Across industries and audience demographics, conversational interfaces and the interactions they support are becoming embedded in the B2B digital experience as buyers and customers continue to show preference for self-guided interactions at each stage of their journeys. The ability to reach, engage, and enable empowered B2B audiences — whether buyer, customer, or employee — means something different to every firm based on what they offer, how buyers buy, and how customers adopt the solution and engage post-sale.
Inside this complexity, marketer and machine are finding harmony in their work. Demand and account-based marketers are leveraging conversation automation and AI to optimize self-directed interactions in the preferred delivery mechanisms and formats of their audiences, increase efficiency of internal processes, recognize and enable members of buying groups and retention groups, and drive precision and scale in outreach for sales and success.
We surveyed B2B marketers worldwide to explore how tactics are used in demand and account-based marketing (ABM) programs to engage and enable modern B2B buyers, providing unique insights into the adoption and utilization of automated conversations to support the buying journey and customer lifecycle. Here are five key findings from our recently published report on The State Of Conversation Automation Technology In B2B Marketing that highlight the use of conversation automation in B2B marketing, trends in content personalization, and the role of AI in facilitating these interactions.
- More than half of demand and ABM marketers use conversation automation in the tactic mix. Fifty-eight percent of demand and account-based marketers are leveraging conversation automation technologies, with 43% planning to increase or significantly increase budget for online chat as a conversational delivery mechanism. Thirty-nine percent of respondents said the demand organization is the budget owner for conversational technologies, followed by the customer service function and sales. If you haven’t even considered whether or not these solutions could help your buyers, you run the risk of falling behind your competitors.
- B2B audiences are chatting across digital delivery mechanisms. When chatbots or virtual assistants (VAs) are used in the tactic mix, the top five delivery channels for those conversations are mobile apps, virtual event platforms, email, social media, and websites. The utilization of conversation automation and the mechanisms that deliver those interactions varies by industry. Mobile apps are the top delivery mechanism for automated conversations in business and professional services, financial services, and information technology. Virtual events are a hot spot for conversational interactions in advanced manufacturing, while email is the top conversational delivery mechanism for healthcare, followed by SMS.
- Effectiveness is based on outcomes, not activity. The influence and impact of conversational interactions in the demand and account-based marketing tactic mix varies based on program or business objective. Twenty-seven percent of respondents report that online chat is most effective when used for generating inquiries and responses, followed closely by buyer qualification and deal acceleration. With only 16% of marketers finding online chat to be effective as a nurture delivery channel, there’s opportunity for tighter integration of these conversations into nurture planning and activation by using the dynamic nature of dialogue to inform program design rules.
- Personalization is table stakes in B2B. An interaction with a buyer or customer that results in a meaningful exchange of information and value must be audience-centric by design. Sixty-three percent of B2B marketers are using personalization in the tactic mix; the top three approaches are tailoring content using personal information, buyer need, and alignment to specific industries. B2B organizations are working to recognize, engage, and enable buyer and customer groups moving together through the customer lifecycle, and 21% of respondents can match automated conversations based on the buying group.
- Conversation automation is the top marketing use case for AI. AI enables a variety of demand and account-based marketing processes, resulting in less friction and more contextual interactions with buyers and customers. The top use case for AI in the B2B marketing technology stack is automated conversations (58%), followed by tactic orchestration, personalization, conversion optimization, and testing. Nonhuman conversational agents are here to stay in B2B marketing — when online chat is in the mix, 74% of marketers are using chatbots and 65% using VAs to converse with their buyers and customers. More than 25% of B2B marketers with chat in the mix use conversational AI to create, deliver, and refine that dialogue. Whatever the approach, these conversations must be coordinated across tactics, technologies, and human and nonhuman contributors.
Learn more about conversational interactions and approaches in demand and account-based marketing in the new Forrester report, The State Of Conversation Automation Technology In B2B Marketing.