Sales, Marketing Poised for AI Revolution


Artificial intelligence will revolutionize marketing in the next five years, according to survey results Demandbase released this week.

Eighty percent of the 500 B2B marketers who participated in the online poll, conducted last month by Wakefield Research, said they expected an AI-fueled marketing revolution.

However, only 26 percent were very confident they understood how AI was used in marketing, and only 10 percent said they already were using it.

AI "has the potential to help marketing and sales teams hyper-personalize the customer experience at an entirely new level," remarked Aman Naimat, SVP of technology at Demandbase.

Its use "will allow for one-on-one conversations with marketers who have the background information necessary to successfully interact with prospects," he told CRM Buyer.

That's the promise of Salesforce's LiveMessage, which the company launched earlier this week, for example.

"The reality is that 1 to 2 percent of companies have real competency in AI in sales and marketing operations," Naimat observed.

Sixty percent of respondents to Demandbase's survey expected that AI would provide them with better insights into accounts.

Fifty-six percent expected more detailed analyses of marketing campaigns, while 53 percent expected AI to identify prospective customers, and 53 percent expected it to expedite daily tasks.

Fifty-nine percent said AI must generate a better sales close rate to be worth pursuing. Fifty-eight percent wanted it to increase revenues, 54 percent wanted it to improve website traffic and engagement, and 52 percent expected it to convert more leads.

"The fact that 80 percent of respondents believe AI will revolutionize marketing but only a very few know how or are using it themselves yet is a perfect example of an industry on the cusp of exploding," remarked Gary Gerber, head of product marketing at Conversica.

The leading driver of AI in the sales lead conversion process is "the simple fact that it takes, on average, about a dozen follow-ups to engage a prospective customer, and most humans stop after two or three," he told CRM Buyer. "They're leaving the vast majority of their hard-earned leads on the table."

Only one-third of the companies Conversica's researchers contacted while posing as interested shoppers did not respond at all, according to the firm's 2016 Sales Effectiveness Report. More than two-thirds gave up trying to contact the researcher after two tries at most.

Integrating AI into existing technology was the top challenge for 60 percent of the respondents to the Demandbase survey.

Training employees was the main concern for 54 percent, and difficulty in interpreting results was the major hurdle for 46 percent.

Only 42 percent were concerned about the cost of implementing AI.

AI and machine learning can transform what businesses know about customers, said Natalie Petouhoff, a principal analyst at Constellation Research.

However, the technology "needs to mature [so] it's easily used by regular business users," she told CRM Buyer.

There's also the creep factor to consider.

"When is too much information infringing on people's personal lives and privacy?" Petouhoff mused. It "may differ from person to person, [which] makes it difficult to do mass personalization at scale."

"Right now, AI gives companies like IBM and Epson a great competitive advantage," Conversica's Gerber said. "By 2020, it will be table stakes just to stay in the game."

Companies should be engaging their AI road maps right now, he urged.

Companies offering sales technology incorporating AI "use human-like conversational emails to help with lead qualification and providing sale reps with prequalified leads," Constellation Research Principal Analyst Cindy Zhou told CRM Buyer. Both CMOs and CROs should begin investigating AI technologies for marketing and sales."

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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