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Chatbots-love them or hate them Alex Long “chats” with our Must Contain skeptics

December 21, 2021

Our first non Etumote guest, Alex Long, joins Kristin and Kristin to talk about the reality of chatbots. Join in to find out if they are truly useful or just a creepy pop-up in your browser. We also talk about strategies for using a chatbot and the key players in the space.

If you’re short on time, skip to 19:44 to hear the three things you need to know about chatbots.

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Transcript

Hosted by Kristin Crowe (OGK), and Kristin Anne Carideo (KAC)

Intro theme song: (00:01)
Music

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (00:36)
Hi, I’m Kristin Crowe

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (00:38)
And I’m Kristin Carideo.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (00:40)
And this is Must Contain, the podcast from Etumos where we help explain the how of marketing. Although we can’t always explain the why.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (00:48)
Join us every two weeks as we break down marketing and corporate topics and discuss what they really mean.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (00:53)
And if you enjoy this podcast, please remember to like, follow, or subscribe in all your favorite podcast platforms.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (01:02)
And we’re back with episode five of Must Contain. I’m also back and fully recovered. This is KAC – Kristin. So my voice is hopefully not difficult to listen to. I did not die as the other Kristin said I did. Rumors of my death were greatly exaggerated, but thank you for flying solo last week, Kristin.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (01:22)
No, problem. I am glad you are back because today is an exciting day. Kristin, we have our first non-Etumote guest here with us.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (01:30)
Wow…

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (01:31)
I know. I mean, I don’t know what prize you won, but it’s a pretty big one. And Alex Long is here with us today to talk about a super hot B2B marketing topic, Chatbots. Hello, Alex.

Alex Long: (01:46)
Hello. That’s so exciting to be the first outsider to come on your pod. So fun.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (01:52)
We are so excited to have you.

Alex Long: (01:54)
Thanks. I love talking chatbots. So I’m ready to nerd out with you guys.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (02:00)
Awesome. Do you wanna tell us a little bit about yourself, Alex?

Alex Long: (02:03)
Sure. So I am a Marketing Operations manager most recently with Korn Ferry, although I did just quit my job yesterday. So no longer with Korn Ferry moving on to the next thing but yeah, lots of Marketing Ops nerdy stuff is all in my forte and what I love to talk about.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (02:26)
Well, I personally am really excited to talk about this because to be quite honest I am a chatbot/conversational marketing skeptic but I’m definitely willing to be persuaded. I, my like personal thing about this is that I feel like a number of companies who may or may not be named have done a really great job of marketing this tech. And it sort of became a few years ago, like the new “hot thing” everyone had to have in their stack. And I kind of just failed to see how anything could live up to that hype. But you know, I’m excited to talk to you about sort of the general applicability of chatbots.

Alex Long: (03:10)
I love converting people to chatbots. It’s literally my favorite thing these days. It’s my absolute favorite tech.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (03:17)
So tell us a little bit about your history with, conversational marketing technology and the, and chatbot tech.

Alex Long: (03:25)
Yeah, so flashback to the year that nobody loved 2020 and nobody’s spending money on any technology at all. So I went to my powers that be, and I said, look, we’re coming up on the end of our fiscal year. I, I want just one thing. If we do no new tech this year, I want one thing and it’s not even expensive. I wanna do chatbots. And I think that’s really gonna help us with lead-gen and with website conversion. And apparently, I was persuasive enough because it worked and we ended up signing on a chatbot. And we took a little bit of time. We went into it, you know, with a kinda loose strategy in mind, some ideas on how we wanna use it. And we took about six, eight weeks or so to formulate all of our first initial experiences with our chatbot. And then we went live in a very short pilot, just to kind of proof of concept on low-value webpages. And it was out outstanding. It was absolutely way beyond our expectations. So then we went fully live in an under your head over 500 X ROI which I can’t name any other technology where I’ve had 500 X ROI.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (04:40)
Almost sounds unreal, to be honest.

Alex Long: (04:43)
Right? I mean, I’ve got the receipts if you want them, but I was also shocked when I saw the numbers.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (04:51)
I mean, that is awesome. And we’re gonna get more into how you managed to do that, but before we get into the nitty-gritty, we’re gonna start where we always start on Must Contain. And that is to ask you, Alex, what is a chatbot or chatbots and conversational marketing? What do those mean?

Alex Long: (05:12)
Yeah. So I think it’s really kind of twofold. There are chatbots, which are no human involvement. You don’t have to have somebody sitting at a computer waiting for someone on your website to engage with at all times. It can be purely formatted and let to live on its own. And it’s a really great tool for your website conversions, lead-gen directing people to where they need to be on the website, all that kind of good stuff. And then there’s conversational marketing, true conversational marketing, where you have a live person on the other end. And it may be some combination thereof for those types of experiences where you kind of have a couple of questions to figure out who’s the right person for that lead to talk to, but you have a BDR or a salesperson, someone on the other side who can say, “great, here’s some baseline info, let’s schedule a call.” so those is really kinda the two pillars of this technology and this kind of strategy for marketing.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (06:11)
So, I wanna jump back into your success metrics, right? Cause I’ve already outed myself as a chatbot skeptic. For me personally, my like whole skepticism stems from the fact that like, I will not talk to a chatbot, unless I am absolutely forced to cuz it’s a customer service situation and there isn’t any other way to get in touch with them. Which, you know, you’ve seen a lot of during the pandemic, right? People are, are staffing, those customer service kind of B2C lines with chatbots and not real people. So maybe I’m in the minority, but in a B2B context, will people really interact, with chatbots on your website?

Alex Long: (06:52)
You’re not in the minority. In fact, I’m also one of those people who I generally don’t wanna talk to the chatbot, I close it out. I get rid of it, but you’re not talking to the majority. The majority of your website is probably not gonna be somebody who’s gonna purchase from you. Anyways, they’re looky-loos. They are people who are, you know, gonna look and say, oh no, this isn’t what I’m looking for. Actually, you’re looking for that smaller percentage of people who you can go and say, I wanna talk to you. Here’s more information about the things that you’ve been looking at. Here’s a personalized experience. At least some level of personalization that you can talk to them at and really engage with a handful of people to push them down the funnel. You’re not looking for those people who are at the very tippy-top of your funnel, just entering it. You’re looking for those that are just a smidge further down.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (07:42)
I dunno if I like or dislike chatbots. I know I don’t like talking to actual people, especially on the telephone. And I have the only chatbot experience I’ve ever had. And I thought it was a little bit crazy, but I was trying to get an estimate for someone to hang Christmas lights on my house. And I went to a website and they had a chatbot and it was like, get an estimate. So I clicked the button and a chatbot popped up and it asked me it was clearly a bot, you know, had asked me yes or no questions where I click. Yes, no. Okay. Not okay. And the last question was like, our minimum projects are $8,000. Is that in your budget? And I was like, no, thank you, goodbye. This is crazy. And at first, I thought what a waste, but then I thought maybe not, I didn’t have to talk to anybody.

Alex Long: (08:28)
How much less emotional and mental stress did that give you? Right? cause you didn’t take the time to go talk to a person like for a consumer, whether your B2B or B2C, that means you don’t have to play phone tag with somebody you aren’t leaving voicemails back and forth and spending a week trying to get an estimate you found out right away that, oh no, I really don’t want to pay you to put up my Christmas lights because I don’t have $8,000 for, you know, activity that’s gonna last for a month and a half. so, you know, that saves you time in the long run. It saves you emotional and mental stress. But on the flip side from the business point of view, they’re not wasting their time with you. Who’s somebody who’s never gonna purchase from them. So it’s a great way to filter out those people who are not gonna be people you’re selling to who are obviously and very clearly based on a minimum amount, of information. Just not somebody who you’re gonna spend your time on, cause they’re not gonna net you any profits.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (09:29)
Yeah. That’s a good point. And I, and I’m, I’m assuming that you have tended to use your chatbot part of your chatbot strategy is being on that qualification.

Alex Long: (09:38)
Amm-hmm .

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (09:39)
Can you talk a little bit more about, using the chatbot to qualify prospects in a B2B context?

Alex Long: (09:48)
Yeah. So for B2B, you know, one of the things that we would see a lot at Korn Ferry is that as a recruiting firm, it’s one of the services that Korn Ferry offers. We’d see a lot of candidates come through, which is great. We want them to be in our database so that if we have a good position, we can reach out to ’em, but they’re not somebody who needs to go into our marketing database. They’re not somebody who needs to go into our CRM. They’re not somebody who needs to speak to one of our salespeople. Because they’re not gonna sign a contract with us. We don’t charge them for services. You know, we also get current clients who aren’t sure of where they’re supposed to reach out to for customer service. Maybe they forgot their login for one of the platforms and they don’t know where else to go.

Alex Long: (10:29)
And they’re filling out on the contact form. “Hey, Somebody called me…” And salespeople don’t wanna spend their time with that because that’s not their job. Fair enough. Right. Yeah. So it gives you a way to really present them with an easy place, to find information and say, “here you go, call this number or email this address and they’ll be able to help you.” Or if you have live chat available, you can even redirect that outside of sales and marketing people over to customer service and they can talk with somebody live which is that use case we’ve seen a lot with B2C. But it works for B2B as well because you’re definitely if you’re in B2B, you’re selling something. And for a lot of us these days, we’re looking at selling technology and comes with the customer service expectation. So it’s a great way to keep those people who salespeople might sometimes call time-wasters. I feel that’s probably a little harsh, but nonetheless, you know, you’re not wasting anybody’s time by passing somebody like, oh no, you gotta get to this person. Oh no, it’s actually this person, you can just say, “here’s a phone number to call they’re gonna be able to help.”

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (11:34)
Would you say so when, when folks are talking to the chatbot say that you, you, that you implemented, do they know they’re talking to a chatbot or do you, do you mimic a real person or is there actually like a real person on the end of that? Cuz you mentioned that’s one of the differences between conversational marketing and you know, sort of a pure chatbot strategy.

Alex Long: (11:52)
Yeah. I definitely think it’s a best practice to, if it’s a bot that’s talking to that lead to that person, you come right out and say, I’m a bot, I’m the virtual assistant, you know, one of those acronyms or, you know, give your chatbot a fun name. If you want, you can say, “Hey, I’m John Doe the per virtual assistant. I’m gonna try and help you out and ask you a few questions so I can get you to the right person.” I think it’s the best practice I think people know and expect to a certain degree to interact with technology and not just a person these days. You know, Kristin just said she has one and have to talk to somebody if she doesn’t have to on the phone,

Alex Long: (12:35)
I’m with her on that one. I think most people, these days don’t wanna have to talk to somebody on the phone if they don’t need to. So it’s a great way to say you’re chatting with a bot being upfront with that. I don’t think people really mind and I haven’t experienced anybody who’s like, “I’m mad I’m not talking to a real person right now.” Because when you set that expectation, it’s fine. If you don’t set that expectation, you’re trying to mimic really closely a real person. Then they find out that, oh, you’re not actually a real person that could kind of be like, oh- Hmm, that’s weird. People don’t like being duped.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (13:16)
I think you wanted to name your chatbot something pretty funny at Korn Ferry.

Alex Long: (13:21)
I did, I wanted to name it, the “Korn Fairy,” like with wings. Cuz I thought it was a really fun play on words and I’m a super punny person, that is my personality and my sense of humor. Didn’t fit the brand voice, which I guess if you’ve gotta stick to a brand…

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (13:38)
So, we’ve talked a lot about lead-gen and qualification and, getting people to the right place. But are there other common use cases outside of lead-gen and just straight qualification that you’ve either seen companies do or that you’ve considered doing yourself with your chatbot or through conversational marketing with a real person?

Alex Long: (13:59)
Yeah. So I think lead-gen’s probably the most common use case, but there are tons of other use cases and I’m seeing more and more companies be more creative with these use cases. You know you can use it as a webinar follow-up. So if you’re doing live webinar that you then put on-demand on your website, you can, you know, you’re probably having somebody fill out a form to get to your on-demand, and then you can use your chatbot on the on-demand page for them to ask questions that can later be followed up on, things like that. You can do kind of a hand-in-hand demo with your chatbot. So if out a demo going on your webpage and you integrate that with your chatbot, your chatbot can say, “great, I need your email address and we’ll get started.”

Alex Long: (14:43)
You plug in your email address and the demo moves on and they can interact with your demo and you know, do the little information balls and things, all that fun stuff. And then you can go back to your chatbot and say, we can go down multiple paths for instance, and here are your selections choose one and we’ll go forward. So you can have it kind of interact with different technologies. I’m seeing people really start to leverage it with ABM technology. If you’re using that, whether it be like 6Sense or Demandbase those integrate with most of the chatbots out there. So you can target and be super personalized and really incorporate it into your ABM strategy as part of the tech suite that you’re using for that. I think really the options are endless. Like it’s just all about how creative you can be. And then when you start throwing real people in you can get really special, I think, experiences at certain points.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (15:38)
So you named off some of the integrations that you would expect from a chatbot service. Can you talk to us about some of the leading tech in the space?

Alex Long: (15:48)
Yeah, so I think the ones, most people are common with are gonna be Drift Qualified, who is my personal favorite. I adore them. I, you could call me a fangirl. And the other, one’s probably Intercom that you see most commonly. And once you’ve kind of talked to some of these folks, you start picking out who’s got, which on their websites too, not even from engaging with it, just a little bubble, in the beginning, you can always tell.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (16:13)
That’s a fun thing is you’re just like cruising around the web being like, “that’s Drift, that’s Qualified.”

Alex Long: (16:19)
Yep. Yep. It’s a little bit Wheres, Waldo.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (16:22)
Yeah.

Alex Long: (16:24)
Or Where’s Waldo for European folks.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (16:25)
Who hasn’t checked a website or an email they got to see what, what map sent that email.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (16:29)
Yeah. Totally.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (16:30)
What, what, they’re, what email they’re using on their site. Right.

Alex Long: (16:34)
Right, I mean, if we’re MOPs, nerds, that’s how we work.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (16:37)
That’s right. That’s true. That’s true. We’re all, we’re always looking at the code to figure out what they’re, what they’re doing. so you know, you talked about how you can see what, what websites and people are using chatbots and which ones they’re using. But if you are someone who’s looking into implementing a chatbot or, or some sort of conversational marketing medium, how do you know if this is right for your organization and how do you kind of figure out where to go from there, to start using that medium?

Alex Long: (17:08)
Yeah. So I think, you know, it’s not one of those things where you have to be a super, super, mature marketing organization to get started. The big thing that you need to know is how your lifecycle works so that, you know, kind of how you’re addressing people and you need to have your website in order, it needs to be navigatable. You need to be able to get from point A to point B and not have a bajillion different referers to you, different pages and you know, your landing pages and stuff. So you really kinda have to understand how those work and then start slow. If you’re gonna build out a strategy, you don’t have to go full tilt, pedal-to-the-metal everything’s live. Everybody in the organization has a login and is talking to people left, right, and sideways. You know, it’s, you can start with just bots.

Alex Long: (18:00)
You can start with just one bot. In fact, with Korn Ferry, what we did is we designed two or three very simple bots initially, and then we built one big one that we could use anywhere on our website. And then as we’ve developed more chatbots and more experiences for different campaigns, different pages on the site, different capabilities we were able to just say, okay, this is gonna appear this experience is gonna appear on this page before you would see the homepage experience, or we can customize it with that audience. If we know this person and their current client, or we know this person, and they’re one of our target accounts for our ABM strategy, we can say, you know, address them in this particular way. And so you’re default experience as I like to call it kind of moves down your priority list. From my experience, what I’ve seen with these, the different platforms kinda works in how you might see a, if you’re a Marketo user choice steps, work in a flow it’s you know, once it hits the first one, it’s gonna jump down and just continue on. It’s not gonna go through every single step and try and do it. So it allows you to start with a good foundation that way and then get fancy.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (19:22)
Awesome. That’s all really great information. And like personally, I would be excited to look back into the tech and, and maybe think about using that for some of our Etumos marketing, maybe? Like conversation has definitely converted me a little bit, Alex. So I appreciate, we appreciate you stopping by to talk to us about that and demystify something that I think does seem a little bit overwhelming and like, you’re gonna need to have a salesperson on point for that. Like you’re gonna need to have to coordinate across a couple of different teams to make it happen. So I think it’s cool to have that broken down. And have you tell us how folks can get started with a chatbot strategy pretty easily.

Alex Long: (20:12)
Yeah. I love talking about it. So I’m always happy to have those conversations.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (20:18)
So with that, here are three things from our conversation that you really need to know about chatbots and conversational marketing. If you know nothing else about chatbots, here’s what you need to know.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (20:33)
One of your chatbot strategies is to help push people down the funnel who are already looking to get in touch with you or to help qualify them. Most of the people on your website aren’t gonna interact with it. And that’s okay. Think of the job of the chatbot as being accelerating people down the funnel. It probably won’t capture people who otherwise weren’t looking to talk.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (20:54)
Two, you should have your lead lifecycle in place, and you should have your website in order and mapped out and understand how both of those things work really well before implementing a chatbot, but you don’t need a super sophisticated marketing organization or Marketing Operations organization to make it work.

Kristin Carideo (KAC): (21:11)
Three. When signing up with a chatbot service, don’t worry about needing to staff it or have live people on the other end of the line. You can get a ton of value with a bot-only strategy. And you can pilot that as Alex did on low-value web pages to help show ROI to start. If you are gonna be a bot only say that. You’re not gonna be able to fool people into thinking that a robot is a person you could be cute or funny about it. And that always plays well, but don’t try to trick people.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (21:39)
That’s Must Contain, chatbots. Thanks for listening. We’ll be back in two weeks with another great MOPs topic until then remember: its people, process, and technology.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (21:52)
This episode was produced by Kristin Crowe, Kristin Carideo, Ali Stoltzfus, and Lindsay Walter. It was edited by Kristin Crowe, theme music by Rusty Hall. Special, thanks to Alex Long and that’s Must Contain. I’m Kristin Crowe and we’ll see you in two weeks.

Kristin Crowe (OGK): (22:14)
Okay, Ali, we’re done.

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