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AI for B2B Marketers: Deconstructing the Hype Machine 

In the course of running an agency and having a number of clients interested in marketing performance and doing better digital marketing, Paul actually came across AI and the promise of AI as a possible way to transform how our agency worked and how our clients’ businesses worked.

Paul and I started sharing, on a simple website to start a few years ago, some of the insights we were learning about how AI could impact marketers, what it might mean for their careers, what it might do to their jobs.

From there, Marketing AI Institute grew from a simple blog into a fully-fledged media company, an event company that now helps marketers learn how to understand and adopt different types of AI technologies and the AI power tools.

[0:03:14.5] DG: We often speak to marketing managers and above, essentially any marketing professional in the B2C or B2B world who has any desire to increase revenue through marketing performance or reduce costs through greater marketing efficiencies.

These are all people we want to be talking to, because we firmly believe, and we’ve seen, that artificial intelligence can help all types of companies capture those revenue increases and cost decreases over time.

We deal with a lot of B2B marketers who are running content programs or creating content or, in some way, using content to attract leads, convert leads and nurture prospects.

I think that, when it comes to automating or augmenting parts of the lead gen and lead nurturing funnels, especially in B2B, certain AI assistants, chatbots and technologies in that space can offer marketers a huge amount of opportunity to learn more about the leads they’re already engaging with, but also potentially find new prospects and new customers through the power of data insights at scale, which many advanced AI tools excel at.

I think there’s a lot of commentary out there about AI, there’s a ton of hype and buzz, but there are very few resources and voices showing people how to actually get started with it if they’re non-technical marketer or a non-programmer.

There’s a barrier to entry there that I would say needs to be overcome through more industry education and, hopefully, more impartial voices talking more about how to actually vet vendors: what to look for, what use cases to consider and things like that.

think, depending on the tool or platform, we’ve seen everything from AI tools that B2B marketers can use right out of the box, regardless of company size and data considerations, but then there are other tools that require very specific types of data, specific amounts of data.

Even if you know what type of data you need or what format it needs to be in, then there’s the next hurdle of getting your organization rallied around the idea of having cohesive, clean data that you can actually use with artificial intelligence.

I think, in the B2B space in particular, a problem that people encounter very frequently is that there are advanced AI applications built on top of the same old firmographic nonsense that we’ve been trying to slice up for a million years with no results.

I mean, to your point about not everyone being a data scientist, one of the big takeaways if you’re a B2B marketer is, if you do have data scientists in your organization, or at least people who know more about data or certain types of technology than you, you’re probably going to want to start talking to them sooner rather than later.

As we’ve seen as we consult with organizations looking to pilot AI, the data science piece and that expertise is certainly critical, but the biggest thing companies can be doing is getting a number of stakeholders at the table to think about this holistically, because AI will affect every part of the organization, not just your data science team.

We actually took all of the articles, books, courses, videos, research and resources that we used to demystify this stuff for us as non-programmers, non-technical marketers, in the sense of having a computer science degree, and we packaged that all up as a free resource with a hundred-plus links and resources that marketers can use to get up to speed really quick.

The event this past year brought 300-plus marketers together to actually share knowledge, case studies, and learn how to deploy AI at their organizations.

If you guys don’t know who Steve Biafore is, if you get those alerts on your phone like, “Hey, did you tip 500% of your bill on your credit card?” Or, “Hey, is this double-charge right?” He basically is the guy whose team invented that.

I think, starting to build your credentials and your knowledge about this is clearly going to be the future, whether it’s going to be next month or two years from now, I think it’s just going to make a pretty big transformation of sales and marketing in B2B.

Now, there are certainly outliers who are way ahead of even where I’m at, but I’m just genuinely surprised and excited for the fact that, no matter how long it’s taken us to figure this out so far, it’s still just a long road ahead and we barely even scratched the surface of what’s possible.

[0:17:53.9] MK: We always like to say—and you’re going to say this is a cop-out—that anyone who says they know for sure what’s going to happen with AI in five years is probably lying.

I get a lot of awfully cynical people commenting on our videos, and first of all, if you’re going to put videos on ads on Facebook or anywhere else on the earth, you might as well just get used to the negative comments.

This guy knows AI intimately and has created literally AI systems that have beaten human champions at board games, and he calls it very broadly, the science of making machines smart.

That sounds pretty vague, but we find that pretty useful to start getting people who don’t understand AI at all to start thinking about how it’s different from traditional software for marketing automation technology.

I was thinking, when you were asking about the artificial intelligence definition, you really do have to actually appreciate how incredible the human mind is, and trying to replicate any aspect of it through computers is not trivial.

What Marketers Don’t Know About AI

With artificial intelligence (AI) deepening impact on the digital landscape, there is a general concern about marketer’s redundancy. To boost their marketing performance, companies are investing heavily in AI without actually considering the full implications.  Marketing involves three approaches towards the audience – connection, attention and trust.

They need to proactively find smarter ways to reduce the friction on the consumer end and figure out more flexible ways of using intelligence.

“What I predict is that jobs will get more engaging, b,ecause, you have to remember, a lot of the jobs today are quite routine.” This is a conversion that marketers need not worry about.

What is necessary is to get in critical analysis and engage in more humane aspects of marketing which connects the audiences, and that is hard to be replicated by machines.

Google collects data from many data points from our smartphone, such as read emails, facial recognition via camera, map search data, and much more.

AI-based Google Assistant remembers your voice search results on news, local weather or stocks and reminds you later based on the data it has collected.

As a consumer, you might be amused with Google Maps, which uses powerful machine learning algorithms that can remember where you usually spend your weekdays and show you the best possible way to navigate there.

Moreover, for any brand looking for AI solutions in marketing, sharing strategic information, even unknowingly, might make the business vulnerable to external threats.

While we applaud the ability of intelligent assistants like Alexa and Siri to help us when we ask for it, what we don’t realise is that there are humans behind the technology using it to mine data we feed into such assistants through regular usage.

However, the biggest concern for marketers is that the features within the ecosystem such as speech recognition, conversational AI, programmed advertising, ad targeting, and its native search engine only help the businesses, instead of focusing on customer benefits.

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