, almost all business pages should have this link to direct people into Messenger, it’s an m.me link, I believe. So people can just organically go to the page and send them a message, or they can scan the code, you also can use Messenger as a growth tool even on your website, for chat. So there’s multiple ways to get people into your Messenger.
The rule of Messenger subscribers though, is that someone has to message you first. So you want to make sure when you’re asking them to engage with your that you’re sending them an easy to answer question; “Hey Rich, were you just in my session? I want to make sure I’m talking to the right person.” They respond “yes” or “no”, and they’re automatically a subscriber.
If they were to go to your Messenger and you only pushed information out to them and they never messaged you or had a conversation with you, they’re not a subscriber.
Rich: Alright, so ask an easy to answer question. And you can do that with buttons, I assume?
Carrie: Yeah, yup. So you give them an option and they click one. You want to lead in with the button base navigation because it’s the easiest way for someone to respond and they don’t need to think of an answer.
Rich: Good, we don’t want then to think too hard. So we’ve talked primarily about how speakers and conferences cn use this tool, but obviously it’s a tool for everybody and any type of business. If someone is listening today and they never used chatbots before, how would you recommend they get started? What are the first steps that they should take?
Carrie: They need to most likely understand what their own lead generation process looks like. I have a lot of people that want to use bots to get subscribers and I ask them what they’re already doing that works. Do you have a quiz that you’re putting out for people to engage with, do you have an offer to a discount or an event? So why would someone want to start a conversation with you, and that usually is an easy entry point than to figure out how to use the bot to communicate with that audience.
Rich: Ok, that makes sense. And then I know that there’s rules about how often or what kind of promotions you can run through chatbots, especially on Facebook. Can you kind of give us a brief on what we need to keep in mind if we are going to be using chatbots to market to our audience?
Carrie: Yeah, so you can run advertising all day to Messenger destinations to get to subscribers, that’s a great tool for growth. But once someone is actually in the chatbot you need to treat it very sensitively, similar to how you’d treat a text. The misconception is that it’s another avenue similar to email but you don’t want to be pushing messages like that, because it is going to your personal chatting device. You want to make sure that when you communicate it’s authentic, it provides value, it sounds human, and it’s engaging.
After you do that enough, then it’s ok to ask people, “Hey, by the way, is this something you’re interested in”, because they’ve gone through the “like, know, and trust” process and some of the communication that they’d be willing to get offers from you.
Rich: So what are some of the creative ways that you’ve seen businesses use chatbots in the last year or two?
Carrie: There have been so many fun ways and somany different markets. I have a mineral client for wellness that does supplements, and we were noticing that people really weren’t opening up to that 15-20% discount offer. So we started to ask interactive questions. Our audience was primarily women aged 50+ so we created an “Are you getting enough calcium” quiz. And many women were opting into that, testing their knowledge on calcium-rich foods and we had a high engagement rate, and with that we then followed up in a sequence on the 24+1 rule, which means you can message someone within 24 hours with a discount then to a product to get the calcium delivered.
Another way is I have a client using it that connects it to a call center. They were noticing their leads were losing interest after a 24 hour period, so they wanted to interact with these leads immediately. So once we got people into the bot by offering a free cheat sheet, there was someone communicating with them manually asking if they wanted to schedule a call or get on a call right then and there. And with that model they’re closing around $1,000 a day in recurring subscription revenue.
Rich: In a situation like that where there’s a mixture of pre-recorded messages and a real live person engaging – it sounds like you did that also at the TedX event – how does that look? Like, how do you know, is there a central database or something where you’re seeing these messages come in and you can kind of override what the chatbot is going to say, or how does that work?
Carrie: So when someone follows the bot, they stay in the bot and it just kind of flows on it’s own and does all the back work. But when someone asks a question that isn’t programmed or wants to chat live, you can set up a tag on that message that prompts a customer service rep or whoever is sitting at the computer saying, “Rich has an unanswered question ,you might need to step in and answer this.”
Rich: Ok, cool, that makes a lot of sense. Do you have a personal favorite chat tool? I’m guessing you use many out there.
Carrie: Yeah, so I use ManyChat, I’m a ManyChat agency partner and expert. So that was one of the best platforms I found just because it has the most in depth self learning program. I believe Molly Pittman actually put out how to use ManyChat, she has an entire course free. So being self-taught on these platforms is key and it was the easiest one for me to pick up and learn on with the resources available.
Rich: Very cool. This has been great, Carrie, and definitely gave us a lot to think about and I know I am definitely going to want to implement a lot of these ideas for the Agents of Change Digital Marketing Conference.
If people want to learn more about you and learn more about chatbots, where can we send them?
Rich: And as always we’ll have all those links in the show notes. Carrie, thank you so much for coming on today and sharing your expertise.
Carrie: Yeah, thank you, it was a pleasure.
Carrie Gottschalk has helped a variety of businesses learn to leverage the power of chatbots to engage potential customers, push them through the sales funnel, and collect useful data to aid with future marketing strategies. Check out her website to find out more about how she uses chatbots in marketing strategies, and follow her on Facebook and Instagram for more tips.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.