While there are some who would have you believe that artificial intelligence (AI) may spell the end of human civilisation as we know it, there are inarguably many benefits to AI, one of which is fostering better sales and marketing alignment.
Traditionally, marketing’s role has been seen as generating leads, while sales’ role is converting those leads into customers. Sales and marketing alignment, however, is about working in tandem towards the same goal – bringing revenue into the company. And it works – one source says organisations with strong sales and marketing alignment generate nearly 40% more revenue than organisations without it.
However, aligning these departments is often easier said than done. Interestingly, AI is helping to bridge the gap.
Here are 4 ways AI is helping to align sales and marketing.
1. AI can collect more lead information
As the AI that powers chatbots evolves, making interacting with them more seamless than ever, so too does their popularity. And now they have leapt from websites to social media platforms: in April 2016, Facebook announced the introduction of Messenger bots, allowing brands to have their own chatbots within the platform. This integration within the platform means that customers no longer have to download and use another app to perform simple business or service interactions.
AI-powered chatbots are appealing because they can now resolve a majority of customer inquiries, and they work 24 hours a day, saving human customer representatives time, and providing a much better user experience for the customer. Some even estimate that by the end of 2017, only a third of customer service queries will be fielded by human representatives.
They can also help to collect information about visitors that may otherwise not be attainable. Because it interacts like a person, it can elicit much more nuanced information than, say, a landing page form. As one CMO said about his company’s bot: “I’ve learned things about my visitors that no other analytics system would show. We’ve learned about new use cases, and we’ve learned about product problems.”
These deeper insights can help sales and marketing get on the same page about what actually makes for a qualified lead, and how to better help visitors along the buyer journey.
2. AI can improve brand experience
As well as helpful chatbots that can field queries, AI is also creating positive brand experiences by tailoring content to independent visitors. Companies like Boomtrain and Liftigniter have developed technologies that surface content, depending on a visitor’s previous engagement with the website, such as purchases and clicks.
By helping visitors find the content they want, marketing can improve click-through rate and engagement, and help these customers move through the sales funnel, thus generating much higher quality leads, and more conversions for sales.
3. AI can help to qualify and convert leads
AI-powered chatbots can help to qualify and even convert leads, by both interacting with visitors and helping them find the information they need, and also by collecting data. No longer do sales have to sift through hundreds or even thousands of chat sessions to find qualified leads – the chatbot can instead learn to recognise a qualified lead and direct it to the most appropriate salesperson.
This can similarly be done with an AI ‘sales assistant’, which can send out tens of thousands of emails a month, reaching out to potential leads with personable emails in order to engage them. The assistant can then interpret the responses it receives, ask questions in order to qualify the lead, and then set up an appointment with the most appropriate sales rep.
This means no leads are lost simply because they weren’t contacted in time, or ever, by time-poor sales representatives. It also means marketing don’t feel frustrated because all the leads they worked so hard to generate simply aren’t being followed up by sales. And it’s also good for the bottom line, which is good news for everyone – one company reported an ROI of $20 in new contracts for every dollar spent on their AI sales assistant system.
Predictive analytics has also gained a lot of momentum in recent years, and can provide an objective, data-driven roadmap for both sales and marketing. Predictive analytics can be used to:
- Identify ideal customer profiles
- Score leads based on visitor behaviour
- Automate administrative tasks such as updating the CRM
- Bolster account-based marketing strategies
By creating a decision-making framework that is based on intelligence, sales and marketing can ensure they’re both on the same page in terms of definitions and strategies.
4. AI gives time to focus on alignment
By taking over more mechanical tasks, AI effectively frees sales and marketing to do their jobs. This means marketing can spend more time understanding their customers and developing creative campaigns, and sales can spend more time building relationships with prospects and developing a deeper understanding of what makes them tick.
There’s also more time for both sides to actively foster alignment, and find ways to better help each other to reach their shared goals.
AI to take over the world (of business)
AI has already demonstrated a potential for high ROI, and, as more and more businesses harness the power of AI to accelerate their growth, those that don’t will simply be left behind.
But while AI can potentially fundamentally transform the way sales and marketing do business and align themselves, it will likely always need a human touch to be at its most effective. There is, after all, no replacement for a well-crafted creative campaign, or a well-versed sales pitch.
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