2016 has been a great year for chatbots.

Platforms have launched, APIs have opened up, and incredible resources have started to appear. The community has thrived; it has been amazing to watch and be part of the chatbot revolution.

Now, it is time to get ready for 2017. By all accounts, we are still in the very early days of this new conversational-driven trend, and the best chatbots are yet to be built. [Tweet this] Yours could be it.




With this in mind, I want to share five things to consider before you start building your chatbot.

Having built anything from simple Facebook Messenger autoresponders to enterprise grade AI-driven chatbot personas last year, we have seen the best examples of what chatbots can deliver.

Along the way, we developed a chatbot framework to help us and our customers plan and deliver the best chatbot possible.

Below, you will find the DIY version of the process we go through with our clients. This process (albeit, a more complex and in-depth) has helped us scope and build chatbots for Fortune 500 companies. We hope you find it useful.


The five pillars of planning the best chatbot




Before you start coding your chatbot, you need a plan.

Your plan does not have to be particularly detailed. However, it needs to be clear enough to understand where you are going with your project.

You need a clear idea of what you are looking to make. If you are planning on building the chatbot yourself (through the ubisend platform, or elsewhere), you will need a plan. If you are going to outsource your chatbot (to ubisend, or some lesser company ;) ), you will need a plan to hand over to the design and dev team.

Hopefully, this short intro has put you in the right mindset, and you are ready to get into it. These are the sections we are going to cover.

- Concept

- Tone of voice

- Conversational UX

- Marketing

- Business model

Let's get started.


1. The concept, or "why are you building this thing?"




The concept for your chatbot comes from the reason you are building it. It is what gets you excited about this project.

It is, as you can see, an extremely important first step of the process and you will need to define your concept well - especially if you are planning on outsourcing your chatbot build.


To help you define your chatbot concept, answer these questions:

- What should my chatbot do?

- Does my chatbot solve an issue? If so, what is it?

- What is the number one reason my chatbot will exist?

- Whom is my chatbot going to be used by?

These questions should help you zero in on your concept. Again, your chatbot concept does not have to be super-complicated or technical. It just needs to be a couple of sentences that anyone could understand.

Chatbot concept example:

"My chatbot helps me deal with incoming customer support queries. Its primary function is to ask my customers precise questions on their issue to direct them to the right customer support representative. It will save my company time and money."


2. The tone of voice, or "how is it going to interact?"




The tone of voice of your chatbot is its personality. It is the way it is going to interact with humans. It is the way it is going to 'talk' and the type of words it is going to use.

It is critical to define your chatbot's tone of voice early on [Tweet this] because it will be used throughout the build and lifetime of the chatbot.

To make a parallel to web design, your chatbot's tone of voice is similar to your website's colour pallet. It is something you have to set at the start, something that suits you and your brand, something that makes sense to you, your audience, and the product you sell.

To help you definite your chatbot's tone of voice, answer these questions:

- Is my chatbot formal or informal?

- Which age group is my chatbot targeting?

- Is my chatbot friendly, serious, fun, computerised?

- What mindset should my subscribers have when talking to my chatbot?

This is very much a branding exercise. I found this article to be helpful when exploring the tone of voice for some chatbots we built at ubisend.


Chatbot tone of voice example:

"My chatbot is friendly and informal. It will talk about fun topics to a young-ish generation. When people interact with my chatbot, they will be in a good mood which my chatbot's voice should mirror."


3. The conversational UX, or "how is this actually going to work?"




Figuring out the conversational UX of your chatbot is a tad more technical. It is the way your chatbot operates in the background and how this is reflected when being used.

To define your chatbot's conversational UX, ask yourself these questions:

- Is my chatbot going to pretend to be human? We advise against this at the moment (early 2017)

- Does my chatbot need to use AI?

- Can my chatbot function as a simple message and button guided conversation?

We find it is during this stage where clients need input from a specialist.

Sit back and ask yourself how you think your chatbot will work. If you cannot find the answer, talk to someone who can help.


Chatbot conversational UX example:

"My chatbot will state that it is not human. It is going to guide users through a series of questions with defined answers. It is not going to require AI."


4. The marketing, or "how are you going to get people to use this?"




Ha, marketing. Seriously, marketing? I have not even built anything! I am sitting here in my pyjamas drinking my coffee, and you are asking me to prepare a marketing plan?

Not really, but yes.

If you are thinking of building a chatbot you probably have intentions to make money from it (or saving money, depending on your situation).

Creating a fantastic chatbot is great, but if no one is using it, there little chance it will impact your bottom line.

Therefore, think about how you are going to get people using it. Think about it now, before you build it, so you can keep the basic strategy in mind as you build.

And, by the way, chatbot marketing is blowing up. So there's that.


To define your chatbot's marketing plan, ask yourself these questions:

- Will it have any virality tools, like sharing or tweeting?

- How much budget do I have to get people using it?

- Does my chatbot need branding or any collateral along with its persona?

Keep it relatively basic and straightforward. The point is to have an idea of how you are going to roll your chatbot out into the wild.


Chatbot marketing plan example:

"I have a very limited budget for chatbot promotion. My marketing plan will rely on telling my social followers about it and getting a few people onboard. My chatbot has virality potential due to the value it offers. I am going to implement a share function into it and try to grow its user base organically."


5. Your business model, or "how are you going to make money?"




You have your concept; your chatbot has the start of a voice, you have ideas on how it is going to work and how to get people using it.

Good going!

Now for the fun part: money.

You may not have any intentions to make money with your chatbot, and that is fine. We have worked with charities as well as fun little projects with zero profitability planned.

Even if this is your situation, you need to sit down and think of your chatbot's business model. You have thought of what it does for its users (the actions it performs), now you need to think of what your chatbot is going to do for you/your company/your organisation.


To figure out your chatbot's business model, ask yourself these questions:

 - Is my chatbot going to make me money, save me money, or neither? How am I going to benchmark its success?

- What is the ideal path a user should take when interacting with my chatbot? (This is not user experience, this is conversion.)

- What resources will my chatbot take to build, maintain, and grow?

Think of your chatbot as a business [Tweet this]. It is going to take time, money, and effort to create - even if you completely outsource it.

If it is a fun side project, try to get a vague idea of how you would ideally want it to work for you. It is very tempting to build one just for the sake of it (trust me, we have done a lot of that), but it always helps to try and look further down the line.


Conclusion, or "what are you waiting for?"

By now, you should have a firm idea of the chatbot you want to build.

You know what's next, don't you? Building the freakin' thing!

We build chatbots for a living, so feel free to reach out with any questions.

I hope this helped define your goals and made the road ahead a little clearer. Thank you for reading and don't forget to share if you have found it useful.