Founder: Natasha Takahashi of School of Bots
Hosted by Andrew Strauss
Natasha takes us through her journey from living the Silicon Valley startup life to chatbot expert, thus allowing her the financial and work freedom she had always wanted. In just 2 short years, Natasha has become one of the leading Chatbot authorities and with her School of Bots and chatbot agency, she is on fire. Natasha sits down with me and shares what is going on with chatbots and where she sees chatbots going in the next 24 months. If you are a chatbot builder or looking at a career in this new and exciting field this will be an episode you don’t want to miss.
Andrew: Hey guys! Andrew here with masters and e-commerce, and Messaging Marketing. And, I wanna have a special guest with us today. Today is Natasha Takahashi, sorry,
Natasha: Close enough (laughs)
A: I don’t know if you’ve seen her around… she’s everywhere pretty much. She’s a host for “There’s a bot for that”, founded School of bots, (and) also got an agency that builds I don’t know, 80+ bots built out there or something like that I’ve said, of her. And she’s got an upcoming… she’s speaking at an upcoming conference, and she’s just everywhere. So, if I missed anything on that, fill in the audience.
N: No worries, yeah, we’re doing a lot of stuff. Been speaking at, gosh, I think I’ve spoken at about twenty places now this year so far, so I won’t bore everyone with the details, but I think you pretty much captured most of what I got going on right now.
A: Cool, so give a little background on like how you got into this whole space, what you were doing prior to bots, I’m sure the audience would love to know.
N: Yeah, I guess I started my career in the tech startup world and that’s where I thought I would always be was a tech start-up CEO raising funding doing that whole stereotypical Silicon Valley thing, and I loved it but then I read the Four-Hour Work Week, I started going out these personal development conferences and kind of got suckered into that whole world of financial freedom is location freedom, and time freedom. And of course, I was vulnerable and I even… so I fell for a couple of things. Nonetheless, I think it was good to get my momentum going that I wanted to be an online entrepreneur and to be in the digital marketing space and be able to help people through community and what not. So, I started my chatbot agency right when Facebook Messenger opened up their API to bots. And those of you guys who are not familiar with APIs, don’t worry too much about what that means, just worry about the fact that Facebook Messenger bots officially started in April of 2016 or were available to people like us to build. So as soon as that came out, I had already been planning to start a Facebook ads agency since I already had a few clients and I was working on Facebook ads and other digital marketing stuff for the tech startups that I worked with and when bots came out, it just kind of made sense for me to pivot entirely to bot and see what I could do with that and this was actually my first business as well, the agency.
So, I was like, “Okay well, it doesn’t really matter if this fails or not, I just wanna see if I can make this work.” And it did for the first few months, it was pretty shitty. I think just like with any business, you’re struggling to get clients, you’re trying to figure out what your business model really looks like all of those pieces, and what’s actually gonna work. And in this new market, it was a lot more difficult. Obviously I’m biased and I have no previous experience of starting a company in the other industry, but based on all the companies I worked with before, I feel like disrupting an industry is almost easier than starting out. There’s pros and cons to starting out a new place, whereas disrupting a 100-year industry.
So, with Bots it’s very unclear at the beginning who’s gonna be a great target market and what are people actually gonna want as products and services in this industry who are all the roles, investors educators, service providers platforms. So, it was definitely wild west, it still is. And so the agency I started right at the beginning, and started to see everything on hold. We, like you mentioned, we’ve built close to 90 bots now. And hopefully gonna get to 100, so we can just have that milestone, and then either merge the agency with what we’re doing now, or sell it off trying to figure out what we wanna do with it because about six months ago we started school of bots and and they mentioned a little bit, we have a, there’s a bot for that interview show, we’ve got a template marketplace we actually, fun fact that just happened today, we launch the template vault today, which is a membership to get access to our templates each month.
A: That’s awesome!
N: Yeah! I’m really excited for it. Because people buy, on average, people buy three to five templates from us each month, and so,it sorta makes sense to give them a discount, and a little bit more exclusivity, and support. So, go check that out guys, if you guys see although I guess you might see this later, but yeah, so starting school of bots, and then, now really my position in the bot world is attempting to facilitate different parts of that ecosystem that I mentioned, so that we can really help push the space forward together. And working with you guys, working with other platforms and the space is really helping us do that, at a faster rate.
A: Right, so when you started the agency, I mean how did you even get your first client, what was the sales pitch like to people that was brand new to this.
N: Yeah, it was a terrible sales pitch. So, my business partner, Kyle, he does all of our sales stuff. He had come from an entirely sales background. Whereas I have a different approach, I like to become someone’s friend and have the intentions to be positive and what-not, sales is not always like that.
So, I would say I am not the best saleswoman. Although at the beginning we both did our fair share of hopping on sales calls, sending out a ton of cold e-mails. And I think the main three ways that we were getting or talking to or attempting to get clients, going to conferences in specific industries, cold calling and cold emailing. So we were cold calling local businesses trying to set up meetings with them in person and then cold emailing people around the country.
N: We did that and then our first points honestly came from what we have been working with or who we had been working with before for Facebook ads. It was just trying to up-sell them and create case studies out of that. So we didn’t early charge too much for it, I think we did definitely some for free, that also did a couple for 100 or a couple hundred dollars, so it was really all over the place just trying to figure out what… how much should we be charging the one to… what type of results can we actually get people… How many clients can we take on a month because what does this bot service even look like.
So, those are the things we aim to solve within the first three to four months of the business. And then what really helped us grow a lot more, and at a faster pace increasingly from there, was actually partnering with other digital marketing agencies and then having them send us clients and us provide the white-label bought solution for them for.
We could be their entire bot arm, and then it went both ways, because for us and for a lot of people, I think you may start your agency with offering one to two services and then slowly our clients are like, “Hey can you also do this for making it to do this for me?” So, we started entirely as bot and having those partners allowed us to not really shift our focus away from bots and having to say, “Oh yeah, I guess we can do content creation for you I guess we can do Instagram for you.” And so instead, really allowed us to focus and then outsource that to our partners and then of course say, “we’re using this for bots.” So, I get in both ways and in a nutshell, that’s kinda how we started our sales process in what we were doing at the beginning and I think it’s still kind of the same right now even though we’re over two years in… and I definitely the wild west, there’s still so many different ways that you can get clients but partnerships for sure, are just a great way I think, in general, for any type of agency or doing to grow at a faster rate and just close clients quicker ’cause that’s really the goal is to just have that cash flow coming in each month as an agency.
A: Sure, so when you were doing those partnership type of deals was it more so on the sense that you would just reach out and saying, “Hey you have to do this? And would you be interested in learning a little bit about this kind of stuff” when you’re trying to formulate those partnerships.
N: Yeah, we did a little bit of outbound for sure, and positioned it in that way. Also, our first partnership, how this whole thing came about and became such a big part of our agency was because someone we reached out to me on LinkedIn and wanted to essentially create a chat-bot agency where they were just a sales front, and they wanted us to create all the bots, for them.
So, if you’re looking at it as about agency, you’re like, “Well that’s not really about agency”, but they just want the sales side of things and not have to work on the bots. So, we started as that, and then that went well to where we decided to reach out to a couple other agencies, and pretty much did what you mentioned. We reached out in a couple of different Facebook groups, so we even up to now, our best partnerships have been with Facebook ad agencies: social media management and content creation and design.
N: And other ones are great, but those were the ones that made the most sense for bot services.
A: Yeah, ’cause I see a lot of people out there. It’s like build bot for a thousand dollars or two and things of that. Do you find that you think that if you’re getting into this space, it’s best to specialize or be a generalist?
N: Yeah, so let’s put it more into context in terms of like who you should prospect or what.
A: Yeah, yeah, like you basically know about gyms or things or something like that, on stuff I do, you just focus in on doing gyms or real estate, or things like that, and just become that person known in that field.
N: I think historically in the agency world, that’s what people have had the most success with. However, I think when it comes to bots, because it is really a holistic service that is not just for marketing but if you use it to its full advantage, it can really infiltrate and improve a company’s sales and operations as well. Because of such a holistic product and service to a business, I think that it makes the most sense to be a little bit more general and be open to opportunities in other industries that you may have not set out to Prospect in because that’s totally what happened to us. Of course, it was a little bit more inconventional because we weren’t going after ten different industries but our partners were as I mentioned before stereotypically they had their specific demographic that they were going after whether it was franchised restaurants or e-commerce up doing a certain number of sales or revenue each month, whatever it was, or number of followers online, they each had their own specifics. And so we were open to all of those demographics, but if you are just doing direct sales and not working with partners at the beginning, then I’d say trying to focus on 2-3 niches or industries I think is a good start in doing each one at of time is probably the best because otherwise you overload yourself. But still having the long-term outlook that I am open to creating bots in multiple industries, not just gyms not just restaurants not just ecommerce.
A: Sure, so brings in a question like… Okay, so what makes a good bot funnel, what…it can’t be always kind of sales. So for engagement, things that your clients are looking for or people should be looking for, what is that?
N: So, I think the best way to frame that is to think about bots in the same or interactions in the same way that a lot of ad agencies look at it. So, when ad agencies go in to create the foundation for ad campaigns, they usually have their omnipresent /content ads which don’t necessarily have a direct CTA. It’s not like, “Hey go buy this, it’s more of like check out this content”, and then the second type is usually conversions, which is entirely sales like, “Hey get this discount code”, this item’s running out in a scarcity whatever it is that they do to get that sale in that ad, and then retargeting for people who went to the sales page or whatever it was, each part of that funnel.
So, when you look at it in that way, I think having those steps inside of a bot funnel is very important. And what we try to do with our approach is do these things in the following order of marketing, sales and operations, so that we really start the first month or two depending on how big the company is, how big the lists are, and other outlets, we will just focus on building their Messenger list, and really nurturing that audience, giving them extra valuable content. And one of the requirements that we have for working with clients is that they create a lot of regular content and have a lot of content already that we can just re-purpose inside of the dot.
It’s fairly easy, like one example would be if someone is creating awesome email content every day there’s no reason why we can’t re-purpose that into both friendly content or it’s a little bit shorter and more interactive, but it’s still the same content, the same copy and everything, but it’s just in a little bit different format that makes our lives of billing times easier ’cause we’re not a content creation agency or copyrighting agency..
A: A lotta work
N: Yeah, exactly, and that’s where the whole… like what services do you focus on? And not get pulled in all these different directions comes in… but yeah, they kind of get back to what makes a good messenger funnel. I think it really is having those three steps in that funnel and also being able to show a lot of that valuable content and then bringing in the sale at the right time. Example of that would be, there’s a fantastic fitness bot Union, it’s called jolt.ai and so they partner with gyms or not partner take them on as clients, but partner, I guess, in a sense, where the members of the gym can talk to Jolt every day and have a personal accountability buddy. And it also tracks all of their activity, what they’ve done a day, what they get in and then there’s all these really cool personalization features as well. What type of voice it’s talking to you in, that and it gives you all these great graphs, and fun things, so that is a great example of something where you’re nurturing nurturing nurturing every day, and then say, you haven’t talked to Jolt in three or four days, but you were talking to consistently for a week or every day for a week. Then, during the those three days, Jolt may send you messages say “Hey looks like you haven’t been working out what’s up” you may type something back to it like, “Oh I’ve been sick or I’ve been on vacation.” It says, “well, if you wanna give back on track, here is a discovery personal training session” and then that’s where you can make the sale because it’s at the exact right time, where someone could potentially be considering that.
So that’s an example of the right offer at the right time. And then of course, that’s totally different for each business, but just an example. And I think when you can do that in the funnel, and then have other upsells that come along as you’re nurturing someone depending on what the campaign looks like and what not. Now I think that is the ideal messenger.I know that was long…
A: Yeah, that’s super helpful. So how would you apply say to…. if you were an e-commerce store, right? You don’t wanna constantly sell sell sell, but at least if you’ve got a… say your home improvement or I don’t know, kitchen, the kitchen store. Would that be kind of the same thing with the content? Here’s a great recipe here’s a great thing. And you kinda use this for basing the chicken kind of thing. And then, Here’s that sales type of thing.
N: Yeah, I think so, this is actually something I talked about yesterday on another Andrew, Andrew cruises video, which I think watched as well. Yeah, I was interviewed by his group, a lot of people in his group do e-commerce and dropshipping. So this was a pretty important topic for them as well. And I think the best answer that I can give is that an eCommerce store before they launch a bot does need to have some content in line and have a future plan to be creating consistent content even if it’s just like once a month, that’s really minimum. If a company is not doing that and they’re not active, about growing their brand and interacting with their customers all the time, then the bot is not going to help solve that any more than not having content is… and that’s where, again, that whole idea that not idea but issue for my agency comes if any commerce store doesn’t have any content then now, either need to create content, or say “Sorry we can’t use bot service for you because we don’t have anything to work with”, so I think that’s one of the biggest requirements that e-commerce companies should have before a chatbot agency works with them, otherwise channel will not work for them, but at the same time, I think even again, on the flip side, I think there’s definitely an urgency to be stated that any commerce store right now should hook up to jumper.ai, should have a bot immediately even if they’re not using it to its full extent. At least being able to capture people who are messaging you and then maybe even just setting up delivery and update notifications without it being a conversational experience just yet is still important to have, just because it makes the experience a lot better than email does in any other channel. But when running campaigns and doing a lot more with the whole nurture then sell, teach then sell, so it’s gonna be really important to have content in line first, right.
A: Yeah, I think that’s the thing. A lot of these guys who do drop shipping, it’s all about product, product, product, throw a Facebook ad up… that’s what jumper would come in. You throw an ad up, to buy, the impulse kind of like the Amazon kind of thing, but then if you wanna create and nurture that relationship that you were talking about. Yeah, it’s about… think about I guess the product and what goes around that product. So, if you’ve got a basting brush maybe you talk about, like I said, chicken recipes, or what that might be kind of thing. Let me ask you, some changes are coming down the way this page level subscription type of thing from a… most people don’t even know about it.
N: I think people were freaking out at the beginning of the year, ’cause they thought you had to do it immediately, but then realized they can wait till the end of the year. So I think, then everyone forgot about it.
A: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So I think everybody’s kind of for… can you go through kind of what this is going to do and how big of a change it might be for some people on this level.
N: Yeah, I think the events/transition will be similar to the bot pause that we experience at the that defining of the year. We had a lot of people freaking out. No, I’m not gonna do your bots anymore? And at the same time, it is important to just have that proactive outlook that yes, Facebook could shut down all of this like at any given point, but the fact that conversational interfaces are here to stay, is very real. And so even just jumping in and taking advantage of Facebook messenger, even if say Facebook closed down the platform next month, which is very unlikely. Another less having experience with conversation then leads you to be able to transfer that over to any other channel. Which I’m sure everyone will start to expand to in the coming years. So to answer a question about the effect of this, I think the best thing I will do will get rid of spammy people on the platform. There are a lot of bots that don’t follow all the rules about when to sell, which you know is the 24 hour plus one rule. You’ve got people who are just sending all sorts of crap every day of people and now actually messenger has made it a lot easier to just turn off messages from someone without reporting their page, so that’s good. And I believe that then removes you as a subscriber, as well or at least blocks off you from getting those messages. So that definitely exists right now, but with those subscriptions to go give a definition and again this may be outdated though. So, I don’t wanna say like This is exactly what it will look like because this would, may change this right before it launches, but pretty much what it will do is make any page have to apply to Facebook in order to send messages to its users, that are non-promotional. That’s an important part as well, because we thinking, “Oh it’s just if I need to sell something, no, this is going to apply to everyone who wants to use the broadcast feature for their bot, so I’m not sure how many Chafuel, those platforms will handle this yet, since they haven’t publicly made announcements but for the most part I’m assuming that they will help facilitate that process inside of their platforms. And from there really, I think it will be positive so that that way at this point there’s over 300, 000 bots on Messenger.
I’d say probably like 80 percent of them are crap. And so being able to actually that has access to the platform the same way that people who are creating the platform natively have to do because I think that right now, anyone who goes on chatfuel or manychat, they can easily publish a bot in seconds, but people who are actually coding the bots have to wait weeks to have published. And so now, I think there will be a little bit more equality, to the actual quality of the bot on the platform now that this will be added, but it will cause a little bit of friction, I think, especially for client engagements, because now, there will be a little bit more of a waiting time for actually launching a Chatbot.
A: Then there’s people who have, who are able to send automated messages right away will now have to apply. So it could take two to four months. Who knows how long? And so there again, I think it all comes down to really getting your people in control and getting an email address as email is still going to be important factor.
We you have to own your you have to own your customer, right? And with Facebook and you just selling on Amazon that you don’t own your customer to where any of these things… so if you don’t control that I think is this is exactly what could happen. So it’s very important on that side thing, so cool, awesome. Well, and so, what do you see in trends, coming like the top things that you see coming down the pike in 24 months, 18 months things like that.
N: Yeah, yeah I think in terms of chatbots, we will see a lot more of VR and AR like affects happening. So right after this year’s F8, a lot of companies, like Sephora launch their face filters inside of Messenger and if you guys wanna try something like that you can actually use cloudanary to do that, although it is a little bit more of a technical platform but nonetheless you can use it to create these filters for your Chatbot. In Messenger, you just click on the camera and boom, your filters are now available for people to take pictures with it.
Yeah, that’s something that I see growing a lot more just because people love that stuff. That’s why people use Snapchat mainly now, it’s funny because everyone hated Snapchat after the update they made this year, or was it last year? I don’t remember exactly when, time has been flying. So, the filters that they have now I think a lot more people use Instagram for their stories just because more people are there, but I still use the Snapchat filters and then save that picture and I upload into Instagram. So these filters are definitely still loved by many and I think that Instagram and Facebook will make a very good move if they can improve theirs and add more. And that was the same way for bots. So I think that’ll be something that definitely increases, and is made more readily available to small businesses as well. ’cause right now, it’s just only enterprises really who have added that. Katy Perry also is an example of that. There’s a couple of different ways. There’s the face filter, and then there’s also like here, take a picture, and then I will add something on to that picture.
Couple of ways to do that, but definitely, I see that becoming more prominent. The addition of voice, for sure, not only on Alexa, Google Home, although I think that adoption for that has been crazy and will continue to grow, but the connection of chat to voice, I think will improve a lot more, whether it’s that Facebook Messenger somehow links up to Alexa or that you can use the voice feature on your iPhone, to actually connect to Messenger and chat-bots and message and have the chatbot somehow process that and to respond to whatever that looks like. Definitely the addition of voice and chat mixed together I think will increase a lot. And what else.
I think those are probably the two biggest things I’m thinking about right now, but I think I in 24 months, a lot more will happen. I think that it has happened in the next… by the end of the year really, that’ll increase…
A: Awesome, well I… oh that’s awesome. Learn a ton, really some information. So if people wanna connect with you and learn more, need your agency, things like that, see you and you’re speaking on your tour around the world in the Four-Hour Work Week lady. What’s the best place/channels to reach out to you and connect.
N: Yeah, so with me, personally, I think I’m the most active on my personal Facebook, so you guys can find me there. If you either go to facebook.com/NatashaTakahashi.personal or you can just look up Natasha Takahashi on Facebook and LinkedIn. Of course I do post a lot there as well and for school of bots if you guys want to get access to all of our free resources we have a couple of free courses, maybe a lot of stuff or interview show. We actually had Andrew on it a couple of weeks ago so you can watch that as well, all of that’s available inside of our Facebook group. So if you just look up school of bots in Facebook you will see our group link or you can just go to our site and literally everything we do is there as well, it’s just schoolofbots.co.
A: Yeah, yeah, it’s a great resource. If you guys haven’t checked it out, totally check it out. Natasha gives great content, and she is… I don’t know how you sleep on it but you’re always… like when I have a message you like, “Hey you got a question” boom, you got me an answer or something, it’s awesome. So she’s really great at in the… exactly, so it’s awesome. Well, I really, I know that you’re busy. Got a lot stuff going on. I don’t wanna take much more of your time, but I do appreciate you coming on, and people need to reach out. You got all that information and yeah, it was awesome and I look forward to see you at the chat conference.
N: Yes, absolutely, thanks so much for inviting me. And thanks, much for watching guys if you guys have any questions or if I can help you guys in any way, feel free to reach out and definitely join our community as well. Andrew’s pretty active in there too. So, you’ll definitely see him there.
A: Okay, Thanks! Bye.
N: Awesome, bye!