Steve Brown 0:00
Maddy Martin, welcome to the ROI Online Podcast.
Maddy Martin 0:03
Thanks for having me, Steve. It's great to be here.
Steve Brown 0:06
Maddy, you're, you come from a background of inbound marketing. You're now with Smith AI, you're the VP of Marketing. So you've earned your chops. Smith AI is a company that believes responsive businesses win more clients. And, in fact, it's an answering service and not tell me if I'm getting this wrong, but it's a company that helps businesses answer faster, more intelligently the inquiries that are coming in, am I correct?
Maddy Martin 0:40
Yeah, that's, that's a start. I that is the the core of it is to be responsive, right. So if you put it in the lens of where an answering service, then you start with something familiar, which is always important in marketing. And, um, but it goes down a deep rabbit hole from there. So it's a lot more than just a an answering service.
Steve Brown 1:04
Yeah, so that's, that is like the number one Marketing Challenge that most of the companies I work with have is like, we do all these things. And it's hard to tell someone in just one sentence, the essence of what we do,
Maddy Martin 1:18
it's very hard to have that elevator pitch and to have it be so comfortable that you can say it in a number of different ways. I find that that is one of the biggest challenges, you get your pitch down, and then it comes at you with a curveball in a different way. Someone asked it in a way and you're not prepared. So it's really important that you practice explaining your business to people who are totally uninitiated, if there's anything that you can do in marketing, it's bad, because there's so many different formats on digital marketing, even print and offline marketing. And then conversations that you'll have that you need to demonstrate such amazing flexibility and familiarity with your brand with your company that that the questions follow because you've got it so down, Pat, that people want to hear what you have to say about what you're doing.
Steve Brown 2:11
Yeah. And I think to be able to actually put, put your service in a scenario in the mind of the person that's listening, where they go, Oh, exactly. I see it in the future, right.
Maddy Martin 2:26
And don't be afraid to start granular. Right. So that's sort of what you're getting at. And I think oftentimes, you know, will you started just with the answering service description of Smith AI, that's totally fine. Let someone also guide that conversation. You might say, Well, do you also make outbound calls? Or someone else might say, Well, can you answer my texts in addition to my chats? Or can you answer my personal cell phone? Like, where do they want to take that conversation? But sometimes just seeding it in a really granular way, saying, you know, all those people who fill out the contact form on your website, and how quickly Are you getting back to them. And that definitely sparked something in most people's business owning brains or business operating brains, because I have a pretty good sense that almost everyone who runs a business has a website, and it's got a form on it. So it's not really a shot in the dark. It might seem granular, but it's widely applicable.
Steve Brown 3:26
When I read the responsive businesses, when more clients solutions to answer and act on every lead, I think that reveals that you understand as a business owner, we're struggling to take advantage of every opportunity that comes to us. And so I feel like you understand that that's I was something I'm insecure about whether I'm doing the best I can every single time.
Maddy Martin 3:54
And you probably are doing the best that you can. But the problem comes when you try and prioritize and stretch every hour of the day as you possibly can, often beyond just the nine to five and you wonder how in the world am I going to actually be responsive to new potential clients or customers while working on and fulfilling the existing demand and oftentimes contracts for the existing clients? Right? So there is a real dilemma. Do you fulfill your current promises? Who's doing that? Is it you? Is it your team? And then how do you not miss the next wave of business, especially when you're investing in online marketing, any sort of advertising or channel where you're exposed online, if you have referrals, if you have reviews, you know, those are coming in, and you need to make sure that you're responsive across every channel, because often Steve, we see people, you know, sort of have the remark. Well, I'm answering my calls well, but you Have a Facebook page. And Facebook has built a very powerful recommendation engine. And if you just think I've had a website chat, but you're not responding to your Facebook messages, if you have a voice phone system for your business phone, and you don't even know that there are text messages coming in there, then you're not fully responsive, you are only responsive insofar as you're covering all the channels through which people can contact you knew our existing clients, and that you are giving them the information that you know, they need, not necessarily that they asked about because they're not the experts you are, and that you are obviously being speedy to get back to them. So responsiveness is not just a matter of speed. It's also of content and channel.
Steve Brown 5:50
So as you were talking, I was thinking about, let's make a list of all the potential inbound channels coming to you that that you know about, and potentially are oblivious to. So, phone, email, if you have a chat, bot a form on your website, what are the starting right?
Maddy Martin 6:17
Right, all the social media channels that you're on, and then also Google My Business, which you're going to need that app to respond and monitor those messages. Any other channel that you have a business profile online, you might be on marketplaces and listing sites, we work with a lot of attorneys, marketing agencies, are you getting leads through sites like clutch or review sites where you might get inbound email leads with details that are to follow up on? There are so many different profiles, and more and more these platforms where those profiles are hosted? are, you know, taking that messaging onto their own platform and not necessarily emailing you, it's important to even check those settings. But then to when you take that inventory, Steve, you're going to say, Okay, what are the what is the channel, who is an owner of it, and is that owner responding, or who is the responsive party, because they might not be the same. And that's really important. I can be the VP of Marketing, but I'm not going to be in every single Facebook group and every message, we have a hiring team, we have so many other conversations that are going on beyond just Smith AI as a brand. And it's across many channels, you can't do that all by yourself in the sooner that you learn to document and then delegate because that's really the sequence, the happier you'll be. And the more empowered you'll feel, even though you're delegating, to grow your business further, because you have a solid foundation and you can spend more money on that advertising, you can spend more money on, you know, sponsoring podcasts, you can, you can confidently sort of go out with your brand, because you know, the new leads ROI will be there. The responsiveness is the single biggest factor and whether or not someone is going to move forward with your business, they will not wait, they won't wait for an email back, they won't wait for a voicemail return call. And even when you do call, interestingly 50% or less of those calls are even answered. So if you miss it, you have a small shot of getting them in a small shot of them even being available when you do call, if you call it all.
Steve Brown 8:43
So the name Smith AI and tomates that there's artificial intelligence involved here. And it's, it's this big giant challenge of Well, I would like to have a person answer every call is just more personable, it feels better. But when you list off all of those platforms, that's a big deep hole, because do you have you claimed all those listings? Each one has idiosyncrasies each one has a different form of communication back and forth. You could hire in house three or four people and still not have all your bases covered. And that's assuming they all have your messaging down pat, that they're answering questions accurately, that they're actually dealing with people politely, helpfully that that's a big, that's just this big danger zone that you you have to go through.
Maddy Martin 9:45
It's a huge danger zone and actually what's even a big lurking danger zone that you didn't mention to stack on top of that. You that you put on top of your social media on top of your phone line, right We often see that small medium businesses are putting the wrong people there. And what I mean is, th ey don't want to be there, so they put other people there, they have other more important things to do. If you have your marketing manager responding to every social media message, and they're pulling their hair out, because they can't get their projects done, and they're gonna get a did not complete that quarter, they're terrified. They're unhappy, because they're a high performer. And we see this across all different business types, for example, law firms putting their paralegals on the phones, a paralegal is a billable employee for you, where you can actually charge back to the client when they do meaningful legal work, don't put them on the phones, right. And there are many other similarities. It could go to a warehouse, it could be someone who's running, you know, an online commerce, whatever. You have people who are well trained in general to the business can take that conversation as a salesperson instead of on the frontline for screening and scheduling. So when we think about how do you divide your team and assign things wisely, you want a frontline team that can handle those inbound calls and chats and messages, consolidated under one group, so you don't have to, every time you update your pricing or add a new service or product, tell 20 different contractors or individuals that sort of a nightmare, you want to tell one company, right? And and then internally, the people who you've trained, you want them to do the most valuable work for you just as you would expect of yourself spending your own time. So it's, it's really critical that you take that inventory, and you also delegate wisely based on the skill level of the team that you have.
Steve Brown 11:48
So I have a list of questions I get asked a lot. And so what I'm curious about is how you answer them. And so this will be fun and helpful. So these are obvious, but but they're important, what is an answering service?
Maddy Martin 12:05
So when answering service is, you know, a wide definition depending on who you ask what you're asking me. So I'll tell you Smith AI has expanded the definition. And what we believe in answering service is, is an omni channel solution that is backed by both live agents and AI. So it is human staff but made more efficient through technology, so that we can answer and get real work done by carrying the conversation forward so that it is ready for someone to take to the next level that only someone internal can for example, an answering service will take a message typically what Smith AI does, is we will screen and prequalify a lead, we will take payment if you charge for that consultation schedule, the consultation on the calendar based on the availability of whomever we're scheduling for, and unless someone was available for a warm transfer. And then that call is on the calendar, the caller gets an invitation probably through the calendaring software like calendly acuity, and that's automated. They also through Smith AI connecting to their CRM like Salesforce or HubSpot, you name it, that contact and the conversation those call notes from the receptionist are logged immediately in that system. So when you have that call, you begin from an existing record and you add notes and you carry that workflow forward if they're a good potential client signing a fee agreement moving forward with that work scope, etc. So that is a powerful solution that feeds people from your marketing team into your proper sales funnel. And there's no sort of juggling, losing or stumbling around leads. That normally happens now outbound as well, making calls to those contact forms and anyone who is contacting you by email on the on the new lead side and also on the existing client side, you might find that you need an answering service to call a client to request payment on an unpaid bill because you have a close personal relationship and you don't want to stumble around a transactional conversation with them. So there are a number of ways to use the services. And obviously through website chat, you have the discrete nature of those conversations, especially during COVID when people are at home. Imagine again, I like the law firm examples. But imagine you've got a couple who are seeking to divorce might not want to have a phone call in your home with someone on the phone with an attorney chat might be more appropriate financial advisors. IT people like that sort of thing. When talking about complex or difficult subjects.
Steve Brown 14:55
Excellent answer. We're listening to Maddy Martin, she's the VP of Marketing at Smith AI, we're asking a list of questions that I get asked him on. So, Maddie, what does an answering service cost?
Maddy Martin 15:15
So a lot of answering services charge by the minute. And you'll find they are sort of variable costs. And the trouble is that when you have a marketing funnel that is based on impressions and clicks and form fills, it's very hard to have minute based pricing, because it's hard to tell what is your cost per call. So we have a cost per call, you can add on optional features, such as the scheduling or payment collection, maybe an intake form for a new client. And that is completely customized for every account, so that you get only an exactly what you need. on a per call basis, there is an upfront quota that we give you, and then there's overage. So you never have a missed call, you just sort of extend beyond your plan, and you know, square up at the end of the month.
Steve Brown 16:09
That's funny. so you never miss a call. So some service that I've just puttering and giggling that some services, alright, it's a flat rate. But after you reach that rate, then we don't answer your calls anymore.
Maddy Martin 16:20
Now, or they have limited hours, they might be nine to five, or they might charge you extra for the weekends, right. So you want to look at those things with Smith AI. Currently, depending on when you're listening to this, I can't promise future pricing, but it's about five to $7 per call. And it really goes down as your volume of calls go up. And it's a matter of what other features you need. Now, when you think about the value of a client and missing a potential client, it's a no brainer, almost marginal cost and have those calls answered. And since we charge per call, there's never any charge for spam or sales calls or wrong numbers.
Steve Brown 17:02
Okay, so you mentioned a couple of these, but what do answering services do?
Maddy Martin 17:08
So a great answering service will first work with all any of the systems that you currently have, right. So you don't need to change your phone system, you don't need to change your website and then you know, form a website chat, you can forward your number, you could even port it if you want to, but then they will answer warm transfer as important. So you get a heads up and you get to approve whether or not a call is coming in to you. They should be able to handle transfers to a number of different people at your business or different departments and different instructions for different types of collars. So imagine there are instructions for new potential clients and then existing clients maybe existing clients can be transferred and new potential clients are scheduled so that you can prepare for that call. Now, the payment collection is something that answering services that have you know, clear financial, non disclosure agreements with their receptionist, they can handle that. Obviously security is a top concern. And then integrations with the calendaring, billing CRM marketing automation systems that you use. At Smith AI, we have one free CRM with every account. So whether you use Salesforce, HubSpot, etc, you'll get that information in there so important not adding to the data entry chore. But taking over those simple tasks that are routine communication, chores, scheduling, intake, new clients, sort of pre qualification, etc.
Steve Brown 18:43
Wow. So what is web chat service?
Maddy Martin 18:47
So web chat is a sort of nebulous world, it can mean a lot of different things. For us. It means a chat widget on your website that is staffed by live agents combined with AI for really standard and consistent and accurate, speedy responses. We also have a free chat bot that is not a chat software, it's not chat that you would use to communicate through chat on your website. It's actually completely automated. So it's just the software it doesn't allow you to interrupt the chat. Now that's very helpful for sequenced conversations where you might want to ask a few questions get someone down the right path, they could get a call back, they could fill out a form or a scheduling link. That's actually a software that we provide for free for the basic chatbot with optional add ons. Now there's through chat, we have made that available to answer Facebook messages and also text messages for the business. And on the answering side. You can call back those chat leads if you have both the answering service and the chat service. So
Steve Brown 20:01
How to Improve chat customer service. When I think about these, the problem is you want the robots to handle the first part of the conversation to quickly discern and then hand it over to human. But usually that just goes, goes dead? Because you didn't design the question flow, right?
Maddy Martin 20:23
Yeah, so that's a huge problem. And we built the sort of funnel performance tracker for that reason, with every single funnel, basically a playbook a sequence conversation, you've got each question in what you believe is the right order with answers that are options that relate to your target audience, etc. Now, there are a lot of assumptions built into that which I think you're getting at to some extent, and it's totally true. You want to know how many people are dropping off at what stage of that question sequence? And can you front load? The ones that are answered more often more easily? And can you look at the language and say, am I using terms that my potential clients understand? Do I need to bring it down to a more basic level, you know, typically, you want to be writing in a third grade reading level, you know, for your website, maybe fifth grade, but that's really the most. So if you're using complex terms, even if you have a business audience, they don't have time to be doing that processing and sit there and wonder what the right answer is, it should be pretty intuitive. You don't need to impress the pants off of them and the chatbot, you want to get them to the point where they can connect with someone who will impress the pants off of them. So this is all about getting them to that next stage and talking to the right people. And that's why we built that funnel performance tracker. And no matter what playbook playbook you have running, you can see the funnel performance. So you might have a customer support ticket playbook, where they're telling you what issue they have. And you might have a new lead playbook, where someone is giving you information and explaining why they're looking for your services or product.
Steve Brown 22:03
When you say playbook, it reveals a lot of strategy and pre work that's been done to set these processes up for success. Do you guys help with that?
Maddy Martin 22:16
We do. And actually, we do it completely for free. There is a sort of team behind every live staff chat account that comes on board, we built the software. So we will install it on your website for you we understand a lot of businesses don't have administrators at their disposal it at their disposal. And that might be an extra cost, even if there's a consultant for that available to you. So we will not only set it up, we will interpret even your call handling instructions and bring those into chat for you. Or, you know, follow your guidance for how you'd like those chats to be handled. And you also get a dashboard to see all the chats that have come through and to look through those and see who needs follow up. If they're not immediately going into your CRM, but that account set up even the coloring and branding and tone, the greeting of the chat and the placement on your site and the timing of it. That is all something that we will set up for you.
Steve Brown 23:18
Well, here's another question. And yet, what is sales support? What is what sales support?
Maddy Martin 23:26
Oh, sales support? Yeah, I mean, there there are so much in that realm. We don't even have time but in the lens of Smith AI sales support, it's really getting to that sales, qualified lead marketing, qualified lead, maybe even right so you're getting that sales executive the appointment. And it's important that when you have leads through events like webinars, campaigns that you're running, maybe really qualified leads who have gone a bit quiet given the time of year seasonality, even on an ongoing basis, are you reaching out and following up with them? So one of the things that we did to extend the sales support at Smith AI is we we looked at the calls and we looked at sort of the conversation flow and a lot of people were asking us Can you send calls and emails while getting into email is a whole nother thing. It requires a lot of setup and it's a bit scary right to have someone else have your email domain and instead sending emails on your behalf. So we said how can we how can we get to the core The most important thing here and we added SMS and email follow up after the calls that we are handling either inbound or outbound. So if we are making a call to a webinar, registration lead, for example, they learn more about your business. They seem like a potential client marketing qualified to call them back and then to miss that call or to have a short conversation or now's not the right time or even a good conversation and they don't bite yet. Yes, you're probably in there. In email nurture flow, you may have us make some calls back, but an instant text message or email, or both, after that call, so that that person when they have their lunch break, or a moment after dinner, can just go back to it and say, I've thought about this, and I do want to move forward, I talked to my spouse, I talked to my business partner, I talked to my team, and I'm ready to move forward, you want to have that at their fingertips. And that's what it does. And with SMS, we find that the open rate is extremely high. And that can be a very good way to send a calendar link for the sales executive, that would be the next step in that sales process.
Steve Brown 25:43
Excellent. So when, when I think of AI, I think artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing, what all does that mean was Smith AI.
Maddy Martin 25:57
So we have a very strong engine that helps the receptionist do their work in the most efficient way as clearly to them as possible. And then as clearly throughout the workflow for our businesses as possible. So it means a number of things. One is the automatic sort of spam blocking and detection is critical, because as you can imagine, as a business ourselves, if we're not charging the clients for them, we want to prevent the receptionist from answering as many of those as possible. So that sort of detection is critical. Understanding, you know, what are the different dynamics at play when spammers or sales people call, and how to flag those not just leaving it up to interpretation for the receptionist, on the integration side, a lot of API OAuth sort of connections into other business software. And there's real time English translation on the chat. So that means that if I'm an English speaking receptionist, and you Steve, speak Spanish and you type in in Spanish, I can actually translate your chat for me in English and have my response in English go back to you in Spanish. So things like that, with the NLP natural language processing, critical to have incorporated, we have a lot of complex call routing, that that's very important as well, not really on the AI side, but on the complexity of the service. More on the AI side, we're looking at, how do we detect sort of the tone and sentiment, that's something that we're looking at and make sure that that the receptionist is, as is often the case with great customer service, matching the tone and the intent of that business? Right, we might have businesses who have, you know, very strict screening process, we might have other businesses that are looking for any client, you know, they're in this immediate new kickoff growth phase, where they're happy to have anyone contact their business, it's really important that we are able to detect effectively where that call needs to go and how fast or how stringent, you process it. So it's, it's always evolving, but I think that the English Spanish translation is a really cool example. Because it speaks to something that the, you know, it's it would be a huge business expense, to have, you know, language training, or only hire our bilingual receptionist when our business doesn't demand that necessarily, nor do our clients. But sometimes it does. So how do you account for that and not have a massive cost upfront? That's one of the ways deliver that responsiveness in the preferred language, deliver great customer experience and service in that way without overburdening our business to have all bilingual speakers when we don't need to. So that that's, I think, the perfect example.
Steve Brown 29:03
So I'm curious about what's like the most unique creative way that a business's used Smith AI?
Maddy Martin 29:13
That's a very good question. Um, I honestly would say that it's, it's almost not about the most unique creative way to use Smith AI, because the lowest hanging fruit is the most impactful. So think about what's going to have the greatest impact. But you know, we have people who are trying us out in all different ways all the time. And it might be using all the services sort of together. What we find are that the people who turn it into a routine, not just inbound it also outbound have the greatest success, and I guess it's creative because you do need to come up with that plan yourself and have it match your business goals. But for example, if we're answering all of these calls, and we are scheduling appointments, which Transferring calls, we're getting that business moving for you and immediately. So you might also have on a recurring basis,
are getting a call back, that is, at the same time every month, consistently making sure that they pay their bill that's really bringing that vendor that solution into your business in a way that is repeatable. It's beyond just that one person who's managing it, you have like a seat at the table. So I would say, you know, at the outset, the most important thing is not to get creative, but to do it, because there's so many people who have heard about answering services, and they have stalled. And they said, That's not the most important thing for my business, I need to spend money on marketing, I need to get my branding, I'm redoing my website, you should not do any of those things until you have a basic answering service to have a foundation that's strong to capture everything that you're pouring your heart and money and energy into. So that when you do all those things, you have the confidence that you spent your money wisely on those marketing channels and those platforms, because you're going to answer every time and you're going to get the most value out of that. It's what your competitors are not doing a lot of people, again, procrastinate with this. And it is the single biggest thing that you can do to win more business and to and to take it away potentially from competitors.
Steve Brown 31:26
Well, in my book, I talk about, you know, everyone's all about promoting doing post and the ads and things but they don't have the systems in place to harvest the activity they generate. So that's excellent, what you just shared.
Maddy Martin 31:42
And the human connection is critical. See if I mean, if you just have an email, nurture drip going, and if your clients are worth at least a few $100 to you, then it makes sense to have those calls go out to them, it makes sense to have a phone line that is answered 24 seven, because it is a small incremental cost that is month to month flexible for you add or take away as you please, to at least say, I know that when I call the conversion rate to appointment is let's say one out of 10. And it's if I can get them on the phone, it's one out of two or three who are going to move forward with me because my campaign is really well targeted. Right? And my sales team is excellent, I'm excellent on the phone. Great. You know that if you pay $5 for a call, or $7 for a call, right? And even if you have one move forward, it is immediately paying you back all those calls that don't get answered doesn't matter because you know, your conversion rate. So it's not just about making the most of your spend. It's also about looking at your numbers and honestly saying, if I'm running this campaign, how many new clients Am I getting right now? How many missed calls Do I have right now? And are you listening in on those calls and seeing how your team, whether that's your marketing person, social media paralegal yourself? Are they a little bit grumpy or impatient? Are they not hitting all their marks? One of the beautiful things about sort of a contractor or vendor solution is that we have to adhere to your instructions, or else we don't have a job anymore, right? So staff might have more leniency. But that also can create performance expectations and issues. So sometimes a contractor or vendor is really the way to go to make sure the execution is on par every time.
Steve Brown 33:37
You're listening or watching the ROI online podcast. Our guest today is Maddie Martin. She is the VP of Marketing at Smith AI. Maddie, what's one question I didn't ask that you wished I would ask so that you can answer.
Maddy Martin 33:53
So I think one of the questions that is never asked not just you didn't ask it but almost no one asked is what do I do with the unqualified leads? Most of the time people think I'm just going to you know, tell them to take a hike or thanks so much Have a good day. Right. But that's a huge missed opportunity. Because most businesses have a network, maybe their local businesses, you don't have to be retail, but people know about you. And they may know about you online. They may even write a review. If you're unhelpful at the end of that conversation and move them off to another place. It's not my business. Sorry, have a good day. Go back to your Google search results. That's not a good experience. And when we see client experience getting sort of the the forefront that the head of the table of the conversation, right? That's most important to clients today. It's responsiveness. It's also what happens during that conversation. If you tell them to take a hike, you risk a negative review and it's totally preventable. Do you have a list of other businesses that you recommend or you can refer clients to if you're not a good fit, if you know they're not a good fit? You should have other recommended businesses, it should not feel like a risk or a competitive disadvantage. And that is network building those businesses, if you don't already have a relationship with them, we'll want to build a relationship with you. And we'll send referrals back to you. Because here's the thing you already paid for that lead, you already paid for that call during that conversation, maximize it as best you can to monetize future business coming back to you either in the form of goodwill, maybe they leave a five star review, because you put them in touch with a business that they did end up hiring that that was thanks to you are thanks to your receptionist team. So be very mindful about how all callers are treated, and not just those who are qualified to move forward with an appointment or purchase.
Unknown Speaker 35:48
Steve Brown 35:48
That was excellent, Maddy. Thank you. Well, I've really enjoyed having you on ROI online podcast is how can folks connect with you? Or how should they reach out with you, too,
Maddy Martin 36:03
so visit smith.ai. That's our website. And you can actually chat with us there which we would love to chat with you. And you can call us at 6507 to 76484. can find us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, everywhere, online, Instagram, you name it. But we also would be happy to hear from you by email if you prefer just firstname.lastname@example.org we did create a special coupon Steve, for your listeners and viewers. So if you use the code ROI online, you will get $100 off your first month of service for both calls and
Steve Brown 36:40
chats. There you go. You're welcome. Thanks, Maddie.
Maddy Martin 36:45
Thanks for having me, Steve. It
Steve Brown 36:46
was great to be here. Alright, and that's a wrap
Transcribed by https://otter.ai