In this guest blog by co-founder of Enlightened Digital, Sara Carter discusses how AI-driven platforms and tools can improve lead generation efforts by over 50%.
All businesses need a steady pipeline of customers moving through the sales funnel in order to stay afloat. It’s difficult to stay competitive in an online age where plentiful opportunity makes customer conversion more expensive. That’s where a solid lead generation strategy reflective of shifting consumer demographics and purchase modalities becomes integral to success.
The state of lead generation
At its heart, lead generation is the attraction of prospective customers. Gauging interest and then translating that initial interest into purchase activity is a multi-step process, and most won’t make it all the way through the funnel. In fact, only about 5 to 10 percent of qualified leads successfully convert for marketers.
Not all leads are created equal, clearly. Because outbound leads (direct messaging, email marketing, cold calling) cost on average nearly 40 percent more than inbound leads (content marketing, paid advertising, SEO), marketers must think carefully about the most cost-effective and time-efficient tools to generate leads for their business.
Emerging technology is helping to drive the advertising and marketing sector toward greater profits and a more precise understanding of target consumers by helping companies refine their pre-existing sales skill set. Marketing guru David Meerman Scott says, “It’s fascinating how the fundamentals of business-to-business marketing are the same today as they were 50 years ago. It’s still about relationships, although today we have new tools and techniques at our disposal.”
The emergence of AI solutions
In terms of new tools and techniques, artificial intelligence (AI) has risen to prominence in a number of helpful solutions for marketers. Its ability to automate certain low-level tasks makes for improved efficiency because it helps professionals focus on the relationship building mentioned above. The shifted resource allocation can be directly tied to increased ROI, as companies that automate aspects of their lead generation reportedly see a 10 percent or more bump in profits in under a year. Marketing experts also suggest that businesses implementing AI see a 59 percent improvement in close rates, 52 percent higher conversion rates and 54 percent higher site traffic and engagement.
Those numbers are hard to ignore, which is why marketers have started leveraging AI-driven platforms and tools to help build and maintain a more lucrative sales pipeline and engage in advanced data analysis for prospecting and audience segmentation.
Chatbots are a popular option for marketers looking for a more affordable way to implement AI. They’re easy to set up, feature simplistic interfaces and are able to use AI and machine learning algorithms to recognize and respond to common customer queries that might stimulate a purchase. We mentioned earlier that outbound leads cost significantly more than inbound ones. What if you could automate outbound marketing activities with the help of robots? Customer acquisition costs could drop significantly, and the scope of your campaigns would be exponentially larger. In fact, Business Insider Intelligence reports that chatbots have the potential to save customer service and sales representatives a combined $38 billion.
Another use of AI in B2B lead generation that’s gaining traction is predictive analytics. Using more advanced machine learning programs and through the input of historical and transactional customer data, these programs help build propensity models for customer acquisition and retention strategies. Plainly speaking, being able to recognize patterns in consumer behavior helps predict future trends, allowing businesses to remain agile. AI-driven software is able to process vast amounts of data more quickly than even a large team of human data scientists, and it gives everyday marketers easy access to valuable insights.
The future of AI lead gen activities
80 percent of companies believe that AI will change the marketing industry in the years to come. Gartner has named AI one of the top strategic technologies for 2019 and beyond and forecasts increased investment in the development of new tools and platforms as well as increased spending, especially in the marketing sector.
We’re already seeing inroads being made into more sophisticated AI programs, machine learning and even “affective computing,” wherein computers are programmed to recognize and respond to human emotions. Those breakthrough advances “immeasurably improve our ability to pull together, analyze and draw actionable insights from data,” according to Oracle CEO Mark Hurd. Given the nebulous nature of consumer behavior and sales in general, using AI to gather, report and act on this data will bring profitable clarity to lead generation in the years to come.