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How to Use Chatbots to Enhance Marketing (the Right Way)

If you had spoken to a marketer back in 2015, you'd have come away convinced that chatbots were going to rule the marketing world. These magical things would combine AI with an always-on outlet to bring a true omnichannel buying experience. (Have I hit the annoying marketer's bingo yet?)

Fast forward to today, and it's obvious that chatbots haven't lived up to their expectations. In fact, in the FinTech world, most bots are used for backend customer interaction and simple IT tasks such as changing passwords. The bots that you do see on websites make it very obvious that they're limited in capacity or direct you to a human as quickly as possible.

It seems as if bots fell flat on their faces before they even began. However, a large portion of their failure is down to marketers using them all wrong. Bots are still limited by technology, but this doesn't mean they don't have any marketing uses.

Here are 4 ways in which bots can enrich your marketing strategy.

Gathering Customer Preferences

If marketers were being honest, we'd admit that bots were set up to fail. We expected them to handle everything, all at once, before technology had the chance to catch up. Many companies outsourced entire workflows to bots, and the result was a backlash from (human) customers who instantly spotted a dumb bot.

This explains the move back to in-person live chat. Rachel Cunningham, Content Marketing Director at B2B marketing agency BOP Design, notes that bots are great at answering specific queries and carrying out limited workflows. As a result, they're great tools to gather customer feedback and preferences.

The first place you can deploy a bot is in gathering feedback. Most customers won't fill out a feedback form but are more likely to interact with a bot that approximates a human voice. You can use these data to improve subsequent customer journeys through personalization or better products.

Travel agencies offer a great example of using bots to automate most tasks and gather important customer data at the same time. Companies such as Expedia and Kayak integrate their bots into Facebook Messenger and allow customers to plan trips and book flights. The data they gather is then used to present last minute deals and packages that increase user engagement.

Tasks such as these used to be carried out solely by email. However, having a chatbot execute them boosts engagement since users spend more time on messaging apps than on email. A chat environment is also more friendly and is less time consuming, which results in an engagement boost. As a result, gathering customer preferences that you can use to tailor future experiences is easier.

Enrich Experiences

In the past, customers valued price a lot more, but this isn't the case. Personalization is now one of the primary drivers of buying decisions, along with the price of the product. There are many ways a chatbot can enhance CX at different stages of your funnel. For example, Whole Foods’ bot allows prospects to search for recipes and then recommends products for purchase using recipe data.

During the awareness stage, a bot can act as a friendly search bar, introducing a new prospect to your products and services and giving them relevant details. Given the current state of chatbot technology, it's a good idea to keep this workflow limited and offer to connect the prospect to a human being when things get too complex.

A bot can also play an important role in lead nurturing strategies. Repeat visitors can be presented with additional questions that can help you segment them more accurately. You can use this data to present solutions that are better tailored to them.

Instead of sending follow up emails that might be ignored, use a bot to send a message through a messaging platform. The key is to respect your prospect's personal space and not spam them with messages all the time. You can't force prospects into a buying decision. Focus on providing them with relevant content that builds trust, and you'll gain equity with them.

Improved Lead Scoring

Hubspot estimates that it takes a prospect 10 touches before they buy your service or product. A chatbot offers you an additional way of getting in touch with your prospect. Most importantly, it gives you a way to measure prospect engagement and qualify your leads better.

Most companies score their leads by measuring metrics such as downloads, time spent on site, and so on. While these metrics are great, measuring interactions with your bot solidifies your conclusions. You can gather interaction data in many ways through your bot.

Surveys are a popular method, as are link clicks. Note that link clicks collected through your bot offer better insight into your prospect's behavior since a messenger is a more personal space than email. Someone who doesn't engage with you via email or chat is most definitely uninterested in your offering and can be dropped from your funnel.

Following up in a timely manner with your prospects is easier with a bot. The alerts you send will most likely be noticed compared to email notices that can get buried. Often, prospects need more education, and you can use a bot to gather data regarding the topics they'd like to learn about. Implementing this workflow through email is tedious, but a bot makes it easy.

At the end of the day, a bot isn't going to take over your marketing stack. However, it can contribute valuable data that will help you fill gaps and build a more accurate picture of your leads. Your sales team will appreciate the higher quality of leads you handover to them, needless to say.

Build Trust

Chatbots are a double-edged sword when it comes to building trust. Use them well, and you can enrich CX to the point where your customers will love you. Use them incorrectly, and the opposite happens just as quickly. As Cunningham says, the chatbot experience is 50/50 and this is why most companies shy away from them.

However, much like how bots can help you build a better picture of your leads, they can augment your existing relationship-building efforts. Unfortunately, many companies use chatbots to bombard prospects with more information and never paused to listen. For example, how often have you visited a website, begun reading blog content, only to be interrupted by a bot popping up with a sound notification?

These kinds of experiences lead to higher bounce rates and break trust. Instead of viewing a bot as a shortcut to drilling deeper into your prospect's mind, integrate it with the rest of your content marketing strategy.

Good Bot/Bad Bot

Chatbots might never take over marketing as was once envisioned. However, this doesn't mean they're of no use. The key is to use them the right way, within the limits of the technology that powers them. They certainly aren't essential to your marketing stack, but they can augment existing customer data in creative ways.

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