Artificial intelligence (AI) has hit headlines in a big way, with industry leaders everywhere declaring that it’s a game-changer for their sectors. In fact, 2018 was dubbed the year of AI and excitement around its potential has only grown. In all the hype, it can be tempting to overlook the technology as something that can only help in the future, especially as it has many applications now, particularly within lead generation where it can really provide great value and ROI.
In fact, businesses that already use AI to some extent have reported experiencing 59% better close rates for sales, 58% increased revenue and 52% higher conversion. And those are numbers you can’t ignore. So, to inspire you to bring AI tools to your lead generation in 2019, here are six potential ways that it can help.
1. AI can find new leads
AI is a pro at finding leads or validating current ones. Data mining will uncover fresh leads and even target audiences that you may not have considered before. One big perk that AI offers is its ability to analyze a lot of data - much more than one human could handle.
Plus, AI can analyze your ideal and best customers to find ‘lookalikes’ in the market. It can uncover their behavioral patterns, to help you better target them, and then find logical connections between your products and those individuals.
For instance, Siftrock is a plug-in that can integrate with most marketing automation software to uncover new sales leads. It can mine any out-of-office replies, email signatures and job change emails to find new contact details for a sales team.
Another AI lead generation tool that you may already be using is LinkedIn. It uses AI as part of its Sales Navigator tool to recommend new leads based on a user’s profile.
2. Nurturing your leads
Before AI, lead nurturing was largely done through pre-set email messages, some segmentation to make those messages relevant, and manual prospect messaging if they were particularly high-value. AI makes this so much more efficient.
Lead nurturing involves sending potential customers the right amount and type of content to keep them engaged with your company. However, AI can automate a lot of this work by scheduling and personalizing communications on your behalf. Information, offers and follow-up sequences can be sent based on their behavior (for example, visiting a certain part of your website or attending one of your events) or even the behavior of similar customers. An AI can determine the best channel to contact someone on too, as some customers may prefer email and others may like chatbots.
3. Rise of the chatbots
Speaking of which, chatbots have become a rather big deal. People are getting more comfortable with them, from in-app to social media bots. They can offer a quick way to relay key information or answer simple questions. They can also take someone further down the sales funnel.
Indeed, a study recently found that chatbots performed better for customer conversion compared to other marketing tools. Retention with bots hovered around 40-60% whilst other channels scored 20-40%.
Pizza Hut was quick to jump on the chatbot trend, with a Facebook Messenger bot that can recommend items to order and take payments within the Messenger app. In doing so, it massively reduces the steps to purchase and makes the ordering process seamless.
4. Gathering and using data
Chatbots and similar AI communication tools can collect a lot of data on your potential customers. This can be an invaluable resource for your business intelligence - not just your lead generation. It can be used by your product team, for example, to help refine future versions of your products to better meet customer needs and desires.
Plus, AI is designed to get smarter with every interaction. The more data that is has, the more intelligent it becomes. This means its suggestions for new leads or prompts to interact with a lead become more accurate.
This data can be used to create more targeted communications to increase the likelihood of a prospect converting. It doesn’t have to be CRM or structured data either - AI tool Netra can analyze visual content uploaded to social media for prospect insights. It can identify logos, specific objects and demographic interests within images to uncover a target audience’s preferences.
Meanwhile, CaliberMind uses AI to analyze language on social media and CRM or marketing automation tools to build up different buyer personas. From this, it can recommend the types of audiences that an organization should target and the communication methods that are most likely to convert.
5. Check the quality of your leads
AI can also double-check your leads and improve the quality of your pipeline. It can predict what leads are likely to become customers based on previous interactions with similar audiences. With this information, your sales team can focus on the high-value targets that are likely to convert and recommend next actions for your sales team. Which is exactly what SaaS platform InsideSales.com does. It uses machine learning to build sales models based on CRM and other data sources, predict what accounts will convert and recommend actions based on this.
6. Improving efficiency and reducing costs
With AI automating much of the lead nurture process and predicting what accounts are likely to close, sales professionals can focus more on converting prospects. Therefore, AI improves the operational costs and efficiency of a team. It also reduces time wasted with leads that are unlikely to convert and improves the quality of data that a sales team can base their decisions on.
Worth investing in this year
Bringing AI into your lead generation processes this year will drastically change the efficiency of your team, the quality of your leads and the number of deals that you close. It’s not some futuristic technology that’s out of your reach, it has many simple applications that you can experiment with now, including chatbots, plug-ins for your CRM system and SaaS products. So, will this be the year that your lead generation becomes AI-driven?