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EXECUTION Building/Scaling a chatbot agency from nothing in 2020

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How familiar are you with chatbots?

  • Never really heard of them

  • Have heard of them but that's about it

  • I'm somewhat/vaguely familiar with them

  • I have a good working understanding of them

  • I'm a chatbot expert


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Bradley R

"If everyone else is doing it, its probably wrong"
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Hi Everyone,

Right off the bat I apologize for the length. I tried to be thorough with this one. I also meant to get this execution thread going at the beginning of 2020, but didn't quite get around to it. No excuses - that’s on me.

Quick Background:
  • I spent my first 5 post-college years as a group fitness coach/personal trainer(2013-2018). It was super part time and I was living in my parents’ unfinished basement. During that time I also dabbled in network marketing and spent 2 years as a realtor. Then in 2017 I (like everyone 25 year old guy looking to start their own online business) came across Tai Lopez's SMMA course. I took the course, formed an LLC, and dove off into the deep end. I thought I was going to be rolling in the dough right away. Of course I learned the hard way that it wasn't going to be so easy. I got a few clients early on, but most of them dropped me after a few months. This shattered my confidence and I didn't really make any progress for a while. I also didn't have a niche and was trying to provide anything to anyone. This, of course, got me nowhere. I also realized I just didn't like managing FB campaigns and it wasn't scalable or aligned with where I wanted to go.
The Pivot
  • In mid-2018 while still involved in social media/FB ads, I came across chatbots. I was instantly intrigued but still knew very little. Soon thereafter, I came across Manychat’s Conversation Conference - the first official Messenger marketing conference in Austin, TX. I signed up right away and went in Sept. 2018. After attending, I knew chatbots and Messenger marketing were the next big wave in online marketing - the biggest disruptor since social media. I knew I wanted my business to use chatbots, but I didn’t know how. I wondered around in no-mans-land without an identity or direction for my business for another 6 months or so. During that time(Jan 2019), my gf and I moved out from CT to Phoenix, AZ. She was travel nursing and the tiny bit of business that I had was mobile. The move was one of the best decisions we ever made. We were going to be here for 3 months. 3 months turned to 6. 6 turned to 9. 13 months later, we’re still here with no plans on leaving anytime soon.
  • Anyways, last spring I was leaning towards ditching social media but couldn’t decide where exactly I wanted to go. I was online looking at chatbot templates that you could purchase(more on that later) and came across one for apartment communities like the one I was living in (higher-end, 100+ units). Immediately the lightbulb went off. I knew I had found what I was looking for.

The Business Model & Rationale (CENTS?)
  • Why it makes sense For them (Need)
    • Here are the top 10 problems that a chatbot can solve. I won’t get into how exactly bots provide solutions to each right now. This isn’t meant to be a sales pitch, but just an example of the problems it solves.
      1. Potential leads have trouble finding basic info after-hours
      2. There is a huge lack of customer support options after leasing offices close - which is when many people browse for apartments
      3. If the leasing team is busy, they may not be able to follow up with new leads as soon as they should
      4. Leasing teams waste lots of valuable time trying to qualify leads and also working with unqualified leads
      5. Website contact forms provide very little information and people generally hate filling them out
      6. Most people hate talking on the phone these days (especially Gen Y/Z). The don’t want to call or be called
      7. It’s difficult to stand out in a crowded market. Most community websites are essentially the same
      8. Leasing agents can get sick, take vacation, get overwhelmed, have bad days, etc.
      9. People want fast/instant response to questions/inquiries. This is impossible if the office is closed or employees are busy with other tasks
      10. Websites with lots of images can hard to navigate, especially on mobile
  • Why it made CENTS to me
    • Control
      • This is the commandment that is violated the most because the bots I build rely on Facebook Messenger. However, as of now Facebook is going all in on Messenger, so I’d be shocked if it ‘went away’ any time soon. So while there is some concern here, it is minimal.
    • Entry
      • While anyone can technically throw together a bot, very few can make good ones that actually help businesses. I’ve tested all of the other multifamily bots out there and there is nothing available right now for the industry that can come close to competing with mine. It’s like comparing an average high school/college player with Lebron. As for the industry itself, it is hard to get your foot in the door so while the entry isn’t crazy high, it’s definitely not super easy to get into.
    • Need
      • (See ‘Why it makes sense for them' above)
    • Time
      • Like anything starting out, this would take tons of my time. However, down the road it is totally possible to systematize and outsource almost all of the essential elements of this business. While I don’t ever see it being 100% passive, it is definitely possible to separate it from time to a large degree.
    • Scale
      • The multifamily industry is huge and booming. The potential market is huge. Also, with management companies, if they like your service, they will likely expand it portfolio-wide, so it’s almost like landing a whole franchise. The service is also easily duplicatable when done as a productized service. I’m currently in the process of writing out dummy-proof instructions for installing the template I’ve built. With the template, I have the overall framework and then can customize/edit it to each property. If I do it right, I can properly train someone from off the street to do the bulk of the work in less than a month.
  • The Current Vision
    • The current game plan is to get my first couple clients in the multifamily industry to prove my model and also to bring in enough cashflow to hire a VA or 2. Once I have more case studies selling it should be far easier and I can continue to build on that.
    • I would also like to add another industry or 2 every few months or so. This is so that I can expand my target market and also diversify and not be so reliant on one industry. Some of the industries I have considered expanding into are: Medispas, Attorneys, Car Dealerships, Gyms, and Shopify stores.
    • My goals would be to get to 500k-1mil in the next 1-2 years. From there the sky is the limit but I believe the biggest area of opportunity is in the next 1-2 years before everyone catches on. Right now I’m ahead of the trend.
Biggest Challenges
  • Raising Awareness and Educating the market
    • Chatbots are still very new. Many people (even online marketers) still aren’t familiar with them. So educating and explaining what they are and what they do is a challenge. They are extremely visual. Trying to describe a chatbot is like trying to describe a car to someone who’s never seen a car. You just gotta see it for yourself to really get it. They don’t sound super ’sexy’ but then when someone finally sees one in action, they think it’s super cool. So I’m trying to find out how to get more people to go through a basic demo.
  • The Coronavirus
    • Just as I had a few exciting meetings set up with real decision makers over the next few weeks, those have all been postponed. I am guessing it will be hard to get any sort of meeting within the very near future. All I can do is refine my sales process and come in even better prepared when these meetings eventually do happen.
  • Getting case studies and sales
    • This is an industry where there are typically a lot of gatekeepers to get to the high level decision makers. Right now I’m the new guy on the block. Also currently a smaller operation than pretty much every other vendor in the Arizona Multihousing Association. I’m like a goldfish trying to swim with a bunch of sharks at this point. This is where I’m struggling to put together an effective, repeatable sales process as I’ve never formally put one together before. Any insights on this would be appreciated.
  • Scaling/lack of funds
    • Been bootstrapping this thing for 2 years now. I jumped into it without any experience, capital, or steady income. If I could have done one thing different it would have been to have more steady income going into it. Because I did that, I have racked up far more credit card debt than I would like to admit so I’ll have to juggle paying off debt and putting more money back into the business as things go on.
Some 2020 Wins So Far
  • Joined a Mastermind
    • Became part of a small mastermind group with other entrepreneurs I met at the Fastlane Summit. It has been a few weeks but the accountability and support has already made a noticeable difference.
  • Re-negotiated retainer
    • Using tactics from 'Never Split The Difference', I negotiated a monthly marketing retainer from $1,000 to $1,600. It’s not life-changing, but gave me a solid confidence boost in my negotiating skills.
  • Landed first chatbot client of 2020
    • Not an apartment industry bot, but a real estate wholesaling bot. Launching this week so will update results as they come.
  • Been making lots of new connections
    • I’ve gotten very involved with the Arizona Multifamily recently and while none of those connections have turned into sales just yet, I can feel things progressing towards that with lots of different people.
  • Got accepted to a 6 month incubator
    • 25 out of 130 SB owners got accepted into an incubator run by The Better Business Bureau and sponsored by GoDaddy. It’s a 16 week program that provides all the basics small businesses need to scale including workshops, mentoring, free legal/financial/software resources, networking, and more. This has really been beneficial for me so far. Completed 6/16 weeks.

If you made it this far, I appreciate it!

Any recommendations/observations/constructive criticism or questions please let me know. I’m all ears.
 

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GoodluckChuck

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Seems like chat bots could be very useful right now with the virus thing going around. I've been getting text messages from some random school district in my state and it's obvious they are getting tons of questions and can't keep up. Have you thought of doing something with schools in the public and private sectors?
 
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Bradley R

Bradley R

"If everyone else is doing it, its probably wrong"
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Seems like chat bots could be very useful right now with the virus thing going around. I've been getting text messages from some random school district in my state and it's obvious they are getting tons of questions and can't keep up. Have you thought of doing something with schools in the public and private sectors?
Good question. I've heard a couple people mention ideas similar to that. And while I have no doubt there would be a ton of utility there, that's not really where I'm at with this, for a couple reasons:
  1. Maybe I'm biased, but I'm more motivated by trying to help other businesses. My bots are heavily geared towards automatically qualifying and converting leads (as well as answering FAQs), so they have more use for customer acquisition and lead gen.
  2. To build out an effective, high-quality bot for a municipality is a huge undertaking and outside my realm of familiarity. I think there may be other chat solutions out there that may be better-fitted for this.
 
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Bradley R

Bradley R

"If everyone else is doing it, its probably wrong"
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
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Jan 28, 2019
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145
Scottsdale, AZ
Recent Updates:
  • Recently finished chatbot buildout for real estate wholesaling business. Things are a bit on pause with them right now with investors in a holding period but they've had a couple people go through the bot and it seems to be doing a great job of automatically collecting their information and sending it to the team.
  • Trying to figure out how best to shift the current angle with selling that highlights increased ease/efficiency of communication between businesses and their customers/leads/etc.
  • I have a potential in with a development/management company (shoutout @BizyDad) but was told that the current demo was too "playful". Their demographic tends to be more around the 40/50 year old demographic so it makes sense as my current demo was geared towards the millennial crowd.
  • This weeks main tasks: create a lead list, figure out the basics of Hubspot as my CRM, and draft an email outreach sequence along with a phone call follow up schedule.
 

GuitarManDan

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Recent Updates:
  • Recently finished chatbot buildout for real estate wholesaling business. Things are a bit on pause with them right now with investors in a holding period but they've had a couple people go through the bot and it seems to be doing a great job of automatically collecting their information and sending it to the team.
  • Trying to figure out how best to shift the current angle with selling that highlights increased ease/efficiency of communication between businesses and their customers/leads/etc.
  • I have a potential in with a development/management company (shoutout @BizyDad) but was told that the current demo was too "playful". Their demographic tends to be more around the 40/50 year old demographic so it makes sense as my current demo was geared towards the millennial crowd.
  • This weeks main tasks: create a lead list, figure out the basics of Hubspot as my CRM, and draft an email outreach sequence along with a phone call follow up schedule.
Hey Bradley,

Excited to follow this thread and watch your progress man! In regards to the feedback that it's too "playful". As someone who isn't too familiar with the back-end of chatbots, how much work would it be to offer maybe 4-5 variations of the styling to fit different demographics?

I'm assuming when they gave that feedback they were referring to the styling/layout or do you think it was the actual written content that was being communicated by the chatbot system?

As it seems like the RE business is slowing down a lot with the coronavirus lockdowns across the US, what are your thoughts about trying to market the service to other industries?

When I first started my web design business, I avoided financial services clients like the plague because I wanted nothing to do with that industry anymore. Funny enough now, they are my most common clients and are the easiest to sell, by far, for me. I only found this out by casting a wide net and seeing what worked for me.

I know on the forum there's always a split between niching down and casting a wide net. I personally have found casting a wide net, analyzing the data of what comes back, and then pivoting and niching down makes the most sense for me. Curious to see what your thoughts are on not just specifically targeting RE clients for this chatbot service.
 

Process

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Cool I like how you took your SMM experience and merged it with your real estate experience.

Most entrepreneurs flip from thing to thing instead of compounding their background skills.
 

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