An Introduction to AI for B2B Marketers


Of all the buzzy topics in marketing right now, perhaps none is buzzier than AI. Artificial intelligence has captured the imagination of consumers and the attention of businesses, the latter of which are looking for ways to leverage high-level machine learning into revenue.

B2B marketers are no exception to this trend. Always on the hunt for improved ways to find, nurture and close leads, business of all sizes are exploring what AI has to offer. But many small and medium-sized organizations may lack a true understanding of what AI is and is not in 2018.

Don’t be fooled into thinking you’re already behind if you’re not using artificial intelligence in your marketing. The State of AI in B2B Marketing report from Heinz Marketing and Everstring found that 63 percent of marketers still don’t have AI in their tech stack. The study noted an appetite for AI exists, but clarity is needed about exactly how it can help marketers. Here’s some basic information – an introduction, if you will – to the current state of AI in B2B.

AI, what’s it good for?

There’s a hard truth about artificial intelligence: without an extensive and clean abundance of digital data, AI is unlikely to offer much impact on your marketing. But most in the industry have little doubt AI will be a dominant player in years to come. Paul Roetzer, founder of the Marketing AI Institute, believes artificial intelligence will be even more disruptive than the internet.

“Eighty percent of what we do every day will be intelligently automated to some degree in the next three to five years,” he recently proclaimed in a presentation at MarketingProfs’ B2B Marketing Forum.
Roetzer also made the point that we need not understand the technical complexities of how AI works, but only what it can do and the benefits of using it. So, what is AI good for?

In its current form, artificially intelligent marketing can assist with important tasks such as accelerating lead conversion, hyper-personalizing outbound marketing (like email), optimizing content and content delivery, and predictive lead scoring.

You might notice these tasks lean away from the creative side of marketing and content creation. There’s sometimes a misconception that AI is aimed at creating the ideal marketing message. Closer to reality is that AI can help you determine which of your creative and strategic approaches are working best.

Roetzer recommends having AI handle tasks where humans have limited ROI. In other words, lower level duties that lend themselves to automation. Where AI still lacks effectiveness is high-impact activities like strategy development, customer interaction and creative concepts. Where it can have a valuable impact is challenges that are solved efficiently at scale by utilizing big data analysis.

Perhaps one of AI’s biggest benefits to a business can be the dissolution of marketing and sales misalignment. Siloed infrastructures have long antagonized businesses, but thanks to the machine learning behind AI, marketers can gain a vision of what’s working in real time, allowing them to improve and adjust quickly – providing the sales teams more effective content.

A tool, not a solution

Artificial intelligence at this stage is a tool for marketers, not a panacea. It’s unlikely AI will replace much of the human activity in marketing, but rather improve it. We’re far from the day when an office full of robots cranks out advertising, but we are already at the point that deep-diving algorithms can relieve some of the grunt work and guesswork of marketing activities. A story last year in Harvard Business Review detailed how Harley Davidson used AI to improve the effectiveness of its ad performance by 447 percent.

As noted previously, businesses looking to add AI to their arsenals don’t need to necessarily understand the algorithms, but it is important they know enough to not be misled by vendors trying to sell the shine of AI without the substance. It’s important to know what AI is and isn’t in terms of today’s capabilities. And it’s important to understand that the impact of artificial intelligence is indeed coming. Knowing a little about it now can help your organization prepare to make the most of it down the road.

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