How AI Is Redefining Marketing —Top Tips for Success

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Generative AI has only been widely available for around 18 months, but it is already remaking many business functions, from finance to human resource to marketing. To keep up, marketers must embrace this new capability — generative AI in marketing— and act quickly.

Here are five key strategies marketers can use to fully leverage generative AI and stay competitive.

Employing these strategies requires remaking an existing marketing department or creating a new one from scratch. Both situations mean significant organizational change. Startups with little or no marketing capability will likely find adoption of this new generative AI in marketing strategy far easier than those organizations with well-developed marketing teams.

Company leaders should start by gauging the ability of their organization to absorb change to determine the speed at which these strategies can be implemented.

Abandon the typical, stepwise approach to building a marketing strategy or capability, and build all functions simultaneously. Startups often build their marketing function one capability at a time. While enterprises often change only one functional area at a time. AI enables you to cost effectively kick off a wide range of capabilities all at once. This is tremendously advantageous because it is the integration of numerous marketing capabilities that enhances the power to influence, which is the goal of marketing.

AI tools enable a small team to quickly develop market, competitor and customer intelligence and analysis. This analysis will point to the most effective ways to reach and influence target customers and will guide and inform your decisions regarding next steps.

Keeping in mind the insights gained from the AI analysis, next create (or recreate) the core marketing functions, again using AI to speed the process from content ideation, to creation to distribution. But remember, every organization still needs people with expertise in the core marketing functions.

Related Article: AI in Analytics: 3 Key Tips to Keep Your Workflow up to Date

Large marketing departments are often victims of siloing. This slows down their ability to adapt to rapidly changing market conditions, customer needs or product developments. In the age of AI, this is a death sentence. AI enables a relatively flat structure. This will help discourage the development of fiefdoms that will ossify and resist change.

Use a “council” approach where every member sees themselves as part of one team as opposed to a departmental structure. This does not mean avoiding the hiring of core function experts; quite the opposite. But it does mean the team must be highly integrated and comfortable with change. AI tools enable a small team to provide outsized capacity, but that team must be flexible.

Council members also must be able to identify and work closely with stakeholders outside of the marketing team. This includes members of the sales, finance and product development teams and the executive team. As with every marketing organization, these stakeholders are essential to success, from signing off on recommended programs and campaigns to actively taking part in the recommended activities — because buy-in is everything.

This is especially important for B2B companies as the buying environment is changing; millennial buyers want more self-serve options and less interaction with sales reps. This makes integration with sales and product development even more crucial. Generative AI tools that support development of effective presentations can help marketing teams gain buy-in from their internal stakeholders.

Related Article: Generative AI in Marketing: Unlocking the Next Generation of Use Cases

Today, AI tools can dramatically and cost effectively improve efficiency across a range of marketing activities, including: market and audience analytics, content creation, performance monitoring, digital and social media marketing, customer engagement and marketing automation. But structure operational strategies around key marketing functions rather than AI capabilities. This is because marketing functions remain relevant much longer than individual AI tools.

By focusing on the functions necessary to influence buyer behavior rather than over-investing in the current capabilities of AI tools, organizations can more easily adapt their operations to new AI tools and capabilities as they are developed.

A hallmark of successful marketing is the ability to pivot rapidly as product, markets and competitors change, or simply because a strategy or tactic doesn’t work as expected. An important benefit of generative AI in marketing is that it enables organizations to pivot more quickly, so this ability must be built into the operational approach.

Related Article: Generative AI in Marketing: Boost or Bust for Your Department?

Marketing practices and the tools marketers use have undergone significant changes over the past two decades. As a result, successful marketers tend to be highly flexible in their thinking. In the age of AI, flexibility of thinking and the ability to rapidly adapt to new techniques and technologies is crucial.

Consequently, when hiring marketing team members, test candidates for adaptability. There are several readily available tools for doing so. Ask candidates about their use of AI. AI tools are now readily available, so hire people who are familiar with and actively using AI in their work. Using such tools or managing their use is a sort of de facto test of adaptability.

The advent of AI tools and technologies means even small marketing teams have access to capabilities that were previously only available to larger, well-funded organizations. One such capability is in-depth analytics. Use of such analytics provides teams with the speed, flexibility and accuracy to evaluate results and rapidly adjust strategies and tactics — but only if the team understands how to use data and analytics to derive insights that make such adjustments possible. When hiring, look for analytical-minded people who are comfortable evaluating and using data generated by AI.

By requiring proof of differentiation and performance, these analytics help drive down costs. At the same time, they improve marketing’s ability to quantify results since every digital medium has a unique set of analytics, research and dashboards for review.

As the legendary “Father of Advertising” David Ogilvy once said, “Any marketing people that ignore research and analytics today are as dangerous to a firm’s success as generals who ignore the decoded signals of the enemy.”

AI is already eliminating the more repetitive and mundane tasks in marketing. At the same time, the tendency of AI to create content that hues to the average — reflecting current “best practices” — puts a premium on human creativity to ensure outputs achieve differentiation and engagement with human customers.

So hiring managers for marketing positions must shift their focus from candidates who perform well at routine tasks to those who are creative and have a high emotional IQ. Emotional intelligence, the ability to both manage your own emotions and understand the emotions of others, enables marketers to design marketing campaigns that more effectively influence the buying behavior of others.

In fact, given the current direction of AI development, where less technical knowledge is needed to use AI tools, focus on Emotional IQ as opposed to technical IQ. This does not eliminate the need for knowledge of marketing techniques. That knowledge is essential. Rather, technical knowledge of the tools themselves will become increasingly less important as the tools become easier to use.

Related Article: Generative AI in Marketing and Sales: 8 High-Impact B2B Use Cases

Even in the Age of AI, marketing requires a foundation on which to build operational programs and campaigns. This includes establishing marketing and sales goals. AI can help with this, but ultimately it must be tied back to the organization’s business goals. Similarly, AI can help with the development of language around value propositions and desired market position, but value propositions must stem from the value a company, its products and services will deliver to the target customers, and desired market position flows from the aspirations of the organization’s leadership and its business strategy.

Other fundamental components of marketing, such as an analysis of the target customers, competitive landscape and market, and even the overall marketing strategy itself, can be built using AI tools. But an experienced marketer will be needed to make sure that the proper prompts or content and context is provided, and that the output is properly evaluated with an experienced, critical eye.

At present, AI struggles with three critical elements related to building or remaking a marketing capability.

Generative AI, such as large language models or LLMs, are built by ingesting huge amounts of text from across the internet. This means their outputs are often a sort of averaging of the ingested data. Creativity and uniqueness are key to marketing programs and campaigns that are differentiated from competitors.

AI tools produce what could be called “best practice” outputs. But once something becomes a “best practice” in marketing, it is by definition no longer unique or new. Beware the race to the average often generated by AI tools. Models are expected to improve over time, so marketing leaders should watch this carefully.

Effective marketing involves the integration of a range of activities across media and engagement channels and formats, as well as the leveraging of customer, market and competitor data, and the implementation of monitoring and survey tools that provide a feedback loop for improvement.

At present, no AI tool exists that can effectively provide end-to-end integration of marketing capabilities. This will likely change, but integration is complicated and highly individualized based on business goals, target customer personas, product sets and market types. As with creativity, marketing leaders should watch this space carefully.

Creating a marketing capability, especially one that can compete with much larger and better resourced competitors, requires broad knowledge of the marketing discipline and all of the factors that will determine how to influence a target customer to consider, purchase and finally become an advocate of a new product or service. Starting with the right foundation is often the difference between success and (drawn out) failure.

In the same way that AI tools have not yet mastered integration, they cannot yet provide the development of a marketing capability from scratch.

AI provides powerful tools that organizations can leverage to create or remake marketing capabilities that rival those of larger, better-resourced competitors. But — at least for now — AI is merely providing tools. Marketing is a complex discipline because human beings are complex organisms. Influencing people to change behavior or adopt new behaviors is also complex. To date, AI has not been able to provide a replacement for human intuition and creativity in the marketing mix.

Sameness is a danger when using AI tools. Don’t become a victim of “best practices” or “average content.” Humans should be using AI tools, not the other way around.

Bob Finlayson is co-founder of Bold Marketing & Communications, Inc., a marcom agency that helps clients significantly improve the ROI on their marketing spend, driving engagement with their target audiences and increased sales. Bold uses AI, big data and proprietary analytics to identify the topics driving the highest engagement levels with any target audience. Connect with Bob Finlayson:

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For over two decades CMSWire, produced by Simpler Media Group, has been the world’s leading community of customer experience professionals.

Today the CMSWire community consists of over 5 million influential customer experience, customer service and digital experience leaders, the majority of whom are based in North America and employed by medium to large organizations. Our sister community, Reworked, gathers the world’s leading employee experience and digital workplace professionals. And our newest community, VKTR, is home for professionals focused on deploying artificial intelligence in the workplace.