Chatbots have been around a long time, in one form or another. Siri is the most popular amongst them and in some cases has replaced the need for human interaction completely. However, the popularity has not grown as rapidly in B2B marketing as in B2C as these primarily served a customer service function in situations of being a first line of defense to mass customer queries.
For the B2B marketer, chatbots, machine learning can help with providing that timely persistence and repeatability. In their persistence and omnipresence, I view them similar to bygone days where millions of pieces of direct mail were dropped by financial institutions every month on the premise that memories are short and it is all about being at the right place and the right time.
Starting with the more prosaic subject of data management, I will expound on opportunities for leveraging machine learning for the marketer.
1. Databases and Data Management
As a modern marketing organization if you have not yet internalized that a systems analyst is essential (blend of IT and business) to your marketing team, then the time to do that is now. This is not to be confused with your operations analyst, a function which focused on maintaining your marketing automation platform and managing your nurture strategy. Good, clean, connected, enhanced databases are the foundation of every company and marketing function, and yet they continue to be the mystery that we are still solving with ever expanding technology and our business judgement. Even though the databases for a B2B organization are not as large as for B2C, legacy and junk collected over the years compounds problems of dupes, missing fields, spam traps, broken workflows between systems, resulting in continuous frustration between marketing, sales and business IT teams. One needs to avoid falling in the trap of perfection or analysis paralysis. Prioritize on 3 primary areas — de-duping, tighter access controls, and workflow management. I can see a lot of head shakes with marketers that are reading and saying there are 10 other critical things that I am not mentioning here. Have faith. Like you, I deal with this on a daily basis and calm myself in the knowledge that this is not a quick fix but something we will be talking about every year for the foreseeable future.
Moving from the prosaic to the sublime, these new age humans can form an important part of your arsenal. Flow based emails following a predetermined journey or complex decision trees tend to sound great in their conception but fall flat somewhere in the details of execution and refinement. A targeted chatbot flow to segmented buyers allows for personalization, timely response and does provide sales with more ready buyers, or at the very least adds to the pool that is available through traditional channels. The jury is out on how long it lasts before the savvy B2B buyer gets beyond it. However, for the buyer of today, well done AI chatbots do show promise.
3. AI, Machine Learning, Big data
Big data is the buzz word for the last few years. Every other new start-up that gets funded is about big data. We know there is “Data” and that it is “Big” :). So what does this mean for the marketing teams of today? Data science is here and adoption should be on yesterday’s footing. Most companies have adopted a marketing automation solution by now and our data is residing in them, linked to a CRM tool and accessed by BI front ends. Opportunity therein lies in going beyond the waterfall framework and in developing new frameworks that account and allow for solutions that are using artificial intelligence technology to perform semantic analysis providing the marketer with additional insight that is data driven to create more effective marketing outreach programs. Ultimately all this aids in pipeline and revenue growth and establishing leadership position for your organization in highly competitive global markets. Operationalizing, building frameworks around this is a key before investing in any ABM technology solutions that are out there.