B2B marketers have it tough. Most B2C marketers don’t face the same challenges that B2B marketers do. To be fair, we’re B2B marketers, so we may be a bit biased, but hear us out. B2B companies don’t have nearly as many potential customers as B2C marketers. Many B2B marketers have to target small niches that can be hard to penetrate. To top it all off, 82% of B2B website visitors aren’t even potential customers. Much like a LA rush hour, that’s a lot of useless traffic.
That’s why B2B marketers need to make every interaction count, and get creative with their marketing strategies. One of the most innovative and productive B2B marketing strategies is account-based marketing (ABM). It’s become one of the fastest-growing strategies used today, as it’s been shown to outperform traditional marketing to the tune of 171%.
ABM focuses on marketing to specific companies, and specific people within those companies. Personalization is key, but one of the big drawbacks is the ability to scale. As you’ve probably experienced, personalization is incredibly time-consuming without the help of automation. That’s where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in.
The ability of AI to collect massive amounts of data, uncover insights and use those insights to act accordingly is revolutionizing the world as we know it. In his book Artificial Intelligence for Marketing: Practical Applications, marketing expert Jim Sterne explains that “AI can discover which elements or attributes in a subject matter domain are the most predictive. Even with a great deal of noisy data and a large variety of data types, it can identify the most revealing characteristics, figuring out which to heed to and which to ignore.”
As we stand today, AI is poised to have a huge impact on marketing and, in particular, ABM. Peter Isaacson, CMO of ABM software platform Demandbase, stated in an interview with Demand Gen Report that “The value and the promise of AI is that, because it combines massive amounts of data with real insights about the company and the individual within that company, you can take action—at scale—that reestablishes a sense of intimacy with that individual. And you can do that across the web.”
So what are these promising capabilities that AI brings to ABM? It all comes down to two phrases: data-driven automation, and hyper-personalization at scale.
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Discovering More Prospects
The predictive analytics employed by AI provide an easy, automated platform for finding potential customers. Essentially getting rid of the need to manually calculate a lead score, many of today’s AIs can identify which prospects are worth targeting and which aren’t. This lets you quickly narrow down your list of accounts, so you can focus on creating campaigns for those with the highest possibility of converting.
In addition, there are AIs out there that can scour data from the web and identify new accounts that you can target with ABM. This automated approach helps solve one of the drawbacks of ABM. According to Salesbox, “ABM starts with the assumption that we know who the most likely buyer is and always acts on that insight to research, plan and execute deliverables. For instance, any potential buyer who doesn’t fit the industry profile, company revenue, title or seniority criteria is left out of the marketing pipeline, preventing us from losing all revenue of nonconforming leads… ABM’s greatest pitfall could be making us sacrifice growth by confining our vision to what we’ve always done to be successful instead of discovering new successes.” By deploying an AI and its data-driven automation capabilities, companies focusing on an ABM strategy can find new target accounts while avoiding the dreaded growth plateau.
Unique, Personalized Conversations
The importance of a good first impression isn’t limited to your personal life — it’s just as important for when prospects interact with your company. You want the customer experience to be pleasant, informative and personal. Pleasant and informative are easy enough to achieve, but making each interaction personal is more of a challenge; at least when it’s done at scale (and no, just changing the name on an email doesn’t count). Insert AI.
One of the most common ABM strategies is sending emails with content specific for the account being targeted, also known as one-to-one emails. This is a hyper-personalized strategy which, without AI, is impossible to produce at scale without employing an army of email marketers. However, AI uses predictive analytics, machine learning and other technology to start and maintain a conversation with your potential customers. This is most commonly in the form of a string of emails, but it’s also being used in newer technologies such as in chatbots.
This is one piece of marketing technology that’s been around for a while. So far it’s been most commonly used to change a few words in a headline based on, for example, which search query led to a click on a PPC ad. With AI in the picture, ads are getting much more dynamic (and you may not even need to pay attention to your click-through rate).
Soon, ads will commonly be able to do things like recognize who’s viewing it, and adjust accordingly. Already there are ads capable of answering questions posed to them by the consumer in real time as they’re viewing the ad. This could be a game-changer for ABM. You could potentially create a single ad campaign for all of the prospects in your sales funnel, but each ad would provide information and copy specific to the company the viewer of the ad works for.
Additionally, if the viewer had any questions about your company, they could skip the Google search and find their answers by asking your ad. We never thought we’d ever say the phrase “ask your ad,” yet here we are. Isn’t the future wonderful?
Customized Website Experiences
Even your website can become a powerful ABM machine when integrating AI. You can use recommendation technology similar to what Netflix and Amazon use to personalize your site’s content curation. Using AI to find what content interests your target accounts, you can then automate content recommendations that continuously engage your prospects with content they’re interested in.
This creates demand generation thanks to hyper-personalization. You can use the AI’s algorithm to promote content specifically created for a particular company to the people who work for that company. For example, if you’re marketing to a manufacturing company that you know needs to optimize its warehouse-related supply chain processes, you could automatically recommend a blog featuring strategies on how to do just that.
Doing so gives your company credibility in their eyes, and they’re likely to view your company as both a thought leader and an informational asset. This kind of perception is what makes the sales teams’ jobs much easier, since they don’t have to break down trust barriers as they try to secure the account.
Automated and Customized Buyer’s Journey
All of the above aid in creating a unique buyer journey for each prospective account. Every prospect goes through the sales funnel differently, but nowhere is that more obvious than in ABM. Since your goal is to personalize your marketing based on the account, ensuring a custom buyer’s journey is necessary to properly move each account down the sales funnel. AI achieves this with custom content curation, custom emails and dynamic ads playing a large role.
The most powerful aspect of customizing the process is, as we mentioned earlier, doing all of this at scale. Automating these customized buyer’s journeys lessens the burden on your marketing team. In particular, it removes the burden of keeping close eyes on each buyer journey. An AI not only helps move prospects down the sales funnel, but it does so by recognizing where in the sales funnel they are.
As an example, a prospect viewing your site for the first time would be recommended content not only relevant to their company, but also providing basic introductory information to your company. However, a prospect visiting your site for the fifth time would be recommended content relevant to them as well as content featuring more in-depth details about your company.
Devising a new marketing strategy is challenging for B2B marketers, especially when trying to turn a growth plateau into long-term growth. Trust us — we’ve been there. But if you haven’t yet used account-based marketing, you may be surprised by the results you see. And you may be even more surprised when you integrate artificial intelligence. All signs point to the use of AI and ABM only increasing in the coming years. As such, the future of marketing automation for B2B marketers seems bright and easier than ever thanks to AI and ABM.