There’s a certain anonymity behind Messenger Marketing that — for many users — is freeing, explains Natasha Takahashi, chief marketing officer and co-founder of School of Bots, a chatbot education company that uses ManyChat as its primary tool for teaching about and building Facebook Messenger chatbots. When used correctly, she claims, Messenger and Chat Marketing is a powerful tool that can elicit a certain vulnerability in customers that would otherwise be hidden in a normal face-to-face conversation.
“From a business side, often times chatbots don’t provide much value to users because it’s a one-sided conversation in which the business is too involved in thinking, What are we gonna say next? rather than thinking about the user,” Takahashi says. “But if done correctly, as a two-sided conversation, then the user feels the ability to be more vulnerable, regardless of what the chatbot is selling. They can share more or do more when they feel they’re not being judged, and are ultimately more likely to buy.”
With a deep understanding of this user behavior is perhaps why Takahashi is so good at what she does. Thriving in anonymity, the chatbot expert was able to grow her career in the Messenger Marketing realm in a short period of time at a fairly young age, all while traveling the globe. In roughly three years Takahashi, along with her business partner and boyfriend Kyle Willis, went from charging a handful of clients a few hundred dollars a month, to charging a minimum of $5,000 a month to work with their agency, and closing $20,000+ consulting deals solely focused on chatbot strategy and implementation.
And the most impressive thing of all is that Takahashi dipped her toe into the Messenger Marketing space purely on a whim, as a freshman in college. With a fair amount of tech start-up marketing experience already under her belt, the agency-owner always imagined herself the proud CEO of several start-ups. But like most life paths, hers began to diverge.
“I thought I was always going to be a tech start-up CEO and live in this crazy disruptive world,” she says. “But the more I experienced on the digital marketing side I realized that it was a [transferable] skill that, regardless of what I did in the future, could be applied to any role.”
Dedicated to the idea that marketing was the career path for her, Takahashi tuned into Facebook’s F8 conference in 2016 with the goal of kickstarting her own Facebook ads agency. Or so she thought.
“Starting a Facebook ads agency was the hot thing to do back then, and agencies are kind of the perfect business model, where you can start hands on and get experience quickly,” she explains. “There is no start-up cost, you don’t need a storefront, and my goal was to do the whole digital nomad thing.” But, as it turns out, Facebook ads were not Takahashi’s thing. Despite this minor set-back, however, the then 18 year old latched onto the idea of Messenger Marketing, a new concept that piqued her interest while streaming the F8 conference.
Armed with only a few thousand dollars in her savings account and a one-way ticket to Hong Kong, Takahashi unenrolled from school, ditching her multi-degree business program, and pivoted to start her chatbot agency (Ineffable Marketing) with Willis.
“My boyfriend and I started this business when people really didn’t know what Chat Marketing was,” she says. “Even now they still don’t really know what it is. We totally went out on a limb and told each other: ‘Maybe this will work, and if it doesn’t, we are both confident human beings and can always get another job.’ ”
The duo dove head first into the unknown-world of Messenger Marketing, keeping their age, relationship, and nomadic lifestyle underwraps from their clients, in an attempt to be taken more seriously from the get go. And it worked. None of their clients knew that two college-aged kids traveling the world were whipping out chatbots left and right while building successful marketing campaigns for clients across the globe.
In an incredible display of savvy know-how and creativity, Takahashi and Willis built countless bots on ManyChat’s platform while living in 24 different apartments, in 7 different countries, in a whopping year and a half.
“We went all over—Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, Australia, Mexico—and scaled to over $350,000 a year overall at that time,” she proudly states. “We built over 100 chatbots across 30 different niche industries.” And though they were killing it in the bot game, Takahashi and Willis quickly saw a huge need for education within the space.
While there were some tutorials available online, Takahashi noticed that information quickly went out-of-date and other agencies weren’t offering any guidance in growing client profits. Coupled with the misconception that bots were for customer support services or internal business use only, companies weren’t getting the full value of their marketing tools.
So, Takahashi pivoted again. Together with Willis, she co-created School of Bots, launching it as an online course catered towards successful marketing agencies looking to learn how to generate revenue for businesses, cut costs, and sell chatbots.
“We launched it as a course and it got quite a bit of traction, though at the time we didn’t have the credibility or PR brand recognition,” Takahashi says of School of Bots.
About six months after they launched the course (and upon returning home to the states), the couple started their own grassroots marketing campaign and, from that point on, their education platform took off.
“We found people really had a need for this,” she says of the platform. “We have a Facebook group with over 9,000 members, and to date I’ve spoken on over 70 podcasts and stages about chatbot strategies and agency growth.” Not to mention their clients now rack up an average of at least $10 million of revenue a year and spend over $200,000 a month on Facebook advertising. And no one is more surprised at School of Bots success than Takahashi.
“It’s insane considering this wasn’t even a career path three or four years ago,” she says. “It’s been an incredible journey to bring clients along and share what we do at our agency. Literally, that’s what we do. We document everything and share all of the results with our clients,” an aspect that wouldn’t be possible without ManyChat.
“We use ManyChat for everything: for our clients, for our own chat bots, for teaching purposes,” she says. “ManyChat has always had a marketing focus, which is super important because it allows you to track every single thing that happens in your campaign.” A unique quality that Takahashi says you won’t find in many other platforms. “Why I think ManyChat is so successful is because of its user-first approach and how it utilizes user feedback to implement change.”
Since returning home and launching School of Bots, however, Takahashi has pivoted once again, letting go of most of her clients to focus on some seriously big fish (aka informational product companies) such as Mindvalley, a personal-growth platform that grosses over $100 million annually.
Honing in on and representing clients in the informational product world, as well as scaling School of Bots at a rate like never before, are Takahashi’s next goals. That, and marrying her best friend and business partner Willis — they got engaged in December!
Despite their initial hesitation of sharing their age and relationship with their Ineffable Marketing and School of Bots clients and students, Takahashi and Willis’ rapid rise and Messenger Marketing success only proves that, for this power couple, age is just a number.
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