Andrew: Hey, everyone. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I’ve done over a thousand interviews. For the most part, my interviews are backward-facing. I want to know how a founder got here, what they do, what worked, what didn’t worked, what they learned from it. The goal is so that you, the entrepreneur listening to me can go build a successful company based on what others have done that’s worked for them and that you can learn from them.
Today is a different interview. I’ve been really fascinated by chatbots for a long time. And yeah, I’ve got someone who’s achieved a lot coming into this interview. I think he’s got the largest platform for creating chatbots. He’s nodding. I think he’s pretty confident that he does too. But I also want to know where he thinks chatbots are going.
The thing that got me excited about it is this. I take BART home every day. It’s about a seven-minute, maybe ten-minute BART train ride. I often listen to podcasts and just look around to see what other people are doing on their phones. And as I look around, I see a lot of people chatting, often using chat apps that I don’t recognize, maybe because they’ve got skins on them or maybe because I don’t use every chat app, but I can’t help notice that chat is one of the most popular app types out there.
The thing that makes chatting even more interesting is something that a friend of mine showed me about a year ago, maybe it was less, where he asked me if I want to get together. I said yes and then he said, “Look, right underneath where you said yes, there’s a link for Uber. Click it.” So, I tap the link and a full blown Uber app opened up inside the chat.
To me, the exciting thing about chat is not just that it’s so freaking popular, but also that now it’s becoming a platform for other apps and other experiences, kind of like the way that my Mac here became a platform for software, my web browser became a platform for software, my iPhone became a platform for software. Messaging is becoming a platform for software and I’m excited to hear how today’s guest is building chat experiences already and where he thinks chat experiences are going.
All right. So I’ve been telling you a lot about him but I didn’t introduce his name. His name is Dmitry Dumik. He is the founder of Chatfuel. Chatfuel is a company, a platform, actually, that allows you to build a full featured chatbot in less than seven minutes. Maybe it’s that less than seven minutes part that’s made it so–actually, that’s not it. It’s the virality and ease of use that’s made it so popular. We’re going to find out how he got here, how many people are using it. We’ll find out if he actually has any profits or revenue from this business and so much more and also where this business is going, where the chat industry is going.
My two sponsors for this interview are Toptal–if you want to hire someone to build your own bot or anything else, you should go check out Toptal. If you need to get anyone on the phone or meet them in person, there’s no better way to do it than Acuity Scheduling, but I’ll tell you about both those sponsors later.
First, Dmitry, good to have you here, man.
Dmitry: Hey, Andrew. Hey, everyone. Thank you so much for having me here.
Andrew: How many bot experiences have been created using Chatfuel?
Dmitry: To the moment, I think we are getting close to 400,000 chatbots.
Andrew: 400,000? I see. So that means someone will go in and create an–give me an example of a bot that you’re excited about having on your platform.
Dmitry: Sure. So, I actually like a bunch of them. One of the examples was the TechCrunch bot. So, this is like the first bot that launched for Facebook right after the F8 last year. And basically what it does, it can answer questions like who’s Elon Musk and send me the latest news about Elon Musk and then it subscribes you to the most relevant information.
Andrew: On Elon Musk. Yeah. I remember when that came out where I hit a button and suddenly TechCrunch was sending me the latest articles into Facebook Messenger. I then muted it because I didn’t want an alert every time I got a message, but I was able to go in and read articles. I always forget that I could also message back in and say give me news stories about a specific person and it does that. So, that’s one. That’s a really good one because that helped get you a ton of attention. What’s another one, one that is maybe a little more useful on a day to day basis?
Dmitry: Let me go back to TechCrunch again. Yesterday they had the Crunchies event, you probably know.
Dmitry: So what we’ve done for TechCrunch, they actually started to sell tickets using native payments through TechCrunch bot.
Andrew: Right. Your platform–
Dmitry: Exactly. So, you actually could go ahead in the TechCrunch bot, select purchase tickets. Select the ticket, put your finger on your patch ID and all information will be pre-populated, credit card information, your name and then the transaction will be completed without you actually needing to leave the messenger at all.
Andrew: Okay. For anyone who’s listening to me who thinks that I get carried away with this stuff, really pay attention to what he just said. You don’t even have to enter your credit card information. You could buy within the app. When the name is pre-populated, who’s pre-populating it? Is it Apple who’s pre-populating it or is it Facebook because I’m logged in to my Facebook account?
Dmitry: It’s Facebook.
Andrew: It’s Facebook?
Dmitry: Yeah, exactly. They have your name. They have your shipping address in case it’s something to be shipped. In this case, you only need an email to send the receipt. And yeah, that’s it. Credit card information or debit card information is stored within Messenger.
Andrew: You mentioned you only need an email address because they’re going to send you a receipt. They don’t have to do that. They can send the receipt within Messenger.
Andrew: What I noticed is yesterday I connected PayPal to my something or other and PayPal said, “Do you want receipts sent to you via Facebook Messenger?” I didn’t even have a chance to uncheck that box because I was moving so fast, but that’s how much PayPal believes in Facebook Messenger as a communication medium. They intentionally, I believe, made it so easy that I didn’t even have a chance to stop it. Frankly, if I cared enough, I could have said no, just email me receipts. But that’s the way they see the world going.
Where do you see this going? What do you see that’s exciting here in bots?
Dmitry: That’s a great question. First of all, this is kind of obvious. When Facebook opened up or any other messenger opens up, you have this access to billions of people on the other end that you can reach through messaging interfaces. During 2017, there will be another 1.1 billion people getting online. The first app that they’re going to be installing is going to be their messaging app.
Andrew: How do you know the first app they’re going to install is going to be Messenger?
Dmitry: This is like the basic need you fulfill when you get a smartphone, right? You want to communicate with your friends. You want to communicate with your family.
Andrew: Why can’t they just use the text messaging app that comes with their phone or email?
Dmitry: Sure. They could. However, most of those users are coming from Asia or Africa, where SMS, you actually have to pay for text messages.
Andrew: I see, in the US you don’t so much anymore. Great that they’re all coming online. They’re not going to be buying from our audience. They’re not going to be buying TechCrunch articles or TechCrunch event tickets. So, I feel like that is important for the world because we need them to communicate with us, but for the business world, is it really important? Is that really one of the reasons why messaging is going to be so big and why we should be creating bots on messaging apps, that the next billion people are coming online?
Dmitry: For them, it’s not going to be about like purchasing things at first, but later on, of course. Take a look at WeChat or LINE ecosystem, the way they develop. So, you basically onboard to your ecosystem and then you provide the whole infrastructure. So, you basically take over some of the operating system features that currently Apple and Google provide for their operating systems. So, you integrate payments and basically people are walking down the street–in China, you can purchase a hotdog through a WeChat QR code. You go there, you swipe your smartphone and boom.
Andrew: And the payment is happening through WeChat.
Andrew: What the hotdog vendor would have–I imagining it’s not a hotdog vendor but it’s some other kind of vendor there–what they have is the QR code right where their register would be.
Dmitry: Yes, exactly.
Andrew: That’s how they get paid.
Dmitry: Yes. It is already happening this way. People are actually transferring money to each other. So this is like the next layer on top of that. And then there is one more layer which is about how do you reach out to all those people with your relevant information? This is something I’m most excited about. This is what we call personal communication at scale.
So think of Facebook or Instagram or YouTube or Twitter. On all those social networks, your timeline is algorithmic. So, basically this is where like social networks are actually controlling what your users see. Instead on messenger, when you get your audience, you actually own them because you establish this one on one relationship. That means a lot of responsibility, like you should not broadcast a lot of messages and just push to them. They will unsubscribe.
But if you respect the relationship and you supply personalized information, you make sure this is super relevant to them. This is where this is like full power of chatbots unfold. You have this ability to push something to your users right in their face because they will never mute notifications from their messengers. They can mute any other app. They can prohibit notifications to pop up, but not from their messenger app. You have to respect this.
Andrew: Why can’t they?
Dmitry: Well, technically of course they can. Most of them do not do it because this is where they communicate with their friends and family.
Andrew: Right, because then that means that if my wife is stuck somewhere and she says, “Hey, come get me,” I don’t get that alert.
Andrew: Also, my wife doesn’t use Facebook Messenger. She uses iMessage. So, I would have turned off the alerts. In fact, I did turn off the alerts from Facebook Messenger, but those guys are so good they forced me to. Every time I opened up the Messenger app, they said, “You have to turn on notifications.” I finally said fine, do it. Then I realized I need it because it is kind of urgent messages that people are now sending. So, Facebook is pushing this pretty aggressively.
You mentioned that the users that you have on messenger apps, whether it’s Facebook Messenger or others–and there are others, right? Slack is one. You and I are communicating on Skype today. When I go into Skype to search for you, it says, “Who do you want to find?” or, “What bot do you want to find?” So, they’re doing it too.
I forget what my question was with that. It was a good one too. All right. Oh, the owning the users–but Skype owns my user and the connection. Facebook owns my user if I’m on Facebook Messenger, unlike email, where if I want to reach someone, I can, or phone if I want to reach someone, I can. Isn’t the real problem that Facebook Messenger is going to say, “You know what, Andrew? I think you’re a little too aggressive. I’m going to get rid of you.” Or, “Andrew, I think you’re selling something we don’t like today. We’re going to get rid of you.” They’ve gotten rid of other people.
Dmitry: Right. This is extremely good point. To your point about email, actually Gmail now controls this with their tabs. So, most of the emails that reach out to you, they fall into the promotion tab or social network tab.
Andrew: That’s definitely a problem. But you know what? I don’t use that and a lot of people use the built-in mail app on their phone so they don’t experience that, right?
Dmitry: Right. I’m trying to say it’s going this direction. It’s not about companies prohibiting you to reach out to their users. It’s about being mindful about the channel that you have and not abusing it. So what I’m saying is you were right. Technically Skype owns this connection. Facebook owns this connection. But if you use it wisely, you can reach out to your users unlike, let’s say, on Facebook where you have a page that has five million followers and you just post something and only a handful of them actually see it.
Andrew: That’s today. In the near future, I imagine maybe Facebook is going to say I’m going to not send alerts from bots. I’m only going to send alerts from people. Then maybe in the future if you’re getting too many alerts, I’m only going to send alerts from your important friends and I decide which ones come to you and which ones don’t. Basically what I’m saying is the challenge here is we are in their hands.
Dmitry: Yeah, sure. We are dependent as any third-party platform building on top of a platform. But we have this opportunity, obviously I don’t know future Facebook plans. What I’m trying to say here, we now have this opportunity. If we really understand our users and we know about our users and we know what they want and we can personalize communication to them–I say personalize, like really mean it.
You asked like what is it that they want. You segment into different cohorts. You reach out. You know a lot about them. Chat is such a native interface to ask questions. People love answering questions on Messenger. We were amazed when we saw the response rate that we get when you just ask a question.
Andrew: When you ask a question you get a high response rate?
Andrew: I know. Give me a response rate.
Andrew: What’s a typical response rate?
Dmitry: So the average for the platform is somewhere like 40% or 50%.
Andrew: Right. I have actually gotten over 80%. What you mean by that–here’s an advantage of chat versus email because of the infrastructure around chat. I can send all my subscribers on chat a question. If they respond with an answer, they can just hit a button to respond or they can type something in and that happens instantly and the bot takes it, collates it and organizes it in a way that I understand what people have responded with. That’s a really big one.
Andrew: That’s huge for me. I think there’s definitely a danger that Facebook could start shifting things around, just like they said all your fans on Facebook are your fans. You can use Facebook to reach out to fans if your business has a fan page. Then they actually started to decrease the number of times your messages are shown to the number of people. There’s definitely that risk.
But what I’ve found is it’s in their interest to keep expanding Messenger because they see the possibility of how big the Messenger experience could be. And I think that if it’s done–and I think actually here’s the other thing. I remember when Twitter started to take off and Leo Laporte, whose podcast I loved, I was on it, the guy who runs This Week in Tech, he said, “You know what? Who needs these Twitter guys? I have a big following.” He had a huge following. He actually was the number one, most followed person on Twitter for a long time.
Then he said, “I’m going to take all my people and we’re going to go to Identi.ca. I don’t want Twitter to control my experience with my people.” So, he went to Identi.ca. He said it’s open source. He created his own little community there. Then unfortunately that community failed because for all of the dangers of these platforms, there is huge upside in being a part of them because that’s where people are.
That’s where people prefer to be. If we want to live in the world that’s growing, we have to accept that you know what? There’s a large part of it that’s controlled by Facebook. I have to accept it. Now let’s talk about how I can rock that. And just like you said, we think that email is fully in our power, but more and more it’s in Gmail’s power, Apple’s power, to some degree Yahoo’s power, right?
Okay. Give me another thing. What is exciting near future possibility for these Messenger experiences?
Dmitry: So, I think in November Facebook launched this native Messenger payments program. It’s still in beta. We have early access to it. We have a handful of bots that actually utilize this functionality. I find this experience to be absolutely amazing, like you highlighted. So, this is probably the most globalized purchasing experience you can think of because you don’t have to go to any other website. You don’t have to install any other app. The coolest part is you get to keep this connection with your user.
So it works end to end. So, from a newsfeed, you can have a Facebook ad that actually links to a particular block within your chatbot. This block triggers certain experience. You guide your user through this experience. You finish it up as a purchase. Then later on, you can get back to this user offering more information or certain promotional things and re-engage, unlike websites where people come and go unless you ask for their email.
But then this email, the open rate for email is about 10% to 30% if it’s a good email list and the CTR for email is about 1.5%, which is like totally different for Messenger, where open rates are 90%. If it’s a good experience, the response rates are 80%. If it’s like mediocre, then it’s like 40-50.
Andrew: Let me underline that. Eighty percent response rate plus 40 to 50 if it’s a crappy interaction. That’s the kind of engagement that we’re talking about. You brought up something really interesting, that when somebody comes to a webpage, that website knows very little about them. When someone engages with my Messenger experience, I know their name. I know their gender. I know all kinds of stuff about them and if they come back the next time, I know who they are and we can continue the conversation we had before.
That’s really important to talk about. That’s one of the advantages of Messenger over the web. Here’s an advantage of Messenger over an app. People aren’t installing apps anymore, right? I’m a madman when it comes to apps these days. I install a ton. To me a ton is three a week, tops. Anyone who’s listening to me should think about how many apps have they installed this past week. How many have you installed, Dmitry?
Andrew: Zero. So, with Messenger–
Dmitry: An average American installs zero apps per month.
Andrew: Most Americans zero per month?
Dmitry: Average, yeah.
Andrew: On average, I get that. It can’t be on average because–it can’t possibly be zero on average.
Dmitry: I can send you the report.
Andrew: I would like to see that. Maybe I’m arguing over semantics. But it seems like maybe you can say the average American installs zero apps, but to stay that on average it’s zero, I would skew it just by installing two a week.
Dmitry: I meant average American. Yeah.
Andrew: I get that. I don’t want to underestimate the fact that–I don’t want to overstate this idea. Apps aren’t going away, but they’re definitely not the exciting thing they were before, where with Messenger, you can have what’s becoming more and more thanks to your software and other software like it, more of a software-like experience. All right. Let me tell you–
Dmitry: Just to add to your point, for businesses, that means like that chatbot is the easiest form of their digital presence, like pretty much anywhere. To build a website, there is a friction. To build an app, there is even bigger friction. To build a chatbot, it’s like the lowest possible friction at the moment.
This is the easiest form of digital presence. You can have Facebook where you supply your ads and then you lead them to your chatbot and then you complete your transaction always in this ecosystem and it’s super easy. So that’s the opportunity that we have here. We can actually see more and more SMBs leveraging it.
Andrew: All right. There’s something that you said I want to disagree with because I tested it and maybe I’m wrong. I want to disagree so you push back on it. But first, I’ve got to tell people about my sponsor. It’s called Acuity Scheduling. Here’s the cool thing–do you know Acuity Scheduling?
Dmitry: No, I don’t.
Andrew: Okay. I’m about to open your eyes to this thing. Here’s the cool thing about Acuity Scheduling. I’ve noticed that there are some apps that are expensive and they take a little bit of getting used to, little questions before they get started, before people actually get started and use them. So, those app creators will have not just a buy button, but a contact us button or a schedule a phone call, schedule a demo button.
The reason they want to do that is to answer questions, to get people to understand what the software can do, to maybe do a demo. The problem with all that is it’s really tough to schedule with people because you can ask them when they’re free and then they shoot you a time and it turns out you’re not free or they shoot you a time in their time zone and you forget to change it to your time zone.
So what smart software creators are doing today is they’re saying schedule a demo, click this button. The person clicks the button and they see a calendar full of available times and dates in their time zone. The way they can do that is Acuity Scheduling allows them to do it. Then when someone picks a time to schedule a phone call or to do a demo, that automatically goes on to their calendar so they don’t forget and to the company’s calendar so that someone on the team can make sure to be there. And there’s a reminder that goes out and so on.
That’s the beauty of Acuity Scheduling. If you have software that you want to demo to someone, you need an easy way to do it, that’s what Acuity Scheduling is about. I use Acuity Scheduling–Dmitry, did you even notice that we used Acuity Scheduling to book this conversation?
Dmitry: Now I realize, yes.
Andrew: Right. The reason you may not have been super aware is because I embed it on my site. I used to have this situation where I’d want to book you for an interview and I’d email you and I say, “Hey, are you free on Monday on 6:00 p.m.?” And you say, “Actually, Monday at 6:00 p.m. is not good for me because. . .” You’re in Russia, aren’t you?
Dmitry: No, I’m actually based in the Bay Area.
Andrew: Okay. All right. Some of your team was in Russia. They seem to work on Bay Area time, strangely. So it would be this back and forth. A lot of, “Are you here? Are you there? I thought you were in Russia, so I gave you time in your time zone, but it turns out you’re in the Bay Area and I screwed up.” I went back and forth and sometimes I’d get people on. Sometimes I actually would have a lot of back and forth and they’d give up on it.
So I went to Acuity Scheduling. I created an account. I connected by calendar to Acuity Scheduling so Acuity knew when I was free and I was not. I told it specifically when I was willing to do interviews and they gave me this embed code that I put on my site on a single page that I now send to guests and I say, “Dmitry, here’s a link, book it yourself.”
Now you come to my site. You don’t even see that it’s an external product. You just see Andrew’s got this really beautiful calendar on his site. You pick the time and date that works for you in your time zone. As soon as you hit submit, it goes on your calendar so you don’t forget. It goes on my calendar with your phone number and your Skype name so I don’t forget and I can contact you right away.
And because I’ve had a couple of situations where people didn’t show up at the last minute, we send you reminder emails and now I have nobody who doesn’t show up. If someone doesn’t show up, they quickly hit reply on the calendar. If they can’t show up later in the day, they hit reply on the calendar reminder and say, “Andrew, I can’t do it,” which means my schedule is super-organized.
If you’re out there, you want to contact people and you’re not reaching enough of your people, it’s probably because you’re making it too hard. Make it easy on them. Go to Acuity Scheduling and setup an account for yourself. In fact, forget AcuityScheduling.com. I’ve got a special URL.
If you want 45 days to try this to see how many more customers you can get in touch with, to see how many more sales you can close, to see how much more you can understand about your customers, I urge you to go check out this special URL where you’re going to get 45 days for free. It’s AcuityScheduling.com/Mixergy.
Dmitry, here’s the problem. You mentioned Facebook ads. They do have this special ad unit that’s designed to just get subscribers, right? But the problem is it’s sucks. I bought the ad. I got to tell people what my Messenger bot was. Then there’s a button that says message us. Who is ready when they’re scrolling through their newsfeed to message somebody? It’s bad marketing on Facebook’s part, right?
Dmitry: Yeah. You’re very right. It used to be like this probably like a few weeks ago. The Facebook team is constantly working on optimizing this experience. There are a few more ad formers that are in place already. So, for example, the ad that we ran with TechCrunch to promote their tickets was about–tap on the video to have it full screen. The bot messages you proactively so you don’t have to hit sign up. You don’t have to do anything.
Andrew: Say that again. So, I’m scrolling through my feed. I see a video on mute.
Dmitry: Right. As soon as you tap on it.
Andrew: As soon as I tap to make the video big, a bot messages me?
Andrew: It says, “Hey, do you want to buy tickets to this event?”
Andrew: And then if I want to buy tickets, I can just do it using my credit card that’s in Facebook?
Andrew: So, if I’m not on an iPhone and I can’t do the thumb thing, then I still can pay using Google Chrome?
Dmitry: If you’re not on your iPhone. . . That’s a good question. Yeah. So, you can use payments using web view as well.
Andrew: Interesting. And you guys did that ad format?
Dmitry: Well, Facebook did the ad format. We just used it for this particular campaign. What I’m trying to say is everyone has to understand it is still very early days. It was launched a year ago. Since then, the team is constantly improving things. They ship new releases every couple of months.
More and more features start to appear there. More and more features of Facebook infrastructure gets integrated into all of it. Different calls to action are available right now. It’s not about message us anymore. You can choose different calls to action for your ad. So, Facebook is actively listening to the feedback and it’s getting better.
Andrew: I’ve noticed that. Let me ask you this, by the way. I’m enjoying this conversation so much. I also want to talk about how you started this business. How do you feel about closing out the next half-hour just talking about the future of bots and what’s available and then doing another interview where we do nothing but talk about how you built your business?
Dmitry: Of course.
Andrew: Right? That gives you two different episodes on Mixergy and I would do them back to back. Are you up for that?
Dmitry: Yeah, of course.
Andrew: Good. Let’s keep going. So that’s interesting. Here’s the thing. I can’t figure out when they’re launching stuff. Where are you finding this stuff out? Are you subscribed to that Messenger bot blog they have?
Dmitry: Yes. That’s probably the best way to get the new updates.
Andrew: You know what?
Dmitry: And make sure that for all the listeners or viewers, make sure you sign up with Chatfuel.com so that whenever there’s something new, we also push it to our–
Andrew: Where do you guys do it? I’m going to go to Chatfuel.com. Where do you guys have that?
Dmitry: When you sign up, we ask for your email and this is what we use to communicate with you.
Andrew: I see.
Dmitry: We’re going to be communicating with you using chatbots.
Andrew: I feel like we need a batter solution than that. Here’s the thing. I think your blog does a good job, but you guys aren’t–you’re not sexy enough. You don’t make things into like this big events that I have to read. Maybe someone out there who’s listening to me will create the right blog for bots. I know there are some good blogs on Medium. What’s that one called? Here’s the problem with Messenger–Messenger I feel like–it’s called MessengerBlog.com, right? That’s where you get the stuff?
Andrew: It’s pretty good. It’s just kind of blah. I never feel excited to read it. A lot of times they launch multiple things at once and they’re buried inside one article, so it’s like blah buried inside of blah. So, you don’t feel like, “There’s this new great thing coming,” the way you just described it. That’s kind of a turnoff. I feel like your blog is good for reading about what you guys are capitalizing on, which features, right? So, that is fun but it’s not like a TechCrunch-type fun article.
Dmitry: That’s a great point. I like it. Yeah.
Andrew: And then there’s–that what it’s called, it’s called Chatbots Magazine. I feel like Chatbots Magazine is really good except they publish sometimes too much. They don’t make things into controversies. They don’t make things feel exciting. They cover every little bot maker that’s out there. Frankly a lot of the bot makers–you can say this actually, I bet you would, they kind of suck. They’ve got really smart technology and they have stupid human understanding. What do you think of that?
Dmitry: I tend to agree with the statement. My point here is that it was no different when, for example, App Store launched in the early days. The first apps that came out were flashlights, a bunch of flashlights and that far app I remember clearly when you would just tap on the bottom and your phone would fart.
Dmitry: So it’s okay. This is expected. This is how we end up having very solid use cases, it’s by having lots of people experiment and the different approaches, sharing experiences and learning mistakes. Since the barrier to enter the chatbot space is so low, there are a lot of newcomers that have tried to play and experiment. That’s why we see a lot of experiences that are not viable.
Let’s put it like straightforward. I still enjoy observing it because that means this whole space is moving forward. This is something that a lot of people, especially investors, I talk to a lot of investors. You probably know very well there was such a huge hype about chatbots in 2016. Expectations were inflated because a lot of people expected the AI part to be some sort of movie where you have another person actually talking to you. It’s not there yet.
Andrew: They expected that it was going to be like I go to my chatbot and I say, “Order me a pizza to come in 35 minutes,” and the pizza is going to come in 35.
Dmitry: Or even more complicated. At the moment, you cannot even order a pizza with the same level of customer service that you can order it from a real person, not mentioning more complicated use cases like booking travel and everything else. What I’m trying to say is it’s okay. It’s expected. It’s a typical technology adoption cycle. There’s this bump at first, inflated expectations. Then people realize they’re not there yet. This is where real use cases start to appear.
To sum it up, a lot of bots are crappy because it’s very easy to build them and a lot of people are experimenting, which overall is going to benefit us in the next month and years we’re going to see more and more refined use cases. We as a platform, we try to adopt best practices and make sure this is like a standard approach for new bot makers that come on the platform and think about how they should structure particular experiences.
Andrew: You know, I don’t know if it really–I don’t know if it has to be this typical. You’re right. With some technology, there’s this inflated excitement of what could be and then this disappointment of the reality of what it is today and then slowly the reality catches up with the previous expectation and then people who were disappointed come back around and get excited. But I hear what you’re saying. I kind of feel like it’s not exciting enough, possibly because people don’t see real money being made here. It wasn’t until I got on Twitter and I said, “I’m selling tickets to this event, who wants to buy?” and people bought that I got excited.
Andrew: Fair to say?
Dmitry: Totally, of course. I’m so happy to, again, highlight the fact that now we have this native payments on Messenger. I expect more and more experiments with native payments. We see so many different good examples on how many people utilize it. Like for example, the one that I mentioned before about TechCrunch selling tickets. Another one is celebrity Christina Milian actually selling her autographs through her chatbot through her fans, which is like super cool. She has her own clothing line.
Andrew: She’s selling it within chat?
Andrew: So, what’s the reason that someone’s engaging with her chat? Before she sells, she’s engaging them and then she’s selling to them?
Andrew: What’s the engagement?
Dmitry: So she promoted it to her fans and they loved the way she did it. She basically launched it during her birthday. She went like, “Hey, guys, it’s my birthday today and I’m launching my chatbot. Go ahead and play with it.” People would go ahead and play with the chatbot and the flow that she designed was just great. So, she would go like, “Hey, I’m turning 32 today. How old are you?” The answers would be, “I’m in my 20s, in my 30s, in my 40s,” and people would tap on them. By doing that, they would segment themselves in one of the buckets pretty much.
Andrew: Really? So she didn’t just ask to survey her audience, she asked so she could change her response in future messaging to her audience based on their age. Okay.
Dmitry: Exactly. So the flow would go on like this. “Hey, want to ask me a question?” Of course her fans would want to answer a question. The top question would be to know if she was single. She would answer saying, “Yeah, I’m single raising my daughter, what about you?” People had a few options. “I’m married. I’m single. It’s complicated.” And people would answer again. By doing that, they would again give a little bit of information about themselves.
So, later on right now, Christina can design a broadcast or push notification that would go to those who live in LA, for example, who are in their 20s who are single and come up with something personal that would be relevant for them.
Andrew: I see.
Dmitry: She’s doing a lot of stuff to also engage with her fans. She’s doing videos and exclusive audio, so she sings. She pushes this through Messenger. They recently built this feature which is called chatrooms. So, using a bot, you can jump into the same chatroom as your favorite celebrity and people would go nuts about it.
Andrew: That means she could, using Chatfuel, she could chat with her people and they could actually talk to her in real time all of them at once or what you can do is–and this may not be a good fit for her, but again, using Chatfuel, you can bucket your users into separate groups. So, maybe everyone who’s a fan of hers in San Francisco and is between 20 and 25 gets in their own chatroom and they can talk or 18 or 12 and 15 and they can all chat with each other. That happens all in the same Messenger experience.
Andrew: Go ahead.
Dmitry: Other things that they engage a lot–you cannot do things like that on any other social network, right?
Andrew: Right. I can’t go on Facebook and say to half of my audience, “You chat with each other,” and the other half, “I’m going to sell you a t-shirt.” You just can’t do that.
Dmitry: There is something more to it. It’s about making sure that people feel that they matter. She’s very upfront about positioning her bot. She’s not saying it’s actually her. She’s saying, “That’s my bot.” But then when her bot asks them, her fans, questions. It still feels like she cares about them.
Andrew: I know what you mean. For some reason, when I get a chat message, even though I know it’s from a bot, that says, “How old are you?” I feel like there’s more of a human contact there, probably because of the context, right? In chat, I talk with people. The other thing is that I know a lot of people are listening to us and saying, “I can survey my audience via email.” It’s not the same.
There’s something about the fact that when you get an email and the email says, “How old are you?” you know when you click a button it’s going to take you to a webpage, I know it’s just like three seconds, but there is a resistance to those three seconds. I won’t click that link. I know someone can send me a full survey via email and I can click a link and know it’s a full survey and I’m not going to click the link because I don’t have time to be engaged with it.
But there’s something about the speed of messaging where they come into you and they say, “How old are you?” and you just get to click one of the bubbles and say how old you are. Then the response comes up with another question and you get to click. The speed is just magic. It sucks you in to the point where you might want to stop doing it, but you can’t because it’s just one more question.
Dmitry: Right. Exactly. Also, when we talk to our users, a lot of them said that they feel like they are invested in this relationship, meaning that by providing their data, they know that this data will be utilized.
Andrew: I see. It’s not just I’m filling out a survey no one is going to look at. They know they’re bucketing themselves based on their interest and they prefer it.
Dmitry: Of course.
Andrew: How are you talking to your users? How do you know that’s true? That seems like an ideal answer, but I don’t really believe that could happen.
Dmitry: I talk to like–I use every opportunity to talk to our users. I used to just go and go out and just add random people who I know use the Messenger bot and just chat with them.
Andrew: How would you find a random person who’s using a Messenger bot? By the way, watch your mic. It’s hitting your hoodie.
Dmitry: Sorry. Okay.
Dmitry: So we talk to our bot makers. Obviously we have contacts with our bot makers. When you create a bot and you attach to your page, there is something called a page inbox, right? This is where you see all the conversations that happen between your bot and your users.
Dmitry: You can basically jump into every conversation and just take it over.
Andrew: I could do that with Chatfuel?
Dmitry: It’s standard Facebook functionality, yes. So, you create a bot in Chatfuel, you connect it to your page and you have access to this page message inbox.
Andrew: Right. You get to see all the conversations that people have with your bot in Facebook. Right.
Dmitry: So you can see who is using your chatbot and the feedback that–not the feedback, but the experience they are getting. Then you can take it over and say, “Hey, I’m the creator behind this chatbot. I’m super excited to know your opinion about the chatbot. Can we chat?”
Andrew: I’ve done that too, where I get to see who’s messaging it, which is again, unbelievable.
Dmitry: It’s super fun.
Andrew: It doesn’t happen anywhere else. I can’t go and figure out who’s using my app. I created an app. I don’t know who’s using it.
Andrew: I have people on my website. It’s creepy to know who’s using them. I don’t want that kind of power. All right. Let me suggest this. Do you have a t-shirt underneath your hoodie?
Dmitry: Yeah, I do.
Andrew: Take the hoodie off so that we don’t get the mic rubbing onto the hoodie. While you do that, I’m going to talk about Toptal.
Andrew: Guy’s if you’re listening to me, I told you that we have an app for Mixergy. I’ve needed an app for Mixergy a lot. What I needed, though, was to figure out what the app would have, what it would look like. I had a list of functions from people. I didn’t know how to put it all together into an app.
I went to Toptal and I said, “You guys have developers, but do you have a designer I can work with?” They said, “Yeah, we have a ton of designers.” I said, “No, here’s what I need. I don’t just want a designer. I have a list of features my people gave me. I don’t know how to organize it in an app. Do you have someone who’s not just going to take my sketches?” They said, “Yeah, we do. That’s what we do. We have the best talent out there.” So, I gave all my list of features to a Toptal designer. They gave me a design for our app. I then had my team internally build it out.
The reason I’m bringing this up is because I’ve talked to you guys a lot about the developers at Toptal and they are top-notch, really. When we need a developer and we need them fast and we need them to fit in perfectly like they’re a full-time employee that we’ve worked with for a long time, I got to Toptal. What I don’t mention enough is that Toptal also has designers. If you want to work with a designer in collaboration, one that’s been matched up with you, Toptal is the way to go.
First thing we did was we talked to Toptal. We told them our problem. They matched us up with a designer. The designer took our list of features, worked with us in collaboration like they were part our team, gave us mockups that we then used to build the app for our audience.
Today, many people use the Mixergy app to listen to these interviews, more so even than–actually, I was going to say more than the podcast app that’s built in their phone, but that’s not true. But they do use it, it’s used often and it especially is good for premium members who want access to stuff that’s not available to everyone else and definitely not available in the app store, in the iTunes and other podcast marketplaces.
We use Toptal a lot at Mixergy. I urge you to check them out if you need a great developer, top of the line developer. If you need a great designer, I urge you to go to Toptal.com/Mixergy. First thing they’re going to do is ask you about what you need. I won’t lie to you, there are several people from the Mixergy audience who went there and Toptal said, “Actually, we’re not going to be a good fit for you.”
If you’re not a good fit, they’ll help you think through what you’re doing but they’ll be honest with you and say, “Sorry, it’s not a good fit at Toptal.” And if you are a good fit, what they’ll do is they’ll match you up with a great developer or team of developers and you can often get started within a day or two.
Here’s what they’re offering Mixergy people that they’re not offering anyone else. You’re going to get 80 hours of Toptal developer credit when you pay for your first 80 hours. That’s in addition to a no risk trial period of up to two weeks. All you have to do is go to Toptal.com/Mixergy. Toptal.com/Mixergy to get that.
Dmitry, can you hear that my voice is actually, like I’m losing it, it’s going hoarse from talking so much? I don’t usually talk this much in interviews.
Andrew: I’m usually–if anyone is listening to this interview for the first time, I do like 20 sentences in a whole interview usually and the ad reads, but I’m so excited about this that I have to jump in and talk. I also think that part of the problem with this conversation is so much of this is visual. I say the user presses a button, if you’ve never talked to a chatbot, you never get to see what the button is. You never get to see what happens when you’re shown multiple images.
I don’t have this up yet, but by the time this interview is up, I’ll have a special place where we can talk more about bots. If you’re listening to me, you’ll be able to go to Mixergy.com/bot and I’ll create something where you can actually see some images.
Dmitry: We should create a bot for Mixergy.
Dmitry: We should create a bot for Mixergy.
Andrew: I do. I have multiple bots for Mixergy. I don’t have one that’s precise for this. Let me ask you this–what I tend to do is when there’s a use case, I go and create a bot for that use case. What I would like to have is one bot, that’s it. So, I know that for example with you guys, I use Swifttype for search on my site. I can have the Swifttype plugin. I could create a bot that does nothing but let you search for the right interview. You type in your request. It feeds it into Swifttype. Swifttype is a plugin on your platform. It spits out the interview. I feel like that stands alone as its own bot.
Andrew: But then there are other things that I want like a drip campaign, where every day–well, not every day, but you tell me you’re interested in sales. The first day I give you the first sales tip based on one of my interviews. The next day I check back with you and say, “Did you use it? Did you write it down? Did you actually do anything about it?”
And I survey you. The third day I come back in and say, “I gave you a tip two days ago and you told me yesterday how you used it.” It’s day number three, time for the next tip, again coming from my interview and I teach it to you. You guys don’t do that kind of drip campaign. I’ve talked to your people. I said, “I’ll even devote developer resources to make it work that way.” That’s not the way you work.
Dmitry: It’s coming, actually.
Andrew: It’s coming? You will be doing drip campaigns.
Dmitry: Of course.
Andrew: How far?
Dmitry: How far? Probably several weeks.
Andrew: Okay. That’s not too far.
Dmitry: Not too far, for sure. Yeah. Technically you can create drip campaigns right now, but it just takes a lot of manual work because you have to manually recreate them every time. We’re going to come up with something called sequences, where you can design a sequence which is going to work like a drip campaign. You can design a single flow based on your needs.
Andrew: All right. You guys also have a good community where this stuff was not in the community. I’ve actually asked. I want to know what’s going on in bots. One of the cool things about doing Mixergy is so many people who build stuff are Mixergy fans. So, when there’s someone who I see on Product Hunt with a new platform for messaging, I usually will message them and say, “Is there someone at your company who can do a demo for me?” They’ll say, “Someone at my company? I’m a huge Mixergy fan. I’ll do the demo.”
So I get on and I get to experience this software. So, for you, I even went into your community because your community is really active and I asked that question about drip. There was no response yet from the company. Now we’ve got the official response from the founder of the company.
Here’s the other thing that I’ve seen asked a lot. Get rid of the Chatfuel promotion in everyone’s bot. You’re smiling. You’ve seen that. Why won’t you let people pay to get rid of the Chatfuel branding when they create a bot?
Dmitry: Right. That’s a great question. No surprise we get it a lot. The reason we want to keep it there, a bunch of things. To us it feels like you know the attribution powered by WordPress.
Dmitry: It’s not too disturbing and pretty much in the same within chatbots. It’s hidden under this menu you have to find first and many people don’t find it at all. It’s not disruptive to the bot experience at all. However, it drives a lot of visibility for chatbots. By having this, we actually push the whole space forward because more and more companies, they get to know that this particular bot was built on Chatfuel. They also tried to experiment with it. This is how we got the LA Times publisher using Chatfuel because they noticed this powered by Chatfuel that was present in The New York Times.
I think it’s important because the way that LA Times wanted to approach it, they wanted to allocate development resources to build the chatbot. But then obviously there is scarcity of development resources in every company. You have to prioritize and with chatbots, it’s much more than it seems. It’s not about designing a single flow and just pushing it into production.
You have to have the CRM system and you know you slice and dice your users into different cohorts so you can design drip campaigns for communication. It’s about constantly changing the flows because you see every conversation that happens with your users and you’re like, “Oh my god, here’s the dead end. I need to fix it. In a typical scenario, you would file a change request that would go to your development team, blah, blah, blah.
Andrew: But you’re saying you guys have such an intuitive easy process that I can do it myself, I don’t need to go to a developer. I get all that. But I think what you guys are doing is you’re prioritizing growth over revenue.
Dmitry: That’s correct.
Andrew: Right? That is correct. I also think the hesitation that people would have is I want people to think we did it, that it’s our product. I don’t want to reveal that we were able to create this whole experience by using Chatfuel because that takes away from the magic.
Now it looks like I’m using software to do this, when I want you to think I’m using magic to do it and it’s my magic and it makes my company separate. But you guys don’t want to do that. You intentionally will not take money. If I said to you, “Here’s a $100, remove it,” if I said to you, “Here’s $50 a month, remove it,” you would not do it at this point.
Dmitry: You are correct. Yes. This is intentionally. We might change this in the future. But for the moment, this is something that we stick to and this is what allows us to grow that fast.
Andrew: All right. Here’s a criticism of the bot space that I have and we can talk it through. There is nothing yet that can be done via chat experience better than can be done via the web from the user point of view and it needs to not be like 10% better. It needs to be 10x better. I’m not seeing anyone say–actually, I’ve seen some examples, but they’re not enough.
When you talked about the fart app or some of those other early apps, there’s no better way to do it than the iPhone. Yelp on the phone, it’s 10 times more impressive than Yelp on your desktop. So, I know why I got into the Yelp app when it first came out. I think that there’s not enough creative imagination. I know the answer to this question. I want to hear your answer. I know what would make it 10x better at this point. What’s your thought on this?
Dmitry: Now I am intrigued and I want to hear your answer.
Andrew: First you.
Dmitry: You talk too much anyway.
Andrew: I did. Yeah. Go ahead. What’s an experience that’s–because TechCrunch, in all fairness to TechCrunch, I learned about chatbots through subscribing to the TechCrunch chatbot, all they did was send me a news article I think it was not even once a day, it was three times a day. I thought, “I get news better on the web or in the news app that comes with my iPhone. It’s not better in chat. What is an experience that feels better in chat and people think, “If not for chat, I couldn’t have had this great experience?”
Dmitry: Okay. A few points to your question–the first is again, you should try using native payments. It is better than the website. It’s so flawless.
Andrew: Definitely better than the website. I agree with you there. Without even using it, I can tell you paying on the web so far stinks.
Dmitry: Awesome. The second is we’re going to be see more and more utilization of web views. So, web view, the functionality basically you can open in your browser any kind of experience that you want to implement using your chatbot. You get to keep all of the benefits of the chatbots, like frictionless entry, serverless updates, meaning you don’t have to update an app and submit it for approval, you change for the server and for users it’s seamless. You get to reconnect with your users, so it’s unlike website.
Andrew: That’s all for me. What about the users? What can they do better because of chat? Actually, I take it back. Payment on the web could be better because Apple Pay now works on the web in a nice way. It’s just that people aren’t implementing it properly. Some sites are. You disagree?
Dmitry: Yeah. I tend to disagree. First of all, Android is huge and having native payments is universal for any platform. It’s better. And Apple Pay, payments is important to authorize a user in a transaction. If you’re using web, yeah, okay, it could be–
Andrew: What else? What’s a good experience that people could feel like, “This is so much better here than it would be somewhere else?”
Dmitry: Okay. So, again, I hear it a lot. What is it that’s 10x better than any other experience within messaging? What I tend to see with all the chatbots that are created on our platform and all the experiences like millions of people use every day, chatbots, it’s hard to say what is that 10x better. It might be the same on the level or close to the same on the level of the experience, but it’s just eliminating all these little pieces that create friction right now.
So, it’s not about revolution. It’s probably about the evolution and how we bring things that already work closer to people to their fingers, to their eyes and to the ways of communication that they prefer. It’s about how do we come up with a unified user experience, which is the same as in chatbots and it drives simplicity, right?
It creates cognitive ease, meaning you don’t have to go through a new interface every time. It’s the same interface. So you’re very familiar with that and you do not need any learning computer to get to know it. It’s about eliminating all those little pieces that currently exist, that make it a little bit harder and make it a little bit easier. I think for the use cases that are ten times better than anything else, they will come. It’s hard to say if you see this experience right now. So, it took some time for Uber to create their app.
Andrew: True. But Yelp was in the App Store very fast. So their uses were there. The new innovations weren’t there. I’ll give you two answers for me. One is like one current answer and the other is an approach to come up with way more answers. Here’s what’s better in chat than anywhere else–light learning. By light learning, I mean here’s a bit of information, now you answer a question and you get to continue with the next one.
Here’s another bit. It’s very similar to what Duolingo does via whole app of its own can now be experienced in messenger, light learning. So a lot of what people do via email drip campaign is learning, but they do it via heavy, long articles, like the founder of Rainmaker, Brian Clark, was on Mixergy. I remember learning how to write content from the web from his 30-day copywriting course at Copyblogger.
That’s a lot of material to read via email in a medium where I’m sitting down to get through all the messages I have, to respond to people I’m working with, to deal with issues that my wife sent me over. In all that, I have to go and focus on what Brian sent me to learn in like what is the equivalent of three pages of printed text? It doesn’t work. But Messenger would force him to cut it into bite size pieces, have me answer questions like quick quizzes before continuing. I think it’s good there.
Here’s the bigger, broader answer. I think bots need to encourage more marketers to get in there. Right now it’s the geeks who are in there. Right now it’s the brands who are on there, right? So, you guys have British Airways, for example. British Airways is a brand. They’re not like heavy marketers. Gary Vaynerchuk says marketers ruin everything and he’s right. Marketers get into email and they crush the inbox to the point where people say, “I’m done with email.”
But they also, marketers drive innovation, right? So, when marketers got onto banner ads on the web, they gave a funding option to websites that encouraged them to create better content. When marketers get into a space, they encourage more usage. I think the chatbot community is doing itself a disservice by not reaching out to marketers.
I spoke out at the Leadpages conference, Converted 2016. I talked to them about messaging bots. Those guys just lit up with creativity, with experiences. They sat down and they freaking created it. And those are some marketers. I think there are a lot of other marketing worlds out there. I just don’t know that people are reaching out to them.
You guys are reaching out to the big agencies that work with big brands. I wonder if you’re also reaching out to the marketers who you might feel like, “These aren’t Silicon Valley types. I don’t know that I want to mess with these guys.” What do you think about that?
Dmitry: I think it’s also a great point. We definitely work with marketers. The example of the ads for TechCrunch that I provided earlier actually came from one of the marketers who is using our platform. So you’re very right. This is exactly why I was so excited when Messenger launched payments in November because this is the fuel for this growth, right?
People have started to make money so they can reinvest this money and come up with more creative strategies. By reinvesting this money, they will bring in more and more cash or consumers. Let me put it this way, it’s not geek ones who will be introduced to this Messenger experience and they will attach their credit cards and debit cards and fill out their information for the first time, which is native. By doing this, this whole cycle will actually get going.
Andrew: I envision a world where ideas obviously that we can’t come up with now will happen. There’s this YouTube star that I rejected for having on Mixergy just because I didn’t know how to make it interesting here. I thought she did this really interesting baking show. She’ll bake a beautiful cake and then she’ll say, “I’m using this tool that you can go to my website and buy.” I imagine here saying, “Every day I’m going to give you this food porn, essentially,” which is like, “Here’s the first step, press a button to see the next step.” So, you’re watching her do this and then, “Do you want to buy this thing is always available as an option.”
Andrew: That’s a very, very, very simple answer. The real answer is not going to come from me chatting in this conversation. The real answer is going to be from someone who’s listening to us who’s going to try Chatfuel who’s going to go to whatever I end up putting on Mixergy.com/bot and sees what’s out there, experiments with what’s out there and has a crazy idea in the shower one day that then they go and implement and they become big. Who knows what’s going to be done there?
I’d love everyone who’s listening to us right now to go check out Chatfuel.com. It’s completely free, unfortunately. I really think you should be charging for it. But the good news about that is you can go and experiment with it.
We are going to record a whole other interview where I actually get to use my notes because my team did an awesome job putting together a document here about how you built up this business. It is a business success story, not fully baked yet, not fully at the end, but it’s a success considering the number of people who you got to try this crazy technology that’s still a work in progress. I want to know how you did it. We’re going to do another interview where we’ll talk about that. We’ll record it in a moment and it will be put up on the site right afterwards.
But first I should say to anyone who’s listening to me–I have to thank three different companies. The first is Toptal. If you need a great developer or designer or MBA, really, they have the best talent out there. They pride themselves on turning away 97% of the people. Frankly, 97% of the people who get turned away from Toptal end up being some of their best promoters because they go and they bitch to their friends about how Toptal rejected them and everyone says, “Who are these people who reject such smart people? I want to go hire that company.” So Toptal is where you go get the best developers, designers, MBAs and so much more. Toptal.com.
If you want to actually get somebody on the phone or meet them in person and you’re not making it happen, it’s not because they don’t like you. It’s not because they don’t want to buy from you, don’t take it personally. Use better software. Acuity Scheduling will allow you to do those calls easily. It’s AcuityScheduling.com/Mixergy.
And finally, I mentioned Swiftype, I think, in this interview. They’ve done so right by me. Their software is so fantastic for searching within your site. It even plugs in to Chatfuel. I urge you to go check. I don’t have a special URL. I’m just going to say thank you because the founder has been a good friend and helped me out and because anyone who’s going to use it is going to end up thanking me too for it because it’s such a great piece of software. Go check out Swiftype.com. Cool.
Dmitry: Thank you so much for this conversation. I really enjoyed it. Thank you, everyone for actually listening to it. Feel free to give Chatfuel or any other bot platform a try. I’m really excited about where this is going. There are a lot of opportunities. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me personally. I’ll be happy to answer any of them. Find me on Facebook. I’ll be happy to chat about chatbots or whatever.
Andrew: On Facebook?
Andrew: If they message you, they’re going to go into the other folder. Do you check that other folder?
Dmitry: It’s called message inbox now.
Andrew: What is it called?
Dmitry: Message inbox. It used to be like three extra steps to get there. Now when you have someone contacting you, you have this like badge appearing like one new conversation and you can go ahead and check it out so it’s easier.
Andrew: So, they can message you there. I like it. Thanks so much for doing this. I’m going to go take a break and we’ll come back and record the story of how you built this business, cool?
Andrew: Bye, everyone. Listen to both interviews.