Artificial intelligence (AI) is quite the buzz in technology, and with good reason, given it has implications for the way we do business.

In the field of financial planning, we’re seeing AI at work through robo-advisers and the rise of the more James Cameron-esque cyborg advice. However, it’s not only industries such as financial planning that will be affected by technological change. Sales and marketing are experiencing the shift, too.

Traditionally it’s been your customers, your intellectual property, and your employees that have been critical to your business’s achievements. Now, as we move further into the digital age, it’s the data about your customers, and the way that you use it, that might be the most important factor in your future success.

Data-driven decisions

Think about where you store data about your clients. It might be in a client relationship management (CRM) system or another business-focused software product. Either way, you have tangible data about your clients and their behaviour.

We’re now seeing the emergence of large numbers of business intelligence tools (BI), software designed to capture data and analyse it fast. Large corporations such as Woolworths and Coles have been using these tools for years. The big supermarket chains use their loyalty programs to track vast quantities of data about specific consumer buying patterns and behaviours.

Now small businesses are getting in on the data act, and using information about their clients to enhance decision-making. From a marketing perspective, client data is gold. Marketing has always been data-driven, using numbers combined with creative flair to build campaigns to lure consumers. But now BI tools will enable financial planning firms to process the data faster, and automatically match it to personalised campaigns targeting specific consumers.

If this sounds far-fetched, it’s not. It’s happening daily and you’re a target of campaigns using BI. The key element in these campaigns is the data. Essentially, how we use the information we collect about our clients, and how we use it in decision-making, will be crucial to our commercial success.

It’s already out there

I’ve written previously about the age of the informed consumer. From a sales perspective, the plethora of information is removing the educational steps from the lead conversion ladder. Clients can uncover vast quantities of information online before they speak to you or your sales team. The rub for financial planners is that the surfeit of information creates the challenge of self-advice. In other words, leads may have enough information online to make financial decisions independent of your advice.

This might sound like a business own goal. However, when selling your services, you need to focus on the value you can offer to clients in addition to financial advice. This is where the relationship, and trusted partner aspects of selling, become crucial.

How do you get your business BI-ready?

  1. Make your documents digital. Ensure your key business information is stored electronically.
  2. Invest in software platforms. Consider only software tools that can help you drive your data further. Integrated software platforms such as Salesforce that enable you to combine CRM with marketing automation, are worth a look.
  3. Make information available where it’s needed. Create workflows that enable information to get to the right people in your business when they need it.

Combining technology with your people might be the best decision you make for prospering in the digital economy.

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