Artificial intelligence is about to change lead generation and conversion as you know it. In the process, it’ll have a transformative impact on companies and careers.
AI is a blanket term that covers several different technologies. You might have heard of some of them, like machine learning, computer vision, and natural language processing.
Even if you don’t know much about it, though, you probably use AI-powered technology dozens or hundreds of times per day. For instance, voice assistants like Alexa or Siri rely on it to understand you and respond, and Amazon and Netflix recommendation engines use it to offer up the products and movies you love.
You also don’t need to be an expert on AI to understand how it’s going to transform lead generation and conversion for marketers. In fact, it’s quite simple:
AI systems excel at extracting insights from huge datasets, then they use those insights to make predictions. The most advanced AI systems learn and improve over time, on their own.
That means if you have lead or customer data, chances are there is an AI-powered system that can use that data to make intelligent predictions about your leads. These might include:
- Who in your database represents an ideal lead
- Who outside your database represents an ideal lead
- What next actions to take to convert a lead
- What content and offers resonate most with leads
- Which leads are worth pursuing
And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
AI in marketing is still in its infancy.
McKinsey predicts $2.6 trillion in business value will be unlocked in the coming years in marketing and sales. That means marketers who explore AI have the opportunity to accelerate their companies and careers by building a competitive advantage with this technology—especially when it comes to lead generation and conversion.
To get started, we’ve outlined some of the top lead generation and conversion use cases we’re seeing as part of our work at Marketing AI Institute, where we’re tracking 1,100 sales and marketing AI companies with combined funding north of $5 billion.
For each use case, we’ve also listed a tool you can look into starting today, based on the more than 45 profiles we’ve done on AI-powered vendors. You’ll need to do your own due diligence on each of these tools, however. There are lots out there, and marketers need to verify for themselves how (and how effectively) each vendor uses AI.
Gain Key Insights About Leads
You might have a clear picture of your company’s best (or target) leads. But you’re only human. No matter how much insight you have into the market, you just can’t analyze large sets of lead data at scale.
But artificial intelligence can. It can use this superpower to help you better understand existing leads and prospective customers. AI excels at extracting insights from lots of data. And, with the right datasets, it can draw plenty of conclusions.
Think about all the places your potential customers generate data: your marketing automation system, CRM tools, website analytics, ecommerce stores, social media, and more. AI systems exist today that can take work with datasets like these to extract insights about your leads.
For instance, you may have a large lead database, but no effective lead scoring in place. AI may be able to analyze past lead behavior, then tell you which leads to focus on first. The irony is that, with the right system and data, machines may be able to help you better understand the humans you market to.
One major player in the space is Salesforce. The company’s AI, Einstein, automatically prioritizes leads for sales reps and predicts which are most likely to close. These capabilities are increasingly baked into the company’s CRM.
Build Your Lead Database
AI-powered tools exist that can find you more leads based on what is known about your current leads. Again, this is where AI’s ability to parse large datasets comes in handy.
AI systems exist that look at your current leads and customers, using data from systems like marketing automation software, then weigh that information against other databases to find more people that look like your best buyers.
One example of this is Seamless.AI, a company that uses artificial intelligence to validate lead contact information, so you can use search criteria to find your entire addressable market in seconds.
In practice, this means brands can identify a list of target companies they’d like to prospect, then input those companies into an AI-powered tool like Seamless.AI. In a matter of minutes, the tool could then provide verified email addresses for prospects at each company, creating a contact list almost instantly.
Engage, Nurture, and Convert—Automatically
Even if you’re already generating healthy numbers of leads, AI can probably help you convert more of them into sales.
AI systems already exist that personalize on-site content to maximize visitor engagement, so that conversion rates rise as leads consume more content—and more relevant—content.
Some of these systems can even predict what content and offers leads might be interested in next, moving them further down the funnel more efficiently. Other AI systems leverage chatbots and virtual assistants to achieve the same goal, often in a partially or completely automated fashion.
One tool we’ve found that does this is Conversica, an AI-powered sales assistant that automatically engages leads, delivering personalized outreach at scale.
A tool like Conversica would automatically engage a site visitor or returning lead, then follow up consistently and regularly, without a marketer or salesperson needing to stay on top of prospects. This ensures leads are engaged at all times throughout their journey, not just when marketing and sales pros remember to follow up.
Improve Sales Pipeline Quality
AI can also help you improve the overall quality of your pipeline. Thanks to its predictive power, it can tell your marketing and sales pros which actions work best and shed light on the most effective strategies for selling more.
This results in a more efficient and effective marketing and sales pipeline, which means increased revenue and reduced costs for your organization.
Gong.io is one solution that uses AI to do this. The company uses AI to analyze sales conversations and uncover exactly what moves your pipeline forward.
For instance, Gong can analyze sales calls using AI, then provide data-driven recommendations on what works and what doesn’t. You might learn that your top reps talk less about pricing (and more about next steps) than reps who perform below average.
How to Make AI Your Competitive Advantage
This is just the beginning. We’re still in the very early days of AI adoption in marketing and sales. But if you want to accelerate your AI education and adoption, I encourage you to join us at the next iteration of the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Conference (MAICON).
MAICON is designed to help marketing leaders truly understand AI, educate their teams, garner executive support, pilot priority AI uses cases, and develop a near-term strategy for successfully scaling AI. In 2019, MAICON had 40+ sessions and 60+ speakers from companies like Crayon and Softbank Robotics.