When most people think of artificial intelligence (AI), they envision computers that can speak to us, such as Alexa or Siri, or grand projects, such as self-driving cars. These are very exciting and attention-grabbing, but the reality of AI is that thousands of tools and apps are quietly running behind the scenes, making our lives easier by automating simple tasks or making predictions.
This is true across all industries and business functions, but especially in marketing, where leveraging AI to put products and services in front of potential customers has been standard practise for some time, even if we don’t always realise it!
Today, the term artificial intelligence (AI) is used to describe software that is capable of learning and improving its performance without the intervention of humans. This means that, while we’ve grown accustomed to using machines to assist us with heavy lifting, they can now begin to assist us with jobs that require thinking and decision-making as well.
Machines can now answer a plethora of questions that would previously have required human intervention, such as “will this person be interested in my products?” or “what results will I get from this advertising campaign?” if given the right data. And, because machines can answer questions much faster than humans, they can easily chain together complex strings of queries to predict things like who is most likely to buy your products and where the best places to advertise might be.
That is the fundamental principle underlying all business AI today: automating the processes of learning and decision-making in order to generate knowledge (commonly referred to as “insight”) that aids in performance improvement.
The high-level use case for AI in marketing is that it improves ROI by making marketing more efficient – often one of a company’s largest expenses. Before online advertising, businesses would pay large sums of money for TV, radio, or newspaper advertisements, fully aware that only a small percentage of those who saw their ads would ever become customers. This was extremely inefficient, but companies had no choice if they wanted to establish themselves as market leaders.
AI-driven Content Marketing
Because of the rise of social media marketing and our increasing appetite for online content, content-based marketing has become the dominant form of marketing in many industries. AI assists us here by assisting us in determining what type of content our customers and potential customers are interested in, as well as the most efficient ways to distribute our content to them. Advertising creatives have always sought formulas for creating advertisements that get people talking and sharing the message with their friends. This can now be done automatically with a variety of AI-powered tools. For example, headline generation algorithms that track their success and adjust their output to achieve better metrics, such as email open rate.
Advertisers will increasingly use AI to identify smaller influencers who are most likely to align with their brands and audiences. This has resulted in the emergence of “micro-influencers” – typically ordinary people, rather than celebrities, who have specialised knowledge and have used it to build a niche audience that values their opinion. Companies can use AI to find micro-influencers with the right audiences for them across a wide range of niches and audience segments. When it makes sense to pay $100,000 to Justin Bieber or a Kardashian, AI can help determine when it makes sense to pay 100 people $1,000 each to talk about their product. Once again, it is about creating efficiency by following data rather than simply doing what a marketer believes.
AI in CRM
Customer relationship management is a critical skill for any marketer to master, as existing customers are frequently the most important source of revenue for a company. In this case, artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to reduce the risk of customer “churn” by identifying patterns of behaviour that are likely to lead to customers leaving. These customers can then be automatically targeted with personalised promotions or incentives in an attempt to re-establish their loyalty. Chatbot technology – powered by natural language processing – is also becoming increasingly popular among AI-augmented marketers. This can be used to segment incoming customer inquiries, allowing those who require a quick response to be catered to in order to minimise dissatisfaction. AI-powered CRM will also enable businesses to more accurately forecast sales across all markets in which they operate, allowing stock and resources to be distributed more efficiently. It can also be used to maintain the quality of data in the CRM system by identifying customer records that are likely to have errors or duplicates.
The Future of the Marketer
If you work in marketing, you could be forgiven for fearing that humans in your position will become obsolete. Current predictions, however, indicate that AI will end up creating more jobs than it destroys. However, it is unavoidable that your job will change. Marketers will devote less time to technical tasks like forecasting or customer segmentation and more time to creative and strategic tasks. Those who are skilled at working with technology and identifying new technological solutions as they become available will be extremely valuable to their organisations and will most likely have a bright future!