In the third episode of the Marketing Automation Moment podcast, Mike and Hannah discuss the latest thinking around artificial intelligence, and how chatbots are improving customer experience.

They also explore what Oracle’s new ‘fusion marketing’ means for marketers, and share some tips on how to focus data on your goals.

Listen to the podcast now via the links below:

Transcript: Marketing Automation Moment Episode Three – Are Chatbots Improving Customer Experience?

Speakers: Mike Maynard, Hannah Kelly

Hannah: Welcome to the market automation moment Podcast. I’m Hannah Kelly.

Mike: And I’m Mike Maynard. This is Napier’s podcast to tell you about the latest news from the world of marketing automation.

Hannah: Welcome to the market automation Podcast. I’m Hannah.

Mike: And I’m Mike. Today we’re talking about AI.

Hannah: We have a discussion about chatbots.

Mike: We try to work out what Oracle means by fusion marketing.

Hannah: And we share tip on how to focus data on your goals. So to start our conversation off today, Mike, I’d really like to have a chat about AI. Now AI is something that I think has really gained traction over the last few years. And it’s definitely something I’ve seen this year, especially that’s been talked about a bit more. And I actually came across a really interesting report by Oracle, that detailed that 86% of companies that use AI are using it for customer experience. I think this is really interesting, because it looks like we’re now not just talking about AI, we’re not just reading the articles looking at the benefits, but people are actually starting to implement it for real data for real experiences to improve the customer experience.

Mike: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s true. I think it’s really interesting. To some extent, you know, maybe when when you’ve decided to deploy AI, you look at where it’s going to be easier. And so I think, you know, maybe if we look at what’s easy with AI, well, things that are easier chatbots, because they’re kind of off the shelf tools, they’re AI, things like recommendations for products, people who bought this bought that, again, now is typically using AI to make those recommendations. And all of those things are very easy and all are related to customer experience. So maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that people are focusing on that, because maybe that’s where the easy wins exist.

Hannah: Definitely. And do you think that using AI actually contributes to more personalised experiences within a market automation platform, the activities that are deployed?

Mike: Yeah, so I think you’re absolutely right. This is one of the things that people can do, they can recommend products, or they can recommend content. The interesting challenge to me is perhaps not the people are using it. Because you know, people are using it. They’re seeing improvements in productivity, they’re seeing reduced costs of their marketing teams. They’re seeing benefits. The question is, who’s not using it and why. And I think what we’re actually seeing is that a lot of the challenges are around smaller companies deploying AI effectively, if you’re a large organisation, you’ve got a large number of customers a lot of website traffic, then you’re going to be able to use AI because you’ve got big datasets. I think the interesting thing is a smaller companies are going to be left behind a little bit, because they’re not going to have the data. I mean, what do you think?

Hannah: Yeah, I think I agree. And I think what you’re saying there, Mike, is that really, it’s the more the enterprise companies that are going to use AI. And I think that actually relates to almost the enterprise market automation platform. So you see Marketo, HubSpot, the big guys shouting about AI and the capabilities of the platform. But perhaps the smaller guys aren’t shouting about it as much because they know their target audience, the small medium businesses aren’t really that invested, because it’s not going to be beneficial.

Mike: Yeah, I think that’s a good point. I mean, there’s two reasons. I think with some of these smaller marketing automation companies, some of it is resourced to invest. And they don’t have as much resources as someone like a Marketo, or even a HubSpot. And some of it is actually their customers are going to find it harder to deploy. And so if you look at, you know, smaller companies, if they deploy AI, it’s typically around things like chatbots. And it’s typically around what I call off the shelf AI. So the chat bot will be able to interpret a natural language question and work it out, and then route it through a sequence of questions and responses. So they’re buying stuff that’s off the shelf. Whereas I think the really interesting deployment of AI is where it’s customised to a particular enterprise and their customers and their website visitors. And that’s where you get, you know, some real magic. But that’s something that as of today, it’s very hard to, to implement on a website with low volumes of traffic, you’re obviously a different generation to me much younger. I mean, do you think chat bots are a good way of improving customer experience? Is that something that you believe people are more and more going to engage with?

Hannah: I would say yes. And I say this talking from my personal experience as well, because I have to say, I love the Amazon chatbot where my Amazon parcels don’t arrive. I don’t email I don’t call customer service. I go right to the Amazon Chatbot. And so I think chat bots is really interesting, because it’s something that I think people use more than companies realise. And I think that’s really interesting because now the first point of contact is not necessarily a human. It’s actually People go in. And if you know it’s a product you’re looking at, you need to know some more information, a chat bots really easy way to gather some information. And I think AI does allow that change of in the customer journey. And I think it’s something we’re seeing that companies are actually building to the customer journey, when they’re looking at the website and the touchpoints. They want customers to look at.

Mike: Yeah, and maybe that’s a really positive thing for smaller companies. I mean, we started off by saying, you know, the real challenge is getting big data. But actually chatbots are a great example of AI where a particular organisation using it doesn’t have to generate the data, the Chatbot is generating the data across all the users to improve its understanding of natural language. So perhaps it’s a real positive thing for smaller companies.

Hannah: I was about to say that because I think it adds to what you said about the lack of resources and the lack of capacity. They want to try AI, but they’re not necessarily got the capabilities or the data or the traffic to do it on a larger scale. So this is actually a really easy and effective way for them to use AI within their business.

Mike: Yeah, maybe we should be out there talking to some more of our clients, encouraging them to deploy chat bots, or at least experiment with it, perhaps that’s the lesson we should take away.

Hannah: Definitely, Maybe we need to get our Napier chatbot back up and running.

Mike: For sure, what else is happening? I think you saw something from Oracle recently on combining sales and marketing more closely. I did.

Hannah: So they’ve given it a fancy name Mike called Fusion marketing. And really what this does is it integrates AI with their marketing automation capabilities. So it helps introduce content recommendations that we’ve discussed before, but also helps predicts when a buyer is ready to talk to a salesperson. I haven’t seen a lot of market automation companies doing this. Is this something that you’ve seen wider than I have?

Mike: Well, I mean, to me this, this sounds exactly like smarketing, that terrible term that HubSpot came up with a couple of years ago, combining sales and marketing. I mean, I think, you know, Oracle’s interesting that they’re bundling together a number of features and trying to make it this this whole fusion marketing thing. But ultimately, it’s a number of separate features that linked together, I think one of the interesting things, of course, is that Oracle has both the CRM and marketing automation tools. So they can actually integrate closer, as does HubSpot. Interestingly, who probably drove this initial concept. Whereas if you look at Marketo, that’s a standalone marketing automation tool. And even Pardot, I mean, it’s gradually getting integrated into Salesforce. But you still sometimes feel that it’s kind of two separate products. So I think that will happen more. But I think the real interesting thing will be when we see marketing automation tools, integrate with different CRM platforms that that will be when I think we see the magic about sales and marketing joining together.

Hannah: That is a very interesting point that is going to be a really interesting movement within the market automation world.

Mike: Yeah, and of course, the challenge basically, is marketing automation platforms need to talk to Salesforce. And, you know, it’ll be interesting to see, I guess how easy Salesforce makes it for marketing automation platforms, because clearly, Salesforce wants to sell their marketing cloud or Pardot, to customers. So they don’t necessarily want people going out and buying other marketing automation platforms. I hope it happens, I hope we start seeing much tighter integration. But to me, we’re probably likely to see these kind of integrated approaches, really being focused around products that have both the market automation and also have the CRM together in one product.

Hannah: Definitely, it’s definitely one to look out for. So I think this nicely moves on to our next topic of in the podcasts. And I was recently talking to a client this week. And we were talking about the low cost market automation systems compared to the high cost market information systems like Marketo. And they were really interested in why are they so different? Why is the price so different compared to the low cost? So you’re looking at something like Groundhog versus active campaign versus keep versus someone like HubSpot? Pardot Marketo, the big guys, what’s the difference between them?

Mike: It’s really interesting. I mean, you know, a lot of it is around branding today. So particularly, were you looking at a sector where you’ve got similar products, it’s about the brands that people want, there is a real difference, I think between the high end products and the low end products, you know, as an example, if you’re using keep it will grow, but it will only grow to a limited size, it will start slowing down and having problems when you have a large number of contacts, or when you have a large number of users and in fact that there’ll be limits whereas if you Look at Marketo that is something that’s almost infinitely scalable, you can have millions or 10s of millions of contacts in Marketo. And the product still runs fine. It, you know, is something that’s very usable, even when you’ve got like multiple teams of people working on the same database at the same time. So I think scalability is certainly one thing. But fundamentally, if you look at what marketing automation is about, it’s about sending emails, it’s about tracking people on the website triggering things, you know, building landing pages, most systems can do that. And actually, the truth is, is that most systems, the cost of deploying an instance, is pretty low. The big cost around marketing automation is acquiring customers. And then supporting customers providing that technical support. So you can actually have models where you have very, very low cost systems that are actually quite powerful.

Hannah: I think that’s interesting. Because really, there’s going to be a range of budgets. So you’ve got people who need those low, low cost platforms, because they’ve got the low budget. And they, as you said, email marketing. It’s a fundamental thing within a market automation platform. But obviously, there are still some disadvantages because if you look at HubSpot, for example, they offer something called a content cluster. So that’s something that monitors your SEO, it monitors the links on your site, and that you can form a whole pillar page that then supports with the backlinks. So there are advantages to go in with the higher cost platforms, even if you are perhaps got a lower cost budget.

Mike: For sure, and I think you know, HubSpot as well offers unbelievable training and an amazingly good user interface design. So HubSpot is without doubt for most people, one of the easier to use platforms, and if it’s not something that they can use, that there’s incredible training and support. So I do think that, you know, decision is not just features, it’s also usability as well. So it’s not necessarily the easiest thing to decide which product to buy. But the reality is you can run, you know, really powerful programmes on a product like Groundhog that will basically have a flat $50 A month fee, if you’re in the sort of mid range kind of package, pretty much as you scale up to more and more contacts. Or alternatively, if you’re a massive enterprise, you might want to be spending millions on Marketo. Both those decisions can be right, it’s about making sure you pick something that fits with what you’re trying to do the scales the level of activity, and ultimately also offers the features that you need.

Hannah: Speaking of choosing one that fits, I think we have almost missed out a section because we’ve talked about the low end, we’ve talked about the high end, but there are a couple of platforms that actually sit in the middle. So for transparency, we are SharpSpring partner, we love SharpSpring. We love the capabilities they do, but they do actually sit in that mid range market. And it’s interesting because they would perhaps have more scalability available then something like Groundhog, but not as many features as HubSpot, but it’s still a really good option to just have that little bit extra with the automations and the work those things like that, that you perhaps wouldn’t get with something like Groundhog or keep.

Mike: Yeah, and I mean, maybe it’s partly down to us. I mean, we’re a SharpSpring partner, we’re a marketing agency, but I think the SharpSpring brand isn’t very strong. And if SharpSpring could build that brand, and get the same kind of records, for example, at HubSpot Scott, I’m sure they’d be incredibly successful because they’re relative to HubSpot similar in features. And, you know, definitely you have an advantage in terms of cost. But I think the same thing applies maybe to Active Campaign as another marketing automation tool is more than powerful enough for pretty much anyone apart from the largest enterprises, but perhaps again, doesn’t have that kind of brand. So maybe a lot of what we’re doing as marketers is choosing based on brand.

Hannah: Maybe what we need to do is go into marketing for marketing automation companies, Mike and then we can help support them increase their brand presence.

Mike: I love that business opportunity we should definitely do.

Hannah: So I think something related that I’d like to discuss is we’ve talked about that email marketing is the fundamental thing of a marketing automation system. And I think no matter how many people say, email is dead, email is not existent anymore. Email isn’t the tactic to use. It’s actually very successful and very alive and kicking. And I actually saw a report that said that 70% of businesses are looking to enhance their email marketing loads to increase the email marketing activities for 2023. And I really think it’s a really positive sign. Don’t you agree?

Mike: No, I think it’s great. And I mean, a lot of people are doing email the reasons it works. So for sure, I think emails got a big future going ahead. And you know, I think as marketers sometimes we can chase what’s trendy and fashionable and you know, if tick tock is the latest platform, it’s therefore the most fashionable The reality is, is that there’s lots of benefits. I think the report you looked at said that the ROI for email marketing, on average, is 4,400%, which as an ROI number is pretty impressive.

Hannah: Definitely. And I think another thing that I found interesting in the report was that it actually said 73% of millennials prefer email as a mode of promotional communication. And obviously, we’ve spoken about the different generation, we’ve spoken about chatbots. But I think this kind of reinforces the viewpoint that as we, you know, changes a generation tactics have changed. Actually, email is still coming out on top, even with generations like millennials.

Mike: Yeah, I mean, it is interesting, because you know, you get these continuous stories about email is dead. But the reality is young people use email. And marketing via email definitely works to millennials, and even generation Zed. So I think emails definitely here to stay. That may not be the best thing when you log in on Monday morning and have to go through your inbox. But the reality is, you know, we all actually look at some of these promotional emails, a lot of us buy from them. So it definitely works. And as marketers, we can’t ignore it.

Hannah: No, I agree. And I think you know, everything, it comes down to tactics, if you’re sending rubbish boring emails that nobody’s reading, then you’ve got to relook at your content plan, rather than the channel that you’re using.

Mike: Definitely, I mean, it does come back to what we talked about, which is content generation, and content distribution as being our two pillars of what Napier does. And I think you look at content distribution, you’ve got to look at the right channels. And it’s not just one channel. Typically, it’s multiple channels. And it’s unbelievable how often email is a part of that mix?

Hannah: Definitely. So to wrap up the podcast, Mike, I’d like to end with our insightful tip. And this week, I’d like to talk about data. But really, I’d like to focus on why it’s important to focus on the data that matters to your goals. So I think often b2b marketers fall in the trap of collecting data on absolutely everything marked automation platforms allow that. But then they’re looking at all this data, and they don’t know what insights they’re gaining from it. So I think it’s really around looking at key buyer intent signals. Do you want to expand a bit on that?

Mike: Yeah, no, I mean, what we do is, you know, obviously, we build these customer journeys for clients. And we look at where customers have to move from one step to the next. And when you see a customer moving from one stage to the next, that’s a great signal of intent, because then moving down that customer journey, and as they get closer and closer to the purchase, that intense signal gets stronger and stronger. And so I think you’re absolutely right, a lot of people are clicking these massive hoards of data. But it’s all disparate data, it’s hard to know what’s important and what’s not. The marketing automation platforms are then trying to put AI over it to work out what’s important, but actually take a step back, think about what your customer journey is, how you’re trying to drive behaviour, and then look at what really matters. And those indications can often be very, very simple. I agree.

Hannah: I like how you say, indications, because relating back to what you said earlier, it could literally be as simple as someone puts a question into your Chatbot.

Mike: It could be as simple as that. I mean, for us, and Napier, something I always talk to clients about is, you know, we pretty much have three pages that we care about, and anyone who’s interested in hiring an agency, they’re gonna look at what clients the agency has, they look at the people who work there, and they’re gonna look at the contact page to go and contact you. So if you see a prospect as an agency, looking at your people page and looking at your clients page, that’s a really good sign of intent. And that’s when we should be approaching them. We don’t need complicated algorithms on lots and lots of data. It’s just a really simple thing. And a lot of companies have those simple indicators.

Hannah: And so would you say that these simple indicators actually better than something such as lead scoring?

Mike: For sure, I mean, when we look at visitors to our website, we’ve got a massive blog section, we’ve got a big set of marketing tools. So people can go and be very active on our site, which would in most systems gain them a pretty decent score. But it doesn’t mean they’re interested in buying it just means that they do marketing. That’s why having that indication of real buyer intent. That’s why it’s important because it’s different to someone who’s engaging. And yes, the person who’s reading our blogs and is a marketing manager. They might hire us in three years time, but it’s not a sign of the time is right to approach they’re not in the market. They’re just interested. So that indication of not only someone who’s interested and engaged, but they’re actually in the market and ready to purchase. That’s really key and that’s quite hard to measure as a score. It tends to be something that you you measure by particular shins.

Hannah: I love how you’ve just compared the intent versus engaging there. I think that’s a fantastic point to make Mike because it’s very different from someone just interacting reading a blog. First is looking at a specific website speaking of a chatbot.

Mike: Yeah, you’re right. And we need to do both as marketers, we need to engage people. Because the people who are not actually looking for a new supplier where you know, whether we’re selling a product or as an agency selling a service, if people aren’t ready, we still need to engage them. We don’t want to bore them. So we do want that engagement that matters. But ultimately, you know, it’s this question about, you know, whether you’re in market or not, and I know there was some researcher, someone was talking to me about today, where they were saying that on average, and b2b 95% of the people you market to are not actually looking to buy at that time, they’re not in market. So you want to engage them, but they’re not going to buy. And what you’ve got to do is track them, monitor them, keep them engaged, nurture them, until they they’re actually ready to buy they have a need

Hannah: some fantastic points. Well, thanks for joining me today, Mike. It’s been another very interesting conversation.

Mike: It’s been great. And I think you’ve brought some really interesting stories today. So you know, great conversation. Thank you again, Hannah. Thanks, Mike.

Hannah: Thanks for listening to the market automation moment podcast.

Mike: Don’t forget to subscribe in your favourite podcast application, and we’ll see you next time.