When one of the most beloved tech startups makes a bot, you know there’s a major trend.
Today, HubSpot announced the availability of GrowthBot, a powerful agent of marketing assistance. It’s a bit like having an intern who can help you find data through HubSpot — the popular service that helps with inbound marketing efforts — but it also extends much further.
The bot is available now and works within Facebook Messenger, where it joins an army of 11,000 chatbots. Yet, it distinguishes itself from the pack because it can perform some useful tricks.
For example, let’s say you have a marketing campaign for your new collaborative email app. In GrowthBot, you can ask a question about how many companies use Google Apps in Minnesota. That way, you know what you’re facing and whether it is a prime market. The bot provides a quick answer, and can also tell jokes and even share cartoons, which has the side benefit of supplying some content for your slideshows or even your marketing collateral.
Dharmesh Shah, the CTO and founder of HubSpot, did the programming on the chatbot himself.
“I was definitely curious about the new messaging platforms and implementing NLP (Natural Language Processing),” he told VentureBeat. “And, as importantly, I developed GrowthBot to scratch my own itch. Some of the most successful things I’ve built in my career are when I built something for myself. I’m weird and quirky, but as it turns out, the things I want software to do are things other folks want software to do too. Having said that, what gets me fired up is when people start using something I’ve built and giving me feedback and ideas. It’s always scary in the early days (I believe in the ‘release early, release often’ mantra). But, I enjoy the fast iterations and interacting with users/customers.”
So far, so good. I tested the bot because I’m a fan of the intelligence behind the HubSpot service, despite what you may have read in the now famous book by Dan Lyons. I asked the bot how many companies use Gmail in California, and it came up with zero. Interestingly, the bot later explained that it doesn’t search for Gmail and suggested that I try a Google Apps search.
When I did another search asking about which companies use HubSpot in Minnesota, one of the firms that came up is near where I lived for eight years. (I even know the CEO.) I did a few more searches and found the chatbot to be highly integrated into HubSpot but powerful for other searches, even rating websites and providing company overviews.
As with most chatbots these days, you have to know what the bot can do and type the right phrase, but I like the guidance it provides for marketers who may be running a new campaign. They need information right now, and that’s where a chatbot is so useful.
Shah has big plans for GrowthBot. He says he wants to be able to type a command like “alert me when my organic traffic drops below 10%” which would be a fantastic proof-of-concept for bots. It would remember things we tend to forget and inform us about things we need to know.
He wants to ask the bot about traffic growth, ask it to register a new domain and to add a “coming soon” message. He wants the bot to tell him when one of his blog posts is republished on Hacker News. Another feature, which he said ties into the idea of getting quotes and presentation material, is to ask the bot to find statistics about Facebook or some other company that you can use on slides.
Some of the features he built into the bot are already available but not widely known yet. He says he enjoys the idea of people discovering new features on their own.
GrowthBot is five weeks old, and it can already help you find industry influencers, search for trending topics and — one of my personal favorites — look up information about someone just by asking the bot to search with an email address. (Doing that on Google today gives you a list of useless links.)
It will be exciting to see where this all leads, because it’s a solid first step.