AI in B2B: Hype, Hope and Reality


Artificial intelligence has become a shiny object in the marketer’s toolbox. There’s plenty of hype, discussion, anticipation and – according to a recent survey – hope, surrounding AI in marketing.

As with many of marketing’s bleeding edge developments, AI initially has seen a greater uptake in the B2C space, but adapting its uses to the particulars of B2B selling was inevitable. As businesses look to AI solutions, a new study touted as the first to understand how B2B marketers, specifically, view artificial intelligence reveals high expectations.

The survey, “The State of Artificial Intelligence in B2B Marketing,” was conducted by EverString and Heinz Marketing and accumulated responses from more than 300 B2B professionals. Just over half of respondents (53 percent) said they expect AI to improve marketing effectiveness in driving revenue, which is important when you consider that 86 percent said they measure marketing success with KPIs tied to pipeline or revenue.

Other findings include:

  • 59 percent expect AI to help identify prospective customers.
  • 71 percent are interested in using AI for personalization and 58 percent for customization.
  • About 40 percent say it will help identify macro market trends and opportunities and make marketing tasks easier.
  • Over 30 percent say it will provide more detailed analysis of campaigns.

Another notable revelation from the report, though, is that confusion persists about what exactly constitutes AI technology and what it can do.

“Once the practical value of AI-powered marketing technologies overtakes the theoretical, we expect the mystery and confusion will dissipate,” Matt Amundson, VP of Marketing, EverString said.

Investment in AI-related technologies is well underway. A forecast from International Data Corporation expects spending on cognitive and AI systems to reach more than $19 billion this year – a 54 percent increase over just two years ago.

However, likely complicating the adoption of artificial intelligence in B2B marketing is that only 21 percent of respondents said they were very confident in achieving their goals with their existing marketing data. That’s a problem, given the truly powerful potential of AI lies in the data.

Businesses still manually performing such tasks as lead processing and lead source management simply aren’t ready for artificial intelligence technologies. It’s like giving new racing tires to a driver with no car. The scale and impact of AI modelling can only come from effective data input, yet many businesses are wishfully looking to AI as a digital marketing panacea.

With effective data, AI can indeed offer many of the benefits mentioned by respondents above, including prospect identification, personalization and targeting. Consider the possibilities that could impact certain aspects of B2B marketing, such as content customization. An AI system could scan your entire content library – from blog posts, web pages, collateral, white papers, etc., and then deliver the ideal option to individual buyers at various interactions along the buying journey.

Undeniably, artificial intelligence has wide potential for B2B marketing. Businesses recognize the possibilities and thus have high hopes for the technology. However, marketers also need to understand and convey to their leadership and organizations what is required in order to fully tap that potential.

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