Jul 2, 2018
What is the business impact of replacing contact forms with messenger bots?
On this week's episode of The Inbound Success Podcast, digital marketing agency advisor Jason Swenk talks about the results he got after replacing his website contact forms with ManyChat messenger bots.
TL;DR - he was able to increase services revenues by 74% and achieved email click through rates of 50%, all with minimal effort and cost.
Listen to the podcast to hear Jason's tips for implementing messenger bots on your site, and learn more about the results he's gotten.
Kathleen Booth (host): Welcome back to The Inbound Success Podcast. My name is Kathleen booth and I'm your host and this week my guest is Jason Swenk who is a marketing agency advisor and the brains behind JasonSwenk.com. Welcome to the podcast Jason.
Me and Jason recording our interview
Jason: Thanks. Well I hope I'd be the brains behind it on my own website.
Kathleen: You never know. There are lot of people who have great websites and appear to have great thought leadership businesses and they have amazing right hand people.
Jason: Well I do have an amazing right hand person. So, Stacy, I love you. I guess she is the brains so yeah, I'm just the ugly person you have to look at.
Kathleen: A pretty face? Yeah, if you have brains, then you always have to have a pretty face, right?
Jason: Oh, I'm screwed.
Kathleen: Well before we jump into talking about some of the marketing stuff you're working on. Tell our audience a little bit about yourself, because you have an interesting background that I think a lot of people who listen to this are going to be able to really relate to.
Jason: Yeah, so if you've seen the movie Sea Biscuit, I'm the six three horse jockey that actually rode Sea Biscuit and no, I'm actually not a horse jockey and I wasn't in Sea Biscuit but I guess I could have been.
No, my background, in 1999 I started a digital agency. Actually it was a web agency back then, right? I guess we were still trying to figure out the digital part. I was just trying to figure out the agency part but I got my start because one of my friends looked like Justin Timberlake and so I created-
Kathleen: Was that from Justin's days of curly, permed hair?
Jason: NSYNC. Yes.
Kathleen: Okay got it.
Jason: Yes, curly, permed hair, and so he looked identical. So when ever we're going to the bars or wherever we went, we would always get in free. So I was like, "Man, I got to leverage this even more." So I created a fake website called NSHIT and it got popular.
Then people started asking me to design websites, so kind of like every agency owner out there or entrepreneur that does it around service stuff, we knew how to do something cool and someone offered us money. We were like, "Okay."
I didn't even know what an invoice was when I started and I was just starting doing websites over time and starting hiring more and more people and I saw the agency grow to over 100 people. We were over $13.1 million, and then someone came along and they bought us and we were like, "That's cool."
Right time, right offer.
So we worked with clients from places like Legal Zoom, Hitachi, and AT&T. We were doing everything for those guys and then when I sold it, I didn't know what I was going to do next and I created an iPhone app. Like everybody else I thought that would be a cool thing to do and realized the grass was greener on the side you water.
I hated doing that and I was just lucky enough that old competitors started reaching out. They were like, "Hey, how did you get Lotus Cars as a client? How did you sell your agency?" I started helping them out.
So now what I do, is I help digital agency owners grow faster by going through kind of a coaching program.
Kathleen: I loved reading on your website that you were in the corporate world and then you realized that you shouldn't work for other people.
I feel like I definitely experienced that at a certain point in my career. I mean, its funny, I'm working for other people right now but, you know, you gotta find the right fit and I remember before I left the corporate world to start my own business I was feeling so frustrated in the place that I was, and I was in a bigger company, so maybe there's something to do with larger companies and bureaucracy etc.
Jason: I think it's any company. I just know I'm unemployable. My kids always laugh. When they introduce me to their friends, they're like "My dad's been fired for every single job he's ever had" and it's true. I just can't work for anybody, I'm unemployable and I think that's what makes a great entrepreneur because we don't have a backup plan.
We know this is it, this is all we need to do, we need to go forward.
Kathleen: Yeah, definitely. And I think its awesome that you're that self aware because not everybody is, and then they go through their life simmering like the pot that's about to boil over with frustration and angst and unhappiness.
Alright, so you've got this interesting background where you grew your agency and you exited and now you advise other agencies. As a guy that is out there helping agencies be successful, I would think that you would need to not only be able to give them great advice about running their business, but you have to be able to walk the walk a little bit and show that you know how to do your own marketing fairly well.
You have a website, as I mentioned in the beginning, jasonswenk.com. If you're listening, check that out.
Kathleen: I would love to dig in a little bit to what you're doing as far as your own marketing and what's working for you?
Jason: You know, one of the things that's working is that I'd always find people going to my contact page, right? And then they'd be filling out this form and I always felt like I had to respond like right away.
This was even in the agency days and that's how I won a lot business. Someone would fill out the form and I would call them while they're still on the website. I could call them and be like "Hey man, sorry it took me so long to call you".
Kathleen: Isn't there like a stat that says that the company that responds the fastest has something like a ninety percent higher chance of winning the business?
Jason: Yes, but I couldn't sit around my computer all day long, right? And wait for them to fill out the form. Plus, the other annoying thing was I had all these people from all over trying to sell me crap on my contact form. They'd be like, "Hey you're a web design agency and we'd like to redo your website."
Kathleen: You know what? I feel like we could have a whole podcast about just that because I owned an agency for eleven years and the volume of submissions I got where it's like "I would like to help you improve your SEO and get more leads and change your website" and I was like, "Guys that's what we do!"
Jason: They're not researching, that's why.
Jason: I wanted to make it hard for them, like literally bury the contact form or, in this case, get rid of it.
Jason: This was about a year ago. I started messing around with messenger bots and I was like "What if I just made it like my contact page and I changed it to a messenger bot? What would happen?"
Here's what you see when you go to Jason's contact page
The reason why I wanted to do that was when I start chatting with someone, like, think about if I make them fill out a form. There's a lot of stuff that they have to fill out, so they're gonna be a little apprehensive about it and plus they may not want to give me their number or may not be ready yet, right?
That might be a big thing right? How may people go to your website, that are ready to chat with you? Or when they come to your website, they're trying to figure out, are you right for them? So what I wanted to do, rather than automate the whole process, was to get the conversation going so I know a little bit more about them.
The first question I ask is, "Are you an agency owner?" Or, "Are you starting an agency?" or "No, I'm just an entrepreneur," then I'll let them pick their path from there and then I go ahead and ask them their revenue so I know which different programs are or if I can help them. A lot of people starting out at an agency want to work with me one-on-one but I can't help them yet.
They have to set up certain things first and they can't afford me yet, so I'm like "Go here" and then after that, then I jump in. I literally pick up my phone or my iPad and I record them a custom message and I'll say, "Hey Kathleen", and I mention their name. I said "Hey, I know you clicked on the agency mastermind or the agency playbook. Let me know what questions you have and I'll be happy to answer them for you."
So I'm responding.
Jason: First off, when I'm asking these questions I'm saying "Hey, this is the 'Don Bot' and answer these two questions and then you can chat directly with me. I'll have like a little GIPHY of Don Draper smoking a cigarette. It makes it a little clever.
What I found was a lot of people doing or going through the program, they would actually be like "I like that Don guy, I like that Don Bot."
Kathleen: When they talk to you, do they think your name is Don?
Jason: Sometimes. But most of the time when they're going to my website...
Kathleen: They figure it out.
Jason: ...They've heard my name and that kind of stuff, right? And they're wanting to chat with me.
When I add my voice to it, they know I'm a paid person on the other end. The beauty about this is I don't have to be monitoring this twenty-four seven and so when I go away, I can literally respond a couple hours later and where does it go? Right to my phone or right to their phone, right in their pocket.
It literally vibrates in their pocket rather than if they filled out a contact form I have to compete with their email. I wanted-go on.
Kathleen: I was just gonna ask you what platform are you using for your messenger bot?
Jason: I'm using ManyChat.
Kathleen: Why ManyChat?
Jason: It was the first one out about a year ago and I just loved it because I could do a number of different things.
Jason: Let me give you the results. Now these results are not typical -- disclaimer, right? Right. In two months I generated over two hundred fifty thousand dollars because I was able to answer the questions that people had.
Think about why people buy from you, or why they don't buy from you. They don't trust you yet, or they don't trust themselves. If I can actually have a conversation with them and point them in the right direction then their problems, their challenges, right? I'm gonna have a lot more increases.
The other thing that went up was my services. My services went up by seventy-four percent because I could make sure I was chatting with the right people and I could point them in the right direction.
The other cool thing is I can actually send them broadcast emails when I have something and my deliverability is about ninety-eight percent and my open rate or click through rate is over fifty percent.
Kathleen: That's really high.
Jason: Now you try and get that on email, your click through rate on email is going be two, three percent.
Jason: Right? And open rate maybe twenty-five depending on how big or small your list is.
Jason: Five, depending on how big or small your list is.
Kathleen: That's great. So you put it in place and you've seen this uptake in revenue. Have you noticed a change in how qualified the leads are that you're actually engaging with? The reason I ask is I'm curious: do the qualifying questions you're asking through the bot essentially help you not have to have conversations with the people that aren't the right fit?
Jason: That's right, yeah. I don't respond to the ones that aren't the right fit.
Kathleen: Do you put them into any sort of a nurturing sequence if they're too small or too early on?
Jason: I do, yeah. I put them in a nurturing sequence for one of the online programs that can actually help them out. They don't even see the options to work with me one on one if they select a revenue below the threshold.
Kathleen: How complicated was this to set up? Is this something that anybody can do? Do you need to have a developer?
Jason: Well you have to be a genius like me, like a horse jockey. You have to be 6'3, you have to know how to ride a horse somewhat, and then you could do it.
Yeah, there's no skill here. There's nothing.
Kathleen: Excellent. Talk to me about cost. Is it expensive to put a solution like this in place?
Kathleen: Wow, that's great. You know, it's interesting because in the last few years, I feel like the number of, we'll call them "messenger bots" and "chat solutions" has mushroomed a little bit.
Here at IMPACT, we're experimenting with Drift but HubSpot is just coming out with a new conversations tool. There's Intercom, there's ManyChat, there's so many solutions that I've been seeing, at least in the forums I'm a part of, a lot more chatter about it.
Kathleen: The biggest question I hear people asking revolves around, "What are the best practices in terms of how you set these things up so that you get the most value out of them?" You mentioned a few things, but I'd love it if you could elaborate a little bit more on what you've learned and how you've tweaked the way the bot interacts to get the best results.
Jason: The biggest thing to know is it doesn't matter what technology you're using.
You could use NASA's technology. If you do it wrong, you're not going to get the results. Like if you try to make the bot seem like you're really chatting with a human, then you're not going to get the results because everybody can kind of figure that out.
Be up front with them. Let them know, "Hey, you are chatting with a bot."
Another thing is, is have fun with it. Name your bot.
I put an image of Don Draper smoking a cigarette or showing money... whatever, because obviously I go after agencies, like the Mad Men of the world.
Well, not traditional agencies because you guys are dinosaurs, but digital agencies, innovative agencies.
Jason: I wanted to kind of play with that. Then I ask a couple questions just to make sure I have a little bit more ammo going in.
The other thing that I do is I use voice. Voice is very powerful. If they hear a human, they're going to be like, "Oh, I'm chatting with someone. This is great customer service."
You can make it a better experience. It's all about the user experience and how you separate yourself from everybody else. Look, people go to Google and they type in a search, and then they request four proposals or they fill out four contact forms. Then what do they do? They forget. "Who did I do this for? I don't remember the name or the brand." I wanted to change that experience where I can chat with them right away and they can hear me.
I tell them, I'm honest with them. I know that not everybody's a perfect client or customer for me. I just say, "Hey, I'm not the right guy for you." That Playbook has been around for two years. There's lots of agencies that have it, so I value it at $200 rather than $1500. I'm like, "Well, that's like me looking at your website saying, 'You look like a Me Too agency or business, so I'll only pay you $200 to design my website." Right?
Jason: It allows me to have that conversation and look, "Look, you're not right for me. Go here, because you're just not going to have the benefit."
Kathleen: I mean to me, that goes right to the very heart of what inbound marketing is supposed to be. It's supposed to be about honesty, education, helpfulness, transparency.
I love that you take that approach where it's not like "I'm going to find a solution and sell something no matter who comes to my website." It's "I'm going to wait for the right person. If you're not the right person, I will very helpfully let you know that and direct you to other resources that might be right for you."
I was having this conversation actually last week with a group of people, all of whom are agencies that are either using bot solutions for themselves or helping their clients implement them. We were having this discussion about how engagement needs to change from, like, if you're a salesperson on the phone or conversing via email to engaging via a bot or even via a live chat.
It was really interesting because one of the things we started talking about is, it's not the same. The ultimate messeng you're trying to get across might be the same, but the way you communicate is fundamentally different, and in some respects, there's a little bit of a generational issue.
I was sharing that when we first implemented the bot on our site and also had a live chat person standing by -- because our bot hands off to a live chat assistant -- the person that was manning that had a tendency to write really long responses. Of course while they're writing these really long, intended to be super helpful responses, the person on the other end is sitting there like, "Hello? Bueller! Are you out there?"
What we talked about was that there does seem to be this dynamic of younger, more digitally native people who are used to texting a lot and are really good at setting up bots and at engaging via live chat because they are already used to having conversations that happen in teeny-tiny snippets. I'd love to know what you think about that.
Jason: Oh yeah. It's definitely not a long conversation. If you just see someone typing forever, you're disconnected. I'm not going to look at my phone the whole time. I literally want to be like, "Do you hear me?"
It's the same thing when you're on tech support. You're like, "Are you still there?" It needs to be really, really short, and it needs to be trying to get them to the next level.
Jason: I've developed a concept called "Milestone Marketing." The first one is making them aware. The next one is to start a conversation. Next one is, is figure out if they are right for you. Next one is, push them to whatever they actually need that can actually help. It's just one part of the milestone in order to try to figure out, "Are they right?" Then let them know.
You're just trying to make it an easy decision for them, so don't make it too complicated. Don't try to overthink your answers. It's just a texting mechanism, or in my case, I'm doing a lot of voice, if my kids are not in the background. If they're in the background, that's when you'll see me texting like, "I can't really talk because I can't hear myself."
Kathleen: Right. So what is your protocol for when the bot hands off to you and you engage in a real-time discussion via chat?
Jason: I just have a couple times throughout the day. If I'm at my kids' swim meet and I'm waiting for hours and hours, there's lots of waiting around. I can respond. I just do it when I'm in line at the supermarket, or if I'm in line for a haircut. Whenever I'm free, or I'm not working, I'll just be like, "Oh, this person responded." Like I said in the beginning, you don't have to respond right away. When I respond to them, it's going to vibrate their butt.
Kathleen: Yeah. It's so funny that you use the swim meet example because I have kids who were swimmers. I was joking about this to somebody the other day; it's the only sport where you can literally go and sit for two straight days, if it's an invitational, all day to watch your kid participate for 15 minutes total.
Jason: It's tough.
Kathleen: I spent many a weekend at swim meets. Yeah, that's great.
It's interesting because the whole concept behind bots and chat is really that that person on the other end wants instant gratification. They want to be able to jump on and get their answer right then.
It's about convenience, but it's also about convenience on your end because you're able to really manage it within the cadence of your life, especially since you're kind of a solopreneur, even though you have brands behind you. If you're the primary person who has to tackle this, and you also have to run your business and your life, I love that aspect, that you can just fit it in when there are good windows.
Jason: I've used live chats before, and they're junk. They're really junk. If you're not monitoring it and you try to respond to them later on, where does it go? It goes into their email, and then you have to compete with the email and half of them don't see it or it goes into spam. I changed it to a contact page -- like, I didn't give them an option.
I just said, "You're going here," because I knew all my people were innovative and technologists. If you're going after people that are in retirement homes or whatever it is, not "retirement" but if they're not innovative but they should be. I'm 39 for the third time soon. We're getting to an age where our parents may be a little older, so we're the people that they're going after.
I think, don't give them an option. I think if you send them to a contact page and you give them an option, they're probably not going to click on it. They're probably going to go through a form, and then you're not going to see that success.
The cool thing is when they engage with me, I have the ability to send them post messages and campaigns. I can add them to my email list. They'll do that so then they can go through my email campaigns. I mean, there's countless amounts of benefits that you can actually do with it, a chatbot, but just don't be the slimy person that tries to make it look like a human to trick them.
Kathleen: Yeah. So, I have a funny story around that because I do think people are skeptical, and so, in our Drift implementation on our website it does start with a bot, but then it rolls over to a real person, and we actually have the picture of this one person on our team. It rotates, but there's one person on our team, her name is Shandia, and her picture pops up, and no joke, in real life she looks like a supermodel, and she does some modeling. She has this insanely elegant photo of herself, and somebody chatted her the other day and was like, "You are completely a robot. You are so not real. I want to see that elegant, statuesque, African-American lady really engage in real time."
Jason: A fem-bot.
Kathleen: And I was like, "Oh, you needed to jump on there and be like, "I'm here." We just had a laugh. She was like, "Maybe I should change my picture and not make it so polished?"
Jason: No. Well, no, but you can record a video on there and send them a message as well, so that's what I would do to freak them out. Be like, "Actually, no, this is me. I appreciate the compliment, but this is really me."
Kathleen: It was just so funny. She's like, "Maybe I need to rethink my profile picture. Do I not look real?" So ... you get all kinds of people poking holes, I think, when you have them, but for the most part the response we've gotten also have been really great.
Jason: I don't get that. I don't get that.
Kathleen: Well, you have Don Draper, though, so ...
Jason: There you go, yeah. I guess that's why I use Don, not myself, so ...
Kathleen: I love it. So, you implemented this on the Contact Us page on your site. Are you looking at putting it in place anywhere else on the site?
Jason: Yeah. So, when they hit key pages I can have little pop-ups that pop up, like, 30, 60 seconds later on to be like, "Hey. If you have any questions about the Agency Playbook, or if you have any questions about the Agency Mastermind, go here." And then, you know, it just starts the conversation.
Kathleen: That's great.
Jason: I'll send that out in the email campaigns, and so I'll say, "Hey. You may have some questions about going forward. You haven't taken that one next step. Click here, and you'll chat directly with me."
Kathleen: That's really neat because I think that's a feature, unless I have it wrong, that some of these other platforms like Drift and Intercom don't have, where you can launch the chat right from your email or another interface, so that's kind of a neat aspect to ManyChat.
Jason: Oh, yeah. Yeah. They're pretty cool. I've looked at a couple, but ... And I don't get paid by ManyChat, or ... They can pay me if they want, but I love it. It's a great tool.
Kathleen: Well, and it's all changing so fast. I mean, now people are starting to experiment more with using Facebook Messenger, and so who knows where it's all going to go? I think it's not so much about the tool. You know, the tool is not necessarily going to solve your problems; it's how you use it.
So, regardless of what platform people are picking, it's how they set it up. And I love some of the suggestions you gave about being really transparent about it being a bot and that sort of thing.
Any other tips you want to share with folks about using Messenger Bots on their sites?
Jason: Just do it. I mean, literally, like, I always have a motto: "Swenk it."
You've just got to take action, and just test it out, and see what works. You know, not everything's going to work out for you, but at the end of the day you've got to figure out what's your brand's personality, and just portray that, right? If you're a CPA and you're very, like, here and, like, wearing ties and stuff, be that.
Jason: Or if you're goofy like me and wild hair, or whatever, you know, do that. You've just got to be you.
Kathleen: Definitely. So, shifting gears, I always like to ask my guests two questions at the end of each interview, and I'm really curious to hear your answers, especially because you work with a lot of really great agencies and really savvy digital marketers.
Company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now? So, if listeners wanted to, you know, go out there and see a best practice example, who should they check out?
Jason: Gary Vaynerchuk and VaynerMedia. I mean, hands down, they produce the most content, or they take pieces of content that Gary creates and then break it up into a thousand different things, right? I mean, they literally start with following him around and just listening to his rants and then turned it into Instagram posts, and podcasts, and videos, and, I mean, all kinds of things.
Hands down, the best.
Kathleen: Yeah. He's such a good example of what you just said about making sure you really understand your own brand because ... For people who know Gary, they will know this, but if you haven't heard Gary V speak, he drops the F-bomb more than almost anybody else I've ever heard, you know, when they're keynoting. And it was funny. He spoke at HubSpot's conference one year, and my husband counted the number of times he said that, and it was something like 95 in an hour. I think, I mean, I'm not averse to cursing ...
Jason: That's low.
Kathleen: ... but I would have to work to say that that many times in an hour. But he's got such a great approach, and I ...
Jason: Yeah. It's unbelievable. But ...
Kathleen: Yeah. I don't know if he ever sleeps, though. That's the one think about Gary V, he's got endless energy.
Jason: Oh, yeah.
Kathleen: So, and digital marketing is changing so fast, so technology-driven with change. How do you stay up to date and keep yourself educated?
Jason: I just do it. I implement faster than anybody else. I just, I see something and I'm just aware of how people engage, and think about, well, how could I use this technology for me, and how would it work, and then I just go try it.
Literally, I even went to ManyChat, and I said, "Why are you not doing this as your contact base?" They didn't even do it then. And so, it's just trying it out and just experimenting. Like, I don't care if it's not going to work, but I'll care more if I didn't try it first.
Kathleen: Yeah. That's interesting. One of my favorite quotes, and I don't know even who said it, but it's, you know, "The most successful marketers are the ones who learn the fastest." And it's true. You can't really learn unless you test, and you have to be open to the tests not working all the time to be able to get the most out of it, so that's great.
Jason: It's the price of tuition. Like, the best teacher in the world is a mistake.
Jason: I mean, that's just the tuition that we'd be happy to pay. Like, we're not going to write brilliant marketing campaigns. It's just like a photographer, right? If you look at the best photographers in the world, you'll just see one shot and you'll be like, "How do I get that?" Well, they took a thousand of them.
Jason: And did a lot of editing. So ...
Kathleen: Yeah. So, before we wrap up, if folks want to get in touch with you, ask a question, where can they find you, and what's the best way for them to learn more about you? Maybe you could share a little bit about your podcast and your vlog as well.
Jason: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. I have two different shows. One is a weekly podcast interview where I interview amazing agency owners just like Kathleen. She's coming on the show, so she'll be on the show, and that's called The Smart Agency Masterclass.
And then the other podcast is more of a daily show, where it's a video show on YouTube, and it's called The Swenk Today Show, but it's also on Alexa.
Hopefully she doesn't turn on right now.
Kathleen: I was going to say...
Jason: I'm always nervous about that. And then, you know, it's on iTunes. But if you want to link to both those shows, just go to Swenk.it. I'm not related to Hilary. So, swenk.it. You'll get links to both.
It links to my website as well, but you can go to jasonswenk.com. Feel free to mess with the messenger bot, but here's the deal, guys: I've been on another podcast and I got overwhelmed by people testing out.
Just go in there and hit "No," and then you can engage with me. But if you're an agency, I'd love to chat with you through the messenger bot and that kind of stuff.
But, yeah, I literally had, like, a thousand messages one day. I'm like, "Oh, my gosh. My voice is going to go away."
Kathleen: Right. You had to stop talking about this stuff on podcasts.
Jason: I know. That's right.
Kathleen: All right. So, free tip for you because I run into this. I have two Alexas in my house, and we run into this problem where you mention her. I call it a "her." And, you know, it activates it.
And so, we finally decided ... I don't know if you know this, but you can change the name of the device, and pick a name that you're not going to, like, use in the course of normal conversation so that it doesn't automatically turn on. So, ours, we've just renamed ours to "Echo" because we don't tend to say that as much, but ...
Jason: Oh, very cool. I need to ...
Kathleen: Tip of the day.
Jason: Can I just pick any random name?
Kathleen: You can literally pick any name you want. You can call it, like, "Patricia," like, whatever you want to name it. But yeah, it's a great little tip for not having Alexa continuously turning on and trying to engage with you.
Jason: Oh, it's crazy. Like, I had it play, like, Howdy Doody. Like, I was telling someone, and I mentioned that, and then it started playing while I was on a podcast. It was pretty embarrassing.
Kathleen: That's awesome. Oh, great. All right. Well, I will put links to Jason's site in the show notes along with links to his shows, so definitely check that out if you want to learn more. And if you're an agency owner looking to grow, absolutely check out his site. He's got a great blog with a ton of really good resources. I've been spending a lot of time on there myself lately. So, thanks for joining me, Jason.
Jason: Yup. Thanks for having me on the show. Guys, remember, "Swenk it."
Kathleen: Yeah. Swenk it. And if you're listening and you enjoyed what you heard, I would love it if you could leave a review on iTunes, Stitcher, or the platform of your choice. And if you know somebody doing kick-ass inbound marketing work, please tweet me @workmommywork because I would love to interview them. That's it for today. Thanks.