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minute read
July 18, 2017

Artificial Intelligence: A Look Ahead at Its Impact on Sales & Marketing

Written by
Noel Hooban

How artificial intelligence will impact marketing is a hot topic. Technology continues to drive the evolution of marketing in the B2B sector.

Currently, expansion of artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the biggest technological events expected to provide breakthrough capabilities for B2B marketers and sales teams.

The winner in all of this – I hope – will be the customer.

But let’s start with the very basics.

Artificial intelligence, like marketing, is all about variables.

It is about reaching a decision and the different paths available during that journey.

And what do we need to make those decisions? Data.

So, let me use the Dun & Bradstreet 2017 Marketing Data Report to demonstrate what I mean.

D&B analysed 6 billion records and surveyed 400 B2B marketers.

Their findings are pretty incredible:

  • 40% of marketers don’t feel as though their sales teams have the right account intelligence to engage with prospects
  • 80% of marketers believe data quality is critical to sales & marketing. But overall data quality is considered “questionable” at best.
  • 70% use or plan to use analytics to drive market prioritisation, Account-Based Marketing, and more meaningful segmentation and targeting.

And if your data is not accurate, don’t expect to be rolling out any reasonable AI platform anytime soon.

So, two areas to keep in mind when considering how you can use AI as part of your marketing mix are:

  • Data. Artifical intelligence is useless without reliable data.
  • Your current marketing mix. What areas need to be automated, and what areas need the most attention?

Regardless of the size of your business, it is important to remember that artificial intelligence is an enabler.

Therefore, your focus should be on the business problem that AI is going to solve for you and your customers.

Artifical Intelligence – The Numbers

  • According to CB Insights, the top 100 AI startups have received funding estimated to be $3.8B across 263 deals since 2012.
  • In Forrester‘s report, “Artificial Intelligence: A CIO’s Guide To AI’s Promises And Perils”, they state that sales and marketing drive 50% of artificial intelligence spending today.
  • By 2020, 50 per cent of companies will be using cognitive computing in their applications, according to IDC research.
  • IDC FutureScapes 2017 predicts that by 2018, 75% of developer teams will include AI functionality in one or more applications or services.
  • By 2019, 40% of digital transformation initiatives – and 100% of IoT initiatives – will be supported by AI capabilities, also from IDC FutureScapes 2017
  • By 2020, 30% of all companies will employ AI to augment at least one of their primary sales processes, according to Gartner Predicts 2017: CRM Sales

Personalised Content

Being able to personalise content to each buyer from a marketing perspective is challenging. Artificial intelligence companies such as Narrative Science, Automated Insights, MarketMuse, and OneSpot are coming to the fore.

Companies in this space allow marketers to engage and react to customers at scale, thereby delivering a more personal and speedier response.

Consequently, knowing what content is most likely to have a positive effect on a visitor to your website is extremely valuable.

Some companies are using natural language generation (NLG) to provide this data-driven content far quicker than humans ever could.

Marketers know how time-consuming it can be to interpret data from Google Analytics. Currently, Quill from Narrative Science can extract my website data from Google Analytics and present it as an easy-to-understand snapshot of how our website is performing.

Enhanced Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics has changed the game in B2B lead generation. Companies can save a lot of money and improve the quality of their prospects thanks to data-driven software that helps point to ideal customer profiles.

Nevertheless, predictive tools are in a stage of relative infancy, which allows for significant improvements that can optimise targeting capabilities even further.

As AI software developers push ahead, expect increased precision in look-alike modelling, which means identifying ideal prospects based on profile and behavioural matching from your existing database.

Better Add-On and Cross-Selling Efficiency

Another area in which AI will enhance predictive abilities is in add-on and cross-selling strategies. These are critical tactics companies use to leverage existing relationships for increased revenue.

As AI evolves, the ability for programs to identify the exact right products and services to offer to particular customers will develop as well.

Additionally, social listening and being able to engage with clients is an important operation for marketers.

Logan Rosenstein is a marketer at NVIDIA. He recently posted an excellent answer related to how social listening can use artificial intelligence to engage with brand advocates.

You can view his answer to the question “What are some interesting use cases of AI and machine learning?” on Quora.

Improved Marketing Automation

Though top B2B providers already use software that includes automated marketing campaigns, many firms are late to the party. B2B pales in its adaptation to automation relative to more fast-moving B2C counterparts.

As time goes by and AI improves, you won’t be able to survive in a competitive B2B industry without the use of efficient and effective automated campaigns.

To date, it has been human interaction that has decided how the marketing automation process works. However, decisions can be made much more quickly if artificial intelligence has control.

Through automation, companies don’t have to invest as much in manual account reviews and won’t miss as many opportunities where a customer was ripe for a product or message.

Instead, the technology will analyse and predict with strong precision how customers will respond to certain offers, and then deliver the offers created through automation.

Interestingly, Gartner has two major predictions to happen by 2019:

1) Artificial intelligence platform services will cannibalise revenues for 30% of market-leading companies,

2) Startups will overtake Google, IBM, Amazon and Microsoft in driving the artificial intelligence economy with disruptive business solutions.

Faster Strategic Development and Adjustment

The needs, interests, motives, and behaviours of B2B buyers are changing faster than they ever have before. This means that companies need to have a strategic planning system and operations that emphasise agility.

Which means that senior management can no longer afford to meet once or twice a year to establish strategic plans with no periodic review. Instead, you need to rely on data-driven AI to monitor changes in the marketplace so that you can adjust at the first hint of a new course.

Your ability to react to what buyers want and deliver faster than your competitors is key to winning in the age of advanced artificial intelligence.

Strategic planning presentation

Wrap Up

Thinking about all of the changes occurring in B2B marketing and sales because of artificial intelligence can be daunting. Particularly if you are trying to work out how this will impact you and your business.

However, for marketers, artificial intelligence should be about delivering a better customer experience at every point of interaction.

As I said at the start, artificial intelligence is an enabler, and you must decide how best to use it.

Companies that become more customer-centric and strive to make customers’ lives simpler and easier by using artificial intelligence to provide a better customer experience will positively differentiate themselves from those that do not, or are slow to change.

And, as history has proven time and again, companies that look out for new opportunities to adapt and improve, are the ones that survive and thrive.

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