Study Results: Lead Generation Through AI and Automation in 2024

9 min read
15.03.2024 15:21:02

Unlocking the future of B2B sales: embrace automation or face the skill shortage cliff

In a world where marketing automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are reshaping the landscape of lead generation, our latest study offers groundbreaking insights.

Prepare to navigate the impending skill shortage in sales expertise! Our groundbreaking Marketing Automation & AI Report unveils critical insights that could redefine the sales landscape.

The stark reality? We're on the verge of a shortage of skilled labour. A skilled worker shortfall that could leave thousands of sales positions unfilled in the years to come. The solution isn't just to hope for the best: it's a strategic pivot towards automation where possible in the Buyer Journey.

Watch the webinar where we present the study findings or answer two questions to access the full report in German.

 

Management summary

Our extensive research, featuring 385 companies mainly across Switzerland and Germany, reveals that despite recognizing the profound potential of AI and automation, its adoption in lead management is far from universal. With the average Lead Automation Maturity Index (LAMI) languishing at a mere 36 out of 100, the urgency for a paradigm shift is clear.

While the promise of AI in crafting personalized email content and detecting lead purchase readiness is acknowledged, many are still in the exploratory phase, with a staggering 44% of companies merely dipping their toes into AI through small-scale pilot projects. And yet, the power to enhance email deliverability, social media engagement, and dynamic website content personalization remains largely untapped.

Even with the inexorable march of digitalization, our findings highlight a paradox: the enduring value of personal interactions and networks in lead management. But with 72% citing limited resources and lack of expertise as the chief barriers to AI adoption, the writing is on the wall: harness the transformative potential of automation or risk being left behind.

As we face a future where the sales expert is an endangered species, the choice becomes clear: adapt and automate. Dive into our report for a comprehensive analysis and insights that can help you lead your organization to uncharted territories of efficiency and growth in an AI-augmented world.

Stay tuned for actionable strategies, as we arm you with the knowledge to turn this looming challenge into your competitive advantage.

  • Limited Automation Usage: Companies are underutilizing AI and automation in lead management, with an average Lead Automation Maturity Index of only 36 out of 100.
  • Growth Potential for AI: Only 5% of companies are advanced in implementing AI tools across business processes, while nearly half are still learning and exploring AI use cases.
  • Personalization through AI: Automated personalization of emails and detection of lead purchase readiness using AI are considered significant advantages by the majority of respondents.
  • Networking Remains Key: Despite digital advances, personal networking and direct interactions remain crucial in B2B lead management, with LinkedIn as the leading channel for contact data.
  • AI-Driven Efficiency: Companies acknowledge the benefits of AI in improving email deliverability and social media engagement, as well as dynamically customizing website content based on user behaviour.
  • Manual Lead Scoring Dominates: 56% of companies still manually score their leads, suggesting a large opportunity for efficiency gains through automation.
  • Resource and Skill Shortages: The most significant obstacles to adopting AI in marketing are limited resources and lack of expertise, as reported by 72% of companies.
  • Strategic Recommendations: The report provides strategic insights for implementing AI and automation to mitigate the impact of the sales expert shortage.

Description of the study and the sample

Conducted between November 1, 2023, and January 31, 2024, the Marketing Automation & AI Report 2024 surveyed marketing and sales professionals, as well as executive members from B2B companies with at least 50 employees in Europe, mainly and Germany, Switzerland  (net participation n = 486 of which n = 385 ended the survey).

The core focus was to understand where these organizations currently stand in terms of lead management, marketing automation, and AI integration, the progress made in 2023, the opportunities presented by AI, and the challenges faced by businesses.

Origin of the companies

With responses from 385 participants out of over 10,000 contacted, this comprehensive survey sheds light on the current state and future prospects of AI-driven lead generation. The study, promoted through the network of the ZHAW Institute for Marketing Management and research partners including Cotide, Mayoris, atedo, webalyse, and Advanis, attracted a diverse range of companies mainly from Switzerland (40%) and Germany (30%), with the remaining participants hailing from England (8%), Sweden (6%), and Austria (4%). The average company size among respondents was 438 employees, highlighting the varied scope of businesses engaging with AI and automation technologies in lead generation.

Industries

The majority of these businesses operate in the information technology and professional services sector, with a significant presence from consulting, marketing, and advertising industries. This varied participation underscores the widespread interest and application of AI in lead generation across different fields.

Envisioning the perfect solution to find new customers

Picture a sales pipeline that does more than just spot potential customers; it accompanies them on their buying journey with tailor-made content. In this ideal setup, automation plays a key role in ranking leads by their level of engagement, enabling sales forces to concentrate their energy on the most promising prospects.

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Introducing LAMI: A Practical Tool for Improving Lead Automation

Based on our 2024 study's findings, we've developed the Lead Automation Maturity Index (LAMI) to help companies directly improve their lead generation processes. LAMI evaluates your efforts in five key areas: Generation, Scoring, Research, Engagement, and Automation. This straightforward tool lets you benchmark your current practices against industry standards and clearly identify where you can make improvements. It’s designed to provide actionable insights, helping you navigate the complexities of lead automation with ease.

To calculate your LAMI score, visit our project website at www.marketingautomation.report.

Study Findings

Our study's findings reveal intriguing trends in lead management practices across B2B sectors, particularly highlighting the significant role of LinkedIn as the premier source for contact data, utilized by 58% of companies. This underscores the crucial role of social networks and direct interactions in the B2B arena for data collection. However, while 38% of companies rate their lead generation strategies as successful, there's a consensus on the need for further optimization. Only 10% of companies believe they have a truly effective lead generation strategy, indicating a widespread acknowledgment of the need to enhance lead generation efficiency.

In terms of lead engagement, 41% of companies still prioritize personal interactions with potential leads, emphasizing the enduring importance of direct communication and personal relationships in customer management. Surprisingly, 56% of businesses still manually score leads, pointing to a substantial opportunity for efficiency improvements through automation and AI application. These findings suggest that despite advancements in digitalization and the availability of AI tools, personal interactions and networking remain key in lead management. Yet, there's a clear demand for more automation and efficiency to fully leverage modern technology potentials.

The study also explores companies' adoption phases of AI, revealing nearly half are in the “learning phase,” seeking to understand AI applications within their operations. Meanwhile, another half are in the “testing phase,” conducting pilot projects for specific AI applications, but only 5% are in the advanced “scaling phase,” integrating AI tools broadly into their business processes. Despite recognizing the benefits of AI and automation in lead generation, most companies have a low Lead Automation Maturity Index (LAMI) score, averaging just 36 out of 100. This indicates a general lag in harnessing AI's full potential, primarily due to limited resources and skills, even though certain industries and companies are making more progress.

Lead Automatino Maturirty Score Verteilung

Lead Automatino Maturirty Index LAMI

There are just two questions to answer to access the full report in German.

Top 3 AI Use Cases in Lead Generation

The integration of AI and automation in lead management marks a pivotal shift towards more precise customer data analysis, enhanced behaviour predictions, and tailored marketing strategies. 

Given the significant benefits of process automation and AI tools in lead management, our study asked participants to identify the most valuable use cases. Leading the pack with 57% approval is the personalization of emails and follow-ups for all contact lists, emphasizing the importance of customized communication. Following closely is the continuous generation of relevant contact lists at 53%, highlighting the need for efficient data management. The incorporation of buying signals in the lead management process is valued by 52% of respondents, underlining the role of AI in identifying ready-to-purchase leads.

1. Personalized Email & Follow-Ups

AI's role in email campaigns is transformative, allowing for the automation of highly personalized email sequences that respond to the unique actions and interests of each recipient. By analysing engagement metrics such as clicks and website interactions, AI can identify which content resonates best with each lead. This enables the creation of follow-up emails that are not only timely but also highly relevant to each recipient's current position in the buyer's journey. The goal is to nurture leads by providing value at every touchpoint, rather than pushing for a sale, thereby enhancing the customer experience and potentially increasing conversion rates.

2. Continuous Generation of Relevant Contact Lists

AI technologies significantly improve the relevancy of contact lists by dynamically updating and refining these lists based on a wide range of data sources, including LinkedIn profiles and website interactions. This process involves the use of natural language processing and machine learning to understand industry trends, job changes, and new potential leads' needs. By continuously analysing this data, AI can identify the most relevant prospects for your business, ensuring that your marketing efforts are focused on leads with the highest potential for conversion. This ongoing optimization process means your outreach efforts are always targeted and aligned with current market dynamics and lead preferences.

3. Incorporating Buying Signals

Leveraging AI for the detection of buying signals represents a significant advancement in lead qualification and engagement strategies. By analysing real-time data on lead behaviour, such as page views, download histories, and engagement with specific content, AI can pinpoint where a prospect is in the buying cycle and identify those demonstrating clear buying intent. This allows marketers to prioritize their efforts on leads most likely to convert and tailor their outreach with the most appropriate messaging and offers. The use of zero-party data, which is data that customers willingly provide, further enhances the accuracy and effectiveness of this approach, ensuring that communications are not only timely but deeply personalized and highly relevant.

Together, these AI use cases offer a comprehensive approach to modern lead generation, moving beyond traditional methods to embrace a more dynamic, responsive, and efficient model that aligns closely with customer expectations and behaviours in the digital age.

Lead Automation use case: Bringing it all together

In a compelling demonstration of the power of AI-driven lead generation, United Security Providers (USP) has embarked on an innovative collaboration with us at Cotide to harness the potential of an industry study for identifying and engaging with relevant prospects. This partnership exemplifies how strategic use of automation and artificial intelligence can revolutionize traditional lead generation approaches. By launching a comprehensive industry study about Zero Trust, USP has not only positioned itself as a thought leader in the security sector but also created a valuable touchpoint for engaging potential clients.

Automation engine: personalizing prospect engagement

We at Cotide have developed a sophisticated automation engine tailored to USP's needs, designed to meticulously sift through data to identify prospects that are most relevant to the study's focus areas. This engine automates the process of sending personalized emails to these selected contacts, inviting them to participate in the study. This initial engagement serves as a gateway to a series of value-driven interactions over a 12-month period, ensuring that prospects are continuously engaged with insightful content and relevant updates. This methodical engagement strategy is crucial for nurturing leads effectively, keeping USP at the forefront of prospects' minds.

Dynamic scoring and enhanced qualification

The brilliance of this approach lies in its ability to dynamically score interactions, providing USP with a clear view of which prospects are progressing through the buyer's journey. This continuous scoring mechanism allows for real-time adjustments to the engagement strategy, ensuring that communication is always relevant and timely. By leveraging AI and automation in this manner, USP is not only streamlining its lead generation process but also enhancing the quality of its engagements, leading to more meaningful conversations and, ultimately, a higher conversion rate. This case study underscores the transformative impact that targeted automation and AI can have on lead generation strategies, setting a benchmark for others in the industry to follow.

Unlocking the potential of AI & Automation

The adoption of AI and automation technologies brings transformative opportunities to lead generation and marketing. These innovations allow for a nuanced analysis of customer behaviour, enable the crafting of personalized marketing strategies, and facilitate deeper customer engagement. Despite the promise these technologies hold, our study highlights a significant barrier to their full utilization: a widespread lack of understanding on how to effectively leverage AI and automation tools within organizations.

Calculate your Lead Automation Maturity Index Score(LAMI)

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