B2B lead generation is a notoriously dynamic field. Best practices shift constantly based on factors like the economy, global events, changes in buyer behavior, and, of course, new technology. In 2023, the transformative influence of artificial intelligence (AI) was a massive talking point in the corporate landscape. While it started mostly as a theoretical new tool, by the end of the year, brands were already implementing AI in their B2B lead generation strategies.
Going into 2024, AI is poised to redefine B2B strategies and outcomes. Companies need to adapt to survive.
As businesses increasingly seek innovative approaches to stay ahead in the competitive market, AI promises unparalleled efficiency and precision in identifying and nurturing leads. From predictive analytics to advanced machine learning algorithms, AI is set to empower B2B marketers with invaluable insights and data-driven strategies that go beyond traditional methods.
As we stand on the cusp of 2024, let’s explore how and why AI technologies promise to redefine B2B lead generation and offer businesses the tools they need to recalibrate and thrive in a new, unpredictable market.
Why is B2B Lead Generation So Important?
First, let’s talk about why B2B lead generation matters. Most people understand lead generation on a very basic level. That is, lead generation is the foundation of business growth and allows companies to expand their customer base and increase opportunities for sales. Lead generation pays off; companies with mature lead generation strategies generate 133% more revenue on average.
However, many people make the mistake of thinking of lead generation only in terms of its most direct, measurable benefits. While increasing revenue obviously matters — arguably, that’s the end goal for any business — the less obvious benefits of lead generation are just as important, especially when factoring in your company’s long term goals.
Let’s look at the bigger picture. B2B lead generation holds your company accountable. By creating a dynamic lead generation strategy that you regularly revisit in response to market changes, your company stays up-to-date with the most recent trends. A lead generation strategy forces your company to remain relevant via practices like relationship building, data collection, marketing expansion, ROI monitoring, and so on.
In short, lead generation has both long- and short-term benefits, all of which help your company both increase revenue and build brand awareness and authority over time.
What Challenges with B2B Lead Generation Face in 2024?
Now that we’ve thoroughly established that B2B lead generation is important, let’s talk about what to expect in 2024. We won’t sugarcoat it – lead generation is going to be a challenge in the coming year.
Why? A lot of reasons.
With recession predictions still waxing and waning, the 2024 market remains precarious, and companies are responding by scaling back on spending. Businesses are still laying off staff, tightening their budgets, and de-investing in technologies that fail to provide the desired outcomes. Spending in the B2B sector is going to be much more conservative in 2024.
Plus, while it’s not talked about nearly enough, the fact is we’re still adjusting to the aftermath of the 2020 pandemic. The pandemic led to lasting marking changes that make B2B lead generation best practices unclear. What worked for decades prior to 2020 is no longer the most savvy strategy. While sales and lead generation were once largely a face-to-face game, the rise of remote work caused a lasting shift. Gartner predicts that by 2025, 80% of B2B sales will be online. Right now, a startling 33% of all buyers want a seller-free experience altogether.
The rise of remote-first practices in sales is something of a double-edged sword. In many ways, it’s vastly easier to reach out to potential customers from the comfort of your living room, and new technology makes it simple to send hundreds or even thousands of cold emails at once. This allows your company to cast a wide net from the get-go. However, every other business out there will be doing the same, resulting in unprecedented competition and increased buyer exhaustion.
In short, the market is both uncertain and oversaturated right now. Companies are spending less while being inundated with more.
In many ways, conventional wisdom still holds up. The recipe for success is twofold. First, aim for an account-based sales and marketing strategy that targets clients most likely to convert. Second, provide these prospects with personalized emails and ads addressing their specific pain points.
Easier said than done, right? This kind of targeted, highly bespoke approach can take hours or even weeks to execute. This is why companies are turning to AI.
Increasingly sophisticated AI technology can automate complex processes and allow companies to reach out to thousands of potential leads at record speeds.
How Can AI Help with B2B Lead Generation?
At risk of sounding like a broken record, we simply cannot overemphasize the importance of a highly personalized approach in today’s market. A lot of businesses are failing to tailor their strategy appropriately.
According to Harvard Business Review, a recent survey found that only 13% of buyers feel a seller’s message addresses relevant challenges to their organization. That same survey showed that only 25% of buyers feel sellers understand their specific role within an organization. If your B2B lead generation approach feels cold and mechanical, bad news: you’re alienating potential prospects.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to sales anymore. Companies need to address specific buyer pain points head-on to illustrate exactly why their product or service is the ideal solution for their company’s bottlenecks. AI can automate a large portion of your outbound sales process. This unlocks your company’s ability to create and deploy highly personalized campaigns at record speeds.
Let’s take a look at a hypothetical outbound sales cycle, assisted from start to finish with AI.
Target the Right Buyers with a Data-Backed Strategy
While casting a wide net is important, a ticker-tape parade approach that targets anyone and everyone is a waste of time and resources. A data-backed strategy that identifies the right leads for your product and service is key. AI makes employing such a strategy easier than ever before.
AI tools can analyze vast amounts of data to identify potential leads based on specific criteria. This allows for more precise targeting, helping B2B companies direct their best efforts on the leads that are more likely to convert.
AI-powered predictive analytics can then forecast which leads are more likely to convert into customers. AI algorithms assign scores to leads based on their behavior, interactions, and other relevant data. By analyzing historical data and patterns, AI helps prioritize leads with the highest potential, enabling sales teams to allocate their resources more efficiently.
Easily Keep Up with Lead Nurturing
Once you’ve used AI to identify a tiered list of leads, it’s time to begin the nurturing process. Time-consuming tasks that once required hours and hours of human labor can now be easily performed by AI in just minutes.
Automated email campaigns, chatbots, and virtual assistants all engage leads in real-time by providing instant responses and tailored interactions. Good AI does not merely perform, however. It improves over time, and responds appropriately to customers. AI-driven behavioral analysis tracks lead interactions, enabling dynamic content recommendations based on individual preferences.
The result is a highly personalized nurturing process where AI adapts strategies to evolving lead behaviors and preferences, ensuring that businesses deliver timely, relevant content and experiences. By enhancing efficiency, predicting lead behavior, and providing real-time engagement, AI empowers B2B marketers to cultivate stronger relationships and guide leads through the sales funnel with increased precision and effectiveness.
Personalization is Simple from the Start
Again, we’re going to say it – personalization is one of the most important aspects of B2B lead generation. In fact, personalization during lead nurturing can enhance the potential of conversion by 63%.
Personalization is also notoriously time-consuming, especially if you’re working with a large pool of leads. You’ll have to research hundreds of individuals, their companies, their roles, and their potential pain points if you want to stand out amongst the crowd. This kind of legwork is traditionally thought of as something that requires human labor, but new AI technologies are changing that assumption.
Digital workers are specialized for entire workflows. They can create highly personalized campaigns on behalf of your sales team, doing the same sort of research a human worker would but faster and more efficiently. AI can research individuals and companies on a list of targeted leads and draft highly bespoke cold emails on behalf of your team.
Artisan AI’s Sales Rep Ava, for example, gives your company access to over 265 million contacts and ghost writes personalized email sequences. What would take a human employee days Ava can do in minutes, which brings us to our next point.
Fill in Gaps in Talent
One of the most ubiquitous cultural fears surrounding AI is that it will replace human workers altogether. However, that is simply not the case. You’ll still need a talented sales team to grow your company. AI isn’t competition for your existing employees, but a new, invaluable asset. It plays a crucial role in augmenting the capabilities of your sales teams, bridging gaps in talent that enable human workers to operate at peak efficiency.
AI unlocks your sales team’s ability to create highly advanced campaigns. Not every sales rep, for example, has an in-depth background in data analysis. AI algorithms can process vast amounts of customer data, identifying trends, preferences, and behaviors that may not be immediately apparent to human sellers. Maybe your sales reps do not have strong backgrounds in copywriting, content creation, or graphic design. AI can write personalized emails that only need minor edits and create compelling images and infographics for blog posts, email campaigns, and more.
By complementing human skills with advanced analytics and automation, AI empowers sales teams to operate more efficiently, improve decision-making, and ultimately achieve better results in driving revenue growth.
Let Your Employees Focus on What Matters
Closing sales still requires face-to-face interaction, even via digital means like Zoom or Skype. The human touch is what ultimately seals a deal, with sales reps responsible for addressing a prospective customer’s concerns and needs in real time to really sell your product.
AI can enhance productivity by automating routine and time-consuming tasks, allowing sales teams to focus on high-value activities. We’ve already touched on a lot of this above. AI-driven tools can automate lead scoring and chatbots and virtual assistants can handle routine inquiries. Artisan AI’s sales rep Ava can even handle a lot of administrative tasks like booking meetings into your employees’ calendars. This frees up human workers to engage in more complex and relationship-building aspects of the sales process.
Once a lead is booked, sales reps can spend time preparing their pitch, honing their approach, and thinking of creative ways to address company pain points. This increases the likelihood of landing a new lead, and makes prospective customers feel valued and respected during the sales process.
Are Businesses Already Using AI for B2B Lead Generation?
The short answer is yes.
Big companies began to take the leap with AI in 2023. Microsoft began using AI sales tools this past February, Google uses AI to handle customer service interactions, and Bloomberg just rolled out their own AI model. According to Deloitte, more than one-third of enterprises are already designing their own language learning models to assist with multiple company processes.
Positive buzz surrounding AI will undoubtedly encourage even more companies to invest. Researchers at Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently studied the effects an AI-based conversational assistance tool had on 5,200 customer support agents. The tool raised productivity by 14%, AI-assisted interactions had higher average Net Promoter Scores, and monthly agent attrition dropped by almost 10%.
Gartner predicts that, by 2026, 80% of all creative talent will use generative AI daily for increasingly complex, strategic tasks. This paints a clear picture: AI is here to stay, and it’s going to be an integral part of the B2B lead generation process in the coming years. Companies that want to stay ahead should embrace AI sooner rather than later.
AI and B2B Lead Generation: The Bottom Line
2024 will be an unusually tough year for the B2B sector, and lead generation will be more challenging due to increased competition. However, AI can help mitigate the impact of an uncertain economic climate.
As businesses navigate an ever-evolving landscape, AI emerges as the linchpin. From predictive analytics and automated lead scoring to dynamic content personalization and more, the possibilities seem limitless. And this is only the beginning. As AI continues to become more sophisticated, more complex tasks can be automated.
AI insights empower marketers with a more profound understanding of their audiences and enables them to adapt swiftly to changing behaviors. This ensures that businesses remain at the forefront of innovation and relevance in a competitive marketplace. Harnessing the power of AI is no longer a choice but a strategic imperative for B2B enterprises. Human intelligence combined with AI-driven capabilities promises to unlock untapped potential. This allows businesses to not only meet but exceed the evolving expectations of their clientele.