Deploying Social Media Bots in the Pool and Spa Industry
It’s not as futuristic or as crazy as it sounds
By Evan Dawson
Marketing to your ideal customer in 2017 We all know the worst thing you can do in marketing is, well, nothing. But wishing for results without a strategic plan in place is almost as bad. Some retailers sit back and hope a customer will walk into their brick-and-mortar location or wind up on their website; brave retailers take action and test new technology.
Better ROI favors the bold While there are countless platforms to market your products and a variety of bot services retailers may use, for the purpose of this article I’ll stick with Facebook as the platform, Manychat as the bot service and Facebook Messenger as the method of communication.
Don’t fear the bots Bots are not cyborgs or androids, and do not resemble characters made popular by Sci-Fi films — they are simply services to engage customers. Bots provide answers to questions you predetermine when you create them. Contrary to what some believe when they hear this sort of terminology, bots do not have artificial intelligence and cannot interact with your target audience unless you’ve programmed them to do so.
Bots are not expensive Deploying Facebook Messenger bots can be done for FREE, and as of this writing, Manychat is offering its premium service for as little as $10/month.
Real world example As the sales manager of Clearwater Pool & Spa in Manchester, Tennessee, an obvious priority of mine is to beat last year’s retail store numbers. I came on board with this fast-growing company at the perfect time to test bots: pool season! I’ve been deploying Facebook Messenger bots for a couple of weeks, and the results have been truly eye opening.
Here’s how the first test worked (in order of actions taken):
Created an engaging post on our company’s Facebook page
a. Asked a simple question: “Is your pool open yet?”
b. Linked the post to a relevant blog written by our owner
Set up a trigger event for when users commented
a. Created an automated response
b. Scheduled the response to be sent after a few minutes
Responded personally to all secondary comments
OK, enough of the boring bullet points; let’s dissect a user experience with the following mock interaction: My name’s Joe. I’ve just opened my Facebook app to browse aimlessly through my newsfeed. As I’m scrolling, I see a picture of a pool with the question, “Is your pool open yet?” “Ha! Hardly.” I think. “I’ll just comment, ‘not yet.’ A few minutes later, as I’m watching a video of a dog playing volleyball, a message pops up from Clearwater Pool & Spa asking me how often I swim in my pool once it’s open. They give me a few options and I choose B) 2 to 3 times a week.” Boom. It’s that simple. Joe is now a subscriber to our bot, and we can broadcast a message or sequence of messages to him at any time.
Endless possibilities Here are a few suggestions:
Entice followers of your company Facebook page to opt in to a sequence that teaches them how to systematically clear up a green pool.
Ask customers what products they’re interested in (pool? spa?); take them through a choose your own adventure–style Q&A, then reply with a coupon specific to the product(s) they chose.
Broadcast an upcoming store event to your entire list once you have a certain number of subscribers
Word of caution With great marketing technology comes greater responsibility. There’s an old saying: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Relying solely on prewritten message sequences to build your brand and bolster your bottom line will ultimately do neither. A human element will still need to answer any off-script questions that may arise in the middle of a messaging sequence. I call it personal touch automation.
Being present while your bots do what they do best will help ensure your marketing efforts aren’t viewed as impersonal manipulation.
Evan Dawson, an entrepreneur and retail veteran of both locally owned and nationwide big-box stores, is using his experience to improve the bottom line at Clearwater Pool & Spa’s retail location in Manchester, Tennessee. While not at work, Evan can be found either at home with his wife and three children, or on foreign soil. Having travelled to more than 30 countries over the past two decades with various missions’ organizations, Evan is thrilled to be working with a company that shares his faith-based ideals.