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A Q&A WITH CHATBOT ENTREPRENEUR, DORNE MCLOUGHLIN

Tuesday 5th March 2019

In this Q&A we hear from entrepreneur Dorne on her career path, chat bots and more!

Dorne is the MD | Founder of Ribbit Media Solutions. Her agency specialises in Facebook & Instagram Advertising with Messenger Chatbot & Mobile Wallet Loyalty Solutions.

In 2016 Dorne transitioned her training business into an agency model, but Ribbit actually launched in August 2015. It was during the first year in business that Dorne trained over 300 business owners in her ‘Facebook for Business' Workshops in her local town of Halifax.

Dorne has also spoken on stage to large audiences of up to 1500 people. She was invited by one of the worlds leading Chatbot Software companies to speak on stage at their annual conference in Austin, Texas in 2018 about Messenger Marketing with Chatbots.




Can you tell us about your career path so far Dorne?


From as young as I can remember I was always thinking of ways to make money. At 9 yrs old I was picking apples and selling them to our neighbours. I got a weekend job as soon as I was old enough at 13, and by the time I left school in 1990 at 15, I was working full-time as an office junior for a German hydraulics company. I still worked my part-time job at the weekend and also worked in a restaurant a few times a week too. I loved having my own money! 

My Entrepreneurial journey didn’t start until I turned 40, although I’m certain that my interesting career along the way is what’s helped push me towards life as a business owner.

I was blessed to have a wonderful first boss, who encouraged me to take as many evening classes as I could to up-skill, which the company paid for. I soon became obsessed with spreadsheets and loved figuring out formulas to get to the end result. Funnily enough, in all of my roles up to being 40, I was always labelled ‘the spreadsheet queen’. 

After 3yrs I left my role at the hydraulics company and this is where the varied career path kicked-in. From being a PA to company Directors/M.D's, working as a Medical Recruitment Consultant, to being an Office Manager - and a few other roles in between. 

I had a burning desire to get in the world of Field Sales. I knew if someone gave me the chance then I could do it. I did get the chance in 2004, and my first role was for a hygiene company, not my ideal role, but it was the entry I needed into the world of field sales. After 12-mths of hitting targets, I moved to a National Soft Drinks company, where I stayed for 5yrs. During this time I got married and had two children, 18-mths apart, Grace & Reuben.

My new goal was now Medical Sales. I didn’t have a degree, or a nursing background, which most employers asked for, but now I had a proven sales record so it opened up a few more doors. The first role I applied for I got, after 3 interviews in Northampton, which was a BDM role covering the North of England for a Drapes & Gown company. Before I knew it I was carrying out clinical trials in hospital theatres dressed in scrubs and watching major operations being performed or sitting in meetings negotiating multi-million pound NHS Supply Chain contracts with the Heads of Procurement for various NHS Trusts. Very surreal indeed! 

With two young children, covering the North of England really started to take its toll. I was either setting off on a 200-300 mile round trip at 5 am to then get back for the children in an after-school club, or I was dropping them off at 8.45am and then driving hundreds of miles to my appointments and not getting home until late.

I’m not one to back down, but I knew that things had to change and my priority was to make sure my children and family came first. I needed something that would fit around my family, but I didn’t want to lose my own identity of who I was either and what made me happy. I was fortunate enough to go back to my soft drinks role with a smaller geographical area. However, having my own business was going to be the only solution for me to be there for my family, whilst keeping me challenged in the process, which is exactly what I did!


You launched Ribbit Media in 2015, can you tell us how the idea came to life?


Well, Ribbit Media wasn’t an idea that I’d been working on, it came to life because my back was against the wall and I needed to act fast!

In 2014 I came across an online business opportunity whilst I was still working full-time, which seemed like the perfect solution to fit around my family. To cut a long story short I invested nearly £30k (not all at once, it was incremental over 9-mths) and I didn’t see the ROI that I was expecting. I took a major risk, which all went on credit cards. I could say that “it didn’t pay off” - but the risk paid off more than I could ever have realised at the time. 

I’m a massive believer that everything happens for a reason, and this business model just wasn’t my destiny and to be honest, I’m so grateful for it not working out. 


What I’d gained in the process though was some invaluable skills and it opened up this whole new world of digital marketing. I spent every waking hour on my ‘side-business’ - from branding to building sales funnels, creating my own website, blogging, video creation/editing, YouTube Advertising, Facebook Advertising -  which at the time I was spending approx. £250 per day on YT & FB Ads. I did EVERYTHING and more.

I encountered many burnout moments along the way, but failure wasn’t an option! In 2015 my boss found out about my ‘side-business’ and I had a choice to give it up and stay, or leave? I’d invested too much time and money to turn back, so I made the choice to leave. He was the best boss I’ve ever had, so there were certainly lots of tears and many moments of “what have I done” as I handed back my company car and gave up my secure monthly salary, and bonuses.

With no job, and only a small amount of money coming in from the online business, I knew that I now had to ditch the online business and put my skills to better use. I literally came up with Ribbit Media overnight. I created my branding, bought a domain name, built a website, had some business cards made and within a few weeks I was out networking as the owner of Ribbit Media.

I got my first client pretty much straight away and they’re still a Ribbit Media client nearly 4yrs on. I initially decided to focus on training. I wanted to help local business owners really understand Facebook, as after many conversations with business owners I found that most weren’t using their Business Page ‘properly’ or even at all - so that’s what I did. During the first year, I taught over 300 business owners on Facebook for Business in small workshops in my local town. I’d spoken on stage at Bolton Macron Stadium to nearly 1,500 business owners and also created an online course in 2016.

Although I loved training, I decided in 2017 to transition into the digital agency model, with clients now from Australia, US and UK.

So, that’s how Ribbit Media came to life! 

Can you tell us what initially sparked your interest in Chatbots?


I was part of the volunteer team at Social Media Marketing World in San Diego, early 2017. This is where I first heard any real ‘buzz’ about Facebook Messenger Chatbots.

On the flight home, my gut told me to dive in and figure out how to build them so that I could offer this as another service for our clients. Since then I’ve built bots for lots of businesses in Australia, the US and of course the UK. 

At the time, the two main contenders with an API integration into Facebook Messenger were Chatfuel and ManyChat, so I tested both for pros & cons and knew that ManyChat was the one for Ribbit Media and our clients.

Since then Ribbit has become a ManyChat Agency Partner and I’m listed on their preferred agency list as a Messenger Marketing Expert. At this moment in time (March 2019) Ribbit is currently 1 of 33 businesses in the World to be listed on their website, and only 1 of 2 in the UK. Something I’m incredibly proud of. 


(Interview with ManyChat, 2018)

What type of Chatbots have you built?


I’ve worked on some really exciting chatbot projects since 2017.

The first bot build project that I ever worked on was for a Real Estate client in Australia. I was running their Facebook Ads, so I took their current sales funnel and built it into a bot. 

There were some limitations at the time, as back in 2017 the bot software didn’t allow us to pull in any API’s keys, which meant we couldn’t connect the bot to any 3rd party software, so I wasn’t able to get too clever at that time. Plus, I was starting out myself in this whole new world of messenger chatbots and things have massively progressed since those early days.

The results from this first chatbot build blew us all away. I’d built the bot to segment the leads through a qualifying process and we were able to increase booking conversions, but we were amazed to see that it took their CPL (cost per lead) for their Facebook Ads from $10-$25 with the traditional sales funnel to $0.90-$1.50 with the bot.

I was hooked, and since then I’ve built bots for Medi Spas, Restaurants, Wine Bars, Energy Companies, Personal Brands, Personal Trainers, etc. We have some eCommerce projects that we’re currently working on too.


We started working with Babyballet, a dance school franchise, in January 2018 and since then we’ve built lots of bots for their head office, all with different requirements and end goals. I was then asked to build a bot for their franchisees and launch it at their June 2018 annual conference. After the event we on-boarded 52 Babyballet  Franchisees, who all have their very own messenger chatbot too.

It’s important for businesses to know that a chatbot is NOT a ‘set and forget’ solution or a replacement for Customer Service. We massively emphasis to our clients the importance of still having meaningful conversations with their prospects and customers.


You mention that you have a Mobile Wallet Solution as part of your Ribbit Media services, what is it and how are you using this for your clients?


Most people probably know Mobile Wallet as an App where they store their credit or debit card and make transactions using their mobile device, rather than paying with their physical card. In fact, I hardly ever use my debit card these days, 95% of the time I just use my phone.

Big brands such as Delta, Starbucks, Marriot, Booking.com and many more also have a Mobile Wallet solution where their customers can store flight tickets, event tickets, customer reward cards, etc. 

I’m always keeping my eye on what’s new in the world of tech and digital marketing, so in April 2018 I spent nearly 4-months learning the ins-and-outs of Mobile Wallet and how it integrates with Messenger Chatbots so that I could introduce this as a Ribbit Media service to complement what we already offer. We wanted to give our clients a customer loyalty/retention solution, that didn’t involve a physical card or having to have their own App.

We already had the data to prove that people love using messaging apps, so our Mobile Wallet Loyalty Program starts the customer journey in Facebook Messenger and the bot then helps them to download their own unique Loyalty Pass to their Mobile Wallet, with their first offer ready for them to redeem in store. 

One of our more recent messenger bot & mobile wallet campaign launches was for a restaurant client in January 2019. They had 1,698 in-store redemptions, which generated £77,244 in sales. They even extended their January offer for an additional week into February. As you can imagine, we had a very happy client!

With multiple touch-points, from Facebook Messenger to CRM, to lock-screen notifications to their mobile device and also GPS marketing, it means our clients are able to stay top-of-mind with their customers and they’re also not putting all their eggs in one basket. Meaning, we don’t just rely on Facebook as ONE data-point collection channel, we build a database that our clients then own. This asset is incredibly valuable and important for any business.


You’re a regular public speaker and recently spoke at the Largest chatbot marketing conference in the world to over 1,000 agency owners, in Texas! How did you get into public speaking?


I never really think of myself as ‘getting into public speaking’ as it was never a goal of mine, it just happened. I tend to get asked to talk at events because of the results I’ve got for our clients or from pieces of training that I have done in smaller groups, offline and online - I don’t put myself forward for these things. 

My first public speaking engagement was to approx. 90 people in 2016 where I spoke about Facebook Business Pages. The next was to an audience of 150 and then I was invited back to speak at their annual conference about Facebook Video Marketing, which at the time I didn’t realise the audience size was going to be nearly 1,500. However, it was an amazing experience and I loved every minute. I did find it quite amusing when I found myself walking on stage to Dolly Parton, 9 to 5 though - especially as I worked so hard to leave my 9 to 5 (haha).

When I received an email from ManyChat in June 2018 asking if I’d be a speaker at their very first annual conferences in Texas, my first reaction was shock, then excitement, then fear started kicking in…so I replied back with a YES within minutes before I could talk myself out of it.  



Talking on stage to over 1,000 marketers was certainly a daunting thought. However, I’d been building bots for over 18-mths at this stage and had lots of great case studies and experience that would help the audience, so I knew I could help others by sharing how I’d built and on-boarded 52 x bots for franchises. It was the most amazing experience and the feedback afterwards was wonderful. I did walk on this time to Diana Ross, I’m Coming Out, but secretly (whilst in the green room) I had my earphones in listening to DMX ‘X Gonna Give It To Ya’ - I needed to get myself pumped up and ready!


What would you say are the main challenges facing growing digital businesses at the moment?


I’d say that one of the biggest challenges for digital businesses is keeping up with current digital marketing trends. 

If you find that you’re not getting the same great results for your clients, then it’s important to review ‘why’ so that you and your team can do something about it, otherwise, you stand to lose them to your competitors.

We’re all busy, but it’s vitally important as a digital service business to stay ahead of the curve and move your business-services forward in our rapidly evolving digital world so that you’re able to continuously serve your clients and generate great results for them.

You can educate yourself and/or your team with online courses, invest in expert in-house training, use freelancers/contractors or collaborate on projects with experts. Just don’t stand still, as you’ll get left behind!



Do you feel you have had to overcome any particular barriers as a female leader in tech? If so, how did you overcome these?


Fortunately, I’ve not encountered any situations where me being a female has created any barriers. 

I have, however, been in a few situations at local networking events where people have reacted to me differently once I’ve told them what I do, especially if I end up getting into in-depth conversations about the tech stuff that we do for our clients. I’m not sure what they thought I did before that, but their demeanour tends to change and they seem more receptive to me - which I find quite amusing.

Thankfully, more and more women are rising up in the world of tech and digital agencies, which I think is wonderful to see. 


For me, it’s about always learning - up-skilling and never standing still. My diary never has appointments booked in for a Monday, unless it’s something really urgent. I use this day for ‘Personal Development’ - whether it’s new tech I want to dive in to, looking at marketing trends, researching up-and-coming tech innovations or simply developing my mindset with a good book. 


What would your advice be to other entrepreneurs looking to get their idea off the ground?


Don’t overthink it, there will NEVER be a perfect time, so just get started! 

I do believe that our lives are mapped out for us and me being 40 clearly was the right time to embark upon my entrepreneurial journey. Pumping nearly £30k into learning how to build an online business was a crazy risk, and believe me, I had many sleepless nights and bouts of debilitating anxiety during those first few years.

Those were the hardest times of my life, especially the first 6-months, as I was having treatment for skin cancer at this point too, as well as working in my full-time job. But, persistence and perseverance do pay off and I had to develop the strongest mindset to get me through those times. Your business is only 20% of what you do, 80% is your mindset! 

Life is not ‘a given’. We live each day at a time and I absolutely urge you to not waste any more time “thinking” about your idea or wondering if it will work. Take the ‘calculated’ risks you need and forge ahead!

Just remember, “difficult roads, lead to beautiful destinations” Don’t let fear or worry hold you back from reaching your own beautiful destination. 

I also encourage you to grab a copy of Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, the Founder of Nike. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. Perhaps after reading it, you’ll JUST DO IT.


What’s next for Ribbit Media in 2019?


We have some very exciting projects on the go right now at Ribbit. 

One of them is a brand new development with a current ‘service-based’ client. We will be integrating their Shopify online store with Messenger Bots & Mobile Wallet Loyalty. They want to offer their 32,000 existing members, and also new members, with a VIP Membership. They will be incentivised with discounts and offers to purchase products from their online store, as opposed to elsewhere. For each purchase, they’ll receive loyalty points directly to their Mobile Wallet pass and unlock rewards along the way, as well as receiving other VIP perks. 

We’re also working on another Shopify + chatbot + mobile wallet build, but this one is for a female pleasure product. Not a client project to talk to your parents about over dinner (haha)!

Also, by the end of March 2019, we’ll be ready to launch a new way to download the Loyalty Pass from Messenger to Mobile Wallet. What we have right now is quick, but this new integration means fewer steps and faster downloads speeds from 3 seconds! These new changes will be huge, as we understand the importance of speed for consumers, which is why will we always be asking ourselves “what can we do to make this even better”?

As we move forward in 2019 we see lots of development and growth around our Messenger Chatbot and Mobile Wallet Loyalty Program service, with our Facebook Ad Service.

WhatsApp is something else that I’m keeping a very close eye on too. Facebook owns WhatsApp and we know that they have opened their API for bots, which is in beta right now - but we’ll certainly be looking at this when it becomes available to us. 

For most of 2017 and 2018 I’ve been behind the scenes of Ribbit, as that’s where I needed to be, but I certainly hope to be out and about attending more local events in West Yorkshire throughout 2019 and getting to meet some amazing people and forge some great relationships, and simply geeking out on all things tech and digital marketing!



Something that I'm incredibly passionate about is 'giving back' and working with the Candlelighters Children's Cancer Charity. It's a charity that's very dear to my heart and I've done a Half Marathon & 2 Marathons, Manchester & London, and raised over £4,000 for them - but I'd now like to do something that doesn't involve me running 26 miles! So, I'll be working on things such as 'giving them my time' to help their marketing team with a chatbot, to working on 'profit share' projects. 

We're the Founders of the Leeds VIP Pass, which is a messenger chatbot & digital mobile wallet advertising solution for the businesses of Leeds. This will be launching later in the year too and the Candlelighters are our nominated charitable partner. 

To find out more about Ribbit, head over to the website at  www.ribbitmediasolutions.com

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