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What Does the Future of Marketing Look Like in the Age of AI?

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Because AI is such a hot topic, everyone is talking about it. But not every commentator has a solid grasp about what AI technologies can and cannot do. This leads to some serious hype about AI’s capabilities and potential. When this hype invariably proves incorrect or incomplete, marketers discount the opportunity presented by AI (and understandably so).

In reality, AI can’t do everything, but it is already transforming business as usual in marketing and sales. And marketers need to pay attention.

Marketing automation and CRM platforms like HubSpot, Salesforce and IBM are baking AI into their solutions. Polled by Salesforce, 3,500 marketing leaders say AI is the “leading technology” where marketers expect the most growth in the next two years. There has been a 4.6X rise in deals to AI startups in the last five years, according to CB Insights, from 150 companies in 2012 funded to 698 in 2016.

Marketing artificial intelligence is here to stay. The real question isn’t “Is AI a thing?,” it’s “What does the future of marketing look like in the age of AI?”

We’ve spent years experimenting with AI and learning about the potential direct from AI providers. And we’ve identified what we believe to be several significant trends that are going to define marketing’s near AI future.

1. AI Will Destroy Some Marketing Jobs, and Create New Ones

It’s too simplistic to say that AI will make marketers obsolete, but it’s also too simplistic to say that AI won’t eliminate some marketing jobs. The reality that we’re seeing is a bit more complex.

Artificial intelligence is swiftly automating certain cognitive tasks that were typically reserved for humans. In marketing, AI is already able to more efficiently perform activities such as drafting social media updates, writing data-driven blog posts, personalizing emails and website copy, A/B testing landing pages, and conducting keyword research (to name a few).

Put simply, any marketer whose job depends on doing these tasks will find AI technologies threaten their role in coming years.

This is one side of the coin.

The other is that while AI will automate some roles, it will augment, enhance, and transform other marketing jobs, giving some marketers the chance to unlock their true performance potential. Certain AI solutions can make marketers more productive, personalized, and predictive, giving them the ability to focus time, energy, and resources on higher value creative tasks.

You’re beginning to see this play out with solutions like HubSpot’s Content Strategy tool. This AI-powered tool uses machine learning to provide content suggestions and recommend topics, activities previously reserved for humans. These AI-powered recommendations partially automate content strategy, freeing marketers up to focus on the creation and promotion of better content.

2. Artificial Intelligence Will Quietly Take Over Your Current Marketing Tools

HubSpot’s Content Strategy tool is one example of how AI is being baked into existing platforms. It’s not the only one. HubSpot has pushed out a wider suite of AI-powered functionality that includes predictive lead scoring and smart content personalization. Salesforce is implementing artificial intelligence across its entire product suite as well.

We expect the incorporation of AI into marketing automation and sales software to accelerate in the next 12 to 18 months. These artificial intelligence capabilities will provide marketers with very real advantages, but marketers may not realize they’re even using AI. In fact, HubSpot outlines how 63% of people don’t even know they’re using artificial intelligence when they’re using it.

Marketers need to be prepared for the day they wake up and their automation platform of choice has become a completely intelligent marketing or sales engine. 

3. AI Will Significantly Alter the Current Marketing Mix and Skillset

Artificial intelligence won’t just automate or augment certain marketing activities. It will also alter how marketing channels work—and which skillsets are required to thrive in the near future.

When AI systems are able to automatically optimize search and paid campaigns, the skills valued in marketers will change. As AI is increasingly able to generate insightful reports, the type of analysis required of and valued by marketers will be different than in the past.

This is obvious: marketing skills change with the times. But with AI, these skills will change faster than in the past as intelligent systems learn and improve, becoming more and more capable of performing cognitive tasks typically reserved for humans.

We expect this shift to happen far faster than the transition from traditional to digital or mobile channels—and we think marketers should prepare now.

Subscribing to the Marketing AI Institute is a great place to start.

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