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The Missing Piece Of Marketing Automation That Could Change Everything
Columnist Paul Roetzer explores the potential of artificial intelligence to augment marketing automation platforms and transform the industry.
The art and science of marketing are on a collision course. Many tasks commonly performed by marketers, such as copywriting, data analysis and strategy, are at risk of being computerized in the near future. While this likely means job loss in some areas, it opens up a world of opportunity for marketers and brands to drive innovation and accelerate success.
“There is a science and an art to every profession. Soon, Watson will know the science better than a human. Humans will need to focus on the art of their profession — the creative elements only they can provide.” — Daniel Burrus, author, Burrus Research founder and CEO
As the number of connected consumers and devices expands, the amount of data produced exponentially increases. Meanwhile, marketers’ ability to filter through the noise and turn data into actionable intelligence remains limited by biases, beliefs, education, experiences, knowledge and brainpower.
Despite advances in marketing automation — and the billions of dollars pouring into marketing technology companies — much of the technology marketers rely on today to plan, execute and evaluate marketing campaigns is elementary.
Marketing automation platforms save time, improve efficiency and increase productivity; but, they do not provide deep insight into the 2.5 quintillion bytes of data being created every day as people move from screen to screen consuming information and making buying decisions. Furthermore, these platforms largely do not recommend actions to improve performance based on the probabilities of success.
However, there is a relatively untapped technology that possesses the power to change everything: artificial intelligence.
Artificial Intelligence In Marketing
While artificial intelligence may seem like a futuristic concept, its use is widespread among companies we interact with daily, including Netflix, Amazon, UPS, Facebook, Google, Salesforce and Microsoft.
The scope of its application in the marketing industry is probably further along than many would think. According to Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, “We’re in an AI spring.” In a January 2015 interview, Benioff told Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky:
For our company, and I think for every company, the revolution in data science will fundamentally change how we run our business because we’re going to have computers aiding us in how we’re interacting with our customers.
[W]e need a new generation of tools to be able to organize and view the data. We need a new generation of executives who understand how to manage and lead through data. And we also need a new generation of employees who are able to help us organize and structure our businesses around that data.
Let’s take a look at ten companies that are driving marketing innovation through artificial intelligence — and, combined, have raised nearly $400 million.
- 6Sense “…is a B2B predictive intelligence engine for marketing and sales. Using its private network of billions of time-sensitive intent interactions, 6sense uncovers prospects at every stage of the funnel and determines which existing prospects are in market to buy. 6sense predicts what products prospects will buy, how much they will buy, and when,” according to its web site. ($32 million in funding)
- Automated Insights, which was recently acquired for a reported $80 million, “uses artificial intelligence to transform raw data into actionable stories and insights,” according to its web site. “Using natural language generation, Automated Insight’s Wordsmith platform creates content with the tone, personality and variability of a human writer.” ($10.8 million in funding, prior to February 2015 acquisition)
- Bottlenose combines data intake, topic discovery and natural processing language classification, trend analytics, live visualizations and sentiment analysis to give enterprises the ability to identify, anticipate and instigate trends that drive their businesses in real time. ($20 million in funding)
- Expect Labs “…has pioneered the development of technology to power a new generation of voice-driven applications,” according to its web site. Its core offering, MindMeld, “is the first cloud-based service that makes it possible for companies to create intelligent voice-driven interfaces for any app or device.” ($15.4 million in funding)
- InboundWriter employs algorithms to predict performance potential of content before you write it and recommends topics with the highest probabilities of success. ($2.5 million in funding)
- Narrative Science uses artificial intelligence to generate data-driven narratives in a conversational language. Quill, the company’s patented platform, analyzes data from disparate sources, understands what is important to the end user, and generates content to convey meaning from the data. ($32.4 million in funding)
- Persado uses natural language processing and advanced algorithms to produce machine-generated marketing communications optimized to drive consumer action. ($36 million in funding)
- Retention Science analyzes behavioral, transactional and demographic data, and then applies machine learning and predictive algorithms to profile customers and predict behaviors, such as likelihood to purchase and churn. ($9.5 million in funding)
- Rocket Fuel “…delivers a programmatic media-buying platform that harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to improve marketing ROI in digital media across web, mobile, video and social channels,” according to its site. ($76.6 million in funding prior to going public in September 2013)
- Sentient “…uses advanced artificial intelligence technology, massively distributed computing and a scientific approach to the verification of newly discovered strategies to deliver novel solutions to complex problems in a wide variety of fields,” the company’s web site says. ($143.8 million in funding)
Is IBM’s Watson The Future Of Marketing?
The story of artificial intelligence can’t be told without IBM. Known for its artificial intelligence breakthroughs with Deep Blue (chess champion) and Watson (Jeopardy! champion), IBM possesses an estimated 500 AI-related patents.
In November 2013, IBM introduced the Watson Ecosystem Program, opening up Watson as a development platform and giving companies the ability to build applications powered by Watson’s cognitive computing intelligence. IBM also offers a free beta version of its Watson Analytics platform, which enables users to explore visualizations and discover patterns in data, predict behaviors and outcomes, and assemble dashboards and infographics.
Watson is a cognitive technology that processes information more like a human than a computer — by understanding natural language, generating hypotheses based on evidence, and learning as it goes. […] Watson “gets smarter” in three ways: by being taught by its users, by learning from prior interactions, and by being presented with new information. This means organizations can more fully understand and use the data that surrounds them, and use that data to make better decisions.
Natural language processing, hypothesis generation and dynamic learning are core components of the technology that will transform the marketing industry. Rather than simply automating manual tasks, artificial intelligence adds a cognitive layer that infinitely expands marketers’ ability to process data, identify patterns, and build intelligent strategies and content faster, cheaper and more effectively than humans.
What Comes Next?
As I wrote in The Marketing Performance Blueprint,
Imagine an algorithm-based recommendation engine for all major marketing activities and strategies. The engine will use a potent mix of historical performance data, industry and company benchmarks, real-time analytics, and subjective human inputs, layered against business and campaign goals, to recommend actions with the greatest probabilities of success. If built or acquired by marketing technology heavyweights, these tools will add algorithmic marketing strategy to the automation mix.
Consider how much time your marketing team spends every month reviewing analytics, creating performance reports and data visualizations, writing and scheduling social media updates, determining blog post topics, copywriting, curating content, building strategy, and allocating resources.
Now, imagine if machines performed the majority of those activities, and a marketer’s primary role was to curate and enhance algorithm-based recommendations and content, rather than to devise them. The future may not be as far off as you think.
“The creativity and ingenuity of humans, when freed up from mundane repetitive tasks, has always led to new innovation, throughout history.” — Mike Rhodin, Senior Vice President, IBM Watson Group
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech Today. Staff authors are listed here.