AI is disrupting the business world as we know it.
For one thing, it is automating simple processes, performing them faster and more efficiently than any human could. For another, it is enabling people to extract valuable insights from mountains of data: deep learning techniques are responsible for 40 percent of the potential value we can extricate from analytics today.
Yet, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
According to a report by Mckinsey, AI will have the most impact on two particular business areas: operations on the one hand and marketing and sales on the other.
Whereas manufacturing companies might benefit from AI technology optimizing their operations and logistics, retail organizations and B2C businesses stand to gain a lot from AI, helping them with their marketing and sales efforts.
For instance, brick and mortar retailers can increase their incremental sales by 1 to 2 percent by using AI and feeding its customer data to personalize the promotions they offer.
From a numbers standpoint, marketing and sales can create $1.4 to $2.6 trillion in value with the help of AI, which is more than a third of the entire opportunity presented by AI.
How AI can help with lead generation
Despite all this potential, many business leaders are unclear on how they can use AI to reap all the possible rewards. So, let’s take a look at one specific instance: lead generation.
#1 Offering valuable insights
AI can sift through enormous piles of data and spot patterns that might be invisible to the human eye. Consequently, AI is perfect for making predictions, offering insights, and presenting businesses with compelling, actionable information that can give them a competitive edge.
With that in mind, there are two main ways AI can offer insights concerning lead generation: finding leads in the first place and judging the quality of those leads.
#2 Finding leads
An AI system can search through enormous databases to generate more leads. The AI would start by looking for characteristics that define the ideal customer based on a business’s current leads and customers; marketers can help at this stage, refining the criteria for which the AI looks for.
Subsequently, the AI will look for individuals or entities that have these characteristics and recommend them as potential leads.
The good news is that most businesses already have large swathes of data on their customers and leads that can be used to train the AI to know what to look for. After all, most businesses use software such as CRM to manage their relationship with their clients, while others utilize market automation software.
As for the large databases from which the leads will be generated, AI systems have plenty of options. For starters, an AI tool could have its database with plenty of contacts in it.
Alternatively, an AI could monitor a company’s website, observing the incoming traffic, and figuring out who looks like a viable lead. A third option is to let AI scour social media to find leads that fit the customer mold.
#3 Qualifying leads
It’s not enough to find people who can be labeled as “leads”; businesses need to assess what kind of lead they are dealing with as well as how they could warm up a lead, turning a cold prospect into a fervent buyer.
Some AI tools can help businesses score their leads based on how likely they are to make a purchase. This, in turn, will help companies to know which leads to prioritize and which leads might not offer an attractive return on investment.
Additionally, if a company is drowning underneath heaps of unqualified leads, an AI might be able to sift quickly through all those leads, filtering the ones that matter from the ones that don’t.
Better yet, powered by predictive analytics, AI can factor in each lead’s spending potential when giving them a score, which can provide businesses with a clearer idea of the expected ROI.
#4 Personalizing the customer’s experience
Leads differ in more ways than just their likelihood of making a purchase, purchase size, or propensity to return for repeat business. Each lead can have their unique motivations, their level of technical savvy, and their own set of beliefs and values.
Consequently, different leads are liable to go through different buyer’s journeys, and each lead will have varying expectations along the way.
As a result, businesses have had to personalize the experience they offer their customers. Some companies have used content marketing to reach a portion of their customers while perhaps enlisting the help of famous influencers to reach other niches.
The good news is that AI can help with this endeavor.
To begin with, AI can help with segmentation. For instance, some companies use bots to communicate with their leads. Asking them the right questions, the bots can classify them quickly and assess which set of tactics would work best to convert them.
Additionally, AI can help build customer personas based on all the available data. Once the personas are built, the AI will be able to judge current leads and assess which persona fits them best. Accordingly, the AI will recommend the line of action that fits best with this type of persona.
Moreover, AI can help in assessing the effectiveness of different actions. For example, if a company targets a specific niche using a particular type of advertisement, AI can inform the company of the relative success or failure of said trial in comparison to other similar activities.
AI can even go down to a granular level and help a business decide which font of a sales email can help increase conversions.
#5 Automating activities
One of the main benefits of AI is that it enables the automation of specific tasks in a way that was impossible with regular programming. A perfect case in point of this can be seen with the sales conversion process.
The sales conversion process involves four main steps from the buyer’s point of view: Awareness, Interest, Decision Making, and Action.
Throughout this process, a company has to engage and nurture their leads to convert them consistently. That means giving the customers timely information, answering all their queries, following up with them after each interaction, and addressing any concerns or reservations they might have.
AI can help automate the entire process. When it comes to engagement, AI can personalize the content offered to each website visitor, depending on their profile.
It can even tailor the offerings presented to these visitors to maximize the likelihood of converting them. Better yet, chatbots can be used to both engage and nurture the leads, ushering them down the sales funnel till they make that critical purchase.
If a prospect engages with a company, the bots will automatically follow-up every once in a while.
And, remember the tweaks we said AI could help with when it comes to email campaigns and advertisements? An AI system could do this automatically, freeing the time of the support and sales team.
Whether an AI system is providing insights, personalizing the offerings, or engaging the leads, it is doing work that a usual sales representative would have had to carry out; the only difference is that the AI is doing the job faster and at scale.
While a sales representative can only engage with a single customer at a time, a chatbot can simultaneously engage with more than 20 customers. Moreover, sales representatives can only work for a limited number of hours every day, during which they have to take breaks, but an AI chatbot can work around the clock.
As a result, AI systems can save valuable time for a company’s support and sales team. AI could deal with low priority leads, giving the sales team the necessary freedom to focus on the ones that matter.
Modern AIs are so advanced that most customers will have no idea whether they are talking to a bot or an actual human being.
For AI, this is just the beginning.
AI will change our world in ways that we can’t even imagine. It is one of the main driving engines behind Industry 4.0 that is ushering a new era of how we collect, analyze, and act on data. It will empower IoT technology, control our robots, and enable us to fix our machines before they even break down.
All of this will have a ripple effect on nearly every aspect of the business. The interconnectedness of data will take away a lot of the guessing out of marketing and sales so that it will become more data-based than ever before.
However, before picturing what tomorrow will look like, businesses should set their sights on what they can do today with this revolutionary technology and figure out how they can extract the most considerable ROI possible.
Perhaps, a good place to start would be their marketing and sales departments.