If there’s one word to describe small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), it’s “resourceful.” SMBs have to be resourceful and creative with their available talent, budgets and technologies in order to compete for market share with their larger counterparts, especially with regards to their sales and marketing.
And yet, it’s understandably difficult for SMBs to engage with customers and prospects with the same level of attentiveness, efficiency and personalization as large enterprises, given that most SMBs are working with fewer resources and team members. In a Salesforce survey of 2,300 SMB leaders, personalizing engagement was one of the top three challenges of meeting customer expectations – with 46% of respondents noting it as a major challenge. Notably, 39% of the respondents also cited responding to inquiries quickly as a challenge.
When prompt and personalized engagement is what’s expected in our digital-first world, how can SMB sales and marketing teams meet expectations and enable their organizations to compete more effectively? The answer is they need help, which is where conversational AI comes in.
Getting By With a Little Help from AI
Conversational AI levels the playing field to enable SMB sales and marketing – as well as customer success – teams to deliver prompt and personalized responses to prospect and customer inquiries within seconds, across email, SMS and chat. Smarter and more sophisticated than your average chatbot, these AI assistants can engage with inbound leads and customers in human-like, two-way conversations at scale unachievable with staffing bodies alone.
By employing an AI assistant to take on functions less well-suited to people – nobody thrives on personalizing their ninth outreach attempt for hundreds of leads each day – the team’s capacity grows and productivity improves as there is more focus on sales-ready leads with live person-to-person engagement without the need to increase headcount. The AI effectively augments sales, marketing and customer success teams, to scale interactions to attract, acquire and grow customer relationships.
Attract and Better Qualify Leads
When marketing teams are bogged down with limited resources, it’s difficult to respond quickly to every inbound lead. When these leads go untouched, it ultimately hurts your return on marketing investment. AI assistants can deliver rapid response and personalized dialogue to inbound leads, engaging in real conversations to understand their needs, determine if they fit your customer profile and share relevant content and events to generate greater interest.
Notably, AI assistants can interpret the context and intent from these thousands of conversations to automatically qualify marketing leads and see if they’re ready to engage with sales. SMBs can, in effect, attract and find higher quality, sales-ready leads.
New Opportunities to Turn Leads into Customers
Once marketing qualifies a lead for a sales conversation, persistence is often the game for converting those leads into customers. But sales capacity can be an issue when the demand outweighs the number of available representatives for follow-up. AI assistants can augment SMB sales teams by taking over the often time-consuming and repetitive task of outreach to marketing-qualified leads. Some of these leads may have gone dormant and unresponsive due to lack of engagement, in which case the assistants can bring the conversations back to life. They can even update the CRM with any new information acquired (like a new phone number or a new point of contact), providing even more value to sales teams.
The key is these aren’t mundane, cookie-cutter touchpoints. The AI assistants have real, personalized conversations – at huge volumes – to drive higher engagement rates that lead to more meetings. Every message is unique, maximizing inbox delivery, open rates and overall customer engagement. These meetings lead to more pipeline opportunities and ultimately more revenue.
One company that encapsulates the benefits of conversational AI is a small financial services firm that’s currently using AI assistants to follow up with dormant marketing and sales leads. The firm can now engage in conversations with a pipeline of 60,000 leads, with some requiring up to 15 touchpoints before converting to customers. In this respect, conversational AI has been hugely beneficial to increasing workforce capacity and productivity, including freeing teams up from the need to manually update the organization’s CRM. What’s more, the AI assistants have been successful in proactive outreach to former customers, reopening the lines of communication to win back their business.
Turn Customers into Advocates
Conversational AI can also augment customer success teams that often struggle with delivering 1:1 customer engagement due to high customer-to-account manager ratios, which is the case with many SMBs. AI assistants can step in to touch base with customers and check in on the health of the relationship to ensure they’re maximizing the use of your company’s products and services. In addition to reinforcing relationships, these touchpoints offer opportunities for cross-selling or up-selling to drive further growth.
Instead of dedicating their time to contacting customers, customer success managers can focus on helping them. Moreover, the assistants can automate the collection of customer feedback, requests for referrals and gauging of interest to participate in case studies. This helps turn customers into brand advocates who can speak to your company’s value and the positive experience they’ve enjoyed from the very first point of contact.
Conversational AI ultimately empowers sales, marketing and customer success teams to “do more with less.” They’re an ideal solution for SMB companies that need to conserve resources and costs while delivering a quality and speed of engagement that would otherwise be impossible for human representatives to achieve alone. It all goes back to enabling the same resourcefulness and creativity that personify successful SMBs.