Chatbots have taken over the world of online customer service – it’s not uncommon to see automated messages popping up while browsing a Facebook business page or scrolling through a SaaS website. In fact, you may already have a chatbot for your own business.
Chatbots are automated programs designed to simulate a conversion via online chat. They’re quite popular for businesses using Facebook Messenger to connect with potential customers.
Businesses often implement them on their website to welcome potential leads. Here’s an example from Clearvoice:
But the mere fact of having a chatbot does not mean it is working as effectively as it can.
A recent survey on the state of inbound marketing suggests that the top challenge for businesses remains prospecting for leads, with several responders stating it has become more difficult compared to 2-3 years ago.
Enter the chatbot – an effective tool to attract new prospects into your sales funnel.
Even if you already have an established sales funnel, this tool can be a valuable asset to add to your pipeline.
Why Use a Chatbot
Chatbots are interactive by nature – this is helpful for many reasons.
Traditionally, the content on a business website is mostly passive. Prospective leads will read your web copy or blog posts – clicking from page to page is the only available interaction.
But having a helpful, effective chatbot on your website can:
- Capture the attention of your prospects
- Answer your prospects’ questions about your services or products
- Provide helpful information about your prospects
However, it needs to be well-designed, or you risk causing frustration or leading your prospects into dead-end conversations.
By design, I mean:
- The phrases used in each state
- Which keywords or menu buttons a user can input to lead to a specific state
- Conversation branches
If you’re just starting out in the world of chatbots, don’t fear! By the end of the article, you will be ready to design your own interactive sales funnel – or oversee its design if you are outsourcing its creation.
Let’s go over some basic terms first:
A state refers to the specific step in the chat flow.
For example, if the user asks a question, the flow redirects the bot to the ‘state’ that provides text which answers this question.
The welcome message is also a state.
Conversation branches are groups of states that branch in different directions in the flow.
For example, if the user says “I need information”, your bot may branch into a state that asks what type of information your user needs.
In this context, a keyword is inputted from the user that can be detected by your chatbot. Keywords can act as triggers to reach certain conversation branches or states.
In the above example, “information” is the keyword that leads to a specific branch.
Buttons are pre-defined options given for your user.
These don’t require any custom input from the user and lead to a pre-defined state.
Taking a closer look at the previously shown Clearvoice example, we can see four buttons in use for their bot.
Designing Your Chatbot
The first step when designing your chatbot is to decide whether to use buttons, custom user inputs, or a combination of both.
Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of both:
- Simple to design
- Guides users in the right direction
- Doesn’t feel like natural ‘chatting’
- The user cannot input specific questions
Custom User Input
- Imitates natural chatting
- The user can ask about anything
- More difficult to design
- Doesn’t guide the user as efficiently
What to Choose
Often, the best option is to use a combination of buttons and custom user input. This allows you to guide your user through a pre-defined conversation branch path but also gives the user the freedom to ask questions that are not mentioned in the buttons.
A successful welcome message is crucial to onboard your prospect.
The message should be friendly and not too sales-y – your goal is to help the user, not sell to them right away.
Offer assistance depending on the pain points of your target prospect. This onboarding message is the perfect time to use buttons. This allows the user to enter the chat without much effort. By asking the user to start typing right away without any prepared buttons, you risk losing their interest.
Depending on your target audience, show a bit of personality as well! Is your chatbot professional and reserved? Friendly and outgoing? A little eccentric? Does it use emojis? Think of what type of person your ideal prospect would want to chat with – then create this personality using the appropriate tone of voice.
Once the user has entered the funnel, your goal is to lead them through the appropriate conversation branch. This will do the work of qualifying leads and bringing them to the right call to action depending on their needs.
Here is a walkthrough of what your flow can look like:
1. Ask About Their Needs
At the start of your flow, provide buttons with common options for your users, but focus on their needs – not your services.
For example, if you sell software solutions for businesses, don’t list your solutions just yet. Instead, list the pain points of your target prospect.
If the user has these pain points, they will qualify themselves by clicking on the appropriate button or typing more information about their need.
2. Reassure Your Prospect and Ask for More Details
Hurray! Your user has qualified as a prospective lead for your product or service.
Now is the time to reassure them that they are in the right place.
No matter what need the user has chosen, make sure to blanch them to a state that validates your business. For example, the state could say something like: “Awesome, you’ve come to the right place!”
Next, lead the conversation branch to a state that validates for the specific need the user selected from before. If the user says they need help with content marketing, the conversation could go something like this:
“Awesome, you’ve come to the right place! [COMPANY-NAME] offers many services that can help with your content marketing”.
However, stay focused on their needs – after validating, ask more information about what they need the most. At this point, it’s a good idea to ask for a custom input from your user.
For example: “Please provide as many details as you can about the type of content marketing you need.”
Your prospect has just written about their specific needs – great! Now is the time to funnel them towards the right offer.
Branch your user to the right state depending on the keywords used when specifying their needs. You should have a different state for every product or service offered. This is the time to pitch your service!
4. Call to Action
Next, your pitch should flow directly into a clear call to action.
If your service is highly specialized and requires a consultation, provide an email form with all the needed information (name, business name, email, budget, etc).
Using a chatbot to lead to an email form is much more effective than just having an email form directly on your website – the bot allows your prospect to establish the first contact with your business and feel like they are being listened to. Plus, it takes care of disqualifying prospects that are not a good fit for your product or service.
Make sure to emphasize how important the prospect is for your business – your bot should tell them someone will get back to them as soon as possible. You don’t want them to feel like you are wasting their time.
If no consultation is needed, you can also lead your prospect to the appropriate product or service using a call to action button.
It’s a good idea to have two buttons – More Information and I Want This.
Lead your prospect to a landing page about your product or service.
Make sure your page offers clear and concise information about the offer! Your lead has already spent time asking questions and probably doesn’t want to waste more time looking for answers.
I Want This
This button can lead directly to a purchasing page.
Make sure this doesn’t lead to a sales page! By this point, your lead is warmed up and ready to buy. Making them read a sales pitch is overkill and may put them off.
Choosing the Right Keywords
To funnel your lead through the right conversation branch, your bot needs to react to the right keywords.
To come up with all the keywords you need, begin by listing out all your products and services.
Next, for each product or service, come up with all the possible words a prospect could use to lead to this service. You want to ensure that each keyword is programmed into the chatbot to lead to the related product or service.
For example, if your business offers content marketing, include the words content, content marketing, marketing, blog, blogging, web content – and any words related to the specific content you offer. If your prospect inputs one of these words, the conversation should branch towards the state that offers more information about the specific service they spoke about.
Wrapping it Up: Do’s and Dont’s of Chatbot Funnels
By now you should have a better idea of how to funnel your lead to a sale using your chatbot. Here are a few more tips to help you design efficiently:
- DO welcome your user in a friendly tone
- DON’T onboard the user with a hard sell
- DO focus on the needs of your prospect first
- DON’T bombard your prospect with offers until their needs have been heard
- DO break up long text in separate chat phrases
- DON’T send huge text blocks
- DO combine buttons and custom input
- DO show voice and personality
- DON’T use the wrong tone for your target audience
- DO funnel to a specific call to action that doesn’t require more funneling
- DON’T lead to a sales page if your user is ready to purchase
- DO program your bot with all the possible keywords for your product or service
- DON’T lead to an inappropriate conversation branch to upsell your prospect