AI: A disruptor for B2B marketing
From voice-powered personal assistants like Siri to connected cars – AI is changing our lives. And it is about to revolutionize B2B marketing. But do you really know what this big disruptor is capable of?
AI is big and it is everywhere. It is in our pockets, cars and homes. It is helping recommend the movies we watch, the clothes we buy and the food we eat. Switched on consumer marketers have already been using AI to understand their user base, to drive engagement and build relationships.
Now it is time for savvy B2B Chief Marketing Officers (CMO) to steal a march on the competition.
A two-way conversation
Marketing has been pretty much a one-way conversation, with perhaps the exception of some social media communications. Marketers have spent their time shouting from the virtual hilltops, hoping to be heard.
Now AI is allowing marketers to have a real conversation with their audience. The technology will enable marketers to personalize content and get real-time feedback from users about products and services in a way that has not been possible.
At the same time, AI will enable marketers to cleanse and analyze big data from multiple platforms to deliver easily digested contextual insights. B2B marketing will be able to ‘learn’ from trends to identify companies that are going through growth curves, for example, and tap into their purchasing plans.
With this valuable information, marketers can work out which channels are the best route to connecting with current and potential customers instead of a ‘spray and pray’ approach.
AI will eventually enable marketers to providing personalized marketing materials, based on a qualified profile of the potential or existing customer. AI is capable of learning people’s behaviour, so it will target only those that it believes will interact with a marketing campaign. The result is greater engagement and higher conversion rates.
Technology is enabling businesses to turn the traditional purchasing process on its head. Business buyers are looking for marketing communications that enable them to make educated and informed buying decisions. They are looking for flexible and agile vendors that can deal with their changing needs – and they look for the same qualities in marketing.
Where will the CMO fit in?
AI will change the B2B marketing landscape dramatically and in turn the role of the CMO. AI isn’t going to eat the CMOs’ roles, instead it will empower them.
AI will be able to tweak campaign mechanisms, for example, freeing up more time for CMOs to come up with targeted creatives and source meaningful content. AI will be able to track interactions and schedule content updates 24/7, satisfying users’ insatiable demand for new content whatever time or wherever they are searching from. By taking over the mundane and repetitive tasks, marketing teams will be able to concentrate on actioning strategies.
Smarter customer experience
B2B customers today are expecting companies to foresee their needs – and with the Internet of Things promising even more connections their expectations will become greater.
It is no longer enough for companies to provide business customers with a fast and efficient service. Every touchpoint needs an interaction.
In Salesforce’s 2016 ‘State of the Connected Customer’ report 65 per cent of business buyers said they are likely to switch brands if their company is not treated like a unique organization, which includes an effort to personalize communications.
Yet, even though most companies are willing to share data in return for personalization, the report found that many marketing teams are falling short and not adopting AI driven data tools and objectives.
The big question is how can all this personalized content be generated? There are applications that can draw on interactions to create stories alongside humans, such as The Washington Post’s experimental Heliograf. These bots, however, aren’t about to replace human content creators anytime soon. In fact, research by Columbia University found that people rate human-generated articles much higher.
Marketing departments will undoubtedly use more visual content, while written content will be more niche and focused. B2B marketing will be demanding more content, but tracking it carefully to ensure consistent engagement. AI will hatch the target companies, CMOs will want to make sure they are coming back for more.
The winners will be proactive CMOs that can use AI to tailor their omni-channel marketing content to individual business users – personalizing and understanding their needs before they do.