When you think of artificial intelligence (AI), do you imagine Will Smith battling humanoid robots? Well, think again…did you know that AI is already being applied in the Internet, helping you go about your daily life without drawing attention to itself?
Artificial intelligence simulates traditionally human processes like learning, reasoning and self-correction. Unlike traditional programs, AI-based applications don’t need to be continually fed data or manually coded to make changes to their functionality and output. AI can be (and already is) immensely useful to B2B professionals in all industries.
Now— “Narrow” AI That Provides Assisted Searches and Sales-Focused Conversational Assistants
Most people tend to think of “strong” AI examples like IBM’s Watson, but “weak” or “narrow” AI is more common and useful to our businesses and everyday lives. “Weak” or “narrow” AI systems focus on a very specific, defined task and are already prevalent in today’s marketing efforts.
Predictive Search Programs
Have you noticed that Google will try to automatically fill in your search query for you as you start typing your search phrase?
This feature is called predictive search, and it is one of the more established and widely used forms of AI. Predictive search helps save users’ time, and can also be used to make subtle suggestions that influence the outcome of a search query. These programs work by compiling search data and common keywords, then auto-filling the search bar when familiar patterns pop up.
Predictive search programs that are specific to websites are becoming increasingly common, and can be beneficial to B2B organizations with large, unwieldy websites.
The Benefit: When potential prospects come to your site for the first time, they don’t have any context for the layout of your site. Predictive search can help those visitors to hone in on specific assets and pages that they may not have found on their own. When web visitors have a good user experience, they are more likely to stay longer, meaning increased engagement and more leads for you!
The Challenge: Predictive search narrows the focus of the results, which means that some less-trafficked content may be continually pushed to the bottom of the pile. This is where stellar SEO tactics come into play in order to have your content ranking higher in search engine results.
Virtual Digital Sales Assistants
Voice-controlled hands-free assistants have migrated into many of our digital devices, including smartphones, home security, computers and cars. Whether it be Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, or Microsoft’s Cortana, conversational assistants all have a similar purpose: answering basic questions and performing basic tasks. Now, what Gartner calls “virtual digital sales assistants” are being created with the salesperson in mind, bringing together CRMs like Salesforce, social networks like LinkedIn and team communication tools like Slack.
The Benefit: Conversational assistants that integrate steps of lead prospecting, such as Tact, can save your sales team a lot of time and energy. For example, being able to add contacts directly from LinkedIn to Salesforce without opening either application saves several minutes per prospect.
The Challenge: While not as commonly used, voice activated assistants are imperfect, and sometimes have trouble processing more nuanced commands. They are prone to the bias of their creators, and their search results can be manipulated by SEO tactics, advertising and web traffic. They also have relatively low adoption and use rates (for now), and your sales team may find the process too strange to use effectively.
Later—“Strong” AI That Will Perform Customer Service and Complex Marketing Tasks
As technology continues to advance, “strong” Artificial Intelligence will rise in sophistication and popularity and support humans in many low-level marketing tasks. Many of these systems are in use today but are not yet as complex as they will be one day.
“Strong” AI will be able to perform multi-faceted complex tasks that more closely resemble human ability to reason, multitask and process complex information.
As we move toward these kinds of interactions, it is vital that we understand how to best design content and web marketing strategies to accommodate the technology.
Automated Chatbots for Customer Service
Chatbots have been around for a long time, and have been developed with varying degrees of sophistication (remember AOL Instant Messenger’s SmarterChild, anyone?). Now, chatbots can be programmed to field complex customer service interactions, like handling returns, processing warranties and troubleshooting product issues.
Bots can also help site visitors navigate through large amounts of archived information, which is particularly helpful if you have a large, complex site.
The Benefit: Visitors who come to your website after business hours can still get a personalized experience that helps them navigate your site. Your customer service can be available 24/7 without your staff having to work around the clock.
The Challenge: Interactions with a customer service chatbot produces more data for marketing and sales teams to sift through. It can also be exceptionally difficult to build and maintain a bot that will effectively field customer inquiries, and may not be worth it unless you can dedicate one or two people to manage the program.
Advanced Email Personalization and Segmentation
Marketing and email automation platforms currently offer sophisticated and nuanced segmentation capabilities, and automating nurture streams has become an industry best practice. However, there is still quite a bit of heavy lifting that marketers need to do in order to create and maintain these campaigns, including segmentation and automatic contact labelling, content creation and lead scoring.
Soon, Artificial Intelligence will take things a step further and create hyper-personalized emails, subject lines and campaigns that are tailored not just by segmented list, but by individual recipient. Platforms such as Salesforce’s Einstein AI are already on the way to developing this capability.
The Benefit: Clients and customers will receive hyper-personalized emails that can generate subject lines with tailored language and arrive in an inbox at a perfectly opportune time for the individual recipient. Without AI, the labor involved in this level of segmentation would make it impossible to implement. Hyper-segmented email campaigns will elevate account-based marketing efforts to the next level.
The Challenge: There is room for error when we turn over emotional processing, tone and nuanced human reasoning to a computer program. Since AI will be processing and generating large amounts of content, it will take considerable efforts to monitor the content for typos and clarity until the system “learns” enough to become accurate.
Artificial intelligence has already made leaps and bounds in advancing the way we market our organizations, and the possibility for growth in enormous.
Rather than being daunted by the changes, marketers should seize the opportunity to learn new skills and become early leaders in a technology movement that is sure to have a significant impact on the marketing landscape over the next decade.