Chatbots help your business save time and money by answering questions that you get asked repeatedly. Modern life means people haven’t got the time or motivation to read through your website for answers. They want to message you and get their answer. And the sooner the better. So many businesses are now deploying chatbots on their websites or Facebook pages.
Even better for your small business, they can help with your marketing! Chatbots can be used to send marketing mailouts using Messenger, getting them seen by more of your customers than any other channel, and with excellent engagement and conversion rates.
This blog looks at my top recommendations from the 8 chatbots I tested.
Many chatbots are free at low usage levels – great news for startups and small businesses!
Of course, you do need to put some time and effort into the initial set-up, and having a good grasp of search intent, text vocabulary and phrase permutations is essential. If you need an agency to help with setting up a chatbot for marketing, or help using chatbots for other purposes, let me know!
What can you do with a Chatbot?
You can programme a chatbot to understand questions which customers frequently ask, either on your website, or on your Messenger platform, or both.
In terms of their ability to interpret different phrasing or spelling or typing errors, this is down to the bot’s Natural Language Processing (NLP). Some of the bots available are better at this than others – see below.
Chabots can integrate with other systems to take orders, make bookings and so on.
They can alert ‘live agents’ to the fact that human assistance is needed and provide seamless handover.
You can also use some chatbots to automatically send specific messages, or sequences of messages, to people who contact you on Messenger by setting up rules, targeting, or conditions in your Chatbot.
For example, for new people messaging you for the first time, you can automatically send them a promotional message within 24 hours of that first contact, then a follow-up promotional message after that, all in accordance with Facebook’s rules (more on this in Part 2).
You can also schedule subscription messages to connect with people who’ve opted into your updates. These must be informational only, to avoid getting banned by Facebook, but you can use them to open the door to your promotional messages.
Help! Which Chatbot do I use?
The 8 bots I tested are:
For marketing: ManyChat, Chatfuel, ItsAlive, Mobile Monkey, Botsify.
For chat only: LiveChat, Chatbot.com, Botique.
I looked at their natural language processing, ease of set-up, presentation, and marketing functionality. If you’re looking for a marketing agency to advise on the right chatbot for you, you’re in the right place with Dipitus.
LivePerson, Pandorabots, reply.ai, agentbot (aivo), flowxo, Meya, Bold360, Dialogflow (from Google), Amazon Lex (for voice based assistance).
If you need help choosing or help with trialling one of the other bots, just get in touch with me.
Best free chatbots for marketing messages
Below are my top 3 chatbots for Messenger. Their AI is non-existent making free text input from your users questionable, so the below is judged on their capabilities as a menu-driven Q&A with marketing push capabilities that will keep you on the straight and narrow with Facebook.
Top 3 free chatbots for marketing messages
ManyChat is easy to use. You get a decent enough basic package for free that doesn’t seem to be limited by users.
From within the bot dashboard you can see all conversations with users so you can audit the quality of your bot.
To keep you on the straight and narrow you can easily ask your users to subscribe, and then target them. The downside with the free version is that you don’t get the ‘rules’ feature which should allow you to fully automate your promotional broadcasts. You can get round this by setting up a scheduled broadcast for each day. It’s a bit laborious, having to copy an existing one and set the new date, so it’s a bit cumbersome, but better than MobileMonkey’s totally manual offering and Chatfuel’s sketchiness.
You can fully automate 24+1 promotional posts.
Upgrade pricing is reasonable at $10 a month for 500 users up to $145 for 25k users, though that is per bot, so you get more bang for your buck with ItsAlive. Custom pricing is available for over 25k users.
MobileMonkey‘s free version easily allows you to reach your pro-actively subscribed users to send them subscription broadcasts, but you can’t schedule them for later. The free version doesn’t allow you to target interactions for a 24+1 promotional capability.
MM is the only bot here that allowed me to successfully clone my bot to other pages I manage at the free level.
Chatfuel is free for basic functions and up to 1000 subscribers.
It does allow you to successfully automate 24+1 targeting, but I lack confidence in its capability to target pro-actively subscribed users and the scheduled messages don’t always work.
It wasn’t intuitive to set up after trying ManyChat, and it doesn’t offer the “People” function at the free level so you can’t manage your users.
The paid-for version, whilst being more expensive than the others, offers better all-round functionality and support, so it may be worth a shot depending on that learning function. For instance, you can add the bot to your website and harness comments from Facebook posts. Upgrades for full features range from £15 a month for 500 subscribers to $180 for 25000 subscribers.
A close runner-up is ItsAlive. That is, once you realise you’re not in the middle of a test example for a cookery book, it’s just that it calls its Q&As “recipes”. It’s free for one bot up with up to 1000 users.
You can totally automate scheduled broadcasts, but I can’t see a way to target opted in subscribers. There doesn’t seem to be a way to use a 24+1 broadcast.
It didn’t seem as easy to use as ManyChat, but I got what I wanted in the end. One nice feature is that you can create ‘new’ recipes as you add a click-response button, whereas for every other platform you have to create the message before creating the button. The downside to this is you may end up down a rabbit hole though!
The dashboard is really simple, with only 3 options – messages, activity (slightly mis-named, as this is where your unanswered questions go), and Analytics which are basic, but a boon at free level.
For 5000 users it’s only $19 a month, then $49 for 2 bots and 20k users, and $99 for 5 bots and 100k users. At each subscription level you get additional functionality as well. For instance, you need a pro subscription to enable the handover to human capability to direct messages to your inbox for a human to answer if the bot can’t help. You can also examine all questions you’re being asked, save user data (eg all users answering your competition correctly)
For bespoke needs you can talk to ItsAlive about custom pricing.
Botsify ought to the best I tried, but right now it’s too buggy. Shame because you could turn on a very cute small talk function and have a nice chat with the little fella, but I think all the developer’s efforts have gone into that rather than getting the basic functionality to work. The developer was responsive to feedback but didn’t fix the bug and didn’t understand me when I explained why it wasn’t fixed. Anyway, it’s not free but at $50 a month is more reasonable than high users with the competition.
Future parts of this blog will look at the best paid options and at Facebook Messenger rules and provide help with setting up Chatbots to send out mass marketing messages. Meantime, if you need help with chatbot marketing or deployment, I can handle it for you at affordable prices..
The best chatbot (chatbot-only)
If you just need a chatbot to answer questions, I’ve also got a recommendation for you. These can be easier to set up as the Natural Language Processing will take care of a lot of those pesky word variations and typos. However, you might still be looking for agency help with chatbot setup such as that offered by Dipitus.
Botique is the best bot at NLP AND satisfying the user compared to LiveChat and Chatbot (and all of these are better than Chatbot apps with marketing functionality).
Botique AI displays an exact match answer as a normal message. But if the user doesn’t type an exact match question, Botique will present “Answers found”, ranked by the most likely fit, and ask you if that’s what you were looking for. This isn’t pretty, but it means it can cope adequately with spelling errors and instances of ‘answer not found’ if there is a near fit, and that its also less likely to supply a wrong answer.
If you want pretty, chatbot.com (formerly Botengine) has the option to add keywords which it will prioritise over machine learning – and you can change the percentage match that equates to ‘confidence’. Out of the box, it didn’t handle the distinction between 2 separate answers for ‘how can I cancel’ and ‘can I cancel’ as well as Botique, but I was able to get it to – though it was hard work!
Using the “add keywords” function in Botique doesn’t stop it suggesting both answers unfortunately.
Botique found answers for ‘can I cancl’ and ‘cn I cncl’. Chatbot couldn’t cope with ‘cn I cncl’.
Botique is free for up to 25 preset answers and 100 users a month. If you want to have it on Messenger as well as your website, you’ll need to shell out $250 a month though.
Chatbot costs $50 a month and $10 extra pm to integrate with messenger. This is for up to 1000 conversations, and then it’s $0.01 per conversation.
The other Botique bonus is the ‘out of the box’ ratings features and random ‘I don’t know’ answers being built in, saving you lots of time on setup. The downside of this is you can’t edit them.
The other thing that’s quick and easy in Botique is to check unanswered questions and both reply to them (now or later) with a live agent, and add them to your Q and A.
You can add “Contact Us” settings either upon user request, or in the case of failed answers. You can provide your phone number for them to click and call, a clickable link to a webpage, or they can leave a message.
However, with ‘transfer to live chat’, I couldn’t get it to work. This was during programmed opening times, but it said we were shut. It’s also American English. When I switched to ’24/7 availability’, it sent 2 messages, the second of which makes little sense – and there’s a typo “write you inquiry here”. Again, I can’t see how to edit these – grr!
There are many bots out there, and more being developed all the time.
Your business may need a custom solution developing, in which case speak to the team behind one of the most famous AI products, Watson from IBM.
But if you’re going for an off-the-shelf chatbot and DIY deployment, remember Dipitus if you want agency help for chatbot marketing and installation.