Are analytics and artificial intelligence doing all the thinking for marketers?

Marketers have a lot of data at their disposal. The past few years have given them the ability to peer into every possible facet of their visitors’ and customers’ behavior and track every digital crumb deposited as they traverse the online world.

And while this avalanche of information has surely benefited marketers and salespeople, it has also made surfacing meaningful insights a challenge. You could literally spend months attempting to assemble just the right set of metrics and visualization tools to deliver the most actionable data. The goal is knowing which messaging and activity will produce maximum revenue from sales and marketing funnels – but arriving to that end gets complicated because of the many different platforms used to generate advertising, marketing, and sales activities.

It’s a lot of work to stitch together and make sense of all this information. But several leading vendors in marketing and sales technology are using AI and other tools to make the job easier by packaging data in ways that increase relevance for the end user, and even recommend the next steps to take on every deal.

At the fifth annual ABM Innovation Summit, held in April in San Francisco by account-based marketing technology leader Demandbase, CEO Chris Golec announced the release of ABM Analytics. The new feature promises to give users a full view of how their marketing is doing, from advertising all the way to pipeline and revenue, and measuring what’s going on all the way through.

Tennis legend Billie Jean King was a keynote speaker at the ABM Innovation Summit.

When I spoke with Golec, he clarified, “It helps connect the dots, as opposed to disparate views. Typically, you look at ads, website, and then revenue — and connecting them is hard. Previously this was done manually, but ABM Analytics allows you to see how your ABM strategy is working from first touch to revenue with greater clarity. It allows you to compare the performance of different audiences or account lists and even compare multiple vendors.”

Also announced was a tighter integration with Salesforce, combining Demandbase’s real-time intent data and account insights with contact records in Salesforce to surface early buying signals and other triggers which can be delivered via email, slack, and within Salesforce itself.

Demandbase partner vendor and event Gold Sponsor Bizible announced their own enhanced visualization functionality, dubbed Bizible Discover.

Jenn Steele, VP of Product Marketing, explained “It allows you to get data without going through hoops. The data’s always been there, now we are delivering the insights much more easily through callouts and more granular filters. It allows marketers to look at many channels and campaigns at once, which you couldn’t do before. And you can do in two clicks rather than have a Salesforce admin or someone on your BI team build it.”

Jenn Steele, Bizible VP of Product Marketing

It was recently announced that Marketo has acquired Bizible, so it will be interesting to see how their technologies mesh together to produce better insights from marketing automation. Clearly, marketers and salespeople have been asking for easier ways to visualize data so they don’t have to “think” quite as much in order to get the answers they want – and firms are starting to get the message.

At about the same time and half way across the country as the ABM Innovation Summit, tech giant Oracle announced its own efforts to connect data in a more meaningful manner at the Modern Customer Experience event held in Chicago. Before the event, I spoke with Des Cahill, VP and Head CX Evangelist Oracle who brief me on several features available to users of Oracle’s marketing cloud. Most intriguing was an AI-powered recommendation engine which analyzes data in real-time to suggest the next best action to take on an account.

Cahill relayed, “In today’s world, a sales rep has lot of information to process. Say a customer calls to place an order, which is great news for a sales agent. However, the question becomes: what is the right discount to offer? What is the status of all the other orders that have been placed by this customer? Have there been service issues? Is the account happy? Did they order the right warranty?”

“What we are doing with AI in the background is looking at the history of all the interactions with that account across sales, marketing and commerce and we are able to tell you as a sales agent, ‘Hey the next best action you should take with this account is to increase the current discount from 8 percent to 12 percent for this purchase because of that service issue and late shipment last week. You should also let them know that if they take delivery 3 days later we can offer them a 50 percent break on their $10,000 shipping cost. Finally, it shows they did not purchase a Platinum Service Plan which they bought with every other order — was this an oversight?’ You are closing the deal, protecting the margin of the company, and making sure the customer has a great experience as well.”

All of the above probably sounds like a dream to marketing and sales teams. These visualization tools are likely just the beginning of using AI to do the “thinking” required to connect and filter the torrents of data entering sales and marketing systems by the second. But while they can help show us the way, AI engines will still never fully replace our own thinking just as airplanes, boats and cars haven’t fully replaced our walking – they, like AI, simply make getting where we want to go faster and easier.

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