B2B Marketers Identify Their Expectations for AI

July 23, 2018

Only half of B2B marketers are using artificial intelligence (AI) in their marketing strategy and few are very confident of their level of knowledge of AI in the context of marketing technology. At the same time, they hold high expectations for the benefits afforded by AI, according to a study [download page] from EverString with Heinz Marketing.

The survey, conducted among more than 300 B2B marketing and sales professionals, found that respondents remain in the “early stages” of learning about and understanding AI. It’s not just B2B marketers that are struggling to wade through the hype to real application of AI: research late last year revealed that AI is the trend that has most marketers in general feeling unprepared.

B2B marketers surveyed for this latest report were twice as likely to say they’re unclear as to the differences between AI, machine learning, and predictive (37%) as to say they have a strong understanding (19%) of how they differ.

Despite lack of clarity about AI and its applications, marketers do – perhaps by virtue of what their peers are saying – have some lofty expectations for its use.

Most commonly, respondents say that they expect AI to help identify prospective customers (59%), although only about one-quarter say that AI plays such a role currently for them.

Close behind, a slight majority (53%) expect AI to improve marketing effectiveness in driving revenue. This would certainly prove a boon for B2B marketers, who are working under rising expectations for marketing’s contribution to revenue.

Interestingly enough, fewer than one-third (31%) of respondents expect AI to provide more detailed analysis of campaigns. That’s another area in which B2B marketers could use some help, judging by recent research: just 7% of B2B marketers in the US rate their company’s current ability to measure and analyze marketing performance and impact as “excellent.”

Meanwhile, respondents to the EverString and Heinz Marketing survey are interested in using AI to support their marketing strategy across various areas. More than 7 in 10 express interest in using AI to support their personalization efforts, and close to two-thirds (63%) hope that AI will help them identify trends. Moreover, a majority claim interest in using AI to support the customization (58%) and data processing (55%) components of their marketing strategy, though only one-fifth see AI playing a part in pricing (21%) strategy.

In other highlights from the report:

  • Just 1 in 5 (21%) respondents are very confident in achieving marketing goals and objectives given the data they have access to; recent research points out that customer data analysis challenges are preventing marketers from more advanced applications of AI;
  • Only 37% of respondents report utilizing or having access to any AI tools, platforms, or AI-powered marketing technology;
  • Most consider AI in their sales and marketing strategy to be very (26%) or somewhat (38%) valuable, though separate research suggests that AI takes a backseat to other marketing technology strategy priorities; and
  • Respondents say their marketing organizations are more likely to measure success on the basis of profitability/revenue (37% share) than on the number of opportunities created (27%), marketing-sourced/influenced revenue (21%), or the number of MQLs/SQLs (15%).

The full report is available for download here.

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