Last year I stumbled upon a Harvard Business Review article, “How to Design an AI Marketing Strategy.” The title alone stopped me in my tracks. As marketers, we are used to building strategies for things like demand generation, product launches, media, content marketing, events… the list goes on. And we fuel and power these strategies with our almighty martech stacks.
But the phrase “AI Marketing Strategy” hits differently. It sends a resounding message to leaders that AI is not just technology to fuel and power strategy. Rather, it’s a strategy in and of itself.
Here are just a few stats that capture the macro and how marketers are driving AI adoption…
A 2020 Deloitte global survey of early AI adopters showed that three of the top five AI objectives were marketing-oriented
Marketers use of AI jumped from 29% in 2018 to 84% in 2020, according to Salesforce
70% of high-performing marketers claimed they have a fully defined AI strategy
A 2018 McKinsey analysis of more than 400 advanced use cases showed that marketing was the domain where AI would contribute the greatest value
It should come as no surprise that marketers are and will continue to lead the AI adoption surge. After all, some of the most powerful AI use cases revolve around using technology to personalize, customize and automate — all of which have incredible impact when aimed toward the customer journey. Without even realizing it, most marketers already rely on AI every day through use of website chatbots, email marketing automation, customer segmentation, programmatic digital ad buying, and social media sentiment analysis, among other things.
But there’s a difference between leaders who inadvertently fall into AI adoption, and those who make an intentional decision to integrate it as a cornerstone of their strategy.
The leaders who make this decision intentionally view bringing AI to the business as a personal responsibility and leadership growth moment. They see the direct impact AI has on revenue generation, organization efficiency, team empowerment, and corporate differentiation and they want IN.
Whether you’re in marketing, sales, technology, or operations, it doesn’t really matter. In many ways we all have similar charters as leaders: how can we augment human ingenuity with technical innovation to propel our teams and companies forward. AI is one area in which pairing humans with tech creates a 10X effect.
So how can you start to build your own AI strategy? No matter the team you lead, in many ways, the starting points are similar:
Demystify AI Fear: There is a lot of concern, hype and mystique surrounding AI, so much so that a recent study shows that Americans ranked the “AI apocalypse as more catastrophic than the possible failure to address climate change, even though respondents said that it was less likely to happen.” As leaders, if we don’t educate ourselves and our teams on the good that AI can enable, our adoption may never begin. There are many quick ways to demystify AI for your team, from holding Lunch & Learns to regularly sharing content to attending conferences. AI is not just for the techies; it’s for everyone. And that means it’s our responsibility as leaders to make sure our teams have a foundational understanding of how the technology works and how it can move our businesses forward.
Bake the ROI In: AI can provide immediate lift to the business in several ways, from understanding customer buying patterns to routing customer service calls to available agents to enabling predictive sales. In many ways, the use cases for AI can be endless. As you think about your AI strategy, start by identifying areas that would most benefit from AI. When we work with our clients on AI adoption, we start by brainstorming a short list of key problems and opportunities against which AI/data-driven solutions could be applied. We then plot those areas across two core dimensions: impact and feasibility. In other words, how business impacting would it be if AI was applied to that area (e.g. a simple routing chatbot might be low impact whereas self-service sales might be higher), and how feasible would it be (e.g. how easy would it be to integrate AI in that area). By prioritizing top AI use cases for your business first — versus simply adopting for adoption’s sake—you pre-bake ROI into your AI strategy.
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Think Short-Term Impact: All too often technology rollouts fail because they are years-long, complex, and rife with inter-departmental integration challenges. Months and years later the technology is finally rolled out only to go unused. When building your AI strategy, think short-term and immediate impact. How can you integrate new AI capability in weeks? Not years. How can you impact parts of your business — customer acquisition, client service, quality assurance, supply chain management — immediately? How can you experience fast wins as a team so that confidence builds? Among the many benefits of AI is the fact that it CAN be deployed quickly and accessibly, enabling your team and company to move along your adoption curve faster and with great success.
We are in a new era of business. The era of automation, digital transformation, agility, innovation, advanced analytics and, yes, artificial intelligence. Leaders have been in the AI game for years, but the pacesetters are crafting and executing AI-driven strategies every single day.
What stance will you take as a leader when it comes to AI?
Are you a marketing leader interested in meeting with your peers to discuss all things AI? Reach out to me to get in on our VIP Marketing Leader Pods, happening virtually throughout March and April.