The Best-Laid Plans: Using AI to Augment Your Sales and Marketing Efforts

July 31, 2020 Ursula Davis

No amount of planning could prepare us for the disruption caused by this pandemic. For Marketers who painstakingly worked on their 2020 plans, the lockdown has meant reassessing their strategies and changing plans from in-person meetings to alternative digital approaches to grow pipeline.

As many countries enter a second phased lock-down, the impact is going to have an even greater effect on our business operations. Customers and companies are more focused on getting through the tough times. Customers struggle to commit, and projects are delayed. Companies react by freezing headcount and spending to look at ways of doing more with less. It becomes incredibly important to retain existing clients to maintain revenues and grow sales where possible. This means understanding what your customers want and being able to give this to them when they need it. It also means being able to identify those at risk clients to take action before losing them.

Working in a Digital-Only World

As a result of the pandemic, many organisations had to shift to digital-first solutions to retain workforce productivity (e.g. providing technologies for home working, leveraging video conferencing for team working and hosting on-line events for customers and prospects).

For Marketing, this required a rapid reaction to shift to digital-first mentality, remix and re-plan their tactics and campaigns. Yet this alone is not sufficient in generating the quality of leads that Sales expects. Marketing will need to also demonstrate value in their digitally sourced leads by discovering who is ready to engage further. Just because the lead has a high score, or has completed a nurturing programme does not determine that he or she is ready to move to the next step. Then what about the leads that score too low, do we continue to leave them in the database?

Marketing Automation?

Now you may say: So long as our digital marketing matches our messaging, it’s enough. It’s not. Marketers still need to produce content that attracts potential customers and then qualify those leads as conversation-ready.

While lead scoring can and should help you prioritize hot leads from the rest, every lead benefits from a personalized touch. Yes, marketing automation’s lead scoring capabilities can add a lot of value in sorting the wheat from the chaff. But for more transactional Sales environments or certain intra-sales-cycle activities (like webinar follow up), promptness and persistence are of the essence. Your ability to respond quickly in a personalized and communicative way, rather than drip emails, is paramount; as is your ability to politely follow-up over days, weeks or even months.

Companies have bombarded people with webinars as that was one of the only ways to engage, now they are trying to connect to the attendees. The best and the speediest ones will win. Those relying on the traditional workforce will lag behind.

The Augmented Workforce

The reality is that people working in Sales and Marketing have specialised skills and talents for their role including creativity, communication, and collaboration. These skills are highly valuable, but they take a lot of dedication and effort to perform. Rather than spend inordinate time on attempting to engage with an unresponsive lead, organisations need to filter through all their leads to find the ones worth an employee’s capacity. After all, no Salesperson wants to follow up on leads that may take weeks to even connect.

Having been a Sales rep for several years, I can understand the frustration of the time invested in follow up that goes nowhere because the lead was not ready. So, how can we increase the number of handraisers who are conversation-ready, and at scale?

 

We need a process that will continue to communicate in a polite, persistent and personalised way until the leads are ready to be passed on to Sales. This is where an Intelligent Virtual Assistant leads the way.

Ideally, we need a process that will continue to communicate in a polite, persistent and personalised way until the leads are ready to be passed on to Sales. This is where an Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA) leads the way. IVAs from Conversica are the next generation of intelligent automation helping companies scale human interactions to attract, acquire and grow customers.

IVAs can interpret context in the communication to engage and qualify new and old leads in a human-like dialogue over email or SMS until the lead responds, “I’m interested in hearing more, please set up a call.” Intelligent Virtual Assistants automate the repetitive and redundant tasks that can take up a lot of time, to free your Sales teams to focus on building trusted relationships, being strategic partners to their customers and ultimately, closing deals. The additional benefit of adding an IVA to your team is that they provide reassurance to Sales that the leads are ready for a conversation to commit—because they have already said so!

Initialising Conversica at LeadFabric

Our relationship with Conversica started as early as 2018 where we could already see the massive benefits of applying Artificial Intelligence (AI) to support the Marketing process in generating qualified leads.

As the premier reseller for Conversica in Europe, the team at LeadFabric decided to adopt Conversica’s Intelligent Virtual Assistants for our internal programmes. There were two objectives we wanted to explore:

  • To experience first hand how our IVA could support our team,
  • To better understand how an IVA would work for our clients in Europe.

To start, we gave our IVA a persona. After all, she was a welcome addition to the team! “Francesca” was introduced to the team and we explained what she would be doing. Next, we put Francesca to work on re-engaging contacts who had previously used our services but with whom we had not connected recently.

The intention was to see how European clients would react to Francesca and to see if Conversica’s IVA could successfully re-engage with dormant accounts.

The results were surprising. Francesca had some great interactions with clients. We were able to track the interactions and could see how she was able to interpret intent within communications with the lead to find the next best action. In speaking with the leads handed over to the team we also realised that many of them were unaware they had been conversing with an Intelligent Virtual Assistant!

What is also great is that Francesca also follows up with the Salesperson to check that contact with the lead was made, thereby ensuring that no lead can fall through the cracks.

By running this test, we also learned that there were some minor changes we needed to make to adapt communications coming from Conversica’s IVA to a European audience. What has really impressed us with the partnership is the collaboration we have with the Conversica team and how our feedback has been taken on board.

We look forward to running additional campaigns and utilising Francesca’s unique abilities in follow up to re-engage and communicate with leads.

If you are interested in hearing how you can augment your teams with an Intelligent Virtual Assistant, contact us at LeadFabric. We’ll be happy to share our experience!

For more great information, explore Conversica's eBook: An Augmented Workforce for Surviving and Thriving in the New Normal.

About the Author

Ursula Davis

With a natural curiosity combined with creative thinking; I bring energy, insight and passion to my projects. My out of the box thinking brings a fresh approach to problem solving resulting in innovative solutions to your business challenges!

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