One of the top trends I predicted for 2019 is the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) in email marketing. AI allows email marketers to significantly improve prospect targeting and optimize their messages. It can be utilized for myriad email marketing purposes, such as identifying the best subject lines, personalizing content, predicting responses and suggesting optimal follow-up times.
In the past year, we have come across another innovative way to use AI with email marketing. Conversica, a partner of ours, has shown us how it can supercharge lead nurturing by automating intelligent replies to prospect messages. When we met with Conversica, we were floored by their technology platform, which works by creating a virtual persona that engages directly with prospects, nurturing them via natural language email exchanges to convert leads into qualified opportunities (unless the lead opts out). When the prospect is ready to make a purchase, the software alerts a sales rep to make contact and close the sale. By leveraging AI as an automated attendant or “sales assistant,” companies are seeing vast improvements in lead quality and sales results.
Why We Need It
In many companies, lead generation and follow-up processes can be inefficient, unclear or competing with other sales priorities or compensation structures. For example, sales reps are often faced with too many low-qualified leads and their inclination is to follow-up directly with only those that appear to be the very best, largest or most urgent. This makes sense, but at the same time they are potentially ignoring an abundance of leads that could develop into revenue if given the attention and follow-up needed.
Here’s where AI can step in.
By creating a virtual sales assistant and using human-like, two-way email conversations to automatically engage with and qualify leads, prospects can receive immediate replies to their inquiries or needs without even realizing they are engaging with AI. Furthermore, AI can even uncover and route urgent support issues or cross-sell opportunities, or match prospects with optimal reseller partners and confirm connections were made. These engagements can yield valuable data in their own right, such as how many interactions it takes to get a prospect to respond, as well as the best time to generate such responses.
By automating lead nurturing – leveraging AI – one company reported a 51% response rate, a 240% increase from its baseline rate, and a delivery of 35% “hot leads” – representing an increase of 75% from the baseline. More impressively, its AI-influenced pipeline grew to over $3 million, with actual wins totaling over $2 million in revenue. Another company leveraged the technology to churn through almost 7,000 leads to create more than 50 “high-value” opportunities and $6.5 million in pipeline revenue.
With the advancement of AI, it’s clear the days of throwing leads over the virtual wall and hoping sales will magically follow (only to find that’s not the case) may be coming to an end. And because our business model is built largely around email, we are excited to see how email, too, is evolving to leverage AI to automate lead interaction, generate more revenue, and free up time for sales and marketing leaders to do more strategic thinking. Indeed, AI stands to take email to the proverbial “next level” by providing even better outcomes than the already impressive results it has traditionally delivered to this point.
As mentioned, OMI is partnering with Conversica to deliver new capabilities to our clients in combination with our B2B and B2C email data. We feel Conversica is leading the market when it comes to leveraging AI to automate and improve lead nurturing. We’ve been impressed with the company’s AI platform, its people, and the results its AI technology can generate when combined with quality customer acquisition data. If you’d like to work with us to power up your lead gen efforts in 2019, please contact me.
Outward Media’s accurate, targeted email data can enable you to achieve better email marketing ROI by targeting your best prospects – including top-level executives -- and, ultimately, converting more prospects into customers. Take a look at our case studies to find out more.