Will AI Radically Change B2B Marketing? Marketers Think So
by Ann Handley last updated on 0

Will AI Radically Change B2B Marketing? Marketers Think So

First, a startling piece of data: 80 percent of business-to-business marketing executives believe that artificial intelligence (AI) will revolutionize marketing by 2020, according to a recent study.

Next, the qualifier (the giant asterisk next to that startling piece of data!): Only 26 percent of B2B marketers are confident they understand how AI is used in marketing.

What’s more, just 10 percent of marketers are making use of AI in some form today, according to a survey from Demandbase, issued in conjunction with Wakefield Research. The research surveyed 500 B2B marketing executives who work for firms with 250 or more employees.

The study didn’t specify how those 10 percent of early adopters are using AI, but I’m going out on a limb here and saying most of them are using the gateway drug for AI: chatbots.

This study isn’t the only one calling out AI as transformative. The World Economic Forum named AI one of the top emerging techologies of 2016, based on its power to improve lives, transform industries, and safeguard the planet.

A global study reached similar conclusions, with 84 percent of those surveyed deeming AI “essential” to future competitiveness.

So why do I think that 80 percent number is so startling?

Because the Demandbase survey says it would change marketing, or affect marketing, or impact marketing. Nope – they used the word revolutionize.

Think about this for a minute: Revolutionize means “to change (something) radically or fundamentally.” So if it’s true that the powerful technology known as AI is going to radically change marketing, shouldn’t more of us have an idea of how?

Demandbase acknowledges as much: “Overall, the research shows that marketers are excited about the potential AI brings to the world of sales and marketing,” according to the company. While marketers believe that AI has the potential to significantly impact the entire industry, “there is a clear discrepancy between this enthusiasm and marketers’ confidence in how to implement AI into their marketing programs.”

So it seems that 80 percent of B2B marketing execs intuit that AI can help them address the need for a more personalized, tailored experience for their customers. They hope that AI can help them take their customer experience efforts to a new level of personalization and segmentation.

That’s especially true for those of us who are looking to more powerfully leverage our Marketing Automation platforms.

Your automation program saves time, money and increases your efficiency and productivity, of course. But combined with AI, automation programs can be even sharper, still.

Why? It’s still often difficult to sift through the sheer volume of customer, campaign, and marketing data to turn that information into actionable insights to inform your automated programs. AI can deliver the insights you and your team needs.

Challenges to Solve

So what are those challenges that those of us in B2B marketing need to sort out, before that can happen?

  • 60 percent of marketers are worried about integrating AI into their existing technology
  • 54 percent of marketers surveyed are worried about training employees in how to use the technology
  • 46 percent are concerned with the difficulty of interpreting the results
  • 42 percent are worried about the cost of implementing AI

And what do B2B marketers expects AI can do for them?

  • 60 percent hope for better insights into key accounts
  • 56 percent are looking for more detailed analysis of their B2B campaigns
  • 53 percent are hoping that AI will help them identify prospects as well as expedite rote, daily tasks

Quantifying Success 

Let’s talk about the bottom line: How will B2B marketers quantify that success?

Respondents say they will judge the success of AI by its ability to generate better sales close rates (59% cite it as an indicator of success), increase revenue (58%), improve digital traffic/engagement (54%), and convert more leads (52%).

Here’s the money chart:

AI marketing

Where To Start

If you’re thinking about how your organization should be starting to use or experiment with AI, well… get in on it. Here are a few excellent resources:

What impact do you think AI will have on marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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