Generating a steady flow of high-quality leads is a necessity for many businesses — but accomplishing this goal isn’t always easy.
Potential customers and clients often need a lot of details before they’re willing to give you their personal information. They need to understand what you have to offer, why they should trust you, and what they can expect in return from their investment.
In many cases, prospective leads will need some assistance in finding this information on your website. And when they reach out to your company in search of answers or clarification, you need to be prepared to help them.
Today, many companies address this need with either live chat widgets or chatbots.
Keep reading to learn more about the roles that each of these options can play in your lead generation strategy, along with five unique advantages that chatbots have over the live chat alternative.
Chatbots vs. Live Chat: Which Is Better for Generating Leads?
A large chunk of a potential lead’s evaluation of your business takes place without any input from your team.
They might browse your website, take a look at third-party review sites, or even ask other people who’ve partnered with you in the past what their experience was like. As helpful as your team may be, it can be challenging for them to become part of the process.
In fact, it used to be nearly impossible for businesses to take a proactive approach to engaging with prospective clients.
Sure, cold calling has always been an option — but it’s certainly not a great one.
In reality, it was entirely up to the customer to reach out. And even then, their only options were to pick up the phone and call a company, or send an email — then wait anywhere from a few hours to a few days for a response.
But live chat changed this.
When companies add live chat widgets to their websites, they can encourage visitors to get in touch while they browse.
On Visual Website Optimizer (VWO)’s website, for example, users see a small chat icon in the lower right corner that expands into the following window when clicked:
This makes it clear that people are available to assist them, and makes it easy for them to start a conversation if they have any questions while browsing.
Then, if a visitor opts to ask for help, they’ll be connected with someone from VWO’s team.
The caveat, here, is that this strategy only works when live chat agents are available. Unless a company opts to staff their support channels 24/7, there’s typically a period of down time for every site.
Plus, even when live chat staff are on the clock, there’s a chance they’ll all be busy assisting customers at certain points throughout the day, meaning that their visitors will still have to wait for help.
That’s where chatbots become useful.
The conversational interface with this approach is often similar in appearance to a live chat widget, with the only difference being that the other end of the conversation is held by a bot.
Unbounce, for example, shows the following message when a visitor clicks to expand their chat window:
The company makes it clear that this is a bot (and not a human) by naming it Unbounce Bot, then gives users a few basic options to choose from.
Then, depending on their answer, the bot can guide them to information that’s relevant to their needs, interests, and stage in the buying process.
Regardless of who (or what) is on the other end of these chat widgets, they can be effective for generating leads, as long as they get visitors to the right content and make converting the clear choice.
5 Advantages of Using Chatbots for Lead Generation
Chatbots can serve many purposes within a business, and lead generation is one where they particularly shine.
With that in mind, these are five of the biggest reasons to choose chatbots over live chat for engaging and converting new leads for your business.
1. They’re Extremely Cost-Effective
One of the biggest advantages of using chatbots for lead generation is that they’re extremely cost-effective.
After you decide to add a chatbot to your site, there’s some initial investment involved in creating and launching it (although the build process is easier than you might think).
From there, someone on your team should plan to edit and update it over time, to keep the bot’s information current and keep up with your visitors’ needs and interests.
Still, these investments are fairly minimal — and when you compare them to the returns your chatbot can generate in the form of leads and sales, they’re worth every penny.
And the value is especially clear when compared to the cost involved in hiring employees to staff your chat platform 24/7.
Although your existing sales team might be able to field some inquiries from your site, this can quickly become a very time-consuming task, and one that cuts into their normal workloads.
And unless you already have support staff available during evenings and weekends, offering live chat as a reliable option can require staffing an entire new department.
Considering that chatbots can yield similar results at only a fraction of the cost, they’re the clear winner when it comes to offering assistance in a budget-friendly way.
2. They Allow You to Collect Leads at Any Time
Each of your potential customers takes their own path during the decision-making process.
They need to evaluate their options on their own time, weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each against their own needs and priorities, and following their own timeline for purchase and implementation.
This process can take anywhere from a few days to a few months. But as soon as they’re ready to take action, your company needs to be prepared to help them take the next step.
Unfortunately, this kind of on-call availability can be difficult to maintain for many companies. Sales staff have notoriously busy schedules, and it isn’t always possible for a member of your team to be free to speak with a new lead.
And these kinds of delays can be all it takes for a potential customer to turn to one of your competitors.
But with chatbots, that doesn’t have to be the case. Your bot can always be available on your site — at any hour of the day, any day of the week.
Once you launch it, you can passively generate leads, even when your entire team is busy with other tasks, or when they’re out of the office during evenings and weekends.
This way, you never have to worry about missing out on a valuable lead simply because no one was available to walk them through the conversion process.
Instead, you can be confident that your site serves as a powerful lead generation tool — and can do the initial work required to convert visitors, so that your sales team can step in and help those visitors with the next steps as soon as they’re available.
3. They Create More Engaging Conversion Experiences
Generating leads is one of the most important goals of any lead-based company’s website. But in most cases, they rely on standard forms to accomplish this goal.
These forms all look generally the same, with fields for the user’s name, email address, phone number, and possibly a few other details.
And while filling them out is simple, it’s not exactly the most exciting process. That’s especially true of tedious, lengthy forms that ask for a seemingly unnecessary number of details before a user can submit it.
Chatbots can change this.
When you use a chatbot to collect leads, it can transform the process of converting from filling out a generic form to having a “conversation” with your company.
On WeldLogic’s website, for example, visitors can opt to request a quote using the company’s bot.
After entering their name, they’re asked for many of the same details included in a lead form.
But instead of entering them into a standard form, they can type them as responses to the chatbot’s series of questions.
This is not only extremely user-friendly, but also makes for a more engaging site experience.
Then, once they’ve completed the required questions, the bot assures them that a member of the company’s team will be in touch with more information.
At this point, they’ve officially become a lead for the company — all within a matter of seconds.
4. They Eliminate Wait Times
Another significant advantage of using chatbots for lead generation is that they eliminate wait times for visitors altogether.
Whether collecting leads, selling a product or live chatting to help a customer, fast response with minimal wait time is part of Nextiva’s customer service manifesto as they process millions of chats and calls for their clients every day:
Whether selling a product or helping a customer solve a problem, being proactive and expeditious in your efforts is essential. This shows customers that you are on top of it and that you value and respect their time.
This kind of immediacy is impossible to achieve on any channel that’s staffed by human sales or support staff.
Even the most efficient teams sometimes get too busy with inquiries to instantly reply to every customer, which can lead to delays in response time ranging anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours — or even longer, depending on the channel.
For companies that only allow customers to contact them via email or by phone, for example, it isn’t uncommon to wait until the next day for a response or return call.
Fortunately, on-site chat can drastically reduce that time frame. And customers appreciate it.
In fact, in a survey of consumers who prefer using live chat to communicate with businesses, 79% of respondents cited getting their questions answered “immediately,” as the top reason they like using this channel.
In the same survey, 46% claimed that live chat is the most efficient communication method,.
But chatbots offer both of these advantages — and they do even better in these areas that lead consumers to turn to live chat.
Considering that chatbots have no wait times whatsoever, they really can answer questions immediately, and even more efficiently than a live chat agent.
So while many consumers today prefer live chat over more traditional channels like phone and email, that preference could change as more businesses begin using chatbots to guide visitors through their site — eliminating wait times, and further streamlining the support process.
5. They Free Up Your Sales Team for More Complex Needs
Some businesses avoid integrating chatbots into their websites because they believe that these bots are intended to take the place of their sales and support staff.
But that’s not the case at all.
In reality, chatbots are most effective when used as a tool that reduces your team’s workload and help them allocate their time more efficiently.
And that’s exactly what a lead generation chatbot can do.
When you add a chatbot to your live chat interface, it can address the simpler needs your visitors have, especially during the earlier stages of the decision-making process.
It can guide them to the right pages, answer straightforward questions, and give the basic details a potential client needs before they even considering working with you.
As a result, your sales team won’t need to spend time on these kinds of low-level tasks.
You can use your chatbot to eliminate the need for your support or sales team to manually respond to every inquiry, giving them time to focus on more complex conversations and customer needs.
This way, once a customer has gotten all of the basic information they need from your site, and are ready to speak with someone about converting, your team is much more likely to be available to help.
Chatbots and live chat can both be effective tools in any lead generation strategy. But when it comes down to it, chatbots are the better option for most businesses.
The most obvious advantage to bot-powered chat widgets is that they’re much more cost-effective than hiring 24/7 support and sales staff. They enable you to passively collect leads at any hour of the day, with little additional investment after launch.
Because chatbots are always available, they also eliminate wait times entirely for customers needing assistance.
Plus, when chatbots handle your visitors’ simpler inquiries, they free up your support team to focus on more complex issues.
Finally, once a visitor is ready to convert a chatbot can replace static forms on your site altogether, and collect the information your company needs to move them through the final stages of the buying process.
So if you’re looking for a way to boost your site’s lead generation power, a chatbot could be the perfect solution.
I’m not going to lie – I absolutely hate chat bots. Here’s the deal – when I click a chat button, I want to talk to someone. A chat bot is the equivalent to talking to a computer when you call a support number. We just all get frustrated and keep hitting the 0 button until it finally connects us with a representative.
Where’s the 0 for chat now? I want to chat with a real person. On our site we’ve intentionally stayed away from this. When someone wants to chat, we get their email address anyway, and the relationship is closer. There is more trust gained.
Thanks for writing the article though.
Hello Dimitry, useful article! I would like to append some information to your readers about the cost-effectiveness of chatbots by sharing some of the important things people should know about the price of chatbots and what determines its cost.
1. The first Option is to build yourself – with self-service platforms. Some platforms require a bit technical skills, while others let you craft a bot without coding. This option often involves paying a monthly subscription for a platform where you can build your chatbot. The obvious drawbacks here is cost and the time needed to build. Plus, ongoing maintenance will be fully your responsibility.
Prices depend on the number of bot rules you need, messages per month, integrations, and support. For example, if you need to build one chatbot it will cost you from $15 to $500+ on a monthly basis. And most of them won‘t give you advice or support related to chatbot improvement.
2. Already made solution – there already exist a lot of ready solutions on the market that solve specific business needs. Just as there’s an App Store for iOS and the Google Play Store for Android, there are also marketplaces for chatbots. Currently, you can find bots on the Telegram and Kik Bot Stores. Slack for example have a list of their bots in their App Directory together with all other tools.
You can search for chatbots across all current platforms and categories using Botlist, a catalogue of bots. Some bots listed on Botlist serve multiple purposes and run on multiple platforms. So you can try this way to look for a bot that will fit your business needs, but it is very hard to do that because everybody has its specific business ‘voice‘. Prices are very very different.
3. You can craft a chatbot from scratch. And if programming isn’t your thing, you can hire a software development team. By that I mean a company that offers web and mobile application development services. Integration with one chat and its the duration depends on bot complexity, but on average it takes 40-56 hours, sometimes up to 160 if there are very specific technical solutions.
And the approximate cost to build a chatbot from scratch can be anywhere from $5000 to $13000. If there are very complicated decisions and actions to make it can cost up to $100,000 or more! It takes more time to develop a chatbot from scratch than it does to build a chatbot with self-service platforms. And you will need your own server infrastructure (hosting).
Rule-based chatbots can be adjustable literally to ANY business niche, there are incredible wide options for that. If you are running any kind of small or average business or live freelancer life, you should consider about time and cost-saving solution – chatbots. I suggest you try 7-day free trial with ChatStud.io that has a very suitable and insanely cost-friendly solution for almost every business model!
Recently added .@zohosalesiq for chatbot.