Imagine it’s 2050. AI has become prominent in almost every part of our lives. Autonomous vehicles are all that’s left on the roads, the oldest person alive is 150 and Brexit has finally happened! That may be far fetched, but we can safely say it’s going to be a different world than the one we know today. Thus, the question beckons. How will B2B Lead Generation initiatives be conducted in companies of the future?
B2B Lead Generation: Changes in practice
The rise of AI has already made its stamp in the business world. Chatboxes have grown common on many websites, and the programming behind this technology is becoming more and more sophisticated. This has created what some are coining as ‘conversational marketing’. Innovative start-ups such as Drift have built a conversational marketing platform that connects sales teams to web visitors in real-time. They believe that the old methods of b2b lead generation such as inbound are dying. They think such methods have become impersonal and take to long due to the length of the business buying cycle. Therefore, they propose that using chatbots on your website to initiate a conversation can streamline the lead to the customer journey.
The Ultimate Partnership: AI + Human
One of the most astonishing developments to happen last year within this field was the unveiling of Google AI Assistant. If you missed this, Google deployed its AI assistant to schedule an appointment over the phone with a real person. The demonstration and the complexity of the discussion may have been basic, but it highlighted the potential this technology truly has.
Currently, AI is slowly becoming integrated at call centres to supplement customer service activities. What organisations are doing is utilising the technology to work alongside staff and handle the majority of calls which require simple assistance. If the caller’s queries are more difficult to solve, the AI bot will alert a member of staff and transfer the call to them. Another key benefit is the AI bot can manage a large number of conversations at once. This is something a human cannot do. Now, while this technology may only be in its early stages of development, one thing is for sure it’s here to stay.
So, how could this technology potentially be reconfigured and deployed for lead generation?
There’s no doubt that there are several possibilities for B2B Lead Generation. If AI can already manage numerous conversations at once and ‘conversational marketing ‘ becomes the next big thing. Then, it’s not too far fetched to imagine marketing teams working together on social outreach campaigns alongside AI. The AI will have the ability to build a conversation into a substantial opportunity and using a sophisticated scoring system will be able to hand over the lead at the ideal time. Amongst this, AI will also have the capability to analyse conversations, what worked well and what didn’t and produce detailed reports that contain actionable insights.
Sound’s great but what’s the catch?
Like anything, we must be wary of the disadvantages, the downsides, the risks. There’s no question that all of the above has the potential to revolutionise how we conduct b2b lead generation. However, there could be some issues which need highlighting.
1. Loss of human touch – While an AI bot can churn away, immune to fatigue, maintaining the personal feel of a conversation could become difficult. At the heart of lead generation is building good relationships. This requires the awareness to interpret how another individual may be feeling, the ability to expand on shared interests, express doubts and share knowledge. You will not find n an AI Bot, which for now, is virtually emotionless. Merely a vehicle to enhance operational efficiency.
2. Loss of Control – As the saying goes if you want something done well, do it yourself! Like outsourcing any task, you lose the ability to have control. Even though every precaution will be taken to ensure the Bot aligns with corporate branding. The risk remains that the AI could run off course. This could take several shapes. For example, the bot could potentially waste time and qualify leads which have no relevance or do not fit your product offering. Furthermore, it could also miss valuable opportunities by disengaging from conversations it believes aren’t worthwhile.
The coming years are sure to deliver some real changes. We, as marketers need to be at the forefront of this change, drive it forward and ensure we use it as we look to create a competitive advantage over our competitors. Leading such change will be fraught with mistakes and misunderstandings. One thing it won’t be though is a waste of time.