New research from account-based marketing (ABM) firm Demandbase, in conjunction with Salesforce Pardot and global research firm Demand Metric points to strong interest—and high expectations—in AI from B2B marketing and sales pros. Among study participants, 84 percent are currently planning, evaluating, implementing or using AI, and 84 percent also expect to see value from their implementations in one year or less.
Although the forecast seems rather speculative—only 18 percent of respondents are currently using AI—of those who currently use AI, over 40 percent say AI is the, or one of the, most important investments to achieve better sales and marketing performance—and nearly one-third say that it is revolutionizing marketing and sales performance.
This perspective is reflected in B2B marketing teams’ investment in data analysis
Sixty-nine percent of survey respondents noting that they have data scientists on the marketing team. The breakdown of data scientists on B2B marketing teams is:
- 38 percent have 1-3 data scientists
- 24 percent have 4-6 data scientists
- 4 percent have 7-9 data scientists
- 3 percent have 10+ data scientists
- 31 percent have none
“We’re still in the early days of AI for B2B marketing and sales, and there is a great deal of education that is needed to close the gap between implementation and expectations,” said Peter Isaacson, CMO at Demandbase, in a news release. “It’s exciting to see the optimism that exists in the B2B marketing community. As early adopters continue to have success, AI adoption will continue to accelerate, and AI solutions will become table stakes for all marketing and sales teams.”
When it comes to AI implementation and usage, the study found that the biggest barriers are:
- Cost/budget constraints (55 percent)
- Skills/team (52 percent)
- Unsure how to start (31 percent)
Awareness of AI capabilities remains a challenge
Part of the gap in AI implementation and usage lies in the fact that 40 percent of study participants are not aware of or fully taking advantage of existing AI capabilities in their vendor-supplied ad, sales or marketing technology. Better understanding of these features they already have could put them on the fast track to benefiting from AI, often at no or little additional cost.
“AI is transforming the B2B marketing and sales industries, providing greater insights, personalized campaigns, dynamic experiences and an overall more seamless experience between marketing and sales,” said Nate Skinner, VP of product marketing at Salesforce Pardot, in the release. “We’re excited to see the data suggest that the martech, sales tech and ad tech markets are primed to utilize AI to its full potential.”
In terms of priorities for AI investments, study participants planning their AI implementations list top-of funnel applications as priorities:
- Identify the right accounts or individuals to target (64 percent)
- Improve the reach or efficiency of digital advertising (54 percent)
- Capture intent signals from accounts or individuals (46 percent)
Similarly, they anticipate AI benefits in the following areas:
- Higher lead quality (67 percent)
- Better engagement with customers and prospects (56 percent)
- Better understanding of buyer intent (52 percent)
Of the three major areas of technology usage for sales and marketing teams—marketing, sales and advertising—martech claims the highest perceived value from AI across the full responses. Sales tech holds a strong promise for the future, too, according to 60 percent of current AI users who said sales tech could receive high value from the application of AI.
Where will you prioritize implementing marketing or sales AI applications?
The research surveyed 276 U.S. marketers in December 2018, of which 111 responses were used in the analysis. The respondents are employed at B2B organizations with $25 million or more in annual revenues across a diverse set of industries.