Over the last few years, B2B marketers have begun turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to improve the effectiveness of their campaigns and accelerate business growth. Research shows that 80% of B2B marketing executives believe that AI will revolutionize the field in the next five years. However, only 10% report using AI applications today. The lag in adoption is a missed opportunity.
Improved lead generation has been a key focus of the buzz around AI, but it's only the tip of the iceberg for B2B companies. AI-driven solutions can be a boon throughout the marketing and sales lifecycle, distilling huge swaths of data into actionable insights. AI's power to predict consumer behavior and automate aspects of the buyer's journey is helping B2B marketers make smarter decisions and improve efficiencies like never before.
While that can seem frightening for marketers, there’s no need to worry about robots taking their jobs. AI is actually helping sales and marketing teams do what they do best: undertake creative work and relationship-building.
Here are five ways that AI is taking B2B marketing to the next level:
1. Enabling Predictive Lead Scoring
The AI application B2B marketers have focused on most so far is lead scoring. That’s largely because technology vendors have invested heavily in this area and it aligns well with dominant B2B marketing and sales models. Now that companies have vast amounts of data about the behavior of existing leads and prospects, machine learning algorithms can harness that information to predict the best leads and most important accounts. These insights can help marketers and sales representatives prioritize the most promising accounts and identify hot prospects not yet in the pipeline. Predictive lead scoring helps sales reps hit their numbers and close more deals, particularly on teams that focus on account-based marketing. And, when hot leads are mapped to the right accounts in their CRM, both marketing and sales win.
2. Leveraging Engagement Insights For Targeted Content
Traditionally, B2B marketers have targeted potential customers based on attributes like title, location and company. AI can help them go further by going after prospects not only based on who they are, but also what they do. Marketers can gather behavioral insights, including what sites people visit, what content they view and whether they are engaging frequently. That intelligence can be used to deliver a personalized customer experience than has never been possible—and at scale. Marketers can now tap into the power of AI to generate landing pages or digital ads that are hyper-targeted to resonate with a prospect at a particular time. Content can even be customized for different people within the same account based on the role they play in deals.
3. Powering Analytics For More Effective Campaigns
AI can also help marketers learn from the campaigns they're running today to fuel better campaigns in the future. Whereas marketers have traditionally had to analyze consumer data manually and make educated guesses about the future, AI helps them rapidly and automatically draw insights from massive amounts of data to make predictions about the future. For example, AI can help predict which content will elicit the most engagement with a particular audience and which campaigns will drive the most interest and closed deals. By scouring reams of data to understand who prospects are and what types of content they engage with, AI tools can help marketers predict which segments and strategies to pursue next. They can even boost the effectiveness of an ongoing campaign by highlighting underperforming content and more compelling alternatives.
4. Fueling The Power Of Automation
Data-driven B2B companies are awash in terabytes of information about their customers from CRM systems and third-party sources, rendering them data-rich, but insights-poor. At the same time, it can be confusing for marketers to wade through the more than 5,000 marketing technology products on the market. AI tools combine and then distill that data into insights that help marketers form a complete picture of the prospects that they should engage with. These insights are the foundation of automating the customer journey. If a prospect clicked on a social media ad, holds a particular role at a given company and has consumed certain content previously, that intelligence can be used to automatically serve up content the lead is likely to engage with, such as a webinar or demo offer. As more data flows in, the process gets smarter over time. Far from encroaching on marketers' jobs, automation frees them to concentrate on building exceptional creative.
5. Arming Sales Teams With Relevant, Actionable Insights
Like any technology, marketing automation has its limits. Typically, only a sales rep having a one-on-one conversation can close deals. AI allows marketing teams to provide colleagues in sales with valuable insights about prospects across the sales cycle. Marketers can inform sales colleagues about which accounts best fit their ideal customer profile, provide context about organizational and industry dynamics, identify decision makers and key prospects, and share information about levels of engagement. This information can help sales reps target the right accounts, focus on messages that resonate and build personalized relationships. These interactions also help build up trust between sales and marketing, aligning the teams in a way that wouldn't be possible with brute force. Becoming the marketing department that sales teams love is a win-win for business growth.
B2B marketers who have hesitated to adopt AI solutions cite challenges integrating them with existing technologies, training employees and understanding results. But investing in AI is worth the effort. Data shows that B2B marketers who are embracing AI are improving efficiency and delivering unparalleled personalization throughout the customer journey. And as we know, the data doesn’t lie.
Meredith Brown is a Senior Director of Product Management with Salesforce Pardot. She focuses on building product solutions that help B2B Marketers find and nurture more leads, close deals, and maximize marketing ROI.