— WELCOME TO ALWAYS-ON COMMUNICATION
The way people communicate in life, let alone in business, has transformed significantly over the years. The modern buyer is accustomed to the real-time, instant communication that the WhatsApps, Slacks, and Facebook Messengers of the world deliver, and expect the same always-on communication in their B2B buying journey.
Remember, your buyer is in control. So as marketers, you want to give them the content and channels they need when they want it and where they want it to make informed purchasing decisions.
This transformation gave birth to what we know today as chatbots, conversational marketing, live chat, and more commonly known as chat platforms. They enable marketers to be more customer-centric in their design of the buyer journey. While chat platforms are now at the front end of adoption, you’ll notice the countless options available, so choosing the right solution for your company is no easy feat.
To help make your evaluation simple, we have broken down this guide into the following sections to help you ask the right qualifying questions and choose the best chatbot for your company:
- Section 1: Identify Your Use Cases
- Section 2: Pricing Models
- Section 3: Platform Integrations
- Section 4: Natural Language & AI Ability
- Section 5: Audience Building & Personalization
- Section 6: A/B Testing
- Section 7: Team Adoption
- Section 8: Chat Routing
- Section 9: Onboarding & Support
- Section 10: Analytics & Reporting
- Section 11: Privacy & Security
- Section 12: Product Roadmap
- Section 13: Balancing Human-First With Automation
Section 1: Identify Your Use Cases
— BUT FIRST, WHAT IS YOUR GOAL?
The most important question for you to consider before embarking on this journey is: Why do I need a chatbot? What is the use case for which you are using the chatbot? Chatbots are not a one-size-fits-all solution, therefore you should understand the primary purpose of your need for a chat platform.
Here are a few different use cases that have buyers considering chatbots:
- Customer Service and Support
- B2C Customer Acquisition
- B2B Demand Generation and Account-Based Marketing
- B2B Sales Acceleration and Buyer Enablement
Understanding your use case can help determine what you want out of your chatbot. Due to the differences in platforms, features, integrations, pricing models and all other factors considered, the chatbots will differ significantly between a B2B or B2C use case.
Make this clear in your discussions. Look for these use cases in your vendor’s website and customer stories. Do they have customers using their chatbot for the same use cases you’re looking for as well?
Section 2: Pricing Models
— CATCH HIDDEN COSTS AND ADD-ONS
This is a key factor that can affect which chat platform you choose. Pricing models vary between vendors, and it is important to look at what they are offering and how they are offering it to you. Is the pricing model based on the number of user seats or is it based on the number of website visitors and/or number of accounts under management? Sometimes what may seem as a low or fair pricing plan can increase dramatically based on the package and the small add-ons you put together.
Here are the features you should seriously consider (and what we consider table stakes):
- Integration with your CRM
- Integration with your Marketing Automation Platform
- Chat Routing
- Unlimited Users
- Data Enrichment Capabilities
- Visitor Intelligence / IP Resolution
- Form Integration
- Proactive Sales Notifications
Do you need to subscribe to a premium plan to get your basics? A lot of times, there are hidden costs and it is up to you to know how to ask the right questions so you can make an informed decision.
Section 3: Integrations
— YOUR TECH NEEDS TO TALK
To yield the best results out of a chat platform, it is critical to have the right integrations in place. You need all your marketing tools to integrate seamlessly with your existing workflows so you keep real-time data flowing into your CRM and your SDRs are remaining productive without having to log in to another tool. Without the right integrations, platform adoption will be very difficult.
If vendors do have integrations, ask the next questions: is it a binary integration?
Because they shouldn’t be. It needs to be a two way integration and flow of data. Can you use your MAP and CRM data for targeting, audience building, and qualifying website visitors? Can you push the data from your chat system to your existing workflows in your MAP/CRM?
Systems that talk to each other, work better together. And that’s good for accurate reporting, pipeline predictions, and overall performance.
Section 4: Natural Language & AI Ability
— HI, HELLO, HEY
Conversation is the primary component that makes chatbots so intriguing. To get the optimal outcome from your chatbots, consider the natural language and AI ability of their platforms. Do you want a fully deterministic system that works on rules or do you want a system that handles free form text?
The underlying idea is that the AI technology available today hasn’t reached a position to be useful by itself for generic use cases. But, matters aside, it is critical to understand the extent of the platform's AI abilities as this will impact several other factors. For example, if you want advanced ML/A, the platform will be an enterprise conversational platform. Not only will this require a lot of time and effort to train the system, but implementation will also consume significant time and money.
Section 5: Audience Building & Personalization
— PERSONALIZE TO PROSPECT
Personalization is what marketers strive to do at scale, and yet it is sometimes the most difficult to execute on.
An easy first step to succeeding with this should be website personalization, and doing so by leveraging chatbots. Can your chat platform help you build personalized conversations based on where prospects are in the buyer journey?
Questions to consider for chatbot personalization:
- Does the platform allow you to build audiences easily for you to segment your website visitors?
- Can the platform personalize the interaction based on account firmographics, behaviour pattern, location etc.
- Can the platform help sales start conversations by providing the most recent account engagement?
- Can you personalize conversation starters based on search keyword, UTM parameters, and referral source?
If the answer is yes to all of the above, you also want to consider to what extent the platform supports each level of personalization.
Section 6: A/B Testing
— AND THE WINNER IS …
With any customer-facing technology, you need to constantly test the platform and see what works and doesn't work for your company. In this case, you need to experiment with various chat greetings and conversation starters on your chatbots to see what is actually driving conversations. Doing so allows you to understand what resonates with your prospects immediately, and how the chatbot can help in providing solutions for what’s top-of-mind. The A/B testing capabilities of the platform will make a significant impact on its success.
Platforms that have an A/B testing capability should be analyzed on how easy they are to use. Understanding whether the testing is automated or requires your attention every couple of days will help you determine what matches your company’s resources.
Section 7: Team Adoption
— NOT ANOTHER TOOL TO LOG INTO
As a marketer and even for your sales counterparts, you’ll need to consider how often you can go into another tool to make configurations. You don’t need another time-hogging tool on your hands. It’s necessary to choose a platform that is not time consuming and can be maintained easily.
Is the platform a “set it and forget it” until you are prompted to make another move and one that will require minimal effort from your end? Or is it one that needs your ongoing attention every 2 to 3 days for upkeep and configuration?
Ideally, the best chatbot systems will prompt your attention when needed so that your team can go in and make the changes when required, rather than waste valuable time trying to figure out where you went wrong.
Section 8: Chat Routing
—RIGHT PERSON AT THE RIGHT TIME
A large volume of leads comes with the trouble of making sure the right leads are targeted, assigned, and followed up with. With chat routing features, you can route the right leads to the right sales rep in real-time. This not only saves time filtering and qualifying each lead on your site, but also increases your speed to response time.
With advanced chat routing features, all your business rules will be followed in a less complex manner.
Here are a few questions to consider to ask about chat routing:
- Do you need to route based on account owner, region, segment, or round robin to a team of BDRs?
- Can you support fallback options when a sales rep isn't reached?
- Consider whether the platform will allow you to maintain your current routing practices.
- Will leads be assigned to the right people in a timely manner?
- Are the leads routed to a bot and then a live agent or can they access a live agent immediately?
- Is it a seamless experience for both the visitor and the sales rep when maintaining a conversation?
You ideally want a platform with a routing process that is easy to use but efficient so that you don’t lose any leads or response time in the shuffle.
Section 9: Onboarding & Support
— CHATBOT EXPERTISE AND SUCCESS PLANS
Before you consider the integrations of a platform, take a step back and assess your resources and availability for the entire implementation process. Time is of the essence, and it is crucial to consider the deployment, implementation, onboarding and set up times required for the entire platform. Does it take a few hours, a few days or even a few months to integrate?
Is it easy enough for your team to figure out or would you need the help of developers to get started?
Chatbots require your attention, but how much support are you getting from the platform you choose?
Let’s be honest, you shouldn’t be expected to be the chat experts. It’s not what you have been doing all these years. Your vendor should provide platform experts to help fill that space. When looking for the right chatbot for your platform, make sure that the company has a solid customer success plan on hand to assist you with all the onboarding, implementations, and configuration for immediate and on-going support and consultation.
Section 10: Analytics & Reporting
— KNOW WHAT’S WORKING
In order to truly influence sales opportunities through chat, you need to understand how well you are performing. Analytics and reporting capabilities give you a direct insight into the type of conversations that convert faster, when prospects engage with chat, and how quickly these turn into revenue. You can then leverage these insights into building an even more powerful, revenue-generating chat experience.
Is there an analytics and reporting feature that gives you the appropriate actionable insights? How difficult is it to get the analytics you need? Ease of use is an important factor to consider. Make sure you understand the extent of the platform’s analytics capabilities and what data can be sent to your CRM to track marketing attribution.
Make sure to get your Marketing Operations team member involved in this conversation.
Slide 11: Privacy & Security
— PROTECT YOUR CUSTOMERS
When dealing with sensitive information around customer and company data, it is important to choose the best option that allows you to gain complete control.
When you choose the right chatbot for your company, you want to learn the complete scope of their security features so you can see which is better suited for yourself and the data you house in your systems.
Slide 12: Product Roadmap
— KNOW WHAT’S HERE AND WHAT’S COMING
In section 3, we discussed what chat features should be table stakes in your basic pricing plan. But there are features that might be in development, and it’s critical for you to be aware.
Do you like where the product is headed? How does the team involve their customers in building product roadmaps so you can continue to be a champion of the chat platform you choose?
Slide 13: Balancing Human-First With Automation
— HEY, HOW CAN I HELP YOU?
The right balance of personal interaction (human-first) with automation can convert your target accounts into your dream customers. With chatbots, it is important to find this balance so that website visitors can express their pain points and find instant solutions. When you choose the right chatbot for your company, you want to choose one that will automate the initial responses but notify a sales rep as soon as the lead initiates interest in learning more.
Or better yet, if the website visitor is a hot prospect, will it connect them directly to a sales rep instead?
Chatbot automation is beneficial when there is a large influx of visitors on your site and your sales reps are struggling to reach out to each one. Or outside of office hours when an agent is not available. Automation is only beneficial early in the conversation—they help to filter and route leads to the appropriate sales reps. But what happens when they need to speak to a sales rep and are only faced with scripted options? This is when human-first has an upper hand as agents and visitors can communicate in real-time to reach instant solutions.
With AI powered chatbots, you need to consider whether the chatbot will support sales notifications and to enable real-time conversations, or will the conversations be powered completely through automated scripts?
Good luck on your search for the right chat platform for you!
Insent is a human-first B2B chat platform that has been carefully built by taking in each of these factors into serious consideration.
Aatharsha is the Digital Marketer at Insent. She loves creating B2B marketing experiences that help marketers stand out from the crowd and fill their funnel with qualified buyers.