Start Digital
Nov 17, 2017 · 6 min read

We have all signed up to some form of email marketing. If you’re a savvy email user you may even have a designated email address that you use just for sign-ups. If you’re like us (sorta savvy) then you’ll be bombarded with emails, throw your hands in the air and then start another ‘new’ account to manage newsletter signups. It’s like Groundhog Day for email — which is as bad as it sounds.

Emails and Email marketing have been around as long as the internet. Most businesses, large or small, know that collecting email address is easy to do and is still considered to be one of the most effective forms of marketing.

But what about Facebook Messenger we hear you think (yep, we read minds), the faster, more direct, in your face, ‘new’ kid on the block. Facebook extended messenger marketing by adding ‘bots’ in 2016. Businesses were quick to jump on board but the results are mixed — it works incredibly well for some and not so good for others. So which one should you use as a part of your marketing strategy and can they co-exist in harmony?

What is a Messenger bot?

Put simply a bot is an automatic response service on Facebook Messenger. A bot is the term that is used to describe software that automates tasks. The Facebook Messenger bots are incredibly smart. They are created using Facebook’s wit.ai bot engine. This ‘engine’ is able to turn natural language into structured data. The bot automatically interprets the intent of a received message and gives an appropriate reply, making it kind of feel like a real conversation, albeit with a soulless void. Anybody that has messenger can use a bot to automate conversation. However, Facebook Messenger recommend that they should always be linked to your Facebook business page so there is no confusion when customers use it. And Start Digital recommend giving your bot some personality so as not to be confused with a soulless void.

Facebook is making it increasingly simple for companies and their customers to use Messenger bots, for instance, you can embed a Messenger button onto your website page to encourage quick, simple conversation and engagement.

How to set up a Messenger Bot

If you’re interested in building your own bot check out the Messenger Platform Page. Here you are guided through how to set up your own messenger bot. Quick disclaimer, you might want to get comfy as it can be a complex and lengthy process to map out. If you don’t have the time then there are many companies out there that will do it for you, such as Snatchbot or Start Digital can help — if you insist of course. If you want more info and local support there is even a Perth Chatbot Meetup

When considering whether to use Messenger bots or not it’s a good idea to think about what kind of experience you want potential customers to have with your brand. Think about the goals of using the bot and the experience of the people using it. Decide what action you want your potential customers to take as a result of communicating with your bot. What happens after they’ve gone through your messenger sequence and how will you stay in touch.

When mapping out your bot you have to build a library of potential prompts and responses. This is where personality comes into play. You also need to think about different responses that have the same result as there is a potential to get stuck in a loop when interacting with a bot (insert another Groundhog Day analogy). One of the easiest ways to keep your objectives focused is to create buttons for users to choose from during the sequence.

What is Email Marketing?

Most businesses are familiar with the concept of email marketing but many don’t use it to its full potential. If you are familiar with email marketing you will already be using an email provider like MailChimp. An email provider allows you to set up an automatic email sequence and, if they’re good, they’ll provide you with a suite of great looking templates to make sure your email pops.

Email sequences are timed emails that are strategically written to keep an audience engaged with your company or to make a sale. For instance, somebody signs up to your list and within twenty-four hours they get a welcome email. Then they get another email every day for five days, then every week for five weeks and so on. It might be you design a marketing sequence of three emails before asking for a purchase. These are often called drip campaigns. We recently signed up for some newsletters from Flywheel — these guys have online marketing nailed!

Emails can present many different calls to action in one email and are often designed in sequence to gain trust before asking for a buy. Like with bots, it’s important to plan exactly what the aim of your emails are and the experience you want your readers to have.

Emails allow you to be very targeted on who in your list receives emails from you. This is done by segmenting your list or creating several different lists with different opt-ins.

Similarities

  • Email and messenger are highly targeted forms of marketing. They both aim their message to a pre-defined targeted audience.
  • Both are intentional in the way they are planned and formatted.
  • They both need you to use your voice. The language and responses should be familiar to your brand.
  • They need tweaking depending on user experience.
  • Both can use various multimedia links to videos, pdf or mp3s.

Differences

  • Where email marketing may have a specific targeting structure of events and each email can be lengthy, messenger bots need be programmed to respond immediately to a broad set of questions and inputs. In short, emails can be expansive and broad, messenger bots need to be short and to the point.
  • Messenger is a two-way interaction that is ‘live’, at least at the client end. The response the bot gives is determined by the question the user asks. Email marketing is very much a one way street and more ‘marketing’ focused.
  • Audience demographics. New technology usually attracts a younger audience. Older audiences are more likely to stick to what they know. It’s a comfort thing. 🙂

Summary

Both email and Messenger bot marketing require you to be very deliberate and considered in your approach. Plan your message and what your aims are. Also, consider how you will keep readers engaged in the long term.

It’s still early days for bots and we see no reason for them not to develop and grow. They have the potential to be an ‘always on’ staff member that helps market your business 24/7. For the best results be prepared to monitor the interactions so that the responses can be tweaked to suit a growing set of questions and interactions.

A marketing strategy in 2018 needs to be dynamic and flexible (like Jean Claude Van Damme — first analogy that popped up, sorry). At Start Digital we’re going to invest a little time and energy into both our email marketing and a messenger bot. Putting our money where our mouth is so to speak.

In short, we believe that bots and emails can hold hands. Both platforms should play a big part in digital marketing in the coming years and it will be interesting to watch how businesses respond to the ever changing expectations of client engagement.

If you’d like to talk all things chat bot why not let us shout you a coffee? We love a good geeky tech talk.

This article was originally created and written for Start Digital on 14/11/2017

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Digital Australians helping Analog Australians build digital products. Start. Don’t stop.

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