Why Facebook Messenger Apps Are Great for Your Customer Service and Lead Nurturing - Elance Founder's New Passion

Facebook Messenger apps are a powerful way to build connections with your customers. A messenger app can provide better customer support and help educate customers about your products or services to help them become a customer. Ramon Ray interviewed Beerud Sheth, founder of Elance, and now of Gupshup for his take and expertise. Gupshup is a company which provides messaging communication services to businesses.

If you want to get a high lever understanding of how to use messenger apps in your business - this is THE interview for you. We also discussed an overview how one starts to use a messenger app and more.

Some of the nuggets include:

Instead of visiting in a website or downloading a mobile app you just interact with a chat bot.

On email vs messenger apps:

Once your email address is out there, anybody, literally anyone can send you a message and therefore it opens you to spam. But messaging apps, however, the recipient has a lot of control. You can block a sender. You can restrict it and in many cases they enforce an opting.

Full transcript below:

Ramon Ray: Hey everyone good afternoon, this is Ramon Ray of SmartHustle.com and this is the Smart Hustle report on small business trends. I'm really excited about today's discussion. We're going to talk all about the power, I think it's power, but our guest will tell us in a minute about messenger marketing. Many, many more people are doing it. Even Seth Godin kind of the father of email marketing as it were. He has been starting to do some dabbling [inaudible 00:00:25] using messenger to reach his audience. So, Beerud Sheth, welcome, thanks you for taking the time to talk to us, to the smartest little audience. I appreciate it.


Beerud Sheth: Thanks Ramon, thanks for having me.


Ramon Ray: You are welcome. So, Beerud why don't we take a few minutes before we dive into all things' messenger. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, whatever you want, whatever you like to eat for breakfast, whatever you want to talk to us about and of course about-[crosstalk 00:00:46] and what that company does. Let us get to know you a bit before we dive into aspects of messenger.


Beerud Sheth: Sure, I eat innovation for breakfast, I like [crosstalk 00:00:56] and such I've been a serial entrepreneur. I first founded a company called Elance, which is the online freelancing portal. We sort of pioneered the gig economy and you know it grew massively. It later on merged, Elance merged with oDesk, it's now called Upwork. That's sort of one of the leading online freelance platforms. And then the next company I founded was a company called Gupshup, which means chat, an appropriate name for a messenger or a chat based messaging app company. So, we will talk more about it in the rest of the conversation, but I'm super excited about the power of messaging as a platform to do a lot of interesting things.


Ramon Ray: Absolutely, and we talk about messenger we are talking about Facebook Messenger or just some other, not proper noun, meaning a common word that I'm missing. Is it Facebook Messenger or is it some other platform that we are talking about?


Beerud Sheth: I think it's a little bit of both. The broader trend is that the device the smart phones the mobile devices, messaging apps have become increasingly popular. Right? And the specific messaging app may vary by country, it could be Whatsapp, it could be Wechat, could be Line, Kakao or of course Facebook Messenger. Alright, and then maybe on the business side you have Slack and Skype and Hangouts and other tools as well.


So all of these messaging apps are becoming popular but some people like to use, you know, and today it's early on it was primarily used for person to person communication. But the next big opportunity is that people are now entrapping even the businesses and now you can have a business to consumer conversation happening on these messaging apps. I mean it, it's a little bit of both, I mean it broadly across multiple messaging apps. But, yes today we are going to focus on Facebook Messenger because they have added a lot of capabilities that are very interesting and very relevant today.


Ramon Ray: And to underline that what you've just said is interesting. My suspicion, like people used to say, oh Mac doesn't have any viruses. And I think at the end of the day that would be because Mac wasn't as big as PC. But is it fair to say, these are my words, that today we are going to talk about Facebook Messenger and we are going to focus on it. But what I'm hearing you say in two years it could be called boink. And if that's the popular one, your company, your tools, the best practices will apply to whatever they are named. Is that, because I think that is an important distinction.[crosstalk 00:03:26] because Facebook happens to be the darling today.


Beerud Sheth: Right, that's exactly right. And then the bigger trend is more important to watch, Right? So, this is not, we are not talking about leveraging one specific tool. There's a huge trend. In fact, if I paint a bigger picture, every decade or so the user interface that we use to interact with computers changes, Right? In the mid 80's it was all about the desktop or as in desk top apps. In the mid 90's it was the Web. A browser and websites. In the mid 2000's it was the mobile phone, smart phone and mobile apps.


Ramon Ray: Right.


Beerud Sheth: And now we are getting to these conversational interfaces. So the messaging apps are the platform and then you create these, lets call them bots, chat bots, these are programs that you can have a conversation with. Instead of visiting in a website or downloading a mobile app you just interact with a chat bot. Which means that now you can order pizza, you can do a banking transaction, you can book a taxi, you can shop. Everything through your messaging app. It's becoming the new interface, and that's like a huge significant paradigm shift.


Ramon Ray: Got it, got it. I mean, one question I want to know working backwards like we think ten years out. When email was first done, email worked well, people used email. But I think, Beerud, is you will agree, the spammers flooding and now you can't get your email because Google will have to filter it and again I know we are way ahead, we are talking ahead ... We haven't even. I want to talk about exciting things, and I don't want to pour water on it. But, don't you see in 10 years, 5 years or less this same problem will happen with messagering apps. Meaning, today it's cool and hip, there's not too many interactions. But in 5 years, everybody will be messagering and we will have the same kind of glut and flood, or am I wrong? Maybe email was a different medium. But what are your thoughts on that? What- [crosstalk 00:05:16]


Beerud Sheth: No I'm ... yes-


Ramon Ray: On the end of the journey-


Beerud Sheth: No I think ... Sure, I think messaging apps are different or uniquely different. But email, once your email address is out there, anybody, literally anyone can send you a message and therefore it opens you to spam. But messaging apps, however, the recipient has a lot of control. You can block a sender. You can restrict it and in many cases they enforce an opting. Meaning you can't even, you can't receive a message unless you opted in to that other person.[crosstalk 00:05:45]


Ramon Ray: I forgot about that so that's true.


Beerud Sheth: So if you think about social media, right the reason why Facebook forces you to have this friend connection before you can interact with each other. It's sort of the same thing even with messaging apps, usually. They will allow you to send maybe the first message unsolicited. But you can't send thousands of messages. So, I think it's a much better medium in that sense, because the end user, the recipient has a lot of control unlike email.


Ramon Ray: Got it. So you are the expert in this Beerud, I could ask some smart questions to guide you through this, and I have a few. But why don't you do this. You're sitting in a room full of small business owners, whether B to B or B to C, you can set up a scenario how you want. Can you walk us through. You know, in brief, but don't give us the whole book on it today. But give us the how do we start, how do we use it, what do we do? I assume you guys have best practices when you first onboard a customer. Help us, what do we need to know? What questions should I be asking you, what questions should our audience be asking about messengering apps for their business? What do we need to know?


Beerud Sheth: Yes, I think first thing just having the right mental model is important, understanding what we are talking about and why. Alright, and the simple point here is, lets say every small business probably has a Facebook page and they have a website. And if the customers want to contact you, previously they would send an email, maybe they would call in. But these days now they are using messaging apps. So, lets say a user on Facebook Messenger wants to connect with your business and they have some questions. They want those queries answered. It could be simple things like what's the address, what are your hours, do you have this in stock or do you have any special offers, how much does it cost, maybe even build a transaction.


Imagine that entire interaction happening through Facebook Messenger. And then, that may be the one transaction, but over time your business may even want to engage those customers. Send them reminders on a weekly basis or monthly basis and give them control. And if they want a daily update, you can send them daily or weekly as the case may be. But you have the opportunity to reactivate and reengage their existing customers. That's the idea. You want to ... it's the entire customer life cycle from marketing to sales to support. Maybe today they will focus primarily on marketing, but there are many other things you can do. The idea is, can you engage your customers can you market to them through Facebook Messenger through these messaging apps?


Ramon Ray: Right.


Beerud Sheth: And new tools are emerging and that's what I'm going to elaborate on in the next few minutes.


Ramon Ray: Got it, got it. And then here's a question, is there a fine line or discussion or is it different? The communication through apps, meaning the app you can create that kind of seemed to have had a big uptick. I don't hear much about it anymore, I'm sure they are still popular, but creating an app for your business vs using the messagering tool, are those two different scenarios? You know meaning people are[crosstalk 00:08:54] providing support and communication. How does that work?


Beerud Sheth: Yes it's very different. Firstly building mobile apps is very expensive. It takes a lot of effort. You have to design the right screens and so on and so forth. And, on top of it, once you develop your app getting it ... users hate to download apps. Alright, think about most of us, we use no more than a dozen or two dozen apps in our device. And its very ... After the top 10 or top 15 popular apps it's very unlikely to be a small business app.[crosstalk 00:09:21]


Ramon Ray: Got it.


Beerud Sheth: So mobile apps they work well for Uber and Facebook but they don't work very well for small businesses. However, using Facebook Messenger makes it a lot easier because the user very likely has Messenger already. There is no additional download required. They are already spending lots of time within the messaging app. But now, they can, interacting with your business is as simple as chating with a friend. It's a much better opportunity, in fact, I think Facebook Messenger is going to help small businesses realize the full potential of mobile devices. Because today you just can't interact with mobile consumers because they don't download your apps. But with Messenger they will interact with you a lot more.


Ramon Ray: Got it. And tell us the background of how this is set up. I know you have a company Beerud that's Gupshup, that does this. Can you give us insight to how this is done? Are there ways to do it yourself? Assuming you're not a programmer, I know programmers can do anything. But, say for me, I'm not a programmer. I know a little HTML. But, is there a way of doing it myself, like I could create a website if I did Word Press, or the best way to use companies like yours. Break this down and help us understand that process, what's that like?


Beerud Sheth: Exactly, so yes, we have a platform for messenger marketing that makes it very, very easy for anyone, you don't need to be technical at all. The first step is, when you come on there, link you Facebook page to the platform. Once you do that all the users, all the customers that are interacting with your Facebook page have now become reachable. Through this chat bot you can define campaigns, you can classify users, you can put tags on them. You can send targeted messages to, lets say men and women or people in this state versus another state and so on. You can send out targeted messages, you can send out rich media, images, audio, video and so on.  You can run interactive campaigns, after you send the message. The amazing about messaging apps is your message can be short and sweet. It doesn't have to like a long email news letter, which most people hate to read anyway.


Ramon Ray: Absolutely.


Beerud Sheth: It's like a quick snippet. It's like, think about tweeting and Facebook posting. Everybody likes these short and sweet messages. The world is moving that way. Here the marketing is also kind of short and sweet. You provide sort of a quick overview of what it is, and then if they use it once no more, they click on, you can have clickable element that they can ... provided. But all of this, we made all of this easy to do. It's all sort of drag and drop. It's like any other marketing tool that you might be familiar with already. If you use an email marketing tool or a web marketing tool this is almost the same thing for Messenger marketing.


Ramon Ray: Got it. When I'm starting out, let's say the simple thing of, how do I get to your office? My assumption, again correct me if I'm wrong because I'm very new to this, I'm learning with my audience, Beerud, we will hopefully give them some screen shots of your tool and add it to this article. But, is it kind of like I put in the question and the answer in the engine, clearly people are typing it in. That's pretty much what it is. Is that the essence of how that works?


Beerud Sheth: Yes, exactly. So think of it this way. You first define the outbound message. So Let's say you are sending out and offer. Let's say we have a special deal, 30% off for existing customers. Now when they see that, when the customers see that message they can ... by the way that message also has some clickable elements right? [crosstalk 00:13:09]


Ramon Ray: Right.


Beerud Sheth: More information or purchase this offer. Right, so Let's say they click on more information, then you send back another message giving the details of the deal. Then when they click on, Okay I want to buy this, redeem this offer, in that case you send them some more information, saying okay here is where you pick to purchase. Maybe there is a link to payments or maybe a call back or make a reservation, whatever you are selling. But, that whole interaction is sort of set up, up front so that ... the amazing thing is ... each user can have their own personalized flow to this whole conversation. Right.[crosstalk 00:13:53]


Ramon Ray: Right.


Beerud Sheth: So suddenly marketing is becoming conversational. The analogy is imagine if somebody came into your store and you are talking to them one on one. You are catering to that particular individuals interest, rather than just broadcasting to everybody. That's the power of messenger marketing.


Ramon Ray: Got it. And then who is that ideally for Beerud. I'm curious when you are advising your clients the Gupshup is doing things like this. Can you just, I know again these are broad questions but I hope they are broad questions that my audience will appreciate to guide them. Who do you say, "you know Ramon if I had to look at these types of businesses, I'd say that for sure they should consider, These type maybe not at this time." Can you help guide us. And I'm sure it's a matrix the business and the business side and what they are doing. But can you help us understand who should really consider it and who can maybe wait, if at all, if you could help with that.


Beerud Sheth: Yes, I think businesses tend to be consultative or conversational, because it's not an impulse buy. Its not like buying chewing gum or something. You can have some questions, how much does it cost, what colors do you have, what flavors do you have, what's the delivery time, how does it taste and so on. All of those conversations, which are very very time consuming for a small business owner can be automated, can be structured into this and it brings dramatic efficiency. I think eventually it's going to be literally every business. But, to begin with in particular businesses that have a lot of incoming queries that are typically common and frequently asked questions can be streamlined and automated quite easily.


Ramon Ray: Got it, got it. Very nice. This is good to know, and for using these and managing these systems, Beerud, how does that work? How does that work, meaning is it one person that might do this or how do you manage this and do that with these systems?


Beerud Sheth: Yes, I think it's typically someone is responsible for marketing. It can be the small business owner itself. But the marketer would define these campaigns and these programs as they set it up-[crosstalk 00:15:56]


Ramon Ray: Okay, Got it.


Beerud Sheth: Then define campaigns, schedule campaigns and so on. And then they would just run it. Periodically messages would go to customers or at specific events or when a customer does a specific activity they get special messages and so on. You may treat your preferred customers separately from first time customer and things like that.


Ramon Ray: Got it. What else do I need to ask? I mean, this is very a interesting a ... I guess as I'm thinking of a dashboard, if you can do a Mailchimp campaign, email marketing, Constant Contact if you've created Facebook pages, you could start to use messenger. It's a platform use a service like yours and you are on your way. And, I guess what I'm hearing from you, the other thing to know is the best practice. You really should think about it ahead before you even start clicking, like any good campaign. Think of the goals and measures, but the technicality it's a platform like everything else. Is that a fair assumption?


Beerud Sheth: Yes, exactly. And I think the opportunity is just as simple as those tools that you mentioned. The good thing, however, is here you are literally building a community of users and you're engaging with them in a very conversational one on one experience. It's sort of a throwback to the old style personal retailing, if you will. And, it's an opportunity to personalize the experience to create more customer delight and so on. So, yes the tools are very easy to use. You can structure it, define it and get going very very quickly. Then you [inaudible 00:17:18] over it and see what users[crosstalk 00:17:19]


Ramon Ray: Right.


Beerud Sheth: You see what kind of questions they are asking and take it from there.


Ramon Ray: Got it. And then my last question Beerud, and again if there is anything else you want to add feel free. When comparing Gupshup to other platforms, I'm not looking for feature to feature comparison, but this is a new industry and I am seeing a lot of messenger platforms to help people do that. Any guidance as why Gupshup as opposed to anybody else? Or maybe even why you guide us when we are choosing. I'm a small business owner and talking to my audience and they get all kind of " Hey you must use us". Man, how do we decide? It's a very immature quote unquote market. It's not like it's a stable market where there's a top three players of email marketing or WordPress created website. This is new, so how do we decide?


Beerud Sheth: You are right. I think messenger marketing is actually a new field there is a lot of companies in social media stuff and we should not confuse the two. As far as messenger marketing is concerned its new and we are one of the leading players. We've had 30,000 plus businesses using it for- [crosstalk 00:18:18]


Ramon Ray: Wow, congratulations. Okay.


Beerud Sheth: So very high scales, we have integrated into 30 plus messaging apps as well, of course Facebook messenger is the main one.


Ramon Ray: Um-hum.


Beerud Sheth: So there's a lot of ... and there's a lot of advancements in functionality as well. So, while you are getting started and onboarding is really quick and simple-


Ramon Ray: Right.


Beerud Sheth: Thus, as we realize as we get deeper into this, there are a lot of things you want to add, lets say AI, and language processing and then you want to go into bot communication and then its gets very deep quickly and then. The point is as your business requirements grow we have the depth and capability to support not just your current and initial needs, but also the future needs as well.


Ramon Ray: Anything I didn't ask you that you wanted to mention or talk about before we conclude? This has been a great discussion. I've learned quite a bit from you. Is there anything else you wanted to add before we conclude?


Beerud Sheth: No, I think I would just end on the note that it's really a new frontier. And whenever these new marketing opportunities open up, It used to be email marketing first and then web marketing and then social media search and then social media marketing. And now messenger marketing is the new frontier. There's huge opportunities for early movers, because, the space is not saturated. There are ... The conversion rates are higher, the click-through rates, read and open rates are higher compared to email. We discussed earlier there is less spam in the media as well. I think that businesses have a huge opportunity, a huge advantage by being first movers in a [inaudible 00:19:54]. I think you should just get started, experiment, learn as you go. Our tools are... We have free trial periods as well as very nominal fees and so on. So, it's very quick and easy to get started. Then over time and as they get better I think they can dramatically amplify their business and give them a huge upside.


Ramon Ray: I appreciate that and give us the name of your website Beerud, one more time. Please or how to reach you, what's the best way to reach you?


Beerud Sheth: Sure it's www.gupshup.il and Gupshup is spelled g u p s h u p.


Ramon Ray: Awesome, thank you so much. All about Facebook messenger and more. I thank you very much for spending the time with us today Beerud. And again ladies and gentlemen my name is Ramon Ray with SmartHustle.com. Please join us for another exciting podcast. Again Ramon Ray with Smarthustle.com.


Beerud Sheth: Thanks Ramon, Bye.



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