Unleashing the Power of AI to Improve Lead Generation

New AI-powered tools can help marketers overcome the challenges of acquiring leads, nurturing prospects, and generating pipeline.

Louis Abate | Head of Marketing
December 14, 2023
min read

In today's rapidly evolving sales and marketing landscape, the process of lead generation has become a complex endeavor. Businesses face multiple challenges as they strive to attract and convert potential customers.

While acquiring leads is vital, nurturing them into loyal customers is equally critical and complex. The pipeline generation process is a multifaceted puzzle that demands strategic finesse and innovation.

In this article, we will explore the challenges of lead generation and why the lead-to-pipeline conversion is the heart of any successful marketing strategy. We will also discuss how new AI tools are helping marketers overcome these challenges.

The Challenges of Lead Generation

Generating leads is not a one-size-fits-all process. It involves a multitude of tasks, from online advertising and search engine optimization to crafting compelling content that resonates with a target audience. Businesses must answer a series of critical questions:

  1. Which leads are most likely to convert?
  2. Which marketing campaigns are generating the best leads?
  3. What is moving leads through the sales funnel, and where are bottlenecks and leakages?
  4. Where is each lead in their buying journey?
  5. Why do some leads progress smoothly while others stagnate?
  6. How can we increase the lead-to-opportunity conversion rate?

These are just a few of the challenges sales and marketing teams face in their pursuit of effective lead generation. Predicting lead value and knowing the best way to guide each lead through the funnel can be a daunting task, particularly when dealing with a large volume of leads. Organizations often rely on disparate sales and marketing automation systems, manual calculations, and spreadsheet-based solutions to manage this complex process.

Real Challenges, Real Solutions

In an ever-evolving sales and marketing landscape, the challenges associated with lead pipeline generation have become more complex than ever before.

To highlight the significance of AI-powered tools in addressing lead generation challenges, let's examine some real challenges faced by sales and marketing professionals:

  • Complex Funnels: "We are trying to increase speed to the pipeline, and those answers are in the top and middle of the funnel leads, which is very messy." – VP, RevOps
  • Untouched MQLs: "90% of the MQLs are not being touched by the SDR team. This is a huge waste of investment." – Sr. Director, GTM Finance
  • Identifying Marketing-Qualified Accounts: "We want to identify marketing-qualified accounts based on their activity and lead engagement." – VP, Demand Gen
  • Lack of Visibility: "We have no idea whether early-stage opportunities generated through marketing are being worked by the SDR/Sales team or if there are any sales activities against them." – CMO

The Shift to Revenue Enablement

Because of the complexity of the current sales cycle, it’s not enough to rely on your sales and marketing teams to drive the growth of a business. Changes in buyer behavior and digital transformation have broadened the scope of revenue generation. Revenue KPIs at many organizations are now measured across teams and include sales, marketing operations, finance, and customer success.

The goals of "revenue enablement" mean organizations must align tools, teams, and tactics across departments. They need a well-defined sales process and clear communication between marketing and sales. A holistic revenue generation strategy is a worthy goal, but it puts greater pressure on growth leaders to track, measure, and report lead, pipeline, and campaign performance.

Despite the sophistication of pipeline generation tools, many organizations still rely on disparate sales and marketing automation systems, manual calculations, and spreadsheet-based solutions to manage this complex process.

Complex Process Management: The overarching challenge is managing the intricacies of the lead generation process, encompassing disparate systems, manual efforts, and spreadsheet usage. This complexity can impede the organization's ability to adapt quickly to market changes and capitalize on emerging opportunities.

Disparate Sales and Marketing Automation Systems: The challenge here lies in the fragmentation of systems, making it difficult for organizations to seamlessly integrate and streamline their lead generation efforts, leading to potential data silos and inefficiencies.

Manual Calculations: The reliance on manual calculations introduces the risk of errors and inefficiencies in the lead generation process, hindering accuracy and potentially causing delays in identifying and pursuing valuable leads.

Spreadsheet-Based Solutions: Using spreadsheets for lead generation poses challenges in terms of scalability and collaboration, as it can become cumbersome to manage growing datasets and share real-time information among team members, potentially slowing down the overall lead generation workflow.

Why Not Just Buy Leads?

Marketers may be tempted to short-circuit the lead generation process by buying leads. Filling the pipeline with purchased lists is quick and relatively inexpensive. But this tactic is never a good idea. Many of the contact names, roles, and email addresses will be out-of-date because workers change companies so frequently. The leads also won't be receptive to outreach from a company they haven't bought from (or even heard of).

Typically a customer who has "opted in" to receive email from you on a site when downloading a white paper, registering for a webinar, or interacting with your company at an event will be much more receptive. Although it takes time, resources, and effort to generate leads through demand generation initiatives, it's a much better choice in the long run.

What is Pipeline Generation?

Lead Generation is the process of connecting with prospects for your products or services. The goal is to generate qualified leads that eventually convert into paid customers. Pipeline generation refers to an integrated system that allows sales team managers to track prospects throughout the sales funnel and improve their chances of closing deals.

Pipelines are generated after leads. Pipeline development is aimed primarily at creating awareness in prospects and eventually turning into customers.

Steps to Creating a Successful Pipeline Generation Strategy

Lead to pipeline conversion is the heart of any successful marketing strategy. Producing a high volume of the right kind of leads with a propensity to convert keeps the pipeline growing and the revenue flowing.

A strong pipeline production strategy is extremely critical. Here are four steps to create a pipeline strategy:

  1. Create a customer profile and pinpoint the ideal audiences. To generate a lead, you have to understand the needs, pains, and role of your ideal customer profile (ICP). By identifying your ICP you will be able to customize marketing content to resonate with your target audience, ultimately generating a successful pipeline.
  2. Align sales and marketing teams. Successful sales and marketing campaigns depend on shared goals, metrics, and processes by sales and marketing. When all the players share insight into the pipeline, it's easier to identify what is working and what can not.
  3. Use a Multi-Channel Approach. Adding multiple conversion points to the buyer journey can improve sales by creating more opportunities for interaction or interest. Presenting a range of touchpoints allows for a variety of buyer preferences and stages and can enable deeper engagement and trust.
  4. Create offers for all different stages of the buying cycle. A prospect at the beginning of the journey has different information needs than someone nearing a purchase decision. Make sure you create offers for each phase of the cycle.
  5. Integrate your tools for full visibility in your pipeline. To improve efficiency and visibility into lead and revenue pipelines, you need centralized data and tools that connect from one end of the funnel to the other.
  6. Track campaign impact on pipeline and revenue metrics. Monitor and track every campaign to see the effectiveness of your pipeline generation.

Take the Guesswork Out of Pipeline Generation with AI-Powered Recommendations

One of the biggest challenges for today’s sales and marketing teams is simply predicting the value of each lead and knowing the best way to move each lead through the funnel.

Scaling this process up is almost unmanageable, with organizations relying on disparate sales and marketing automation systems, manual average-based calculations, and a trove of Google Sheets.

AI-Powered Solutions to Lead Generation Challenges

Artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a game-changer in addressing the challenges of lead generation and pipeline conversion. AI-powered pipeline acceleration solutions offer a way to see your next best action for driving conversions, prioritize leads, and scale marketing efforts more efficiently. These tools provide insights into lead progression, campaign results, and stage-to-stage conversions, taking the guesswork out of pipeline generation.

Key benefits of AI-powered recommendations include:

Optimize Marketing Spend and Maximize ROI: Gain actionable insights into the unique journey and attributes of every lead, allowing you to prioritize leads based on pipeline and booking propensity for the current or next quarter.

Predict Lead Behavior with AI-Propensities: Understand lead quality and potential at a glance by enriching existing lead scores with AI-propensities. These propensities can be integrated into marketing automation and sales engagement systems for enhanced targeting.

Know Your Next Best Action: Receive Next Best Action recommendations based on each lead's go-to-market stage, unique journey, and attributes. Identify high-performing campaigns and schedule alerts to drive action.

Next Level Pipeline Generation Strategy

AI-powered pipeline acceleration solutions solve lead generation problems—and more—quickly and efficiently. These tools let you see your next best action to drive conversions and know exactly which leads to prioritize and campaigns to scale.

You can find out what’s moving your buyer through the funnel and where leads are leaking out to improve stage-to-stage conversions. Buyer behavior is changing and lead generation is evolving as well. Your revenue generation strategy needs a dynamic and effective approach powered by AI.

Lead generation is the lifeblood of any successful marketing strategy, and the conversion of leads into a robust sales pipeline is its beating heart. New AI-powered tools offer a promising solution to the challenges of lead generation by providing actionable insights, predictive capabilities, and recommendations for optimal lead nurturing.

With the power of AI, businesses can streamline their pipeline generation efforts, make data-driven decisions, and ultimately drive revenue growth. Embracing AI is not just a choice; it's a strategic imperative in today's competitive market.

Take the Next Step

Download your copy of the annual State of Pipeline Generation Report to hit your revenue targets in the year ahead.

No more random acts of marketing.

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