B2B marketing is especially fertile ground for the early adoption of generative AI (genAI) technologies and has already become a beachhead for use cases that span content operations to customer engagement. The problem is that B2B CMOs and their teams lack a process for understanding genAI’s impact, assessing organizational readiness, and prioritizing adoption areas.
GenAI is a transformational force with great potential to redefine how businesses engage audiences and to drive marketing efficiency and ROI.
Forrester CEO George Colony recently stated in his keynote address to business and marketing leaders at Forrester’s B2B Summit North America: “Generative AI will be the fulcrum that businesses rely on to enhance, empower, and engage employees and customers. We’ve rarely ever told our clients to adopt a new, just-launched technology, but in the case of genAI, we are already witnessing an ‘inflection’ point in adoption, which has created an unstoppable, pivotal shift in the market. We are saying ‘you must do this now.’”
AI is already endemic across B2B marketing. For example, according to Forrester’s 2023 B2B Brand And Communications Survey, 43% of B2B companies have already adopted AI-based chatbots and 44% are using AI for marketing analytics. This first wave of AI was a Trojan horse, embedding AI capabilities in core marketing systems. The genAI-powered second wave of adoption will be much more pervasive and carry much broader consequences.
The call to action for marketers is to be agile, get active, and not stay on the sidelines.
Unfettered adoption of any new technology, and especially genAI, is a mistake. B2B CMOs must recognize this and balance the significant opportunities that genAI presents with the need to manage risks and build a foundation for success. The first step in this journey is a readiness assessment, which identifies gaps in:
- Communicating a clear vision and strategy. GenAI is the focus of intense hype and speculation, but CMOs must ground adoption as a realistic assessment of what marketing objectives genAI can support and how it aligns with core strategy.
- Building governance guardrails. The unintended deleterious consequences of genAI are well documented. CMOs must understand these issues and work alongside their tech leaders to build the right adoption protocols.
- Getting the data house in order. GenAI has an endless thirst for data, which is essential for training proprietary models, tuning existing systems, and driving prompt engineering. CMOs will need to make significant investments in their data infrastructure.
- Upskilling marketing teams. CMOs must invest in their teams before they invest in the technology. This work might initially focus on those areas that will be most affected by early-adoption use cases (content operations, for example).
Once this foundation of readiness is in place, B2B CMOs can prioritize adoption based on genAI’s likely impact for various marketing use cases. We cover this process in detail in our latest report, B2B CMOs: Lead, Don’t Follow Your Marketing Organization’s Generative AI Efforts.
B2B CMOs can’t wait: As you embark on a journey into the future of marketing, where AI is not just a tool but a strategic imperative for success, start with conducting a readiness assessment and prioritizing adoption for well-governed success with genAI.