With worldwide consumer spending via chatbots expected to reach $142 billion by 2024 — up from a comparatively trivial $2.8 billion back in 2019 — it’s clear that savvy startups can’t afford to overlook this rapidly evolving technology when it comes to optimizing their revenue streams.
Chatbots come with a number of benefits for businesses large and small — they can reduce operating costs, streamline business operations, and provide round-the-clock customer support. But one specific area in which chatbots are increasingly being leveraged is in the generation of sales leads.
Enabling an “always on” approach to lead generation, chatbots can help find more — and better quality — leads by promoting lead magnets, gathering important data, and offering a personalized user experience.
In this article, we’ll delve into how exactly a chatbot can help a startup business generate more sales leads in 2023 and beyond.
A chatbot is an AI-driven computer program designed to simulate human conversation. Also known as “dialog agents” or “virtual assistants”, chatbots enable B2B and B2C customers to carry out certain actions online through text or voice commands. Most chatbots are programmed with predefined rules and algorithms that allow them to interpret and “understand” human language, and learn from user interactions.
Chatbots are most often deployed as part of a business’s website or app, but they can also be integrated into third-party platforms such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. Most commonly, a chatbot is likely to be deployed through a third-party platform, which allows it to be customized to a business’s needs: the chatbot by Crisp, for example, includes a code-free editor that enables its users to create bespoke conversational workflows.
That said, chatbots come in many different forms: while some have the ability to evolve through machine learning, others have more limited capabilities. Some businesses will find that a fairly basic chatbot will serve their needs, while others may require a more advanced solution. Many will instead adopt a ‘hybrid’ model that incorporates several different types of chatbots.
The various types of chatbots in use today include:
- Menu-based chatbots: A menu-based bot is the most primitive form of chatbot, and it works as a basic decision tree hierarchy. It requires a user to make several selections so that it can offer an appropriate response.
- Rule-based chatbots: A rule-based chatbot uses an if/then type of logic to create conversational flows. It’s generally limited to very specific types of queries and requires a high level of human input to create its predefined rules.
- NLP chatbots: NLP bots use something called natural language processing to process and “understand” human language. The bot parses text and looks for specific keywords to recognize the nature of a user’s query.
- Contextual chatbots: A contextual chatbot uses an advanced type of AI called machine learning to develop its understanding based on previous interactions with users. These bots possess the “intelligence” to identify context from language.
For a startup business that is just beginning to establish its name in the marketplace, lead generation — the act of attracting new customers in significant enough numbers to generate a profit — is a challenging task.
In the early days of operations, it’s not uncommon for startups to experience a significant lag in the number of new leads coming in. This is particularly true for companies with a sales model that hinges heavily on a direct approach — cold calling, door knocking, and other activities designed to ‘steal’ new customers from competitors. In some cases, the lag in new leads can drag on for months, making it difficult to stay afloat financially.
It’s essential for a new business to focus heavily on lead generation and brand building. No matter how strong your product or service might be, it will be difficult to build revenue and achieve significant growth without a strong lead generation strategy.
Statistics show that 55% of businesses that use chatbots generate more high-quality leads. Why? Well, there are several reasons why a chatbot can help improve lead generation, starting with the fact that chatbots can generate leads 24/7: this means that regardless of the hour of day, you’re less likely to lose a potential lead because none of your human sales agents are available.
However, there are several other ways in which a sales-lead-generating chatbot can help a startup drive more new leads:
Lead magnets are like free, mini sample offers that entice prospective customers to provide their contact information in exchange for a gift. Lead magnets can vary in form — downloadable e-books, PDF guides, videos, etc. — but they’re most effective when they’re highly relevant to the product or service that the business sells. Lead magnets are a powerful way to leverage a sales-lead-generating chatbot, particularly when they’re designed to appeal to a specific type of customer.
One of the best ways to generate leads is to make sure your promotions are distributed to the right people. Abandoning a scattergun approach in favor of a more targeted strategy can work wonders for your business, and chatbots can help with this. Aside from gathering contact details, a sales-lead generating chatbot can also make requests for further information from your prospects, such as their job title or company name. Those who respond to the initial promotional offer can then be added to a list of leads that the business can follow up with at a later date.
While a chatbot is great for capturing a potential lead in the first instance, an initial enquiry will often need to be escalated to a relevant human sales agent to discuss further details and (hopefully) close the sale. Based on the information provided by the sales lead, a chatbot can direct the conversation to the most appropriate team member to progress the sale through the sales funnel.
For the most valuable leads, it may sometimes be necessary to book a phone call or a face-to-face meeting so that their unique needs and requirements can be discussed in more detail. Well, a chatbot can be programmed to automatically schedule meetings based on the availability of your teams, meaning you can meet at a time that suits you and your sales lead without having to manually pore over calendars.
More than two-thirds of internet users abandon online forms before getting to the end of them, and it’s typically because they’re too long or complex. Instead of a sales lead having to scroll through a long static form to submit an enquiry, a chatbot will do some of the work for them: by splitting the information-gathering process into short, easy-to-follow steps, sales leads are less likely to lose patience and abandon their enquiries — leading to increased engagement and a reduction in drop-off rates.
For a startup that’s just beginning to establish its position in the marketplace, lead generation can be a challenging task. It’s been predicted that by 2023, sales-lead generation will account for 40% of all B2B sales leads, making it one of the most important uses of chatbots in business today. If you’re aiming to increase your leads, it’s well worth investing in the technology — doing so could give you a significant edge over your competition.