AI in marketing. So hot right now. With artificial intelligence disrupting nearly every industry, it’s poised to launch B2B marketing into an exciting new era that puts buyers in the driver’s seat of their own hyper-personalized journeys. How can you embrace these new capabilities to build a truly AI-powered marketing machine that enables B2B buyers at every stage of their path to purchase?
That’s the question at the heart of an October 2018 report by Forrester: AI Will Enable B2B Marketers To Deliver Customer-Driven Engagement At Scale. But first, what IS AI, really? Everyone’s talking about it yet there seems to be confusion around what it means and its implications for B2B marketers.
Forrester defines AI as “the umbrella term for a variety of techniques and technologies for collecting, applying self-learning statistical techniques to, and acting on data.” The report dissects what this looks like when it comes to the applications of AI in B2B marketing. Specifically, why it’s important for the future of B2B marketing, and steps marketers can take toward realizing the full power of artificial intelligence to drive frictionless, customer-led buying experiences. It also paints a picture of what the buying journey can look like in a future where AI-powered solutions are fully baked into B2B marketing. Because that future may not be as far off as you think.
“AI-powered B2B marketing solutions will eventually enable customer driven, contextual marketing across the entire customer life cycle — and empower B2B firms to respond dynamically to customer behavior by autonomously creating, delivering, and optimizing personalized customer interactions”
The overarching message in the report is clear: marketers should not be afraid to jump in and start applying AI in their marketing—and some forward-thinking ones already are! The report highlights 3 recent developments that indicate B2B marketers are starting to embrace an AI-led transformation.
Here are some of my own takeaways regarding these developments.
B2B marketers adopting a B2C mindset
To truly evolve as B2B marketers, we need to accept that buyers are now in control. The rise of brands like Netflix and Amazon have led to the consumerization of today’s B2B buyer. They want control of their own purchase journeys and they expect micro-personalized, tailored experiences—that’s a fact.
Artificial intelligence is the key to providing these hyper-relevant and personalized experiences at scale and across all channels. Many big B2C brands are already rapidly adopting this, and leading B2B marketers aren’t far behind. Widespread adoption will take time, but the testing, iterating, and trust building with AI systems need to start now.
Tim Noble, Digital Marketing Specialist at TIBCO, is one of the cutting edge B2B marketers applying B2C concepts to his nurture programs. Tim and his team offer their leads the opportunity to self-educate and binge on content, effectively self-nurturing at their own pace. By reducing the friction required for leads to consume content and even giving them opportunities binge-consume multiple assets in one session, TIBCO has already seen a 27% improvement in MEL to MQL conversion and a 5X lift in opportunities.
B2B vendors paving the way with AI-engines that drive engagement
B2B marketers realize that, while they already leverage personalization on a macro level, it’s time to add a layer of micro-personalization to their martech stack. According to Forrester, B2B marketers “need to move away from their traditional, rules-based ‘journey crafting’ models and embrace the use of AI to drive personalized, contextual, multichannel engagement at scale.”
Some companies already doing this include:
- Conversica is a conversational AI assistant that enables marketers to scale personalized conversations with prospects over SMS and email.
- Lattice Engines, a leader in AI, recently scored a Strong Performer Rating in The Forrester New Wave™: ABM Platforms, Q2 2018. We believe they received this rating for using AI and data to identify the most attractive targets and next best actions.
- Mintigo helps marketers build agile AI-powered systems quickly and easily to provide deeper insights and inform strategy.
- PathFactory, the world’s first Content Insight and Activation Platform, utilizes machine-learning and AI to power its on-demand, B2B content recommendation Engine. (Some exciting developments to come on this at next week’s SiriusDecisions Summit, so stay tuned!)
Marketers leveraging AI in marketing across the entire customer lifecycle, including post-sale
The report points out that since these data-driven approaches work on the demand gen side, there are applications for them in the post-sale customer lifecycle as well. Enabling customers with hyper-personalized, relevant experiences increases adoption, renewal, cross-sell, up-sell, and advocacy, which are huge revenue drivers.
The Cisco marketing team is a shining example of how well this works. Jessica Pope, Digital Channel Manager at Cisco, and her team use PathFactory to enable customers to binge on the content they care most about.
Interested in exploring AI for your marketing team? Check out these resources to dive deeper into where B2B marketing is today when it comes to artificial intelligence and where it is poised to go, along with some helpful recommendations.