The question some businesses are asking themselves these days, “To bot, or not to bot?” But the reality is, chatbots are a fantastic automated solution that allow businesses and organizations the power to handle not only more customers at once, but to also do it simultaneously. Talk about some bang for your buck!
But one of the key to creating an effective chatbot, according to chatbot builder Kelly Mirabella, is not necessarily to fool people into thinking they’re talking to a human, but to assist with answering some of the more basic questions and help to filter out those that may need the more detailed attention of an actual human touch. By first thinking like a customer, you will be able to preprogram answers to some of the more basic or frequently asked questions, and then build on it from there, including using it as part of your sales funnel and strategy.
Rich: My guest today is a self-described social media geek and marketing consultant with Stellar Media Marketing. She’s been actively working in the digital marketing space for the past 14 years. With a flair for fun, she brings her unique and engaging style to her Baby Got Bot training videos and messenger campaigns.
Owner of Stellar Media Marketing, she is a Manychat agency partner, marketing expert, certified educational partner, and the trainer for the new Manychat course. Today we’re going to be diving into bots with Kelly Mirabella. Kelly, welcome to the podcast.
Kelly: Thanks for having me, Rich. I’m super pumped to be here.
Rich: Excellent. You always bring the energy, that’s what I appreciate.
Kelly: I try.
Rich: So you’ve been working in digital marketing for the past 14 years as I mentioned, and it looks like you’re coming up on the 10th anniversary of Stellar Media Marketing, but I don’t think that chatbots have been around that long. So what caused you to put your focus on bots?
Kelly: Well, actually it was a presentation that I went to at Social Media Marketing World by Andrew and Pete from Atomic. And they talked about really just focusing on having 90% of your focus on one thing. And at the time I had just started, this was about – oh gosh, over three years ago – I just started to dabble in the world of Manychat and chat marketing and started building messenger bots and I was having a lot of fun.
But one of the things I noticed is that I had to watch a lot of really horrible videos on YouTube, a lot of instruction that was poorly edited, or they would go on and on and then say, “Oh, everything I just taught you was wrong. Now we have to start over”, and they didn’t think to edit that.
So I thought, I could do this better. I mean, I could edit this and teach people as I learn. And so I started talking to Andrew and Pete. I hired them for some coaching and I basically decided I am changing gears. I’m going to go all in on this and be an early adopter and really just dive in and teach it to other people, because I found it to be really fun and really useful and kind of the rest is history I guess. So I just shifted at that point.
Rich: Excellent. Now I know a lot of social media gurus and Facebook experts love bots, but can real world businesses benefit from them as well?
Kelly: Oh absolutely. There’s so many use cases. And I actually think that the small business and the medium size businesses can probably benefit from them the most. It can afford you more time, it can help you qualify leads, and it can help make things more fun. And believe it or not, it can also help bring more personality to your brand.
Rich: Well, and that’s a great point, because this is something I have been trying to get into, chatbots. I’ve been trying to focus more of flyte’s time on chatbots because I think it’s a great way of showing off your brand’s personality and all the things you mentioned already. And it’s just been about finding the time to do it. Do you have, if I remember correctly, you work with a lot of enterprise level clients and then you also do some teaching to people to do it themselves. Is that correct?
Kelly: Yeah, so I actually do build bots. Most people think all I do is build bots for clients, but actually I only build client bots for larger companies, like you said, enterprise style companies. But most of my focus is really teaching individual businesses and entrepreneurs and solopreneurs how to do it themselves. Because as a solopreneur, I know the importance of being well versed in something and wanting to get your hands into the jar, if you will. So that’s really one of my passions is helping people learn how to use these tools themselves for their business.
Rich: What lessons have you learned from developing out chatbots for enterprise level clients that might be good takeaways for small to medium sized businesses?
Kelly: I think something that’s really important is to understand why you’re using them from the get go. Something that enterprise businesses do really well is they understand strategy and they don’t just necessarily dive in, at least not the smart ones. So when you’re building a bot, it’s just not a matter of, “Oh Hey, let’s just throw together some FAQs”, or “Instead of doing email, let’s replace this.” It becomes more of an integral part of an entire strategy. So that one thing connects us to another, connects to another.
So an enterprise business, instead of saying, “Well, let’s just start this messenger bot and it’s going to fix this problem,” they really start thinking about a messenger bot as a piece of a whole puzzle. And when you put those pieces together, like your social media marketing and your messenger marketing, and maybe if you’re doing email marketing or SMS or webinars or whatever those pieces are, you start putting them together. It can create a really smooth process that ends up working so much better because you’ve put all those pieces together.
Rich: Do you have any examples of small to medium sized businesses, maybe through your own experience or through somebody you trained, examples of them using chatbots successfully, either in a creative way or a way that they’re really qualifying some leads?
Kelly: Yeah, absolutely. I know for instance Kerwin Rae who is kind of the Gary Vaynerchuk of Australia, he actually does really high level coaching programs and he sells $4,000 programs. And you can imagine that’s not an easy task. That’s a lot of man hours of getting on the phone, qualifying the leads, making sure that they get emails and getting the information they need and maybe to redirecting them elsewhere. Well they actually implemented a messenger bot campaign and the bot does a lot of that heavy lifting.
It goes in, it is very simple qualification questions to see if that person is even a good fit in the first place. And then it will redirect people who are not good fits to other programs. And then finally it will take the people who are a good fit, who do qualify for the program and it will integrate with a scheduling tool and allow that person to set up a free consultation. And really what that consultation ends up being is the sales person gets on the phone, gives a quick consult, gets a little bit more help to that person, builds a little bit more trust and then converts them. But along the way, the bot has gathered all of this great information about them and it becomes a more personalized call and it’s so much easier to convert and it saves the business a ton of time.
Rich: Wow. Alright. So it sounds like there’s definitely a lot of things that bots can do. I want to get into that, but before we do, as we’re recording this as we discussed before we got on, we’re in the midst of the Coronavirus shutdown as well that hopefully won’t last forever. Have you seen any shift in how companies are using bots to communicate with customers? Especially as many businesses can’t currently meet customers face to face. Are they using bots in a different way?
Kelly: I think that they are utilizing them slightly differently. One of the solutions you might see quite often with businesses, especially brick and mortar style businesses that have to close their doors, is they’re using the messenger bot to convey those messages. You know, their customers are going to their Facebook page, they’re going to the website saying, what’s different here? What’s changed? How do I still get the content that I’ve paid for? How do I still order food from this restaurant? And the bot can help direct people to the right places. Let them find out what are the new hours, where can they sign up for information if they’re a member or to get resources. So the bot can help with a lot of that redirection for people.
Another thing that I’ve seen bots being utilized right now is actually with restaurants. Because restaurants do have to close their doors, but they can still do orders or delivery and pickup and the bots have actually been able to help facilitate orders and with payments and the whole nine. There’s actually some builders out there who’ve done this for restaurants and saving them instead of having to recreate the wheel or go buy an expensive program, really trying to tighten those wallets down right now. And a bot can absolutely help with that.
Rich: So you can definitely implement ecommerce solutions through the bot?
Kelly: Yeah, absolutely. In fact, there’s also Shopify integrations and abandoned cart integrations, and you can absolutely sell things in the bot. So it does help with pretty much any kind of business transitioning to an online world.
Rich: All right, so we’ve talked a lot about some of the benefits here, both during the pandemic as well as before and after it as well. The ways that you can save time and energy and collect a lot of great information on prospects, moving them down the funnel. If people are ready to dive in, but they haven’t set up a bot yet. What are really the first step or two first couple of steps that you take your clients through or you take students through? How do we get started?
Kelly: I absolutely would recommend that people get into the free Manychat course. It’s a really good primer just to start. It teaches you the basics of using Manychat, and Manychat is my tool of choice. Not only because it’s incredibly user-friendly. I’m a really visual person and it’s easier for me to do kind of a drag and drop, and that’s how Manychat has built their platform. It’s actually built for small businesses and medium sized enterprise. So go and take the free course and get kind of those foundations.
And then I would say you need to sit down and really think about the strategy. What are you trying to do? What solutions do you think that this could help you with and walk through those things. Or one of the things I like to talk to my clients about before I start building is I will ask them questions like, what is your current funnel? You know, what are you doing and what is the goal of that funnel? For instance, are you building an email list? Well then what are the steps that people are taking right now to get on your email list and can a messenger bot help solve that faster and make that whole thing just an easier, smoother funnel for you and for the end user so that you’re building faster and you’re getting more accurate data. And little fun fact, it will help you grow your email list a lot faster than traditional ways.
Rich: All right. The free Manychat course that you mentioned, is that available at your website or is that available at the Manychat website?
Kelly: That’s actually Manychat’s course that I helped develop and shoot. And the link is, let me see, manychat.com/free-video-course and it goes through all the foundations. You can also find it on their YouTube channel as well.
Rich: Awesome. So we’ll have a link to that as well in the show notes. So hopefully we’ve taken the course at this point and kind of figured out what our business objectives are, maybe how these tools can help. And I just want to kind of clarify something for maybe people who haven’t used these chatbots before. Really what this is, is a whole bunch of questions that you’re dictating kind of what the questions are and then depending on the answers, taking them down a certain path. Correct? Like, you’re mapping all of these conversations out.
Kelly: Absolutely. It’s like a choose your own adventure, for you 80s and 70s kids. I was obsessed. Well, if you’re not familiar with choose your own adventures, it’s really the same. Basically you’re reading the chapter and at the end of the chapter you have to make a decision. And if you make one decision, it’s going to take you to one page, and if you make another decision, it will take you to a different page and you get an end result that’s different. Well, the same can be applied to messenger bots where you, as the developer, as the builder of the business, you’re basically creating these different paths based off of what the user wants to do.
So in the example of Kerwin Rae and qualifying, the first question is, “Do you want to scale your business, yes or no? Well, if they said yes, you’re definitely going to take them to a different place than if they say no. So it’s really these questions and actions that the user takes to get to where you want them to go based off their answers.
Rich: So other ones if you are running a restaurant might be, “Do you have delivery?” “What are your hours?”, “Do you have curbside pickup?” Those sorts of things that would be some of the questions. And then based on what those are would be the questions you’d prep people with, and depending on which questions they chose, then you would decide, yes, no, you would create that whole flow chart and get them to move further down the funnel.
And Kelly, if I’m understanding what’s going on correctly is these little, we’ll call them chapters just because I was thinking of the whole choose your own adventure thing, but they can be text, they can be video, they can be an emoji. Whatever you can create basically in a webpage could be created in these little messages that are part of the chat bot.
Kelly: Absolutely. And you can deliver PDFs. The other thing that’s fun is audio actually is a really cool thing, to be able to deliver audio. If you’re in messenger, you could basically do anything you do to a friend you can do with a messenger bot.
Rich: That’s great. And I really do think that this is an amazing opportunity for especially small to medium sized businesses to really show off your personality here. What are some of the basic questions or interactions that you think almost any business should cover in the early steps of the chatbot?
Kelly: I think the very first thing you should do is set up a welcome message so that anyone who openly just cold messages your page you have, “Hey, thank you for your interest in the page or our business.” And then set the expectation right away. You know, “I am the messenger bot experience. I’m not a human. At any time you don’t want to see messages from us anymore, you can click ‘stop’”. And then maybe just a couple of buttons, like a menu, very similar to what you might find on a website with navigation just saying, “Do you want to go here, here or here?”
And when you’re thinking of those initial questions, I’m thinking about things that people are messaging my page all the time. What are people asking me about all the time? I get a lot of people on my page for instance, who are saying, “I have chat bot questions”. And so I will say, “Do you have chat bot questions?” And then they say’ yes’. Then I’m going to say, “I have these resources. You can go to my YouTube channel, you can go to my Facebook group and ask questions, or you can go buy my courses.” So I give them those answers that will help get them what they need.
Rich: So those are some good basics. What are some of the more advanced things that you think are helpful that we might not think of right off the bat?
Kelly: Yeah, absolutely. So if you’re doing Facebook Lives or webinars to help sell or to get more eyes on you and your business, chatbots can actually help you with the registration process. They can help you get more people to actually show up, which I know is a big hassle or it’s very difficult to do with say webinars and they’ll show up right away.
If you’re doing Facebook Lives, the messenger bot can actually help you get more organic engagement. In tests that we’ve done with my clients, we’ve had 10 times the distribution comments, shares on organic posts, no ads, just because we’ve included strategies that have messenger bots. So those are just some of the things that we do quite often. I also have seen them work very successfully for signing people up to appointments. So if you’re a coach, if you’re a real estate agent, if you do any kind of situation where you need to get people on the phone to either sell them or even sell them into calls like consulting, what have you, the messenger bot can actually help facilitate all of that.
Rich: Yeah. I saw some of the results that you shared during your presentation and social media marketing this year, and the numbers were just fantastic for some of the jobs that you had done.
Kelly: Yeah, it gets me very excited and I get real nerdy about it.
Rich: That’s awesome. So I know that I’ve talked to businesses that don’t have a strong Facebook presence and they’d rather just use chatbots on their sites. Do you have any, I know your focus is on many chat, I believe that’s a Facebook only platform. Do you have any recommendations for people using chatbots on their website? Is this something do you know that chat that Manychat is looking into or other platforms do? Both Facebook and your website?
Kelly: Yeah. So actually Manychat currently has widgets and embeddables as well as a little chat bubble that you can place on your website. My website for instance, if you went to my website Stellar Media Marketing, which is very outdated but it does have some bubbles. So there’s a little chat bubble that’ll pop up. I also have a kind of like a pop-up that will ask for people to opt into my SMS, my text messaging list. And actually all of that is facilitated through Manychat. I can do SMS text message marketing, I can do messenger marketing, and I can do email marketing all through the same platform. The difference is that Facebook is the core foundation of that. So even though it’s on the website, the user does have to have messenger in order to do the on website bubbles and such. The chat features however, Manychat currently doesn’t have anything that’s independent, but I have heard rumors that they are working on something that would be independent of Facebook.
Rich: All right, that’s good to know. Now, even if you don’t have a strong presence on Facebook or even if you do, I’m guessing that one of the challenges might be to get people to initiate with your chat bot in the first place. I know I will sometimes go to a company’s page, especially these days where I’m looking for local restaurants to buy gift cards or do pickups from. And then I’ll see that they have some sort of chat bot. But if we’re not going to wait for people to come to our page, what are some of the marketing or promotion tactics you see as being successful to get people to engage with your chat bot in the first place?
Kelly: Right. There’s actually a ton of ways and we have these tools called ‘growth tools’. And growth tools are essentially what you’re talking about. There are entrance points that you can place all over the place. So I mentioned already the website ones, you know the chat bubble and the embeddables that you put on your website. But you can also do ads like Facebook ads that immediately direct people into messenger. And these actually convert really well. They’re really great for generating business and leads.
One of my favorites is called a ‘comment growth tool’. And you could put these both on your Facebook page posts as well as ads. And when people make comments with certain keywords involved, it will actually open up messenger. And I’ve seen these go wildly successful with things like contests and even just grabbing coupons and discounts or getting into specials. I’m actually doing one I just launched yesterday that you can get a free Zoom guidebook. And if you comment on my Facebook page post that’s for this, all you have to do is tell me about your business and immediately a messenger window pops up and says, “Great, here is your guide”. And then it follows up with, “Would you like me to send you the video that I’m putting out this week that will teach you how to use Zoom for your local brick and mortar business?” And people can set a notification. And that’s helping me stay within the rules of the platform.
So now, not only am I able to deliver this lead magnet that’s valuable to people, I could also ask for their email if I wanted to. I decided not to do that in this case because my strategy, again going back to thinking through your whole strategy, is I want people to watch my video. So now when my video comes out tomorrow I can send a message to all those people and say, “Here’s that video that I promised you”, and I already have a built in audience. Which if you know anything about YouTube or Facebook or really any social network, the built in audience, the people who come and watch in the first hour if you will, that is going to trigger the algorithm. And so whenever possible, I’m trying to get people into my videos right away.
Rich: Oh, that’s really good. You mentioned briefly the rules of the platform. They do seem to change. What are some of the most important rules that are in effect today when it comes to Facebook messenger that we need to be paying attention to?
Kelly: Sure. I think the very first thing is, before I even talk about rules, I want to just point out that Facebook makes it impossible to message people that have not first initiated a message with a page. So a lot of people say, “Well, I don’t want to just spam people. I don’t want businesses just to be able to spam me.” The thing is, is that you really can’t. You have to message them first. So that’s the first and foremost.
But in terms of the basic rules, once a user interacts with your messenger bot, they come in through a common growth tool, they come through your website, a link, however, where they’ve straight messaged your page. Then what happens is you have 24 hours, like a window opens up and you’re allowed to send them whatever it is that you want to send them. It could be promotions, it could be value based content, whatever you want to do in that 24 hours, as long as it’s within Facebook’s general terms of service. I mean obviously you’re not wanting to sell drugs and alcohol to minors, or drugs in general. You can do that within that 24 hours.
After the 24 hours is up, and then you have specific tags that you’re allowed to use. I already mentioned one, which is the onetime notification, which is in the example I gave for my video. They opt into that and I’m using a very specific tag that I’m allowed to then send them a message at any time within a year to follow up with that notification.
I can also do what’s called a ‘confirmed event reminder’. These are super handy. I use them all the time for things like courses, webinars, appointments that have been set, or reservations, that allow you to send a message confirming information about the event that they’ve registered for and there’s a couple of other rules, but essentially you have to follow these rules and it all comes down to keeping the quality of messenger high. Because if all the businesses are allowed to send any message they want, no matter what, then what’s going to happen is people are going to shut it down. No one’s going to want to use messenger and everybody loses.
Rich: So that kind of answers my question about how can you avoid that 24 hour window but still alert people who may have signed up a week ago for your webinar. That would be one of the exceptions to the rule then.
Kelly: Absolutely, as long as they’ve registered for the webinar, you can use what’s called a ‘confirmed of that reminder’. Or maybe you don’t have the details about the webinar yet. Just like in the example of my video, you can say when they’re in the 24 hour window, “Would you like me to notify you when the details of our next show, our next webinar or my next podcast, whatever it may be, comes out” and they say yes. Then you can apply that to let them know when those details come out.
Rich: Alright. What are the mistakes you’re still seeing businesses make when it comes to bots?
Kelly: I think the number one mistake I see people make is not setting the right expectations. We’re trying to maybe hide the fact that it’s an automation or we’re not making it really clear. And people find automations annoying when they feel like they’re being tricked. But people find them very impressive when the expectation is set, “Hey, I’m a messenger bot. I’m not really a human, but let me help you.” And then they’re like, “Whoa, that was really cool that I was able to get what I needed very quickly”. So that’s number one.
Number two would be trying to say that messenger is replacing email. It’s not, they’re completely different platforms and they have their own use cases and use together. Again, going back to this idea of multi multichannel marketing, they could be very, very handy to work with each other.
And finally the last mistake is being boring, not putting personality into your messenger bot. It’s just too easy to have fun. You know, use gifs, use emojis, personalize the messages. The platform makes it really easy to do that.
Rich: Well, and that was a one question that I wanted to get back to, because like I said, I love the idea of chatbots because they’re a great way of showing off your personality. Do you have, we mentioned a few, but do you have other tips on how people can be more creative with bots, show their personality or make it a little bit surprising? Because I think people like – and if it’s a positive surprise – something that kind of like catches them off guard and makes them surprised.
Kelly: I think anything you can customize. So we mentioned that you could put audio in. If you are a coach or a known entity – like Rich, this would be great for you – because people follow your brand a lot of times because of you. So if you had like a little video clip saying, “Hey guys, thanks for joining me here today. I’m really glad that you subscribed”. Or you know, those little things that are your voice, that could be huge.
Or if you’re a real estate agent and they come in and they see just a little video clip of you saying, “Thanks so much for wanting to schedule an appointment with me. I’m going to ask you a couple of questions below and then we’re going to schedule that appointment. I can’t wait to talk to you on the phone.” And those sort of not only set the right expectation, but it creates a really personalized experience. Those are the sorts of things I think that really take it to the next level. And any time you can make the process seamless and easy for the end user, it’s almost like they’re just in so impressed.
I had a really simple integration with one of my bots, which was to schedule a call with me. But you could do the entire thing through messenger and it’s just a matter of confirming your email and confirming a couple other things and all you have to do is tap your email. You don’t even have to type anything. And I had so many people that were like, “Wow, that’s amazing. That was like magic”. And to me I thought, wow, that was just really simple integration. So it needs to be simple for the end user. It doesn’t necessarily have to be simple on the backend.
Rich: Nice. Well this has been great Kelly, and I really appreciate you coming on the show and sharing what you know about what’s going on with chatbots today. If people want to learn more about you, maybe check out some of your classes and courses, where can we send them?
Kelly: I am everywhere at @stellar247. Most of my bot stuff can be found on YouTube, so it’d be youtube.com/stellar247. And all my courses are found on Thinkific at stellar247.thinkific.com. And like I mentioned, my website is ancient. I know, I know I need to go update it. So you can certainly go there, but it might not be the best place to find all the good stuff.
Rich: All right. We’ll have links there because I know you’re going to update it someday. So no matter when people check this out, they’ll be able to check out your website. Kelly, thanks again so much for stopping by today. Really appreciate it.
Kelly: Thank you for having me, Rich. It’s been a pleasure.
Kelly Mirabella has been helping businesses with their marketing strategies for over 12 years. She has used her experience building and utilizing chatbots to help others do the same as part of their business strategies. Check out her website for more information, as well as her YouTube page. If you’re thinking of trying the chatbot thing yourself, you may find one of her courses on the topic helpful as well.
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.