By Neil Patel
Artificial intelligence has created a lot of buzz lately, and for good reasons.
Whether your company has adapted or not, this technology has already penetrated our world. Marketers are using AI to improve their businesses.
I know what some of you are thinking. Sure, some companies use AI, but you don’t need to yet, right? Wrong.
I see this mentality far too often when I’m working with business owners.
The reality is machine learning is reshaping marketing. Think about the marketing strategies you were using ten or even five years ago. I’m willing to bet they have changed over the years.
Well, those strategies will continue to change and evolve based on new technology. AI is the next big wave.
If you do some research on AI in marketing, you’ll see lots of information geared toward companies targeting mass consumer audiences. But what about the B2B industries?
AI is penetrating the B2B world as well. In fact, 80% of B2B marketing executives believe artificial intelligence will revolutionize the industry by 2020.
But this new technology comes with its fair share of challenges.
Even though the majority of these marketing executives know how much of an impact AI will have on their industries, only 26% of respondents say they are confident in their abilities to use AI for marketing.
That was my inspiration for this guide.
Artificial intelligence is a broad term with many different aspects. I’ve already shown you the marketing skills you need to survive in the age of AI.
Now, I’ll explain what B2B marketers are expecting from AI as we close out 2018 and enter 2019. You can find ways to leverage AI by applying the same strategies in your own business.
Anticipate prospective customers
Artificial intelligence makes it much easier for businesses to collect data.
As we continue through this guide, you’ll see multiple examples of how this information can be put to use.
With B2B marketing, it’s not always easy to find new customers. That’s because your target market is much more specific than that of most B2C companies.
Even if you’ve identified the types of businesses you want to target, you may not always be able to find them.
Plus, if you find a potential client, they may not be currently in the market for your products, services, or solutions. Maybe they already have existing relationships with another vendor they’re unwilling to break, or their budget could be too tight to afford what you’re offering.
I’m sure every phone call you make and every door you knock on doesn’t land you a customer overnight.
I am sure you can relate to this struggle as a B2B marketer. That’s where AI comes into play.
By using data to find patterns, AI software can help you create a predictive analysis model.
These predictions can help you anticipate prospective customers.
As a result, your marketing efforts will be much more efficient. Using these prediction models will increase your chances of getting a potential customer to convert because you’ll be aiming at qualified leads.
These are B2B consumers who have a need for what you’re offering and have the ability to pay for it as well.
If you want to take advantage of it, you should check out Zilliant. What separates Zilliant from other AI solutions is this software is specifically designed for B2B marketers.
Distinguish visitors from buyers
I’m sure you’re closely monitoring your website traffic. But you can’t assume that everyone who lands on your website is a customer or prospective customer.
AI will help you tell the difference between actual customers and people who are just visiting your site. You can target those people accordingly.
By anticipating prospective customers, which I previously discussed, you can tell whether a site visitor has buying potential or if they are navigating to your site for another reason.
AI software can monitor browsing behavior to tell you which category each unique visitor falls into.
If someone, who is not a B2B buyer, visits your site after finding you from an organic search, you don’t want to waste your marketing efforts targeting that person.
If you’re running banner ads on third-party sites by using cookies to target anyone who ever visited your site, those impressions are a waste of money if they’re seen by an irrelevant audience.
On the other hand, you can’t assume that those who didn’t convert on your website are not qualified leads.
Other factors could have prevented a visitor from converting. Take a look at the top pain points in the B2B ecommerce shopping process:
With artificial intelligence software monitoring browsing behaviors and patterns, you’ll be able to tell whether consumers with buying power are converting.
If you discover that only a low percentage of actual buyers are spending money, you could conclude certain changes need to be made on your website.
Clearly, the right people are finding your business and navigating to your site. Those are the people you want to target moving forward.
I’m sure you’re all familiar with this old business expression:
“You’ve got to spend money to make money.”
Artificial intelligence software isn’t free. So yes, you’ll need to dig into your pockets if you want to leverage these strategies.
If you are looking to save some money, consider reviewing my top tactics for marketing your company on a budget.
How much will AI implementation cost you? It depends.
The price will vary based on factors such as the application, scope, and complexity. But some types of machine learning can cost upward of $100k to $300k.
You’ll be able to find solutions for less, but the bottom line is you’ll likely be paying a premium for this type of technology integration.
It should come as no surprise that 48% of business owners aren’t interested in marketing solutions driven by AI because of the high costs. This is the number one reason why marketers are hesitant to adapt.
But you need to look at the big picture here. Spending money now can help you save much more in the long run.
Here’s a look at the marketing applications with the highest profit potential from AI solutions:
Think about your current budget and expenses for these different categories and strategies.
How much are you spending on each one yearly?
If AI can help you reduce those costs by a significant percentage, the software will potentially pay for itself within just a few years or maybe even less.
After that, you’ll see a much higher ROI on these campaigns because the software you’re using will make it more efficient. I already gave some examples of this when I talked about targeting customers based on predictive analysis.
With the help of AI, IBM was able to reduce its average cost per click by 31%. In some instances, the cost reduction was as high as 71%.
Don’t be discouraged by the initial costs of AI implementation. Your B2B company will end up benefiting from a higher ROI in the long run.
Improve lead generation
Where are your leads coming from?
As I previously discussed, generating new leads isn’t always easy for B2B companies.
Some of your current lead generation strategies may not be working as well as you would like them to. You’re not alone.
Improving lead generation efforts is the number one goal for B2B marketers in the coming year:
If you fall into this category as well, you can expect AI solutions to improve your efforts.
As I said before, AI helps collect data and monitor habits.
The same way that Netflix recommends shows based on what you’ve already watched, AI can help recommend new leads. Or even better, it can help recommend your business to those leads.
If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll need to create a customer profile for your B2B clientele. The more detailed you make this profile, the more accurate your leads will be.
For example, you’ll want to use the following parameters:
- age of the company
- number of employees
The criteria for this B2B customer profile are essentially limitless. AI solutions will use these parameters to select potential leads out of a larger pool of candidates.
By pre-qualifying your leads, you will increase your chances of turning them into customers.
Enhance the buyer’s journey
Even though the majority of what I’ve talked about so far involves getting new customers, that’s not the only way B2B companies are using AI.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning can help your company enhance the customer experience during each stage of the customer lifecycle:
As you can see from the graphic above, there are ways to implement this software throughout the entire buying process, including the post-conversion phase.
AI can help you reach customers by improving your content strategy.
Ad targeting, predictive analysis, re-targeting, and lead scoring can turn an indecisive consumer or a customer, who has only made one purchase, into a repeat customer.
Artificial intelligence can also help you implement a dynamic pricing model. You can generate more profits by focusing on your pricing strategy.
By improving your personalization tactics, AI can turn a repeat customer into a loyal customer, but I’ll discuss that in greater detail shortly.
Chatbots will help enhance the customer buying process. They can easily get their questions answered when browsing online.
And marketing automation will keep loyal customers buying and spending more money while knowing when and how to target lapsed customers.
More accurate personalized campaigns
As I just said, AI can help improve personalization throughout each stage of the buyer’s journey.
Are you currently running personalized campaigns? You should be.
Studies show 68% of B2B marketers are personalizing their content:
Artificial intelligence will streamline this process and make it much easier for you to appeal to current and prospective customers. Here’s what I mean.
Let’s use your email marketing strategy as an example.
Right now, you’re probably segmenting your clients based on different factors such as location, industry, and size of the company. This is a great start and will definitely give you better results than non-personalized campaigns.
But you can take this process one step further with AI.
By monitoring the browsing behavior of the clients on your email list, you can send them enhanced personalized content that fits their needs.
Just segmenting your clients into lists based on factors such as geographic location won’t tell you who is browsing for products and services valued at $50,000 compared to $5,000. AI solutions can help you tell these customers apart so they can be targeted accordingly.
Artificial intelligence can personalize the web browsing as well as mobile app usage experience of your customers.
Generate high profits from top accounts
As I just finished explaining, you can use AI to help you identify the difference between customers based on how much they spend.
Every customer is important, but, obviously, you can’t treat a customer who spends $200k annually the same as a customer who spends $3,000.
This is crucial for your profit margins. Prioritizing your top accounts is one of the best ways to increase revenue without acquiring new customers.
In fact, 60% of B2B marketers say gaining better insights from client accounts is the top benefit of using AI for marketing.
To get higher profits from your top spending customers, AI can help you improve your account-based marketing funnel:
As you can see from this image, that funnel differs from a traditional lead generation funnel.
I already explained how AI can help you identify those high-value accounts. But this technology can assist you with the other stages of the funnel as well.
You’ll use personalization tactics, previously covered, to nurture and engage with those clients.
By enhancing the buyer’s journey with AI, you will make it easier for yourself to get those customers to continue converting and spending more money. As a result, you’ll establish long-term relationships with those top accounts.
It’s no secret marketers are leveraging artificial intelligence to improve their businesses. This statement holds true for B2B companies as well.
As a B2B marketer, you need to recognize this and adapt accordingly.
AI can help you identify prospective customers and distinguish between buyers and website visitors.
It will improve your lead generation strategy and increase the ROI of your marketing campaigns.
Artificial intelligence will improve the buyer’s journey throughout each stage of the customer lifecycle. Ultimately, this will give your B2B clients a more personalized shopping experience.
Eventually, you can leverage AI to increase the profits from your top customers.
If you are not using AI, it’s not too late to jump on board. Even if you’re already using this technology to some extent, you can use this guide to help you take your strategies to the next level.
What expectations does your B2B company have for artificial intelligence in the coming year?