Three handy ‘bots’ you can use in your small business right now

“Set thermostat to 68 degrees.”

My friend was talking to Siri via his Apple watch. It was one of those early spring days when the direction the temperature is going to go is anyone’s guess. It turned out to be a warm day and he was getting hot in his upstairs office.

Instead of abandoning what he was working on, chugging down the stairs, and resetting the temperature the way his parents did, he told Siri to take care of it for him. He happens to have his home controlled by the Apple Home ecosystem, but the same thing could just as easily be accomplished via Amazon’s Alexa.

There are a wide variety of tasks that these “digital assistants” can perform for you, from sending messages, scheduling meetings, checking travel arrangements, and much more. Rob Marvin has listed 23 “must-have” Alexa skills in his article for PC Magazine. And while I’m not a big fan of multi-tasking in the usual sense of the term, many of the tasks performed by these bots are exceptions to my rule.

Here’s what I mean: You can off load a job to Siri or Alexa in a way that lets you avoid interrupting the task at hand. The example I started this with illustrates this point. Or perhaps you want to get in a good session on your stationary bicycle, you can use Siri or Alexa to respond to text messages or emails without having to stop exercising.


I’ve written about Hubspot’s GrowthBot before. It’s a bot that will answer a wide variety of marketing questions for you. I initially discovered it in the Slack environment. (Slack is a messaging app on steroids for businesses, in case you haven’t been introduced to it yet.)

However, I know that a lot of you are not using Slack, so I was pleased when GrowthBot became available via text message. I established a text message relationship with GrowthBot today and here’s what our initial conversation looked like:

The sample commands GrowthBot suggested to me, give you a great idea of how handy it can be to improve your marketing. You can use it to do some great competitive research, for example. Send the message “hello” to 617-202-2112 to get started.

Facebook messenger chat bot

Facebook is now allowing businesses to use chatbots in the Facebook Messenger system. This opens up a lot of possibilities.

The power of a chatbot in Facebook Messenger is that it “learns” from the responses people make. If you produce a weekly newsletter, for example, you could use a Facebook chatbot to send out a notice that it has been published and ask which articles individuals want to read. From that information, you could learn the individual preferences of your subscribers and better target future advertising materials.

(By the way, after originally prohibiting marketing and promotional messages, Facebook eased up on its rules. You’ll find good guidance on what’s allowed in this blog article written for Facebook developers. Be sure to check out the “comparison of messaging types” section.)

To get a Facebook chatbot into your tool box, you can hire someone to develop one for you, or you can go the DIY route, as detailed in this article by Ben Beck.

I’ve basically organized this article from the easiest to the most difficult to use in your small business. However, don’t let the technical hurdles involved in creating and implementing a Facebook Messenger chatbot scare you away. Take some time learning about them and perhaps subscribing to a few. The CNN chatbot is very highly rated and the Shop Spring chatbot is doing a great job with shoppers. Go to their Facebook pages and send them a message to get onboard.