By Sean Hofer
Marketing is going through massive changes thanks to artificial intelligence – and that’s a good thing.
Marketers are people who are in the profession because of a love of engaging with others, whether they are clients or the customers/consumers of the products and services they are passionate about helping to sell.
That said, it may seem odd to make the claim that the arrival of AI, something very non-human, is good news for marketing.
But as well as being “people”, marketers are also “numbers” focused. Statistics and performance metrics are pivotal to what they do. Today, thanks to technology, there’s more knowledge about customers, their likes, and dislikes, than ever before. There’s also more insight about how effectively – or otherwise – marketers are doing their job. From click-through rates to social likes and instantly updated sales figures, effectiveness in reaching customers has never been more measurable.
In fact, in many respects marketing has become too numbers and analysis heavy – and that aspect of the industry isn’t the reason why people become marketers in the first place. If you research this you’ll find seeking a creative role is top of the list, with number crunching not featuring at all.
Yes, marketers are creative people, experts at storytelling and highly professional at simply developing concepts to entice and excite people about using products and services.
Why does marketing need AI?
Here’s the good news about AI: it’s bringing marketers the chance to unclip their wings, free themselves of the more mundane number crunching and analysis, and focus on what they like the most – the creative, interactive, fulfilling work that lured them into the profession in the first place.
AI will raise the professional bar. It will help marketers to be more focused and effective at doing what they do best – producing creative work that delivers results.
Above all, AI will make marketing more relevant and that is good for everyone – customers and businesses alike. It will help marketers be marketers, and marketing to be as effective and efficient as it can be.
With such a pervasive technology, it’s impossible to capture its full effect but here are seven ways AI is going to propel marketing in the near future:
1. Improved marketing automation
Marketing automation has revolutionized the way the industry operates. Technology now enables automatic communication with existing and potential customers through the various online channels that have become increasingly vital parts of the marketing mix: social media, email, and websites.
Importantly, through automation, messaging can be customized to the individual recipient, and tailored to fit with their personal requirements and circumstances based on their known preferences and behavior.
But while the software can automate a series of rules that trigger and control this customized messaging, effective campaign execution still requires a level of intuition on the part of the marketer.
Messages are manually tweaked, and the results monitored, to see which variation achieves the best results.
This is time-consuming work and takes up hours that could be more valuably spent on other tasks. Happily, it’s also ideally suited to AI, which can analyze limitless customer data points to optimize all aspects of a campaign from determining the most effective email subject line to optimizing product pricing.
Being able to automate this type of analysis should be a key goal for marketers wanting to get back to focusing their time on their creative strengths.
2. Efficient content generation
We all know that high-quality content is at the heart of what marketers do on a daily basis – especially for any content or inbound marketing strategy.
Natural language generation (NLG) is a branch of AI set to have a major impact on content over the next few years.
The technology has its limits. While NLG algorithms can generate readable reports, they are not able to produce detailed or nuanced analysis, so don’t expect them to replace senior writers in marketing organizations any time soon.
What they should allow, however, is for top communicators to step away from some of the more mundane report-generating chores. This will free them up to spend more time crafting and fine-tuning the exceptional copy that marketers should be focused on producing.
3. Better search results
AI is already a dominating factor in the world of search, regardless of what else marketers do.
RankBrain is a Google AI algorithm that helps the search giant process some of its queries and is also employed for the all-important task of ranking pages.
Understanding, and adapting to, how Google and other search engines operate is an inescapable task for effective marketers today, and keeping up with SEO trends can be a full-time job in itself. But if there is a single key takeaway regarding search engines’ increasing reliance on AI, it is this: the days of keyword stuffing as an effective SEO technique are over.
The bad news for marketers focused on “gaming” SEO is that RankBrain and other AI algorithms that are now driving search have become smart enough that those tricks no longer work.
The good news for creative marketers is that what AI search algorithms want – just like customers – is the best content. So get on with crafting that great work!
4. More engagement through chatbots
Marketing automation platform provider HubSpot believes chatbots are the future of marketing because they enable consumers to engage effectively with a product or service providers no matter where they are or what device they are using.
AI-enabled chatbots are an increasingly popular communication with brands who use them to interact with customers through messaging platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Slack.
As HubSpot says, with chatbots, there are “no forms, cluttered inboxes, or wasted minutes spent searching and scrolling through content. Communication, service, and transactions intertwine.”
If the AI is sophisticated enough, a chatbot can engage effectively enough to handle everything from a customer inquiry to a service request or an order placement.
Chatbots also have the advantage of providing brands with a learning platform for their AI through the customer feedback process. The chatbot interactions provide invaluable insights into consumer preferences, buying patterns, and more.
5. Improved social media experience
In the same way that search engines are improving their results through AI, social media platforms are also using the technology to deliver a better news feed experience to users – a move that has benefits for marketers using the platforms.
Facebook is using AI to identify and weed out low-quality posts – those with links back to dubious websites, for example, clickbait sites with little original content or excessively disruptive ads. Such posts, when recognized by the technology, are relegated in users’ news feeds.
As Top Notch Dezigns founder Derek Robinson told The Next Web, 2018 will be a big year for AI in social media and “will see a rise in real-time personalized content targeting with the aim of creating increased sales opportunities, mainly because AI can make use of effective behavioral targeting methodologies.”
6. Better return on investment
Department store magnate John Wanamaker (1838-1922) famously said: “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
Even though digital campaigns offer a new level of tracking that should amount to more accountability and less wasted spending, the sentiment expressed by Wanamaker remains strongly in the minds of advertisers and marketers today.
By leveraging insights in real time, AI has the potential to improve conversion rates and increase marketing spend returns. Marketing ROI is boosted when AI is put to work across a combination of the platforms and resources discussed above. A chatbot, properly armed with lightning-speed relevant predictive insights into the customer it is engaging with, and access to quality content has the potential to be a far more effective sales closer than a human in a call center.
7. Global opportunities
There is a perception that AI can only be done effectively by major corporates with huge research, technology, and marketing budgets. But the reality is AI is being delivered increasingly on an “as-a-service” basis to organizations of all sizes.
Service providers like AWS are continuing to expand their AI services, which in terms makes it more attractive for developers to provide online AI tools for marketers.
Using technology, including AI tools, we can reach talent and services, clients, customers, and markets wherever they happen to be.
This universal access makes for an exciting time in the marketing industry. We are only limited by our imaginations.
AI has been called the next electricity – it’s going to be everywhere, have a major impact on all parts of our lives and bring huge benefit, especially to marketing.
But it is technology that doesn’t contribute to the emotional or intuitive side to decision making that people bring to the table. That, at least for now, is the job – exclusively – of the human marketer.
So embrace your creative side, start thinking about palming off the boring stuff to AI, and free yourself up to start doing your best marketing work ever!
Guest author: Sean Hofer is the director of Storicom a B2B consultancy that helps engineering, manufacturing and emerging tech businesses communicate more effectively, online and in the media, to develop customer relationships, grow qualified leads and build sales, using inbound marketing and public relations.
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