Lead generation gets a boost from Artificial Intelligence

by August 10, 2020 0 comments

In today’s world, Artificial Intelligence has graduated from being a buzzword to a proven, practical and implementable set of solutions with measurable benefits.

Amidst the novel coronavirus pandemic and the consequent lockdowns, we have witnessed a sharp deviation from the ‘normal’ way of doing business. Numerous companies are joining the online bandwagon to sustain and grow their enterprises. This includes the smallest of businesses going digital to adapt to the new normal. And many of them are also leap-frogging straight into leveraging Artificial intelligence driven solutions to help with their challenges.

Artificial Intelligence is essentially driven by data, of course. So wherever there is a credible corpus available to train the models, Artificial intelligence should come in handy. One such core business function is B2B marketing, and within that and perhaps most relevant these days is – the lead generation process. With new changes in AI, businesses can improve lead generation, widen their net, keep the engine running for longer and establish a marketing database, and more.

But how can Artificial Intelligence help in marketing?

To start with a disclaimer of sorts – We are proverbial miles away from Artificial General Intelligence – when it has the ability to learn any task that a human can by itself. At the core of it, all AI systems are models that are only as good as the data available. In the absence of data, AI models struggle with what frankly we humans excel at – judgement calls or intuitive assessment.

But where there is data available, and interestingly where we humans are vulnerable to data burden and become unfit to integrate data into reasonable insights – Artificial Intelligence solutions come into their own. Artificial intelligence agents excel at – rapidly processing large amounts of data, processing patterns that would be difficult for humans to spot and extrapolating from them, instant information retrieval and of course constant availability with consistent performance.

With every passing day the performance of the Artificial Intelligence systems is improving, and in many specific cases has surpassed human levels as well. For instance, in the case of reading comprehension, while a Human performance has an F1 score (a measure of precision and recall) of 89.452, the best performing AI model today has an F1 score of 93.011. This is to say that with the right kind of training, this model will be able to process an article or an artefact, it previously has not read, and be able to answer questions associated with it, better than a human. And goes without saying in a fraction of the time.

It is no surprise that NLP (Natural language processing) driven solutions like chatbots are already mainstream solutions being deployed by large, and based on our own experience by even the micro and mini enterprises, in order to help them with their sales efforts. AI chatbot solutions have evolved into intelligent and mature platforms, and so are now more affordable and available as levers to maximize revenue generation and other core business processes as well.

How can AI help in lead generation?

The need for digital solutions has become more pronounced because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the previously established ways of marketing are no longer effective or even available. The traditional setup of lead engagement through call centres have been hit hard because of the pandemic. Since people cannot be huddled together, call centre operations have been limited. Add to it the pressure on the profit margin, already rendered anemic because of the lockdown and we have a major challenge to the status quo.

In the absence of alternate arrangements, most enterprises are falling short of their sales and lead targets, which in turn is reducing their profits, which is impacting their ability to invest in marketing and sales. It is a vicious downward spiral that needs to be arrested.

Artificial intelligence chatbots are to your lead generation pages, what a salesperson is to your showroom. Basic lead generation pages are, imagine if you will, like showrooms which do not have any staff. The user comes, looks at what is on offer and either purchase or fills up a form with their contact details and leaves, without interacting with anyone. Now consider the chatbot, which just like a salesperson accosts the user, gives them information and drives them towards sharing their details. The latter generates more leads. In fact, in our experience, it generated 3-4 times more leads than the typical 2% that basic lead generation pages do.

At fraction of the cost of agent answering questions, Artificial Intelligence chatbots are available to generate leads and answer key queries with consistency, accuracy, real-time information access and 24×7 availability. So, while the cost is a key driver for switching, the added improvement in the quality of service is definitely a bonus.

Chatbots can take care of customer interactions not just over the web pages, but also other channels like Whatsapp, Facebook, Messenger, Skype, Microsoft Teams and a dozen other channels. It ensures that no matter where the customer is, Enterprises do not miss out on leads. The availability of chatbots over Whatsapp is definitely an exciting avenue for the Indian market, as Whatsapp anyways is the predominant, if not, the default messenger for most Indians.

Can it help in lead nurturing?

Having numerous leads in the business pipeline definitely is a good start, but it is not just about the number but also the quality of the leads.

In the case of an interaction with a chatbot, since the user gets educated about the organization and the offerings before they give their contact details, with chatbots not only is the conversion ratio, at 6% -8% nearly three to four times higher than traditional lead generation pages, even the quality of the leads generated by chatbots is better, and the leads are twice as likely to convert into customers.

Even when leads get followed up on by the sales teams, having access to their conversation transcripts presents a strong foundation for qualification and a productive sales conversation. The data of the user can be modelled for patterns and accordingly the appropriate messaging and channel can be used for lead nurturing.

Chatbots are being leveraged during the nurturing phase as well, acting as a Subject Matter expert with ready answers for second stage FAQs, that can get triggered right from the follow-up email and now even the paper pamphlet or one’s visiting card. It changes the entire experience from a passive reminder to an interactive mode with the opportunity to engage and educate the customer further, at the customer’s convenience.

AI will give a competitive advantage to businesses

As customers we all prefer businesses that are available whenever we need them, we like being attended to immediately, we like it when someone has instant answers to our questions and when they provide an offering that is just tailor-made for us. That, thanks to Artificial Intelligence agents is now very much a reality.

Three quintillions (1 followed by 18 zeros!) bytes of data, if not more, are created each day and with the advent of connected devices, the rate will definitely increase. So, it is a safe bet that AI algorithms are and will get better continuously. And the smart businesses will continue expanding the use cases where they can leverage the data to train up algorithms that not just drive process and cost efficiency, but genuinely improve customer experience with instant and curated assistance. So lead conversion ratios and the quality of the leads is definitely set for an upward tick.

So, the next time you are on a website or messaging platform and get accosted by an AI chatbot, I would strongly suggest that you say hello back, it might just be the beginning of a journey towards great customer experience.

Somnath Biswas, Founder, HashBlu Technologies

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