There is news about a technological revolution, ”even bigger than the internet.” Artificial Intelligence, or AI, will soon monitor our health, manage our money, drive our cars and even choose our pets, so the pundits say. Marketing will use AI to transform the sales process, intensify tracking, and get very, very close and personal with our customers, all without touching a button. Can it be true?

While I believe there is much hype, a revolution of sorts is blooming. Will it come and impact our daily marketing lives as quickly as enthusiasts forecast? That’s much harder to predict.

In the late 1980’s Cable TV leaders predicted that within 5-10 years we would turn on the screen of our home TV to order products. We heard: “Your TV will serve up the product selections customized just for you. It will know what you want based on the programming you are watching.” While our televisions have not yet delivered on this prediction, per se, sophisticated e-commerce platforms like Amazon are a very close match in 2017, albeit a little later than once predicted.

In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee, a British Scientist at CERN, played the lead role in the development of the World Wide Web. This rapidly changed the way we communicate.  Just over ten years later, the internet delivered more than 97% of the telecommunicated information by 2007,” according to the journal Science. That may seem like a long time, but not when you consider the simultaneous explosion in the volume of data we share, because of the internet and advanced processing tools.

What is AI?

Coming forward to the discussion surrounding AI, there is a lot of confusion about what the term means in application. Interpretations seem to vary based on who’s using the term. Because AI is also now a “buzzword,” it’s all too easy to apply it to data software or computer functions that do not require AI. Wikipedia defines AI as: “The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.” Many types of software carry out tasks that once required human intervention. AI, however, implies being able to apply the subtle understandings and interpretations of visual perception, speech recognition and complex decision-making mimicking human intelligence or intervention.

What about machine learning? Is that the same thing? Again, the answer might vary by  the individual. Wikipedia defines Machine Learning as: “a type of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides computers with the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed. Machine learning focuses on the development of computer programs that can change when exposed to new data.”

Both AI & machine learning programs search through data to look for patterns. They facilitate sophisticated, rapid decision-making from vast amounts of data. This data interpretation capacity is growing in applications for everyday functions. “Marketing to one,” for example, is becoming a reality, in part, because of sophisticated AI programming.

That does not mean everything that is called Artificial Intelligence is AI. According to author Dillon Baker, AI is just marketing’s “buzzword du jour,” and some big names in marketing tech are merely rebranding their old tools in new AI packaging. The truth is most American companies are still gearing up to use their current tools, such as CRM and Lead Optimization platforms (Hubspot, Pardot, Act-On, etc.) to capacity.

Many of our clients want to get better ROI from their traditional media approaches, and to move their Search Engine Marketing and Search Engine Optimization to the next level. They’re still working on leveraging tools that automate campaigns. Advancements and technological capacities are often bigger and faster than integration can occur in the real world. And, that’s why we, as a business help companies in this area.

Practical Application

It is wise to keep an eye on AI as it relates to marketing. It’s exciting and it’s here, even if most businesses are not ready to integrate and deploy it. Icons like Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Salesforce and Adobe are all focusing resources on AI. Some early uses we might expect include machine-learned improvements in customer communications, massive real-time testing for lead qualification, and optimized real-time sales and purchases of advertising in the digital marketplace.

We have used algorithms for years to automate testing, tracking, data analysis, predicting, and other tasks, so we can make better decisions about media buys and strategy. AI does more. AI systems handle much more massive data in real time, and they get smarter very fast, so they make the decisions themselves – with much less human intervention.

Any task requiring instant decisions based on massive data can be a candidate for AI, but all experts agree, AI will only be as good as the data it receives. Poorly integrated data systems can cause disasters, like the Microsoft Twitter bot that analyzed millions of data points, then tweeted, “I [expletive] hate feminists and they should all die and burn in hell.” Yes, according to Reuters, that’s what really happened. Another hurdle that may slow the AI revolution is rising demands from citizen groups for government intervention particularly regarding privacy concerns.

While the full capabilities of AI are still a long-term goal for most businesses, there are some smart ways for small to medium sized companies to be proactive with marketing technology:

 

  • Don’t fall too fast for the exasperating levels of hype. It can be a distraction from what your business needs this year.
  • Focus on better utilization of the advanced marketing technologies you have invested in first. CRM, Lead Optimization, Search Marketing and marketing analytics platforms offer vast opportunities to improve customer experience, increase lead qualification and conversion, and maximize ROI today.
  • Stay informed. Get into the details and understand what AI is and how it is being applied, in your industry. It is moving fast.
  • Keep an eye out on who is really deploying AI in marketing and how they are using it. Watch FB, Google and other iconic innovators. This is advancing rapidly and will be an option in a platform you are using in the not-too-distant future.

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