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It’s never been easier to reap the benefits of world-class marketing insights. Companies like Salesforce and IBM have started creating AI marketing tools that are both easy to use and cost-effective. Small businesses and start-ups no longer need to grow before they fit marketing and analytics into their budget. Instead, smart marketing, including predictive analytics, will be the reason for their business growth.
Why predictive? In short, because it can do things humans simply cannot do. It can analyze billions of data points, find correlations, and identify patterns that may never have occurred to the average business or marketing professional. In turn, those insights can help determine which customers you’re about to lose, who you might gain, and who may be ready to make their first purchase. It could even tell you the minimum discount you need to offer to win back an old customer, or draw someone back to their abandoned shopping cart—without you ever having the churn the numbers yourself.
Most of today’s marketing tools are equipped to handle the entire process of marketing across all channels, which can be a dream come true for companies with limited resources—i.e. start-ups. Even better, these tools allow new businesses to jump into the market ahead of most legacy companies whose models and bureaucracy prevent the quick adoption of these explosive tools. The following are just a few ways to use predictive to grow your business.
Identify High-Value Targets
There is nothing more grueling—or defeating—than working through stacks of unqualified leads. As I shared in my piece, Using Predictive Analytics to Improve Sales Leads, that’s where predictive can help. Using predictive profiling, your marketing app can automatically score profiles based on leads that share the same qualities as your current buyers. In short, it’s a way of narrowing the stack before you ever hand it to your sales team. Using predictive profiling, Shoretel went from contacting 100 leads to find one opportunity-ready lead to just 12. That doesn’t just save time. It ensures you reach more qualified leads—and likely buyers—every day.
Identify Future Patterns
If you’re like many business leaders, you gather performance data about your team and use it to make decisions about future projects. But the thing about metrics is that they aren’t future-facing. Most marketing assumes what happens in the past will happen the same way in the future. But as we’ve seen throughout the digital transformation, the future is all about change. Predictive analytics help you get a handle on these concepts in ways that can shed light on future performance—which is where the growth lies.
Automate Targeted Reminders
Ah, the follow-up process. It can be difficult for busy sales teams to remember whom to call, when, and for what reason. Today’s marketing software can automate this process, allowing sales agents to free up their head space for face-to-face visits with their largest clients.
Distribute Accounts More Evenly
There is nothing more discouraging than getting an account with no big clients. What’s the incentive to rock your sales socks when there are likely no big sales to be had? Using predictive, leaders can better distribute main accounts—not just along arbitrary geographic lines, but based on performance or any other metric they see fit.
Use AI to Find New Markets
You think it’s time to grow your business? In the past, industry market insights weren’t always easy to find. Leaders would have to scour business journals for new trends, or research where relevant businesses were being built to determine if a new market might make sense for their company. No longer. Predictive can help you determine if a new market is worth your time—and if so, identify potential buyers before you even hit the ground.
Align Sales and Marketing
One of the problems with legacy businesses is the silo effect. Marketing does their thing while sales does another—and the two rarely make time for communication. Using tools from companies like Salesforce, however, the two teams can work in harmony. The sales team is automatically notified which campaigns their clients have received, and marketing is able to re-classify those customers if needed, based on new sales activity. Communication–what a novel concept.
As with anything data-oriented, all the new predictive analytics tools on the market today come with this important caveat: the results created by your tools will only be as good as the data your team is maintaining. Research shows about 25-30 percent of CRM data is inaccurate. That could mean disconnected phone numbers, people who left their job, or emails that bounce. For your predictions to pay off, they need to be based on data that is clean. I don’t need to invest in predictive analytics to predict that.
Additional Resources on This Subject
Using Predictive Analytics to Improve Sales Leads
Finding and Targeting the Right Customer with AI
The State of Marketing Technology
How Machine Learning Can Give Us Greater Customer Insights
A version of this post was first published on Forbes.