Today, the term “marketing” encompasses a slew of interconnected tasks. Instead of simply promoting goods or services, marketers are spending colossal amounts of time researching, creating, managing, analyzing, and reporting on campaigns. Marketers are ever-present through all stages of the sales journey, and their jobs are never done.
It wasn’t always this way. While basic marketing has been around as long as commerce—with ancient traders displaying their wares as attractively as possible—our modern understanding of the field evolved alongside the Industrial Revolution. This era marked the start of mass production and a shift from making products to buying them. The glut of manufactured goods created a new need: courting potential customers and standing out in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Thus, modern marketing was born.
We’re experiencing another revolution today. Just as machines redefined marketing in the eighteenth century, today’s technology is advancing the way we exchange goods and services yet again. The biggest evolution will come from artificial intelligence (AI), which uses data and algorithms to model and predict behaviors. AI is already influencing the marketing profession, but this is just the beginning. Marketing campaigns of the future might look wildly different than today’s.
The Changing Face of Marketing
Years from now, we’ll still recognize the core elements of campaigns, even if the way we approach them changes. We’ll continue to consider the who, what, where, when, and how. And we’ll always measure what happened. But there will also be major shifts. AI has the sophistication to test infinite combinations of variables over time to optimize the sales experience for every person. Equipped with this technology, marketers will move from mass campaigns for large groups to hyper-individualized campaigns built from a huge supply of plug-and-play microcontent.
Let’s explore how AI will redefine the elements of marketing, and look at what a campaign of the future may look like.
In marketing’s humble beginnings, an audience was simply whoever happened to walk by. Tradespeople were limited by location, and sophisticated outreach was simply nonexistent. Today’s marketers have come a long way by using rules-based segmentation and Smart Lists. But with the widespread adoption of AI, these methods will eventually seem as outdated as word of mouth.
As AI helps pinpoint preferences, trends, and past purchasing behavior, the “who” of each campaign will become increasingly important, and marketers will create individualized tracks for every customer. They will also leverage this massive amount of data to do a cluster analysis and identify natural affinities within groups.
But it won’t stop there. AI will also analyze data to continually expand and create lookalike audiences for colossal—yet incredibly targeted—growth. In the future, how marketers select audiences will change. Instead of them telling their CRM and automation software whom to include in campaigns, the technology will tell marketers whom to target.
Everyone knows that one size doesn’t fit all. But most marketers still take a wide-spray approach—like producing content for the entire population of Facebook or Twitter—rather than a precise one. This will change. Soon, marketers will use AI and machine learning to create hyper-personalized messaging. The technology will help companies identify preferences and values so they can create microcontent and assemble it in real time based on an individual’s specific needs and interests.
Instead of a 100-page “definitive guide” to a topic, marketers will produce hundreds of small, varied bits of content. Then, they’ll assemble the pieces like a puzzle. The result? A completely unique picture for each individual that’s driven by data to be as rich and relevant as possible. In the future, marketers will move from distributing messages to the masses to assembling bits of content and creating completely personalized campaigns based on real-time engagement.
The more personalized campaigns become, the less effective a large-scale editorial calendar will be. Most B2B databases house thousands of contacts. If each of them is on a tailored journey within a unique campaign, how could you possibly manage all those calendars?
The answer is, you won’t. Technology will likely evolve to filter contacts into “categories” of journeys or campaigns. AI will organize groups of people into similar categories, and marketers will be able to analyze the different rates of engagement among them. In the future, marketers will move from an editorial strategy and struggling to visualize campaign operations in calendars to a more intelligent strategy where calendars have gone extinct.
AI already has an impressive creative portfolio. In the last few years, advancements have allowed machines to compose music, paint pictures, play board games, and even generate human-like faces with stunning accuracy. So, where does that leave the actual people?
We often think of creativity as a uniquely human trait. And even with AI continually evolving, it will remain that way. Though AI can innovate, it must first be programmed by humans. Even “creative” AI can only master one skill, while humans can be great at singing and playing chess.
One of AI’s most attractive traits is its ability to can take on mundane campaign tasks, like crunching performance numbers, so humans can focus on more strategic and creative tasks. In the future, human marketers will give up burdensome, time-consuming numerical tasks to AI, freeing up time for people to do what they’re great at: being creative.
In addition to transforming marketing journeys themselves, AI will also change the way we analyze our investments. With powerful technology running campaigns, marketers will focus less on engagement metrics because AI will already be optimizing them. Instead, people can take a more holistic approach to the numbers.
Marketers are already becoming comfortable with this concept. Take trade shows, for example. If an organization participates but only closes one deal, the attendance costs may just barely be covered. But the value of participation cannot be measured by only that one sale. ROI also comes from increased awareness and brand affinity. In other words, it’s a longer-term play.
Marketing will always have to prove its worth and show ROI, but marketers might be doing so in ways they can’t presently imagine. In the future, marketers will move from struggling to show true ROI not even trying to show ROI—at least, not in the ways we currently do.
Unlocking the Power of AI
These days, inboxes are flooded with irrelevant marketing emails. Campaigns adopt a mass approach, sending messages to millions of people with the hope that a fraction of 1% open it. This relegates companies to marketing purgatory: the spam folder. But AI, with its tremendous computing power and vast amount of accessible data, can do amazing things—and it will transform marketing forever. As marketers, we are living in an incredible time. Technology is evolving so quickly that we’re witnessing our profession change right before our eyes. The future of marketing is on the horizon. It’s up to us to seize it.
Ready to learn more? Check out our Practical Guide to Artificial Intelligence for Marketers for ideas about how to get started.
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