The biggest buzzword in marketing recently is AI. Artificial intelligence, in its most basic sense, can provide a computer or other device with the ability to learn without being programmed. It’s the technology that allows computers to learn and make their own decisions, but it’s still not as widely used in marketing as it could be.
We’ve seen some basic examples of AI in our daily lives—for instance, when you ask your phone a question, it gives an answer based on your search history or previously spoken words. More advanced forms of AI are increasingly being used by businesses to help them make smarter decisions about their marketing strategies.
In fact, McKinsey predicts that while AI is being applied to business problems globally across economic sectors, the effects of AI will be felt most in marketing and sales. While there are many uses for AI in marketing, there are also some serious challenges to overcome before you can use this technology effectively. Not all artificial intelligence is created equal. In fact, most of it isn’t even close to being independently intelligent. But when used correctly, AI can be a valuable tool for digital campaigns, improving customer service, and increasing revenue. And, no, it won’t take your job in marketing—unless you refuse to leverage it like so many B2B marketers already are.
The Pros of AI in Marketing
AI is good at automating repetitive tasks, which means that you don’t need to waste time on laborious admin tasks. If you’re a marketing manager who’s already running on fumes from working late into the night every day of the week, then you will be happy to know that AI can help streamline your workflows by doing much of the heavy lifting for you.
In a world where marketers need to be “on” all the time, AI can be used to automate tedious tasks, freeing up more time for other important things (like interacting with stakeholders…and, you know, sleeping). Servion Global Solutions projects that more than 95% of customer interactions will be managed without a human by 2025.
AI can automate various marketing tasks, like sending email campaigns, lead scoring, and social media scheduling and inquiries. For instance, AI-powered chatbots can handle routine customer service inquiries, freeing up human agents to focus on more complex issues. This not only improves efficiency but can also improve the customer experience by providing quick and accurate responses.
By having an assistant (aka an algorithm and AI) handle basic business functions like scheduling meetings or organizing tracking codes for emails sent out, marketers have more room in their schedules for creative thinking.
Another way AI can improve efficiency is through the use of predictive analytics. By analyzing customer data and market trends, AI can provide insights into future customer behavior, allowing businesses to anticipate and prepare for upcoming demands. This can help marketers be more proactive in their approach, improving efficiency and reducing the reliance on reactive strategies.
Related Reading: Proactive and Reactive: The New P and R of Earned Media
Clear Data Insights
It’s no secret that businesses are addicted to data these days—but many people don’t realize how much untapped potential is out there just waiting to be put into action. With AI tools helping with everything from customer segmentation based on purchasing habits down to personalizing emails based on user interactions within an app/website, companies can now leverage insights derived from their existing datasets with greater ease than ever before.
Thanks to machine learning algorithms like neural networks, which learn by analyzing huge amounts of data over time—you can use all this information for your marketing efforts to better reach and serve your customers and prospects. Just imagine how much more effective your B2B email marketing campaigns would be if they were based on real customer behavior instead of assumptions or guesswork.
Having clear insights without the need to sift through data manually can help marketers identify new trends and forthcoming patterns, allowing them to focus on more creative pursuits. (Do you see the pattern here?)
AI gives marketers accurate data on what their buyers actually want. It enables them to improve marketing and cater more specifically to their audience. AI-powered automation will enable marketers to hyper-personalize their marketing tactics for each customer based on various factors, such as geographic location, past purchases, and browsing history. AI can be used to personalize both marketing and product development based on what people are saying about the company in real time, enabling your company to always have relevant content ready when customers need it.
As a result, marketers will no longer need to rely on generic messaging across channels; instead, they can deliver highly relevant messages at precisely the right moment in real-time (i.e., when individual customers are most receptive). The ability to do this automatically means that businesses will be able to respond faster than ever before—saving both time and money!
Related Reading: ChatGPT: The Future of AI in Content Marketing
Streamlined Marketing Efforts
AI can help streamline efforts across teams within organizations by providing insights into which strategies work best for specific audiences and segments. Some PR tech tools, like Cision Impact and Onclusive, even promise to link sales outcomes to earned media coverage if, for example, a prospective buyer reads an article about you and then takes action (like downloading a whitepaper, forking over contact information, or making a purchase). While this tech is in its infancy, it could mean big things for the future of projecting and calculating more accurate ROIs.
Other tools—like those developed to carry out an advanced sentiment analysis on social media posts and translation of audio and text files into multiple languages—will help expedite turnaround times on content creation and broaden your brand’s reach.
But the thing about all these AI tools is that you need an expert to operate them to get their fullest impact. Sure, you can have ChatGPT spit out a blog for you, but who is going to make sure the blog’s positioning is correct? Who is going to input the keywords you want to rank for or edit to your brand’s style and voice? Who is going to check for factual errors or inaccuracies? You still need a human expert.
Marketing Tech Stack: 7 Types of AI Tools to Consider
The Cons of AI in Marketing
Necessary Human Intervention
As we’ve already discussed, AI is not yet self-evolved (or even self-aware). It requires programmers who understand how it functions before it can be implemented. This means that you may need to hire new employees or consultants who specialize in this kind of technology—or train your existing staff (and give them raises) to learn a whole new skill set that heightens their value to your team.
AI designed to do uniquely human tasks, like writing, still desperately needs human intervention. Through natural language processing (NLP), AI can write about practically anything. And while these can be helpful tools to get a rough draft of a simple product-driven blog, they won’t match up to the capabilities of a human. The more nuanced your topic, the more you’ll need human sensibilities to ensure high-quality writing, clear messaging, and easy readability.
C-3P(N)O: Humans don’t love chatting with robots.
Even though chatbots are engineered to be as human-like as possible, they’re still programmed by humans and can only take you so far in a conversation. This means that customers looking for more personalized experiences will find themselves frustrated when they’re forced into a roundabout way of requesting assistance or information—especially if all they want is the answer to a specific question—one that doesn’t have a programmed response. (We’ve all been there, clicking through three menus only to speak to a robot and wanting to throw the phone across the room.)
It’s also important to note that while AI has made it easier for marketers to scale their business processes and develop solutions, there’s no replacing human creativity and ingenuity when it comes to getting new ideas off the ground and putting them into action. That’s one of the reasons a lot of people still prefer to hire skilled personal assistants to manage their work.
Attack of the Clones
AI can create an overreliance on quantitative metrics and analytics when making decisions about your marketing campaigns. Because algorithms lend themselves so well to measurable results like clicks and conversions, marketers often emphasize these metrics when planning their campaigns rather than taking time to consider qualitative factors like customer satisfaction or brand loyalty. While these are essential aspects to consider when planning out your strategies, they don’t tell you everything about how effective they will ultimately be—and if all you pay attention to are these numbers alone, then there’s no room left for creativity or intuition.
That kind of tunnel vision can potentially lead companies down unproductive paths that might not benefit them overall—such as spending money on an ad campaign without considering how effective it will be at actually selling products or services (or even whether people want those products or services). Overreliance on analytics, quantitative metrics, and virtuosic technical execution at the expense of qualitative variables like creativity, novelty, and strategic risk-taking result in formulaic brand identities and campaigns—”clones,” if you will—that lack market differentiation.
Speaking of clones, with the domination of AI content creation tools like ChatGPT, we’re seeing marketers moving at an even more rapid pace. But content marketers must be wary of the flaws in algorithms that can cause repetitive content, factual errors, and even include bias.
Yes, even algorithms have their flaws. Like any technology, AI can be exploited to do harm by malicious actors. This has happened before: in 2016, Microsoft had to shut down its Tay chatbot after Twitter users taught it to make racist and sexist statements. While the company will likely be more careful with future projects, there’s always a chance that something like this could happen again if they aren’t careful enough.
Despite what some people may think, AI is not yet as good at human intelligence. (We haven’t quite hit R.U.R. times yet.) As one example of how far we have yet to go: only one artificial neural network has been able to pass a Turing test (a test designed by Alan Turing in 1950 to determine if machines can think ). The current best score is 33% (with a 30% passing score) which was earned by Eugene Goostman in 2014 using NLP technology rather than the deep-learning algorithms used today. In June 2022, Google’s LaMDA AI also passed the Turing test, and, most recently, ChatGPT passed the test in February 2023.
How to Navigate the Pros and Cons of AI in B2B Marketing
While AI can offer many benefits in B2B marketing, it’s important to be aware of and prepared for its potential downsides and challenges. Here are some tips to help businesses navigate the choppy waters
Rather than jumping in with both feet, it’s a good idea to begin by testing the waters with a small AI project. This can help you see how AI works for your business and identify any challenges or limitations that need to be addressed. This approach allows businesses to gain a better understanding of how AI works and how it can be integrated into their existing marketing processes.
Starting small can also help businesses identify any potential challenges or limitations with AI and develop strategies to overcome them. For example, businesses may need to invest in additional resources or training to fully leverage the power of AI in their marketing efforts. Another benefit of starting small is that it allows businesses to test different AI solutions and providers before committing to a larger implementation. This can help businesses find the right AI tools and vendors that align with their unique needs and goals.
Ultimately, it’s about reducing risk and making informed decisions about how to integrate AI into your B2B marketing efforts. By taking a measured and strategic approach, businesses can maximize the benefits of AI and achieve better results in their marketing campaigns.
Balance Automation with Human Input
While AI can automate routine tasks and provide valuable insights, it’s important to balance automation with human input and creativity in B2B marketing. Human input is essential for developing creative and strategic marketing campaigns that resonate with customers and drive engagement.
For example, AI can analyze customer data and identify patterns and trends, yes. But you should leave the creative and strategic decision-making to human marketers. Another way to balance automation with human input is to use AI to automate routine tasks, such as lead scoring or email campaigns, but leave more complex tasks, such as content creation or social media management, to human marketers. This allows human marketers to focus on tasks that require creativity, critical thinking, and strategic planning.
It’s also important to involve human marketers in the development and implementation of AI solutions. By involving human marketers, businesses can ensure that their AI tools and processes align with their unique needs and goals. Human marketers can also help identify potential biases or limitations in AI models and develop strategies to overcome them.
By leveraging the unique strengths of both AI and human marketers, businesses can develop more effective marketing campaigns that drive engagement, generate leads, and, ultimately, grow their bottom line.
Communicating transparently with customers about how AI is being used in marketing efforts is crucial for building trust and maintaining a positive brand reputation. Customers want to know that businesses are using AI ethically and responsibly and that their personal data is being protected.
Businesses should use clear and concise language to explain how AI is being used to personalize content, target ads, or analyze customer data. This can help customers understand the benefits of AI and how it’s being used to improve their overall experience. Businesses should also transparently is to provide customers with control over their data and how it’s being used. It’s imperative to give customers the option to opt in or opt out of AI-powered marketing efforts and provide them with clear information about how their data is being collected, stored, and used.
In addition to being transparent with customers, it’s also important to address any concerns or questions they may have about where their personal data By being open and responsive to customer feedback, businesses can build trust and demonstrate their commitment to using AI ethically and responsibly.
Address Bias and Privacy Concerns
AI algorithms are only as unbiased as the data they’re trained on, and if that data is biased or incomplete, it can lead to unintended consequences and negative outcomes.
It’s important to ensure that the data being used to train the AI model of your choice is diverse and representative, which is hard to achieve. However, marketers can solve this by using multiple sources of data that include a diverse range of perspectives. It’s also critical to review every piece of information or content that is generated by AI to avoid mishaps in messaging and privacy breaches.
With the vast amounts of data being collected and analyzed by AI algorithms, there’s a risk that personal information could be misused or mishandled. We already mentioned the value of transparency above, but businesses must also ensure they are in compliance with relevant regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Prioritizing data security and implementing measures such as encryption, access controls, and regular audits to protect customer data from unauthorized access or breaches should be a top priority for any business using AI to handle sensitive customer data.
There are some significant upsides to using AI in your marketing—but it’s not a panacea. It is definitely a helpful tool to have in your arsenal that can give you an edge over competitors who don’t use it (or don’t use it effectively). We love Grammarly, so we’ve agreed that AI can help improve our writing. But we know it can make mistakes, so we rely on our knowledge and judgment in the end.
The key takeaway here? The future is bright for AI-assisted marketing—and the present is already pretty good! Want to take advantage of AI in your marketing and B2B PR but not sure where to start? Reach out. We’d love to be your guide to this brave, new virtual world.