Did you know that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will bring us self-driving cars within 5 years and that these cars will simply drop us off at our destination and then go to find a parking spot, without us? Or that an AI start-up in Montreal has developed AI technology that can mimic any voice, after listening to it for just 60 seconds?

AI is moving out of laboratories and sci-fi novels and into the realm of ordinary people, and we will live differently because of it – the story of the Internet tells us this.

But will we market our products and services differently because of AI?

According to research by Demandbase, 80% of marketing executives believe that AI will revolutionize their field by the year 2020. (Yes, that is only three years from now.)

How will AI change B2B marketing?

First, a word about AI; the term conjures up visions of robots in films who are lovely at first only to eventually turn on the human beings who built them. But AI is not so dramatic in all of its connotations:

AI will let you learn more about your customers

At the core of all marketing is getting to know who your customers really are and what it is they really want. B2B firms meticulously collect data from all of their interactions with customers, and put these pieces of data together, like an imperfect jigsaw puzzle, so as to learn more about what these customers want and need.

AI will allow you to easily collect data from the web, from blog posts, posts on social media, from databases of contacts and news stories: The end result will be that you get to know your customer in a more complete way, the jigsaw puzzle will become less imperfect.

Remember, when see a Facebook post about a upcoming cricket game, it is AI that made it possible for the social media site to know that you follow New Zealand with an almost manic intensity.

AI lets us get hyper-personal

A generic message is a message that no one wants to read. But B2B marketers must reach out to a wide swath of customers as a first step in discovering leads, and hence generic messages with little meaning continually fly out to potential customers.

AI is able to craft unique messages to millions of potential customers simultaneously; messages that are based on the aggregate of data that AI has collected and analyzed about each of the message recipients.

Epsilon Email Institute has revealed that automated email messages radically outperform what they refer to as “business-as-usual” emails, with open rates that are 75% higher and click-through rates that are 152% higher.

And there are companies that can help you explore how AI can help you improve your marketing emails: Phrasee is an AI technology company that provides solutions for marketers, using AI to write subject lines, text and to analyse what works and what doesn’t.

Sales representatives will work differently

The Harvard Business Review (HBR) has reported that 85% of all of the activities of sales representatives could be automated. Should even a fraction of these activities be automated, sales representatives will be able to focus more time on building valuable relationships of trust with customers and making the more subtle decisions attached to the sales process. And to telling the kind of fact-based stories that turn overwhelmed buyers into informed, confident buyers.

All hail the chatbot

You have, no doubt, interacted with a chatbot, whether the eBay ShopBot, CheapHarry of Amazon or Harry Botter of Wiki Bots. You can have a lot of fun with a chatbot, and B2B firms are using chatbots in numerous ways:

  • To chat with customers who are browsing through their website, answering their impromptu questions naturally, as a polite human being would.
  • To direct online customers to the sales team at the appropriate time.
  • To gather data about prospective customers, about their likes and dislikes, their complaints, any words or phrases they commonly use, and how often they are online.
  • To personalize interactions with prospective clients: Successful chatbots have names, and we human beings respond more positively to a chatbot who has a name. Also, chatbots can make individualized offers to a site visitor, perhaps an invite to a webinar focused on a topic they have expressed interest in.
  • My personal favorite for sales and marketing professionals is Dharmash Shah’s http://growthbot.org/.

Hey, this is a smart search system

AI makes predictive search systems possible, which saves everyone time. If your B2B website is well-designed but unwieldy, due to the complex nature of the products you sell or the services you offer, a predictive search system can help to provide your customers with a happier visit to your website.

And the fact that we are all familiar with predictive search because Google uses it, taking our past queries and matching them to the new search terms we type, means that it is easily understood when offered by corporate websites. Airbnb knew that it needed a search engine that would not let them down as their business boomed, and AI showed them the way.

Oh, brave new world

AI offers greater access to data (and faster processing of it); better websites; smart chatbots; and a greater knowledge of your customers.

Hence, do not fear AI; embrace it. (Unless you are sitting in a movie theater.)