We launched our Telegram bot recently because we wanted to create a new channel to attract clients, ease our support desk workload, and bring value to our current and future clients.

That’s why our marketer chatbot, which speaks both English and Russian, has a knowledge base with answers to important questions that come up when you start creating content. It also allows you to request a consultation with real marketing experts.

But developing a chatbot program is not enough. You have to draw attention to it somehow. Today, we’ll explain how we went from 0 to 1,000 users per month on our bot. We’ll also review the most efficient promotion methods for this technology.

Telegram bots are getting popular

Forbes published a feature in February 2016 in which the creators of popular Telegram bots shared their statistics. In particular, the creator of @my_ali_bot, which lets users search for goods on the ecommerce website MyAliExpess, claimed that his bot had 38,000 users.

The Moscow-based programmer Igor Polyakov — who created MyPokerBot, one of the most popular Telegram bots — said he had 40,000 active users. This is a considerable audience, but it’s important to note that popular bots are typically focused on the B2C market and entertainment.

The situation is more complex in B2B markets. MyPokerBot has only been rated 1,145 times in Storebot, the popular Telegram bot catalog. However, bots that scan files for viruses, create notes in Evernote, or send information from Google Analytics directly via chat are much less in demand and rarely exceed a few dozen or couple hundred upvotes.

If we assume that Telegram bots for poker or shopping have about 50,000 to 70,000 users (probably more after being mentioned in Forbes), business tools are hardly likely to get more than a few thousand active users. And only if the bot is a part of some well-known project like Pomodoro. For new business tools, initially designed as bots, it would be even harder to attract an audience.

But this is normal because B2B doesn’t imply vast numbers of users and getting figures on B2B bot users is not always easy. For example, our internal survey showed that our bot ContentRobin is mostly used by one marketing department employee in the whole company, but he can pass the info to his colleagues, meaning one user could represent a whole department.

In general, the number of active users on B2B bots is more or less equal to the number of the companies that use them.

How to promote your bot

After creating a bot, you need to add it to specialized catalogs. In some cases, companies that support these catalogs make lists of the best bots — if you get onto one of them, you can attract an initial flow of users.

For example, MyPokerBot developers noticed the first significant burst of users after getting into the Best New Bot digest of the Storebot catalog. This attracted about 4,000 new users.

However, keep in mind that these lists mostly target bots aimed at private users. And even if a B2B tool gets featured, it can’t rely on a considerable spike in popularity.

Here are a few catalogs we’re on:

But, even though we made it to the top of the ranking sometimes, we didn’t see much traffic.

What’s more, MyPokerBot asks users to give their bot high ratings to boost their position in these catalogs. This is a good policy, but it’s less likely to work with B2B tools due to low user numbers.

Referral programs and advertisements in other chatbots are also not very effective for business tools. This is quite logical: Corporate clients have no reason to earn bonuses and discounts by bringing new people in. There are too few business tools to put your ads in, and publishing ads to the entertainment bots would hardly reach the right audience.

Content marketing may be much more efficient for B2B tools

We began promoting our bot using content in August, at first in our local market (Russian-speaking). We published a couple of columns in online media that specializes in bots and got our first wave of users, a few hundred people. Then it started to appear on lists, and one article on a popular Russian IT resource got over 16,000 views.

Then it was time for us to tackle the English-speaking audience, our original target. We got published in Tech in Asia under the Community section, which attracted a few dozen referrals.

post on VentureBeat gave us a powerful boost and new users. Finally, we were breaking into our target market and even getting a growing number of consultation requests via the chatbot. It was a wave that hit twice, first when it went live on the website, and once again when they shared it the next day on social media.

Our bot had 100 to 120 users on peak days after postings or teasers. (We had a slump the day Telegram servers crashed, which we picked up on a little later.) This is a decent result for a Telegram chatbot targeting a business audience.

Most of the chatbot’s audience are new users. About 1,000 users have accessed the bot since it was released, a satisfactory result for two months of active promotion. This got us just over 50 orders from potential clients, which is strong growth compared to the days when we didn’t have a bot.

In the future, we plan to pay more attention to client retention. We need them to form a habit of using our tool. To do so, we’ll broaden the knowledge base, add new agencies for the users to connect with, and expand the functionality of the text analysis module (especially for English).

What to remember?

Essentially, there are a few necessary steps when promoting a chatbot:

  • Don’t count on catalogs. There are many catalogs and stores with bots for different platforms. From our experience, you can’t count on these websites to increase your user numbers. If your chatbot has viral potential, it could go better, but that’s an unlikely option if you are working on specialized tools.
  • Content marketing works. Chatbots are new, so there isn’t a lot of high-quality content on the web yet. That’s why getting published in media outlets and blogs can attract customers. Pick the channels according to your target audience. Our bot is designed for business executives and marketers, and our channels are selected based on that.
  • Add analytics to your chatbot. There’s an acute lack of analytic tools for bot traffic. In fact, there’s only one capable tool — Botan.io. We recommend using it as soon as your bot is ready to go. It’s not quite Google Analytics for chatbots, but it tracks basic metrics and shows you how they change when you introduce new features.
  • Translate your interface into different languages. Our experience illustrates that having a dual language interface (Russian and English) helped us to expand the audience of our bot. This is logical because each country has its own marketers, and the tips of our bot are universal. After all, the more languages your bot supports, the more potential users it has.

We’re not going to stop now. For instance, we plan on adding new languages (Spanish and German at first) using efficient methods like content marketing specifics for different countries. According to our forecasts, it could boost our audience by another 3,000 to 4,000 active users monthly.