Bots for Business

5 Conversation Design Tips for Customer Acquisition Chatbots

When designing a chatbot for customer acquisition, use these five tips to ensure that you’re keeping the user at the forefront of your mind.

By Hillary Black
February 14, 2019

One of the most valuable use cases for chatbots is customer acquisition. By creating an experience with utility, strategic design, and a strong call to action (CTA), you can get more customers in less time—and track your chatbot’s proven return on investment (ROI). By reaching these potential customers where they already are, on social messaging platforms (like Facebook, Twitter, or SMS), you can increase the likelihood of conversion. In my experience designing acquisition chatbots for big brands like TradeStation and Haven Life Insurance, I’ve discovered many best practices for converting users into qualified leads—while lowering the acquisition cost for clients.

How customer acquisition bots differ from other chatbots

Acquisition bots promote a company or service and activate leads through conversation. These bots should always have a specific and measurable goal. They often use targeted advertising to acquire users. Other chatbots, such as those for news and notifications, skills and habit formation, customer support, and simple just-for-fun experiences, may have entirely different goals (or no goals at all). These types of chatbots can be effective, but to truly grow your business in a fully automated way, an acquisition bot is the best choice to supercharge your sales.

The strategies behind converting customers within a conversational interface come down to perceived value, ease of use, and utility. Add personality and strategic follow-ups, and you’re on your way to growing your business quickly—even while you sleep.

5 tips to keep in mind when designing for customer acquisition

1. Lay out expectations

When a user engages with your chatbot for the first time, they should know right away what to do. Your first two messages should greet them, share who you are, and communicate what they will gain by completing this experience. For instance, will they get a quote by answering a few simple questions? Say that. Schedule a test drive? Get access to a free trial or download after taking a quiz? Let them know. See specific product recommendations based on their preferences? Whatever your goal is, the user should know what you expect of them (for example, information or answers to questions) and what they will get out of it (something of value).

This is where the specific part of your chatbot goal comes in. When designing the experience, think of one thing you want the chatbot to do really well, and keep in mind the biggest selling point of your business. Communicating these will increase the completion rate and lower the likelihood of user error. Expectations are especially important if you’re acquiring users with paid advertising on Facebook, Twitter or Google with “Message” as the call to action, because the user is likely not familiar with your company. When the chatbot kicks off, the conversation should match the copy and creative of the Message ad, and the experience should be a seamless continuation of the conversation.

2. Provide value before you sell

The best way to keep users engaged so that they’re more likely to convert to customers is to provide value. Similar to how you would sell your product or service to a customer over the phone or in person, your chatbot should communicate the values of your company. The difference with a chatbot is that it must do more than provide information. It should also create a connection and an immediate value in the customer’s life. This positions your chatbot (and your company) as a useful and helpful tool. Customers are overwhelmed with social advertising everywhere they look, but chatbots allow advertisements to become an interactive, two-way conversation. This creates a new form of acquisition, a more intimate way of engaging at scale.

3. Talk like a person

A chatbot with an effective personality is your key to success. This earns the user’s trust and helps them have fun along the way, making them more likely to convert and share their experience (and to bring you more customers). Like strategic social media copy and creative, and like architecture in websites and apps, bots need UX design.

Creating a unique personality is one of the most important tasks in designing a chatbot aimed at acquiring a specific audience. A great way to create a bot personality is to consider your brand personality. It’s also helpful to visualize who this bot may be, what it likes, or what it does for work. You may even want to give it a name. You can create a profile for your ideal user, to keep them at the forefront of your mind when writing your dialog. The words, emojis, and media you choose should feel relatable to the user, thus humanizing your chatbot. A key advantage of chatbots over other types of social ads is that you can keep things personal by including the user’s name in conversation.

4. Keep it conversational

One of the core foundations of strategic conversation design is remembering that there is a human on the other end. It is important to continuously interact with the user in a two-way conversation. Since chatbots are state aware (that is, they remember things the user says) and engage with the audience in an active way (reply instantly), there are many ways to keep the conversation flowing. And this can be done in a way that feels authentic to the user—less like you’re talking at them or bombarding them with lengthy messages. Follow a 3:1 or 2:1 ratio when messaging the user (this will vary on voice and SMS platforms, where there are no quick replies), meaning that, with each second or third message, your chatbot should ask the user to respond. This could be a quick reply or CTA for the user to type. Keep messages to no longer than three or four lines. If messages need to be longer, break them up or consider adding text images or videos. Ease of use is a big advantage of a chatbot, and when designing yours, keep in mind that the dialog should feel simple and straightforward. As previously noted, the user should always know exactly what the chatbot wants them to do or how to respond, and the questions should not be open ended. This will keep the user on track and reduce the room for error.

5. Follow up, but don’t overwhelm

Sometimes life gets in the way. A user may discover your bot while they are commuting to work, out with friends, or just busy. You may see drop-off at a certain point, when asking the user to provide more information about themselves. One of the advantages of using a chatbot, as opposed to one-way advertising, is that these chatbot users are yours. You can engage them again whenever you want. But, of course, you need to be strategic about when you reach out and what you say. The sweet spot for reaching out to a user could be a friendly reminder. “Hey, it’s me! Want to pick up where you left off on that?” The reminder should communicate what exactly they were working on (like a quote or an appointment) and who you are, and it should ask a question that they can easily respond to with the click of a button.

Bonus tip: Plan to fail

How your chatbot handles the conversation when it doesn’t understand the user can make or break the experience for a potential customer. Users now expect bots to do more than say “Hello” and “Sorry, I didn’t get that—and they should! Implementing a multilevel catch-all can ease user friction when something goes wrong. The following approach is a good one:

  • Level 1: Apologize and restate the last question.
  • Level 2: Apologize and, to get the user back on track, offer a list of suggestions that describe what the user can do with this chatbot.
  • Level 3: Hand the user off to a human, or provide an instant way for them to initiate contact with customer support.

With Level 3, it may be that the user is trying to leave the bot or that the technology simply isn’t working. Either way, by providing opportunities to get the user back on track first, users can typically get back into the correct flow. And they are a lot happier than users who repeatedly see the “Sorry, I don’t understand” messages.

In summary, when designing a chatbot for customer acquisition, always keep the user at the forefront of your mind. The experience is designed for them. They should be clear about the expectations, know what the value is for them, and feel almost as if they’re chatting with a human. A chatbot that talks like a person and remains conversational—from beginning to end—and that allows users to be humans who are busy sometimes (but who appreciate your follow-ups) and who fall off track (but who can be guided back) is the best interaction. And the best chatbot experience converts.

If you want to acquire more leads but your go-to marketing strategies are no longer working, an acquisition chatbot is a smart idea . When designed strategically with these tips, acquisition chatbots can be your sales secret weapon.