There’s a common misconception that I keep hearing when it comes to artificial intelligence (AI) implementation in marketing and sales. It often comes across that companies are expected to implement AI in-house. But that’s not the case at all.
Your typical B2B marketing and sales organization can’t buy AI, but they can access AI-powered services. These services will help them normalize their unstructured data and access previously inaccessible data streams or gather insights from the stream of big data they’re collecting. The key is that AI is not a standalone product and needs to be embedded in the technology that these organizations are accessing. AI is no longer a future concept or just a buzzword – it can drive real results for B2B organizations.
AI in the present
Artificial intelligence is a sign that technology is catching up with the future. Not all marketing technology can use AI right now, but the best products out there already do. If you’re really looking to acquire new customers and prove ROI, AI-powered marketing technology has quickly become non-negotiable.
On the front end of a customer engagement, marketing technology can use AI in the form of natural language understanding. Through natural language understanding and other AI-based tools, the amount of data that a company ingests, bid stream data for example, is filtered to provide context about what’s actually on the webpage that the IP address associated with a given account is consuming. This type of AI has been around for about 30 years, but it has evolved to the point where it can provide greater contextual understanding of a page’s content beyond just keywords. Now, keywords can be connected to context and a fuller story about the needs of an account emerges.
On the back end, AI-powered marketing technology uses AI to feed the algorithms the positive and negative signals needed to continuously improve performance. Through this process, the machine is learning. Once insight on the account’s needs has surfaced, this process informs the next set of marketing tactics, thus teaching the machine. As time goes on this will place more and more of the customer engagement strategy in the hands of the machine. The capabilities now exist, beyond display advertising, to trigger multi-channel strategies in which the content, the value proposition and the channel are all optimized by the machine.
Using AI in the upfront to make initial predictions is a big step, but companies will really see results when AI is used to execute on their behalf and then to provide feedback for the technology to learn. That’s the thing about AI. It needs inputs, so technologies using AI must be providing data on both the front and back ends.
AI-fueled marketing technology has already been seen to generate results for B2B companies. Having AI make predictions on prospects’ buying patterns and what content to serve them has shown greater results in account-based marketing strategies. Adding in the machine learning following the engagement has generated better results for these companies as they continue implementation for new prospects.
AI in the future
While B2B marketing and sales companies are still in the early stages of implementing AI-powered technologies, AI advancement is not slowing down. Natural language understanding is one area where there is a lot of room for development. Technology giants have already mastered image and video on a previously inconceivable scale. Stemming from that, the bottleneck of AI in marketing and sales is the ability to create content. The technology for identifying what a company is interested in is well beyond our ability to create the marketing materials and content to engage that prospect. Content creation is the next space where providers will look to bake AI into their products.
With AI-enabled prospecting and content in the pipeline, some marketers may worry about the future. However, the ability to scale your predictive and engagement efforts through the AI-powered technologies will only lead to better results and return on investment. B2B companies always have sales and marketing budgets and when you look at how much money and time is spent on things technology could do, it can be frustrating. AI is the path for getting the most out of your investment.
The pitch for AI is the same as the pitch for marketing and sales, it’s just smarter. Marketing services firms aren’t selling AI, they’re selling ROI. AI will be a non-negotiable marketing and sales tool. Ultimately, both marketing and sales will revolve around algorithms that ingest the customer data points and operate in the optimized workflows AI determines. This will be how companies grow their businesses. AI is not going away so embrace it – soon.