The word “bot” has a negative effect on modern American culture. From annoying telephone bots that call in the middle of the night to fraudulently demand money from supposed government agencies to Hollywood films that feature killer robots with lasers, the term bot seems to have nothing good associated with it.
But robots and AI actually have a lot of positive potential. In the future, bots will be able to conduct surgery more steadily than the most dedicated human, and already AI is aiding overworked lawyers in case research and other paralegal tasks.
How Chatbots and AI Can Benefit Your Business
Similarly, artificial intelligence is helping small businesses with many functions of their business, including chatbots for lead generation and chatbots for sales. Far from being used as intrusions on your client's free time, or as a replacement for human employees, chatbots are enabling small businesses to compete successfully with larger organizations, and at a minimal price.
For example, at larger companies, customers regularly visit the company's website at all hours of the day or night, asking questions about that company's products and if the company can accommodate them, due to the fact that they have someone checking the website 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. If the large company can't find anyone in America who is able to check the website at 3AM EST, then the company will contract with employees in another country who will be happy to oblige.
However, until recently, smaller companies were at a disadvantage in this scenario. Unless the owner wanted to stay awake nearly 24 hours a day, he or she could not answer the random question from a potential client at 3 AM. Hiring employees for those hours could also be expensive.
Enter the chatbot. A chatbot can be programmed to answer basic questions about your business and is available at all hours of the day and night. Imagine telling your business clients that you have basic 24-7 tech support, without the heightened cost! This chatbot use case is proving to be advantageous for all businesses and even comes with some unforeseen benefits.
The Chatbot as Salesman
While it may seem as if chatbots would have limited functionality on a website, nothing could be further from the truth. A chatbot is actually an efficient little salesman, and the chatbot conversion rate can be as high as 50% in some cases. Read more about a chatbot use case here. When used correctly, a chatbot could even be considered a leadbot.
Apparently, what's happening is that people enjoy communicating via messaging apps and texts. From WhatsApp to iMessage to Slack, people are increasingly using messenger apps as their primary means of communication. Therefore, when they come across a chatbot, they simply slip into a receptive, texting mode. The chatbot seems unobtrusive in this situation and may even be seen as pleasant. Chatbots for sales are not unusual, and in fact, can be very handy.
The Cost of Chatbots
Even better, the cost of chatbots can be absolutely free. There are a variety of apps on the Internet which anyone can download in order to create a chatbot. Most of these apps also require no programming experience, so a small business owner can be up and running with a chatbot in a matter of hours. This blog, by The Startup, features simple instructions on downloading and creating a chatbot.
Cautions about Chatbots
As with any new technology, there are some issues regarding chatbots used in B2B marketing that the savvy business owner should take into consideration before using this new technology. First of all, enough information should be given to the chatbot for it to comprehend the typical question asked by a lead. An ignorant chatbot is just as annoying as an ignorant employee.
Also, intrusive use of chatbots should be avoided. “Cold” messages using Chatbots, in which a lead is contacted via message with no sign of prior interest, should be avoided. Cold calling has essentially destroyed telephone landlines as a means of communication, and messaging apps are too valuable to marketers to risk in the same way. Also, certain messaging apps restrict “cold messaging,” and if a business owner insists on randomly texting people about their products, they may very well be banned from the messaging service for life.
The Chatbot: A Useful Ally
While there should be some caution in using chatbots, as with any other technology, the potential for chatbots to improve B2B marketing should not be underestimated. From acting as a 24-7 basic tech support center to helping any business generate leads, chatbots are proving to be a crucial part of any small business. Even if the business you manage decides not to make use of chatbots, your competitors certainly will.