There is a tendency to talk about artificial intelligence in the future tense. ‘AI will change that.’ ‘One day, AI will do this’. The reality though is that the future is here. Businesses that are ahead of the curve are already harnessing the power of artificial intelligence. It may seem like a nascent technology, but artificial intelligence has been helping industry leaders steal a march on the competition for several years now, honing their marketing efforts and boosting their conversions within the B2B sector.
While the future of artificial intelligence is undoubtedly exciting, there’s more than enough excitement and profit to be had in the present, where the fledgling technology has already proven its worth. There are a number of ways in which AI is transforming B2B marketing, and not just for corporations. Mass disruption is a precursor to mass adoption, as the tools driving AI become increasingly affordable, making it more accessible to smaller enterprises. If you’re planning to experiment with artificial intelligence ‘when the time is right’, don’t linger too long. Otherwise, you could find yourself left in the starting stalls while the competition is nimbly leaping over the first fence.
Marketing Becomes Increasingly Personalised
Big data isn’t just about gaining an insight into your customers and their behaviour – it’s also about using those insights to personalise your marketing messages. With artificial intelligence, you no longer need to target a specific demographic or sector: now you can target entities on a business by business basis. By personalising the products and services you offer, not only are you going to improve your conversion rates, but you’re doing prospective clients a favour by showing marketing messages that they are likely to respond favourably too.
Hyper targeted advertising is no longer the preserve of dystopian movies like Minority Report. It’s becoming a reality, but thankfully one that isn’t as grim as Hollywood would have you believe. Businesses have been using segmentation for years to improve their email marketing, and with AI driving smarter sales intelligence, personalised marketing will become the norm, a trend that is true of both B2C and B2B.
Lead Generation is More Efficient
There is more to B2B marketing than nurturing existing clients. For your business to grow, you need to generate new leads. Here, artificial intelligence is helping to refine the process, separating the wheat from the chaff and allowing businesses to zero in on those leads that have the potential to convert well. If big data is the raw information, AI is the search tool that sifts through it to retrieve items of value. Analytical software powered by AI can pinpoint leads that are likely to have a high chance of being converted. What’s more, multiple data sources can be combined, allowing business intelligence to be pooled and for actionable insights to be drawn from the resultant data. A study by the Aberdeen Group has shown that improved lead generation is the primary reason why business are investing in AI, with 61% of respondents citing this as their goal. Although the technology is already in place to provide AI-driven lead generation, one area in which there is still scope for improvement is integration. In the next three years, AI will come to be seen as less of an exotic option and more of a practical one, and that’s thanks in no small part to better integration. Businesses are understandably reluctant to invest in any technology that will render their existing systems obsolete. That’s why, for AI to enjoy widespread adoption, it needs to be compatible with existing business platforms.
After growing traffic, generating leads, boosting conversions and driving sales – all with the aid of artificial intelligence – where do you go next? Well, you plug all that data back in and use it to optimise your marketing efforts. AI excels at the sort of big numbers and sprawling data sets that would have humans scratching their heads. If you’re using AI to generate business, it stands to reason that you’ll want to use the same technology to analyse the outcome. The more accurately you can measure results, the easier it will be to discern what’s worked and what hasn’t before doubling down on your efforts that have borne fruit.
Machine-Managed Sales and Marketing
There are many products that a business wouldn’t dream of buying without first speaking to a member of that company’s sales team. Artificial intelligence, in fact, is a prime example. Before investing in an AI-driven system to enhance your business marketing, you’re going to have a lot of questions to field. With other B2B transactions however; industrial products, say, or office supplies, the purchasing process requires less thought. Indeed, much of the time purchasing managers are only interested in two things: price and delivery time. These are the sort of transactions that are becoming increasingly automated, and it is here that AI can not only kickstart the process, but complete it without the need for human intervention whatsoever.
According to a Gartner Customer 360 Summit survey, by 2020 customers will conduct 85% of their interactions with an enterprise without human involvement. What’s more, three out of four B2B buyers claim to find buying from a website more convenient than from a salesperson. Even after deciding that they will go ahead with the purchase, 90% of those surveyed would rather complete the process online. Coupled with the increased use of automated bots to facilitate purchases through online platforms, it’s easy to see how AI can help automate the entire process from start to finish. That’s the beauty of machine learning: the sooner you can implement the system, the sooner the system can start improving itself. With every lead you generate and sale you complete, more valuable data is added into the mix and your marketing becomes smarter. The result? Greater efficiency, while the competition grow smaller in your rear view mirror.
At present, many organisations don’t fully understand how artificial intelligence works and how it could aid their marketing efforts. According to a recent survey from Demandbase, who spoke to 500 B2B marketing executives, only 26% of respondents were confident about how AI works in relation to business marketing. There is one phrase which all business leaders understand however: reduced overheads. CEOs might not be fluent with concepts such as machine learning and acronyms such as SI and ABM, but they know a cost saving when they see one.
It may prove that the breakthrough that sees AI enter the mainstream isn’t its ability to enhance, but rather its potential to reduce. According to one report, companies that have successfully introduced some form of AI have experienced cost reductions of between 40 and 60%. AI is ideal for dealing with the sort of administrative tasks that are repetitive and yet a necessary part of the marketing process. With machines taking care of the day-to-day stuff, humans are freed to focus on their core strengths, closing deals and strengthening ties with new and existing clients.
As author and thought leader Jamie Notter put it, “Innovation is change that unlocks new value”. What new value could you unlock by incorporating AI into your marketing efforts? The future is already here. All you have to do is figure out the best way to use it to your advantage.