[FIELD NOTES] MN Bot Makers March Meetup | The Business of Chatbots


The MN Bot Makers Meetup hosted a guest speaker for their March event at Silicon Prairie Holdings in St. Paul. Kyle Coghlan of KCM Productions led a discussion titled The Business of Chatbots that focused on aspects of chatbot creation like marketing, finding clients, and building a viable business.

He began his presentation by laying out the differences between a product and a service–services might require less overhead and development costs, but they can be trickier to scale upward. They’re often dependent upon third party services for operation as well. Chatbots can be sold to clients as a product or the creation of a unique bot can be viewed as a service through a consultant-client style relationship.

When meeting with a client in need of a bot, Coghlan stressed the importance of listening. “Use open-ended questions to find the pain points of your customers. Talk twenty percent of the time and listen eighty,” said Coghlan. He framed the term “chatbot” as more of a “virtual concierge,” a term he coined when working with a hotel that needed exactly that.

Coghlan then focused the conversation on money. Payment structures for bespoke chatbots vary widely: upfront pay per service models, monthly retainers and selling a bot template are all viable methods of monetization in the chatbot space. “Don’t make the mistake of focusing on the features of your chatbot,” the developer warned. “Your client only wants to know how your bot will save them money.”

To market chatbots effectively, Coghlan recommends LinkedIn as a platform for demonstrating expertise. “Connect with decision makers without being pushy,” he remarked. His advice is to seek out potential clients, invite them to connect on LinkedIn, and continue pushing content that showcases expertise. He summed up this process by saying, “give as much as you can and you’ll get back just as much.”

When meeting with a potential client, Koghlan stresses the importance of speaking their language. “Don’t confuse the customer–use automated phone systems as an easy analogy. The best way to explain a chatbot isn’t to explain it at all. Just put the phone in their hand and let them try it!” he remarked.

The MN Bot Makers Meetup takes place on the fourth Tuesday of every month, next up is April 24: Chatbots in the post-Cambridge Analytica World.