There’s a great deal of talk these days about how automation is pushing people out of work. We often hear about this in regards to industrial processes: politicians love to talk about the intersection of the human and the machine, and how more efficient mechanization processes are erasing jobs in regions with lots of industrial workers. This might feel like an issue if you work in, say, automobile manufacturing. It might seem like good news if you happen to be an artificial intelligence engineer. But if you work in the fields of media and communication– which is all about trying to come across as human and relatable – surely your position is protected, right?
Maybe not so much.
What Does Marketing Automation Look Like?
Marketing automation is on the rise, and while that’s good news for fast-growing businesses, it could be rough news if you work in digital marketing. Digital marketing has been hailed as a fast-growing field, an industry that is always hiring, and a great way to break into advertising and public relations if you are an entry-level worker. But those entry-level positions are becoming increasingly technical thanks to the rise of software that automates marketing activities. In fact, according to interviews of 100 senior marketers, 55% of companies are “currently implementing or actively investigating some form of AI initiative within their marketing practices.”
There are pros and cons to this. On one hand, it sounds great to be able to sit back and let your marketing be done for you without having to lift a finger. And sometimes, a lot of the day-to-day tasks of marketing can feel rote and repetitive: you send emails; you schedule blog posts; you respond to emails; you schedule meetings… a bit of automation wouldn’t be so bad.
In fact, there are areas within marketing that already have to be done by AI, simply because the amount of data involved is too great to reasonably be handled by a regular person. Certain AI tools in marketing use customer data and machine learning to predict customer behavior.
Artificial intelligence marketing (AIM) uses huge amounts of gathered data to allow businesses to develop marketing analytics techniques and more efficiently target customers. This data is gathered from social media, emails, web forms, and other sources. AIM can gather and study data about past deals, for example, to draw conclusions about the outcome of possible future campaigns. AIM also helps marketers to create customer profiles and then make meaningful distinctions among segments of customers: who is interested; who is on the fence; who isn’t interested– and then use that data to learn more about customers’ needs and how the business can meet them.
Automation Already on the Rise
One of the front-facing elements of this rise in AIM is chatbots. In large companies, it’s hard to provide efficient customer service and reply to customer outreach– which is arguably a big part of marketing – considering a business may receive hundreds or thousands of messages in a day.
Chatbots allow businesses to respond to customer inquiries via conversations that take place online or via messaging apps, all conducted in natural, professional language, without the need for an actual employee to lift a finger. After determining the most frequently asked questions, businesses set up predetermined answers which can help to resolve issues or lead a customer to make an appropriate purchase.
Another, slightly more obscure technology is called programmatic ad targeting. This automates the ad-buying process using data gathered about customers using cookies from mobile apps and websites. The AI then targets specific customers that match the business’s customer profile, including location, age, interests, etcetera. The ad-buying system bids on the impression and displays content without requiring a salesperson to set up and execute a contract. Facebook ads, for example, allow marketers to use data analytics, create custom profiles, and thus fine-tune how their ads are deployed.
Perhaps more intimidating to the typical digital marketer is the concept of automatic content generation. Lucky for us, this is thus far only in its infancy, but if it advances, it could radically change the industry.
You’ve probably read AI-generated content without even realizing it. Machine learning algorithms can currently create simple stories: straightforward, informational pieces about stock reports, sports, major news events, and so on. Right now, they can’t write compelling articles with humor and in-depth analysis. But of course, the fear is that the increased potency of AI will allow that to happen at some point in the near future.
How to Compete?
Of course, machines can’t replace workers– especially (I’d argue) not writers– but there are dimensions where AI simply outpaces a normal person. Automation means streamlining: more is accomplished in less time. By employing some simple and effective solutions, like social media marketing tools that allow you to schedule posts ahead of time, and provide data-driven insights for better content creation, you can use the software at your disposal to become an irreplaceable content marketer.
Your entire team may also consider implementing new automation software. If you are part of the management team selecting that software, consider your team’s most repetitive tasks: do they spend loads of time sending similar response emails? Do they write blog posts or articles that contain the same type of updates? Find tasks that are both time-consuming and able to be automated. Then do a bit of research on the type of software available: you may find a program that is designed for your particular industry, and many offer free trials before you have to commit to something long term. Once you’ve brought that software in, conduct a periodic review of what’s working well, and check the impact of automation on your KPIs.
In short: automation is already happening, though digital marketers won’t be replaced by robots any time soon. The best thing you can do is prepare yourself with the current automation tools available, so you can be at the vanguard of the changing industry and prepare yourself with the type of skills that are increasingly in demand.