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My Questions on Marketing AI Answered
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By: Cathy McPhillips

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July 12th, 2021

My Questions on Marketing AI Answered

I started at the Marketing AI Academy in mid-May, and so many ah-ha moments have come to me in this short amount of time.

As a seasoned marketing leader and practitioner, I’m a key persona the Institute is trying to reach through our blog and other content, AI Academy for Marketers, and MAICON (Marketing AI Conference). I have also been a subscriber and customer for a number of years.

But until recently, there was still something that felt so impalpable to me about marketing artificial intelligence.

I have asked Mike Kaput, Marketing AI Institute’s chief content officer, more questions than a kindergartener asks their parents, and I’m guessing other marketers out there have some of these same questions. So, I’m laying them out here in hopes that they can help you too.

What’s the difference between marketing automation and artificial intelligence?

Automated tools require manual configuration and human supervision to effectively execute campaigns. I’ve done this. We use what we know about our customers after we mine data to predict their journey, we manually assign segments based on critical mass or opportunity and map out workflows in our marketing automation solution to run campaigns and programs.

With AI, computer systems can use huge amounts of data to imitate human intelligence and reasoning, allowing the system to learn, predict and recommend what to do next. So you as the marketer are still heavily involved in the process, as you need to review that reasoning and recommendation to ensure that AI has the right/enough data for it to work for you.

Bottom line, marketing automation is NOT artificial intelligence. But, marketing automation solutions that are powered by AI are able to provide you, your brand, and your clients more meaningful data faster. It helps chip away at the “we don’t know what we don’t know” loop.

Or Shani wrote a blog post recently going into even greater depth.

Why are marketers so reluctant to dive into the artificial intelligence waters?

There are several reasons, including...

Lack of Time

Our plates are full, we’re tasked with growing community, increasing NPS scores, driving revenue, creating content, distributing content, testing, managing teams…now you want to throw a new technology and an entirely new marketing approach in there? Who has the time?

The reality is that marketing AI can assist in all of this. It won’t fix everything, but I implore you to look at your biggest pain point or what you spend an inordinate amount of time on, perhaps analytics (ahem, I may be talking to myself on this one). Talk to some AI technologies and explain your process, your KPIs, and the time you’re investing in it. See if they can help. Invest the time now to save exponentially more time in the long run. 

Fear of AI

I love technology in my job. I love learning new things, and I get a little too excited looking at data. I’m always wanting to improve processes. But if you said “artificial intelligence” to me nine months ago, it still would have given me pause. Heck, it still does a little bit.

Why the negative connotation? It’s the unknowns, the intangibles, and the new territory we’re entering. We are smart, we are good at our jobs, and I don’t know about you, but I hate feeling dumb. Learning about AI makes us uncomfortable because we haven’t mastered it yet.

Spoiler: If you’re reading this, you’re ahead of the game. Read books, subscribe to websites, take some classes, complete a course with a certification. Seeing actual outcomes from use cases—outcomes you’ve been working toward—makes it tangible and actionable. It’s out there, and the Marketing AI Institute is working to surface these use cases and share them with our community. 

An Assumption of Obsolescence

Yes, fear again. This time we’re talking about fear of being replaced, fear of our jobs becoming obsolete. I get it. Content creators don’t want to hear that AI can write blog posts, emails, ad copy, and subject lines. Audience/database folks don’t want to think about AI automating and replacing their processes.

But…both of these groups of marketers need to realize how critical it is to have human involvement. AI is improving exponentially, but we’re improving too. A human touch is needed on blog posts, analysis, and more. The obsolescence comes when we as marketers ignore that the world is changing around us and we don’t think we need to adapt.

Unethical Behavior

We want our marketing to improve the lives of our customers, our team, and ourselves. We have strived to make our company ethical and responsible, we’ve been good community members, and we’re dependable industry partners and peers. What will AI do? Will it tell us things our customers don’t want us to know? Will our “creep factor” increase with AI? What if the data gets into the wrong hands? What if AI has an incomplete dataset and assumes something it shouldn’t? If you glance just one bullet up, you’ll see that your fear of obsolescence is now even more unfounded when you see how much of a need there is and will be for truth seekers and truth-tellers, good marketers, and good brands. We must be a steward to our customers. Why not set the bar for what ethical marketing AI looks like?

How do I start on my marketing AI journey?

Education. I’m reading a ton, and you should too! Both Paul Roetzer and Mike recommended their top picks for marketing AI books, but have also been reading many blog posts and articles.

I’ve found that many of the tech partners we work with have awesome content because they’re in the weeds using AI every day, being customers of their own technologies. Drift, Persado, Exceed.ai, MarketMuse, Mobilewalla, Pattern89, rasa.io, Pandata, and HubSpot all have blogs, podcasts, and more. (These links all go to their ungated blog content). 

If you have a can’t-miss blog, website, podcast, book, or anything that has really helped you, please join us in our Marketing AI Institute Slack group, as I’d love to learn more, and I know our community members and our team would too.

How do I reconcile my customer-first marketing approach with marketing AI?

This is *that thing* for me. Everything I’ve done and preached and led in the past few decades has always revolved around putting the customer first. Just because we can monetize something, should we? Will our customers care? What do they need, and how can we help them? So this definitely struck a nerve with me.

But as Mike explains, implementing marketing AI actually helps put the customer front and center because having repetitive tasks and tactical projects taken off your plate, you actually have more time for what matters to you: building customer-centric strategy, connecting with customers, listening, and building relationships.

And that marketing AI you’re implementing will help you reach your customers with messages that they need TODAY. With AI, a particular customer’s journey can change based on what they’re doing right now, not what their assigned persona is doing. 2020 proved that customer needs can change, and we need to be ready to help them individually, and AI can do that at scale.

Show me a real example of marketing AI that has worked.

Mike directed me right to eBay’s case study, which showed:

  • The problem — Wanting personalized email subject lines to subscribers, but couldn’t scale it with the level of detail they wanted
  • The solution — Marketing artificial intelligence - of course!
  • The outcome — Tens of thousands of written, tested, and optimized subject lines, happier customers, and a marketing team who didn’t work 80-hour weeks manually writing subject lines (and still not finishing them all).

Listen to the entire podcast at the above link – it addresses many of the pain points and questions we as marketers have about marketing AI.

I’m just scratching the surface on this, but my self-imposed education has been a great exercise to make this all more understandable and approachable, even if still a bit uncomfortable. As I learn more, I’ll be sharing it here. 

What can you do today? 

  • Go back and click on the links and resources above - there’s just so much information!
  • Subscribe to the Marketing AI Institute newsletter.
  • Let me know what questions you have - I’ll help find answers
  • Leave a comment if you have resources that aren’t included here
  • Register for MAICON 2021 (Sept 13-14). It’s virtual, and it’s going to be great! I have discounts. Send me a note and I’m happy to share this discount code as well as any information on the event. There are many WOW speakers on the agenda! 

Thank you! We’ll grow smarter with AI as a marketing community.

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About Cathy McPhillips

Cathy McPhillips is the Chief Growth Officer at Marketing AI Institute.

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Disclosure: Marketing AI Institute writes about and recommends AI-powered marketing and sales technology. In all cases, content and recommendations are independent and objective. In some cases, Marketing AI Institute may have business relationships with companies mentioned, which may include financial compensation, affiliate compensation, or payment in kind for products or services. View a list of Institute partners here and MAICON sponsors here.