In October 2015, in my post entitled “The Future Of Sales Is AI: Are Your Sales Teams Prepared?” I shared a bold prediction from LeadGenius cofounder Anand Kulkarni: “In just 10 years most salespeoples’ jobs will be replaced by artificial intelligence.”
As I wrote then and as I believe today, sales is not going away. Salespeople are not going away. It’s the way that salespeople do sales today that will vanish. This key distinction being, it will not be sales as usual, only captained by robots.
Well it appears that marketing leaders – a great number of them, also believe the future lies with artificial intelligence or AI. Yesterday results of a survey conducted by Demandbase, in conjunction with Wakefield Research, bear this out as it revealed that 80% of marketing leaders believe AI will revolutionize marketing by the year 2020.
While this finding is certainly interesting and intriguing there is a but… Before I get to the but, here’s some benefits marketing leaders say they will derive from using AI:
As you can see nearly everyone surveyed (98%) said they believed AI will provide some benefit to their overall marketing. However, as you can see from this next graphic, there is a but.
The but is that while so many predict AI’s increased role in marketing, a mere 26% say they have a very confident understanding of it and even more disconcerting is the fact that only 10% are currently using it. These low percentages align perfectly with the challenges marketers identified when it comes to implementing AI, among them:
• Integrating AI into their existing technology (60%)
• Training employees (54%)
• Difficulty interpreting the results (46%)
In the release announcing these findings, Aman Naimat, SVP of Technology at Demandbase is quoted as saying “This data reveals that in order to be successful, marketing leaders need to lead the charge and present opportunities for AI instruction and experience for their teams, to ensure implementing it into their B2B technology stacks is effective.”
Let’s Go Deeper
I reached out to Naimat as I wanted to get his thoughts, not on the survey, but about AI in general, staring with the basic question.
Steve Olenski: How do you define Artificial Intelligence?
Aman Naimat: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is simply the ability for machines to mimic human intelligence. The definition of AI constantly changes based on what is possible. In the past, AI only analyzed data and answered questions; but today, AI is able to take human level decisions and automatically act based on those decisions.
Tying this back to marketing, until recently we had people analyze website traffic to predict what content will resonate with their audience. Then they designed A/B tests, ran those tests, and then take action by building a new website. The frontier of AI today allows the machine to analyze traffic, continuously A/B test, and generate a new personalized website, all automatically.
We can do all of this because the latest innovations in AI allow us to understand content like language or images at human level accuracy. Given that all human knowledge is mostly expressed as language, we are able to build AI algorithms that can act at human or even super-human efficacy.
Olenski: Getting more granular to the marketing level, what role do you see AI playing when it relates to marketing?
Naimat: Marketing is perhaps one of the most valuable applications of AI. There are many use cases from identifying new buyers, to lead ranking to personalized messaging. But the most interesting and valuable use for AI is the ability for marketers to have one-on-one personalized conversations with buyers who know their pain points, goals and ambitions. This type of personalized communication eliminates the worthless spam that often plagues marketing today.
These personalized conversations are already happening between strategic account managers, but artificial intelligence will allow these conversations to grow beyond a select group of people. Instead, each of a company’s 10 million website visitors can expect to have a unique conversation with a brand based on their specific needs. From dynamic ad copy, to 1-to-1 emails and customized website experiences, AI will make hyper-personalization at scale possible.
Olenski: Moreover do you think there needs to be a balance between machine learning and human interaction; and marketers still relying on the tried-and-true methods of trusting their instincts?
Naimat: Yes absolutely, I think a black box is not only scary for most people, including myself, but machines do make mistakes like humans and we need override methods. By default, like trusting your colleague, we need to be able to trust machines. One way of building that trust is through transparency by explaining to your fellow marketers the reasoning behind the decisions made by AI.
Both humans and machines have their strong suits. The ideal platform is the partnership between human expertise and AI. Machine learning will make humans succeed in a more efficient and stronger way than ever before. Let me be clear that artificial intelligence and machine learning will not fully replace roles. It will enhance them and scale boring human tasks. For marketers and their respective sales teams, AI can read and understand your internal content, connect with external content, and recommend ideal personalized messaging to convert buyers.
It is the personalized journey that AI can deliver which enhances communication and can lead to stronger relationships with prospects and customers that will benefit a company’s bottom line.