If you've ever thought about starting your own digital marketing agency that sells chatbots, now's the time. Chatbots were already exploding in popularity. Now, the major uptick in ecommerce and digital communication due to COVID-19 has massively accelerated that. And even though marketers and business owners have no-code tools for bot building at their fingertips, there will always be those who prefer to outsource. That's where you come in. 🤓
To start a chatbot agency, you've got to hone your bot-building skills, of course. But then there's the business know-how, too: figuring out what to charge, how to win clients, and how to grow your brand. We're here to help you get started with all of the above.
First, we'll share our best resources to help you become an expert bot builder, fast. Then we'll cover the key steps for starting a chatbot agency. And here's another reason to read on: Along the way, we'll be sharing crucial tips and insights from Chatfuel's own Andrew Demeter. He's now our Head of Video Production—but before we snapped him up, he was running a six-figure digital marketing agency specializing in chatbots.
The quickest way to become an expert chatbot builder
(If you're already a master chatbot builder, skip to the next section. 😎)
First, some good news: You don't need any coding skills or technical experience to become a great chatbot builder. No-code tools like Chatfuel make it so that anyone can build a Facebook chatbot.
Once you sign up for your free account, check out these key resources to get you up and running with no-code chatbot building, fast:
- A guided tutorial of our new drag-and-drop interface, Flow Builder, which makes bot-building even easier than before—plus a tutorial on how to build a basic bot in three minutes
- The Chatfuel Facebook Community, where bot builders from around the world share advice. It's a great place to get feedback and advice and ask questions.
- An intro to the most common mistakes new chatbot builders make, and how to avoid them
Finally, for any specific questions you may have, you can find answers here on our blog, in our help documentation, or through tutorials on our YouTube channel. And of course, you can always reach out to our stellar support team for help at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Upgrade to Pro and you'll get priority support, meaning your requests will jump ahead in the queue for lightning-fast responses!)
Once you're familiar with the technical basics of building Messenger bots, you'll need to focus on great conversational design. Just like a friendly, charismatic salesperson, a chatbot with well-crafted copy will be the most effective for your clients. We recommend checking out this episode of our marketing podcast to get conversational design tips from expert bot designer MKJ (or get a recap here). ⤵️
Start your chatbot agency in seven steps
Now that you know how to build Messenger chatbots, it's time to think about the business side of your digital marketing agency. Here are the steps we recommend for creating and growing your agency, with Andrew's tips included as we go.
#1. Choose a niche.📍 We suggest focusing on clients in one or two specific industries, at least at first. Andrew chose to take on clients only in ecommerce, healthcare, and travel, for example. Choose a niche you're familiar with or at least interested in. That way, you can direct all your focus to the pain points of businesses in this sector. You can build a reputation as an expert in that niche, which will make gaining new clients in the future easier too. Plus, sticking to one industry will allow you to grow your chatbot agency more quickly. (More on this in step #6 below.)
#2. Research, research, research. 📚 Market research is a crucial step when starting any kind of business. You'll need to get intimately familiar with the key pain points that businesses in your chosen industry deal with. Before you start building a chatbot, you need to have identified a problem that it's going to solve.
Join Facebook groups for your target industry to see what challenges people are talking about. Do informational interviews with business owners in the industry. Look at the problems that keep coming up and think: Which of these could be solved or improved with a chatbot? Which time-consuming tasks could benefit from automation? What processes could a bot streamline? How could a bot improve the customer experience?
To help you know what to look and listen for, here are some common business challenges that Messenger chatbots can address:
- Generating traffic and leads. Most every business could use an automated, cost-effective way to attract new clients or customers. You could add a chatbot window to the customer's website and set it up to then qualify those leads, for example.
- Increasing marketing ROI. Most companies are already investing in digital marketing and advertising. Make those dollars go further with a chatbot—by connecting it to Facebook ads to achieve a higher ROI, for example.
- Providing faster, personalized service. No matter the niche, every brand is out to please their customers. A chatbot can do this on autopilot in all kinds of ways, from providing 24/7 customer support to recommending products based on individual needs and tastes.
#3. Build an excellent demo bot. 🤖 To pitch to clients in your niche, you'll want to show them a chatbot you've already built that can solve kinds of problems they face. Build a Facebook bot for your chosen industry so they can see a relevant example in action. If you need some help or inspiration to get started, we suggest checking out Chatfuel's templates, which are entire ready-made bots designed for a specific use case, like beauty salons or restaurants. To browse templates, click the + button at the top of the left panel in the Automation-->Flows tab. Then click Add from template.
You can build a demo bot based on what you learned about your industry's pain points in step two. Or, better yet, you can find a client(s) in your industry and offer to build them a chatbot for free. It'll be great learning experience, and you'll build up a portfolio of your work this way too. Local businesses are a great place to start. They'll be more likely to trust a local and typically won't say no to free marketing.
For an example of a great demo bot for a particular niche (insurance), look to Tacobot. They're a Tennessee-based digital marketing agency that specializes in chatbots. Their own bot gives potential clients a taste of what a bot for businesses in their industry can do.
#4. Set your pricing. 💰 Setting your chatbot agency's pricing can seem intimidating, but it's really just two figures you have to settle on to get started:
👉 an hourly rate for building + a retainer fee for ongoing maintenance
Those who are new to the world of chatbot marketing often miss the second half of this equation. A chatbot isn't a set-and-forget tool. You’ll need to:
- regularly track the chatbot's performance and optimize as needed
- keep up with training the AI at first, if you sell AI chatbots
- set up and monitor your click-to-Messenger ads or sponsored message campaigns, if you're running those for clients
Andrew emphasizes the importance of the retainer for regular maintenance: "After you launch, choose your key metrics and update the chatbot accordingly over time." He shares a few examples: "What images are converting best? What copy is performing at its peak? How are you reengaging users, if at all? There's always room to improve, so take that opportunity to grow your agency's revenue."
Andrew adds: "Even if you don't want to maintain clients' bots on an ongoing basis, you can always partner with other agencies or freelancers who are looking for more business. Earn that commission, or strike up a mutually beneficial deal, and keep growing!"
"There's always room to improve, so take that opportunity to grow your agency's revenue." –Andrew Demeter, chatbot agency founder
Andrew also advises properly qualifying your leads before doing your demo pitch. "Value your time. Don't get on a call with just anyone. I prefer doing as much qualification as possible through a Messenger bot (or email) because it's quick and effective," explains Andrew. "You don't want to be put in a situation where the prospect is ready to move forward, but then you learn they don't have the budget." He also recommends requiring at least 50% of the total estimated payment up front, so you know ahead of time that your client can actually pay you for your services.
For more chatbot agency pricing tips, check out what another experienced chatbot agency owner (and Chatfuel user) Tyler Odenthal has to say. ⬇️
Andrew had one more tip to add about pricing, since it's a core topic for any agency founder: "Especially if you're just starting and don't have much experience, you might have an instinct to lower your prices to get more clients. But I don't advise doing this, because clients then perceive your services as less valuable. (Plus, you'll attract lower quality clients.)" And, he warns: "Even if you build high-quality Messenger experiences but charge a low fee, you might deter prospects who are looking for a top-notch premium service."
#5. Start pitching. 👔 Now you've got chatbot-building experience, a demo bot that solves industry pain point(s), and a few chatbots for real businesses in your portfolio. You've set your pricing too, so it's time to start pitching to new clients and get that revenue flowing.
Seek out businesses via LinkedIn and Facebook, or approach businesses in your area. You can also use your own chatbot for lead generation by adding it to your website or running ads that send users to it. Don't forget to have your demo chatbot at the ready to show prospects what your service would look like in action, and how it can benefit them!
Andrew also recommends using content marketing for lead generation. "In other words, become an authority in the Messenger space," he says. "I accomplished this by publishing a Udemy training course on bots. I was an early adopter of Messenger and had first-mover advantage, so whenever people thought of Messenger automation they thought of me. As a result, I got tons of word-of-mouth referrals and customers came to me."
Then, when it's time for the pitch, keep these tips in mind:
- Be ready to explain chatbots. Chatbots will represent new (and potentially intimidating) technology to some of your clients. Be ready to explain, in simple terms, exactly what a chatbot is and how it can help.
- Focus on results, not features. Yes, you'll want to use the most cutting-edge chatbot technology to build your bots. ButtThe average client won't be swayed by you explaining the inner workings of the Facebook bot you want to build them. Instead of speaking in features, focus on the results the bot can get for them. Use real stats and numbers from past clients. Show them the concrete, tangible value a Messenger chatbot can bring them.
- Leverage social proof. Solicit and then share testimonials from past customers (even if you did the work for free). Put together chatbot case studies to showcase on your website. Use social proof to show your prospects that others like them have enjoyed valuable results from your services.
#6. Scale your chatbot agency with Synced Cloning. 📈 Here's where choosing just a niche or two really pays off. If most or all of your clients belong to the same industry, you can build one chatbot framework and use it most every time. It'll serve as your foundation, which you can copy and customize for each client as needed. There's an easy way to do this in Chatfuel: Our Synced Cloning feature, which lets you clone parts of one master chatbot to as many other bots as you want. (It's just one perk of many that comes with our Premium Agency plan. To learn more, book a demo!)
💡Bonus: If you decide to offer AI chatbots to your clients, having multiple clients in the same industry will make your life easier too. Training AI for one niche is a more manageable process than training dozens for all different use cases.
Concerned about how to start, grow, or pivot a digital marketing agency during the COVID-19 pandemic? We spoke to some experts to get their advice. Check it out, here. ⬇️
#7. Offer additional services. ➕ Here's one final tip on growing your digital marketing agency once it's established: Offer add-ons and extra services to your clients to increase revenue. Andrew's first and foremost suggestion for this is creating and selling chatbot templates, which "were my agency's number-one source of revenue by a landslide," he says. In the early stages, templates can help you learn to build bots. Once you're ready to grow, you can design your own templates to sell to clients. "I created industry-specific templates for restaurants, beauty salons, real estate agents, etc. I also included demo videos showing how they worked to answer questions and explain features and benefits."
Andrew also recommends offering multiple packages and add-ons for clients with different needs. For those who just want a bit of extra help getting up and running with a template you built, you could offer one-on-one consulting calls. The next step up could be a service where you customize one of your templates for their specific needs. The highest tier could be a completely custom build.
"And unless you're a full-service agency," Andrew adds, "consider partnering with dedicated experts like copywriters, graphic designers, funnel strategists, and developers, because you can earn a commission on these referrals."
Today's the day to start your own chatbot agency
Like we said: There's never been a better time to start your own digital marketing agency and sell chatbots. Now that you've gone through this guide, the only thing left to do is get started. 🏁
One of the functions of Chatfuel is to help agencies like yours grow. Book a demo of our Premium Agency plan to learn more about the tools we provide to that end, from a custom white-labeled dashboard to priority support. Not quite there yet? Sign up for a free Chatfuel account today to get the ball rolling with your new chatbot agency.