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    Conversational AI: the game-changer for B2B tech marketing and sales

    Kim Kaminski takes a look at how conversational AI is set to change the face of tech buying in all sectors – and assesses what it means for telemedia

    Today’s B2B tech buyers do the majority of their research online before engaging in a serious buying process. By the time they connect with sales, they’ve most likely narrowed their options down to a few vendors, and, in fact, recent studies have shown that many buyers don’t want to engage with salespeople at all. Which means that tech vendor websites must essentially be a digital ‘product’ serving up the type of consumer-grade experience expected today.

    In the B2B world, vendors rely on their websites to convey product information, get key messages across and demonstrate their expertise, but unlike their consumer counterparts, they also want to generate leads. It can take effort to position intricate tech solutions to customers and help them fully understand the features and benefits or convince them of the value proposition.

    The other challenge, particularly for smaller tech vendors, is that they need to make their digital marketing investment work hard. Budgets have been squeezed and sales and marketing teams are under pressure, so doing more with less is paramount.

    Conversational marketing tools

    Against this backdrop, tech firms must learn how to build new B2B processes that cooperatively provide both marketing and sales teams with a fast way to build pipeline. Conversational Marketing solutions driven by AI are quickly becoming a foundation in modern marketing tech stacks.

    Going beyond traditional chatbot technology, Conversational AI tools allow potential customers to engage with humans in real time and at the exact moment they are looking for information. This creates more elegant customer experiences and speeds sales cycles. Customers get instant responses to inquiries, while marketing and sales receive valuable customer data to assess needs, preferences and purchase intent. This helps them prioritise and focus their sales efforts effectively. But that’s not all, because if customer data can be leveraged, these tools have the power to tailor recommendations, offers and interactions that foster customer loyalty and drive repeat business.

    Conversational Marketing also provides huge benefits for the business development team. In tech firms many of these execs are young and early in their careers. They have, to date, spent most of their time looking for opportunities through the leads they get from the marketing department, or from cold calling. Compare this daunting process with the Conversational Marketing alternative. A customer comes to the website, engages in a chat and within seconds agrees to join a video call from a business development representative. Not only does the customer get instant assistance, the BDR gets an instant hot prospect.

    Another benefit is availability. Many technology companies have a global customer base spanning across different time zones. Conversational Marketing tools can operate around the clock, ensuring that customers can access assistance or information at any time. This is essential in allowing companies to reduce response times and capture leads outside the business hours of its offices.

    Integration is the key

    As with any technology, a Conversational Marketing solution must be fully integrated into the go-to-market strategy, processes and tech stack in order for it to pay big dividends. Most importantly, the CMO and CRO should be fully aligned on expected goals and metrics.

    When a company adopts a Conversational Marketing solution, it’s important to think about where it fits into the buyer’s journey, and this might be different for each persona the company is targeting. The website content must also be orchestrated around the conversational marketing experiences that are being created.

    Marketing teams running ABM programs will find that Conversational Marketing tools provide tremendous personalisation and flexibility, whether they are doing 1-1, 1-to-a-few, or 1-to-many ABM campaigns. AI capabilities can assist in identifying cohorts of buyers or individual buyers, across multiple segments. This enables them to more effectively target and engage with bespoke content and messaging, creating a truly personalised experience. Most importantly the sales and business development team can receive a signal when focus accounts land on the website, making it easy for them to engage at the right moment.

    Getting started

    The best way to get started on the road to Conversational Marketing is to request an ROI analysis from a preferred vendor. The vendor should be able to use the engagement and conversation data of the company to provide a projected ROI showing how the technology can be a force multiplier in terms of pipeline value.

    It’s important to be realistic about how quickly organisations can start seeing value. The first month is generally spent on enablement, set-up and testing, with subsequent months focused on optimising. It’s important to make sure the selected vendor offers success services to guide the team at every stage. The entire team should embark on this journey with a test-and-learn mentality.

    Quantifying the results

    We are new to Conversational Marketing, but already seeing huge dividends from our investment. When we started using our chosen solution, we committed ourselves to continuous learning and constant iterations. We continue to be surprised by how ‘human’ our solution is. It pushes us to make changes in the pursuit of operating more effectively.

    One of the first, and most significant, results we saw after implementation is that using Conversational Marketing accelerates the sales time from a lead to an opportunity. What previously took two or three weeks now takes just days. At the same time the opportunities influenced by conversations identified by the tool have significantly grown our pipeline value and within just three months, we’ve seen hundreds of leads created, over 90 meetings booked, and our BDRs have engaged in more than 100 live conversations.

    What is clear, even at this early stage, is that by adding Conversational Marketing to our website, we have entered into more customer conversations than ever before. We are connecting our content with prospective customers in a way that has more meaning to them. We are able to respond to questions quickly and ensure customers have the information they need to take the next step in their purchase journey. Conversational Marketing driven by AI is not a substitute for a complex technical sale but for a small but dynamic tech company marketing department like ours, it’s extending our reach, deepening our customer engagements and helping us maximise our marketing spend and resources.

    Author

    Kim Kaminski is Chief Marketing Officer at NS1, an IBM Company

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