Fully two years ago, Salesforce cited AI as a key B2B marketing trend, with the adoption of AI-powered marketing tools by B2B businesses growing by 23% that year. Of course, that was in the before-times. As with all things tech, the pandemic accelerated the trend of AI usage for B2B lead generation. In their most recent “State of Marketing Report,” Salesforce reported a 186% increase in AI adoption since 2018.
The second Salesforce survey was conducted in February 2020 (so, arguably, still the before-times). For this survey, Salesforce asked 7,000 marketing leaders to define the changing measures of success, elaborate on evolving marketing skillsets and processes, and weigh in on their data management strategies and tactics.
The results from the survey were pretty clear about the use of AI-infused tools for B2B marketers. There’s no doubt that B2B businesses are using such tools for lead generation and marketing, but it’s how they’re using them that we’re going to dig into right now. In this post, we’ll list five AI-driven technologies that B2B organizations are using to enhance their marketing and lead generation strategies. These include:
- Predictive lead scoring
- Conversational analytics
- AI-powered chatbots
- Real-time personalization
- Accounts-based marketing and marketing automation
Technology #1: Predictive lead scoring
Automated lead sourcing and scoring—also known as predictive lead scoring—is a technology that uses AI and machine learning to enrich and qualify incoming leads. Lead scoring software is typically rolled into multi-feature engagement platforms such as 6sense (a B2B account engagement platform) and VanillaSoft, which can be integrated with existing CRM systems or used as a standalone tool. 6Sense uses AI to analyze historical intent data, helping sales teams better understand leads at the account level and identifying where the prospect is in the buying cycle.
Technology #2: Conversational analytics
Conversational analytics tools use AI to analyze conversations across messaging apps, voice assistants, phone calls and other channels to help organizations better understand their customers. AI-driven conversational intelligence platforms such as Convin review sales conversations and data across multiple sales touchpoints such as email, calls and video chats, identifying insights about what’s working (or not) in the sales process. The tool eliminates the need to manually listen to sales calls or read through email and chats to determine what went right or wrong, so the sales process can be improved overall.
Technology #3: AI-powered Chatbots
AI-powered chatbots are particularly helpful for lead generation because they can do what humans can’t—respond in real time 24/7. Chatbots can capture and nurture leads throughout the buying process, engaging with visitors from your website or on social media. Chatbots also help your marketing and sales teams screen prospects prior to passing them onto a human representative. They can also capture data to be used for follow-up. Chatbots help B2B businesses meet the rising demand for instant communication. One study by HubSpot found that 59% of buyers who are in the research phase of the buying cycle want an immediate response (within 30 minutes) when they reach out for support. 75% of buyers in the sales or post-sales support stages want an immediate answer.
Technology #4: Real-time personalization
There are a couple of trends driving the need for real-time personalization in the B2B space. First, B2B buyers expect a seamless interaction with vendors, regardless of the channel they use to research, reach out, and interact with a company. Also, the B2B buying process is complex, involving an average of 6-10 decision makers who must navigate a series of 4-5 buying jobs (as Gartner refers to them) across a dizzying journey that weaves through multiple channels and touchpoints.
Tools such as Leadspace, a customer data platform (CDP), use AI and data to automatically identify and segment prospects, personalize engagement across channels, integrate multiple data sources, identify high-value prospects using historical sales data, and increase overall lead quality through audience segmentation. This level of engagement and personalization is difficult to do manually. In a recent report about AI-powered B2B marketing, Forrester writes, “The only way to achieve the level of real-time personalization that modern B2B buyers demand—across a lengthy buying cycle and at an enterprise scale—is through the use of AI-powered solutions.”
Technology#5: Account-based marketing (ABM) and marketing automation
The ABM approach to B2B lead generation is increasingly being facilitated by AI-driven technology. AI-powered platforms such as 6sense and Demandbase use AI to identify in-market accounts and analyze a prospect’s engagement across multiple touchpoints. Demandbase announced enhanced AI capabilities in 2019 that focused on automating discovery of high-value accounts that weren’t already being targeted by using anonymous digital behavior. The platform ties first-party engagement data to intent data and connects with the user’s CRM, enabling automated display and LinkedIn campaigns with targeted messaging.
AI should be part of your B2B marketing strategy
Salesforce data found that 70% of marketers who have a fully defined AI strategy were high performers. A year of uncertainty caused by the pandemic, social unrest, and the resulting shift in consumer sentiment has required all industry sectors to be more agile. Retail and wholesale businesses, Healthcare, Education, and just about every category in between must embrace AI to remain competitive, meet buyer demand and stay competitive.
AI-powered tools can help B2B marketers generate and nurture high-quality leads by surfacing insights from conversational data, identifying high-value customers and prospects, and aligning sales and marketing strategies. It can also aid in addressing (and relieving) buyer frustrations. Recent data from Drift, a revenue acceleration platform, revealed the top monthly frustrations of B2B buyers:
- Receiving too many irrelevant ads and emails
- Not getting answers to simple questions or easily finding business information.
- The services felt too impersonal
- Difficulty navigating vendor websites
- The brand was unresponsive on social media or email
McKinsey’s “The State of AI in 2020” survey also revealed that 50% of respondents have adopted AI in at least one function or business unit. AI-powered technology can help generate leads, drive revenue, address buyer frustrations and more. Industry leaders are using AI to stay agile, reduce costs, increase operational efficiency, engage with customers and drive growth. B2B organizations will continue to adopt AI-powered tools to drive marketing success—and ultimately, revenue and profits.