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Why Your Messenger Bots Don't Work

Should Messenger bots be part of your direct marketing tools? What are the advantages of messaging your fans & consumers directly? Or is this just another hype? A reaction post to Jon Loomer's and Darren Hemmings' recent comments on the subject of engaging with fans & consumers on Messenger.

Earlier this week, Darren Hemmings, founder and chief of Motive Unknown voiced his frustrations about the state of Messenger Bots in his opening monologue of his #DailyDigest newsletter, triggered by a blog post from Facebook Advertising Guru Jon Loomer.

In said blog post, which you can read in full here Loomer elaborates on his reasons behind recently pulling the plug on his Messenger bot as part of his direct marketing arsenal.

In short:

  • Jon was seeing an average Open Rate of 50% which he considered great
  • Jon saw a 2.8% Click Rate which is everything but great
  • Jon spent $375 / month on a platform to reach his audience of ca 6k fans on Messenger
  • Jon admits himself that the bot experience felt clunky
  • Jon considered the bot a time suck for his staff who couldn't keep up with 1:1 support

Darren Hemmings wrote, that "much of his [Jon's] experiences reflect our [their] own here at Motive Unknown. Despite hyped engagement rates, the reality never really matched that, and the costs per month simply don't add up in the music space."

Now, both Darren and Jon are smart marketeers, which makes seeing them fail in the direct-to-fan messaging space, all the more concerning.

Why couldn't they pull it off? What were they missing? And if they can't do it, is the space even worth looking into for less experienced marketeers?

Still there? Let’s dive in:

Painting a different picture

First, let us compare Jon's quantitative stats from above, with our own internal client data at Sendmate:

  • Median Open Rate of all campaigns sent via Sendmate in Oct 2018: 95.9%
  • Median Click Rate of all campaigns sent via Sendmate in Oct 2018: 17.9%
  • Cost for reaching 6k fans with Sendmate: 39 USD / month (unlimited campaigns & messages)

We use the median here, because it proves to be a more stable metric, less prone to outliers. In case you're interested, our average Open Rate for the same month held at 97.8%, while the Click Rate was 20.6%.

Nonetheless, we've seen outlier campaigns like polish musician Marika who achieved an impressive 76.6% Click Rate - and consequently hundreds of unique link clicks to her ticketing site - when announcing a show in her hometown of Warsaw.

Please note, we only count "outbound link clicks", not quick replies or clicking the menu for more options as we’ve heard other bot platforms do when reporting their "average click rates". Also, we calculate the Click Rate based on total messages delivered and not based on total messages opened. The latter would give you an inflated picture of reality.

So how is that possible? How can an upcoming musician from Poland with a limited budget outperform the most badass marketeers? Here’s a few things, we believe might help explain:

1. Bots are not a proxy for websites

Too often, we see chatbots used as proxy for websites. Whenever people struggle to get traffic to their sites and a new channel pops up, people try to use it in order to compensate for that deficit in traffic.

Too often, we see bot experiences cluttered with stuff that usually live on websites: here's my 31 tour dates, my last 3 videos, follow me on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok... and have you already signed up to my mailing list?

Does that sound like a compelling user experience? Not so much. Nonetheless, think of how often you've seen this experience on Messenger. Our guess: a lot.

Our #1 rule for successful messenger marketing:
Your bot is not your website. Come up with a unique value proposition which resonates with your fans - not just you!!

2. (Most) Bots aren't best used at the top of your funnel

If you’re lacking alternatives, a bot can represent a cheap way to fill your funnel with new leads.

We've run Direct-to-Messenger campaigns for our clients, where we managed to grow their Messenger audience for as little as 0.05 USD cents per new subscriber.

In our case, we’ve focused on their most engaged fans, but you could easily achieve similar results by targeting new prospects aka filling up your funnel - and frankly, that’s the main purpose for a lot of bots out there.

Though if you place your bot at the top of you funnel, how do you deliver value? In the case of Jon's bot, the 3 (!) Calls To Action of the opening message were:

  1. Let's do it
  2. I have a question
  3. See all my options

Firstly, Never use 3 CTAs. Instead, stick to one per message. Secondly, if I'm a consumer who likely just came in via some ad, what would I do? Pretty clear: I'd bounce!

None of these options are delivering any value to me. None of these CTAs help me to finetune my experience. Not a single word of the welcome message, tells me what I'll get out of this in the future. This lack of guidance, makes it more likely for me to drop out of your funnel.

When Jon sent a message a week later, only 1 in 2 subscribers could be bothered to open it. Out of those, only a small percentage could care enough to engage. The other half already mentally labelled it as SPAM.

We all hate to be interrupted by things we consider irrelevant. Since most of us have push notifications enabled on Messenger, each message comes at a clear cost: the cost of interruption.

It's like tapping on someone's shoulder: they’ll stop whatever they’re currently doing and turn around to you; you have their undivided attention. Now, you better have something relevant to say.

If that someone doesn't even recognize you any longer or what you have to say doesn't appeal to them - you've lost them right there on the spot.

How could you have gone about that differently? Manage expectations! Tell people what they will get. Provide a clear value proposition, which justifies that your fans let you into their most personal communication channel - one that’s historically historically reserved for friends and family. Help them to finetune their interests based on their needs. Don't treat your audience as one, large homogenous pool of people.

Our #2 rule for successful messenger marketing:
Start with Messenger to engage with your most loyal audience, not the top of your funnel. Closely manage expectations from the start, so your fans know what value they can expect - and become obsessed, with delivering this value.

3. Bots are impersonal. Be personal.

Most bots aren't smart. They're a mapped out conversational trees. They work great for relatively straight forward, repetitive processes. If my airline lost my bags, the collection of necessary data (flight number, ticket number etc...) is relatively straight forward. Rather than standing in line for 1/2 hour, I'd message their bot.

The problem is, by simply having your users navigate through a conversational tree, you have to think of all possible scenarios in advance. If you don't, the experience will break pretty quickly. To do this well you have to spend a lot of time on catering to all eventualities.

Of course, in some cases companies have invested copious amounts of time and money into coding their own custom programmed chatbots. Not only will those bots be tailored to each unique use case, take advantage of pre-existing customer data and funnel said data into an NLP experience that’ll come close to what most people imagine when they hear the word chatbot.

These experiences obviously generate much better results, yet at an incomparably higher cost. These costs are often justified by short term gains like reducing headcount i.e. reducing costs or increasing customer satisfaction and not the long-term vision of revolutionising a company’s entire sales outlook in 5 years, which it has the potential of doing.

If you're not up for this kind of investment, then you need to change the paradigm: instead of creating a limited, generic, automated experience, collect data about your subscribers and engage with them based on each person's individual engagement history.

Frankly, many aspects of this can be automated too - but the approach is much more effective. Instead of using Messenger at the top of the funnel and trying to push new subscribers "down" based on some conversion funnel you've come up with, start to engage with fans where you already have a history of engagement with.

Some examples:
Instead of blasting out your latest webinar to every subscriber, engage only with the people who've attended your webinars - maybe even one particular webinar - in the past. Alternatively, run an acquisition campaign entirely dedicated to "your latest webinar" and make sure you know who came in through this campaign, so you can target them accordingly.

OR

Instead of blasting your 32 tour dates out to every single subscriber, segment subscribers based on their location and only send them the 1-2 gigs in their area in combination with your localized ticketing link.

Building up such data and leveraging it in your communication strategy will boost engagement.

Our #3 rule for successful messenger marketing:
Your audience is not a homogenous pool of people, so don't treat them as such. Collect engagement-, demographic- and custom-data which you use to personalise your every message.

On ROI

Finally, the ultimate question becomes: is this worth it? We could now quote a case study by a Techno DJ, who saw a 1402 % ROI based on a single campaign, but that would be too easy.

Frankly, you’ll have to decide for yourself, but here's the process:

  1. Select a Messenger Platform of your choice - such as this one - and pull in your most engaged fans into Messenger.
  2. Create a clear value proposition and manage your fan's expectations accordingly.
  3. Collect data around these fans.
  4. Use this data to fulfill your value proposition, or in short: deliver value, 'cause that's why your fans are here.
  5. Measure what this engagement means to you and compare it with your monthly costs of delivering this value.
  6. Compare this to your other channels.
  7. Then decide.

Messenger is a new channel where we can engage with consumers in the most personal and direct ways ever. It's up to you what you make out of this.

Providing value is the key to maintaining this privilege from fans. The channel is there. Your fans are too.

Now it's up to you, and what you make of it.
Do your bots really not work? Or is it just you?

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Comments?
Tweet at us at @sendmate or @mahringer_a - we're excited to hear your experiences and thoughts!

Why Your Messenger Bots Don't Work
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