Over the last few years many aspects of our lives have been transformed by various forms of artificial intelligence (AI): smart technology, voice search, chatbots etc.
As a rule, things that work well within the general public are then quickly adopted by marketers too. It is often perceived that this particular innovation is predominantly used within the B2C industry. However, we can assure you that AI in B2B is going to be just as important.
Currently many B2B businesses are quick to dismiss AI. But, we foresee this technology taking over the industry very soon – becoming an essential marketing strategy tool. The trend has already started to take off over the last few years: in 2018, 30% of B2B marketers used AI – which is an increase of 25% compared to 2017 – and the growth curve is not stopping there.
Adopting a human-centric approach
Recent research has shown that most B2B purchasing decisions, despite extensive information and easy access to it, are being made the same way as B2C purchases: emotionally. Due to this, 62% of B2B executives chose to rely on intuition when making a purchase rather than the facts they have gathered. This means that the general perception of a B2B consumer is changing: they’re no longer just receptacles in the buying process. They are now the ones who make key decisions, raise demands and expect a quality customer experience.
So, before we go further, a piece of advice for B2B marketers that call AI integration a ‘fad’: what’s working today may be forgotten tomorrow. Keep your eyes, ears and mind open for things change at the drop of a hat.
Getting to know AI technology
It is important to remember that AI in B2B marketing isn’t meant to replace the human team: it is a tool to make their jobs simpler and more time-efficient. For example, AI can be used to support and automate potentially time-consuming tasks, such as writing data summaries or updating reports. This will allow the human team to focus on more ROI-orientated tasks.
As previously mentioned, consumers are now expecting B2B companies’ customer experience to match that of B2C customers. This inevitably means improvements in personalisation and enhancements across all sales channels. Ultimately, this will aid salespeople in acquiring leads and new clients – with AI building a bridge between the sales team and the potential customers.
The AI technology has huge coverage and the capability to capture large amounts of data from various platforms: social media channels, contact databases, websites and more. Implementing AI in B2B marketing is likely to improve both the quality and quantity of leads captured, whilst saving staff time from manually completing this task.
For example, let’s look at a company that gets 10,000 leads in the span of a month. To determine which ones are likely to convert into sales would be impossible for the marketing teams to accurately predict: however, by implementing AI they would be able to identify prospects that have the highest conversion potential. This will then better position businesses to implement personalisation tactics – something AI can also help with.
AI will analyse the historical data of your leads, providing you with information on their digital engagement habits. AI will register when the leads are most likely to click through to your website, open emails or otherwise engage with your content. Personalisation of their experience with your brand will originate from meeting the customers on their own terms.
Yet, to have a successful AI system, a lot of data will be needed. Machine learning algorithms are based on data and human-led training. The latter is what allows the algorithm to become smarter and adjust their knowledge based on human input. That said, the sooner you begin using AI in B2B marketing, the sooner you will begin generating the required critical mass of data.
How AI will support marketing teams
With all that’s said above in mind, it’s safe to say that AI marketing products can act as a force multiplier. Most marketing departments are usually constrained by either their budget, time, manpower or all of them combined. Correct implementation of AI will sort most of those issues out as it’s essentially multiple non-physical marketers that will support the existing team with accurate and actionable insights. And you don’t have to pay them.
In other words, AI can help reduce overhead costs, time spent in training and hiring new staff, and replace additional workforce required. Although, this does not mean AI will replace the human workforce completely. For instance, while AI cannot take over strategising and client approach, it can support strategists, account managers and project managers.
It is predicted that in the upcoming years, the efficiency of AI in B2B marketing will spread even further. We know that most marketing strategies require time and manual efforts, including SEO keyword strategies, backlink creation and competitor insights. In the future, AI could help digital marketers to deal with these: improving these processes by offering a more accurate interpretation of data patterns than a human ever could. We hope and believe that most tedious SEO tasks will be more automated by the AI in the near future.
There are many benefits marketers expect from AI in B2B marketing, which DemandMetrics discovered by in a recent survey. These are the benefits marketers expect from AI:
- Higher quality leads/opportunities — 67%
- Better engagement with prospects and customers — 56%
- A better understanding of buyer intent — 52%
- Higher conversion rates — 50%
- More efficient ad spend — 40%
- Pipeline acceleration — 38%
- Better omnichannel attribution — 27%
Utilising chatbot technology
The most popular AI feature of today is live chat. Previously providing this type of functionality required a 24/7 representative to answer questions manually. However, now these tasks can be automated using chatbots.
An AI system that runs a chatbot is taught to filter out and answer simple questions before handing off more complicated queries to a human. Swiftly, the AI manned customer support desks are getting smarter too, letting the customers have the one thing they crave: a relentless 24/7 customer support.
Chatbots are already widely used and now have a handful of functions they fulfil, including:
- Resolving complaints or problems
- Finding a human agent
- Making a reservation
- Paying bills
- Purchasing a product
- Getting detailed answers to complex questions
- 24-hour customer service support
Similarly to how AI contributes to lead generation and analysis but doesn’t replace the human-touch, chatbots are not there to replace the actual customer support. They are as a tool to be used by the sales team. A good way of thinking of it is comparing it to a concierge: the front-of-house for website visitors.
Anyhow, chatbots should not be used as a push-marketing tool with the purpose of promoting the prospects. We recommend keeping it as a system to carry out simple interactions. Chatbots biggest benefit, is their ability to simplify the user journey. The interaction between human and machine needs to be natural, efficient and rewarding. They include options to speed up customer journey, break up information and set an automatic redirect to human support when things get out of the bot’s reach.
Overall, in the era when AI is steadily integrating into our lives, it’d be a fatal mistake to exclude it out of B2B marketing. While the concept is still young, more and more companies are experimenting with it and certain trends are emerging. AI could revolutionise B2B marketing very soon – it is better to embrace it now and be ahead of the curve, or you may find yourself very quickly fall behind your competitors.
Want to know more about how AI technology can support your B2B Sales and Marketing Strategy? Get in touch with us today.