About 8 years ago, Marketing departments were thrust into a massive revolution, and almost every marketer can tell you exactly where they were when it happened.
For me, I was running a content marketing agency in Connecticut. We were about Year 1 into business, helping more than 75 technology companies all over the globe harness the power of content to tell their brand stories. My team was cranking out blogs, white papers, ebooks, case studies… you name it. In many ways, we served as an outsourced editorial department within a Marketing department, focused on driving success in the areas all marketers cared about back then — thought leadership, brand awareness, subject matter expertise and search engine optimization.
I remember the moment it all changed.
I was on a call with one of our biggest clients, a global telco, and the CMO told me they had just purchased HubSpot… a shiny new tool for any marketer at the time. She wanted to know if she could amend her contract. To tag my team in to help build their inbound engine model, everything from setting the actual strategy (what campaigns should we run, how should we lead score, what calls-to-action to create) to writing the content to fuel the engine (automated emails, blogs, premium content pieces, etc.) to advising on the HubSpot-CRM integration.
Everything changed in that call.
The days of running a content marketing agency exclusively focused on crafting compelling, impactful, SEO-rich content were done. We were going to need to become an agency capable of building impactful strategies and content that powered revenue generation and inbound marketing engines. Technologies like HubSpot, Marketo, and Pardot were no longer buzzword tools fraught with risk. Rather, they had become proven and, accordingly, more and more leaders and companies were becoming among the early adopters. My agency was surely not going to be late to this movement!
As departmental leaders, we experience periods of revolution and transformation just like these every few years… though now, the time between each revolution is shortened significantly because of the speed of innovation. Consider how terms like cloud, unified communications, automation, distributed workforce and so on shifted so quickly from nascent to colloquial.
Therefore, a huge part of our job now entails staying ahead of emerging trends, considering how these innovations move our teams and organizations forward, and determining where we want to be on the adoption curve — among the early adopters or, if we can stomach the risk, the late laggards.
Another revolution is here. It’s happening again, and this time all eyes are on artificial intelligence.
The numbers don’t lie:
75% of executives fear going out of business within 5 years if they don’t scale AI
In just 6 months, companies are expected to have an average of 35 AI projects in place
86% of CEOs believe AI will become the mainstream technology in their office by the end of the year
And if you are in Marketing or Sales, buckle up. Trends indicate that these departmental leaders are prioritizing AI and machine learning for their success more than any other department.
What can we do to stay ahead of the AI revolution? How can we best position our teams and organizations for what comes next? Here are three quick things:
- Demystify Quickly: The term “artificial intelligence” often conjures up mystique and apprehension, just as any term does when we first stumble upon it. We need to take the time to demystify any hesitation we have about this technology and its ability to shape our business. This means understanding what it is and what it’s not, diving into the specific ways it can help us tackle initiatives, and gaining clarity on how it can supplant the skill sets of our existing team. If we don’t fight through our haziness, we put ourselves at risk of being too late on the adoption curve and significantly hamper our ability to drive growth, revenue and market share.
- Think AI as an Accelerator: AI can have immediate impact on the business… it doesn’t require years to prove out its ROI. AI can be used for so many powerful use cases such as: building ML-driven scoring methodologies that can be used to understand where you are strong and at-risk with customers; leveraging micro segmentation to perform infinite A/B/X testing to deliver the targeted, personalized customer experiences; and automating whirlwind, manual processes like leads qualification, level 1 chatbot inquiries, among other things. If we start thinking of AI as an accelerator — and not an initiative — we realize just how quickly it can move us forward.
- Clarify our Priorities: Once we have clarity on the wish list items we need to tackle, we can assess the feasibility and impact of applying AI against those priorities. For example, if a top focus area is to create an immersive, personalized web experience that mimics the experience users have come to enjoy through platforms like Netflix and Amazon (with recommenders, advanced analytics, etc.), we can consider how to apply AI against this specific area. Instead of thinking about AI as a concept, let’s imagine how it can drive momentum against real, known priorities. This allows us to build in ROI immediately.
There’s no question we are at another critical moment in time, with a new wave of emerging technologies beckoning us to stop, give them proper attention, and prioritize based on known needs. AI is here and already having significant impact within departments and companies. And it deserves our attention.
Years from now, we will ask ourselves:
Where was I when I realized AI was going to fundamentally shift how I approach my job?
Let’s make the answer a good one!
Ready to dip a toe in with AI but unsure where to start? Our 6-week AI Accelerator Program, pairs you with our team of leading AI and data science experts, so you can lean on their expertise to align AI to your most important departmental initiatives. Click here to learn more and be connected directly to our team.