By this point everyone knows that you’re supposed to be using AI in your marketing…. but not everyone knows how. What exactly is it that AI can do that makes it so valuable? (Lots!) Which teams in your organization can benefit from it? (Almost all of them.) Can it help with content creation? Targeting? Workflow? (Yes, yes, and yes.) Most of all, who should be using it, and how?
Simply put, every member of a modern marketing team can benefit from AI assistance. AI can take care of the time-consuming and monotonous parts of the job so your marketers can use their talents where they count most.
There are two types of AI that we’ll be covering here. Predictive AI uses customer behavior patterns to anticipate future behavior and help you optimize your strategies and timings, while generative AI allows you to quickly create personalized content at scale.
No matter what sort of marketing operation you’re running, there are ways AI can help cut out the busy work and make sure your best messages are reaching the most receptive audiences.
Let’s take a look at four areas where AI can help you.
1. You can hyper-personalize messaging to connect 1:1 with a large audience
Think about the last ad you clicked on. Was it something that spoke specifically to your interests, in an aesthetic you either enjoyed or at least didn’t mind? Did it make you smile, or laugh or think? Did it answer a question you had or solve one of your problems?
Good content cuts through the noise by speaking specifically to the person who’s engaging with it. This is the essence of content personalization, and it’s the key to reaching your audience on their own terms. If you give them content that improves their day, you’ve crossed the biggest chasm between you: indifference.
That sounds great on paper, but it isn’t realistic to expect your marketing team to individually research every single customer and create custom content that speaks to them all. Human beings can’t work at that scale. However, AI can.
A well-trained AI learns what your users like and can help you create content that speaks directly to those preferences. It learns both from data you already have and from every interaction moving forward.
For example, it will know if Customer A (let’s call her Alice) has an existing internet service product and is responsive to upsells or ad-ons relevant to that product. AI can add her to (or create) the appropriate customer segment for that sort of content automatically, without the marketer needing to comb through individual customer data to do it manually. It might also learn if Alice only responds to content featuring special offers or recommendations, enabling your marketers to use generative AI to quickly create content that speaks to that preference.
It also saves time by helping marketers build out personalized content at scale. Instead of needing to write 10 versions of an email for 10 different audiences, a marketer can write one version, then use AI to tailor a version of it for each audience or add in dynamic content.
For example, in this dynamic email, AI pulls in live updates about the weather in the subscriber’s area!
Good AI adjusts and retargets as it gathers new data. It observes customer behaviors to provide new and updated recommendations and insights based on those changing behaviors and can even forecast likely future behaviors.
2. You’ll be able to unify and understand your data faster and more thoroughly
When you’re talking to your customers in a lot of different places – website, email, social media, etc. – you end up with a lot of different data streams. Some of them might include incomplete or incorrect information. Maybe Alice only volunteered her contact information over email but not on her account profile. Maybe Bob made a typo during account creation on the website or created and abandoned multiple separate accounts over the years.
Marketing might have access to a completely different understanding of Alice than Sales does, with Marketing’s data coming mostly from how she engages online and Sales’ data being gleaned from her purchase history and conversations with her rep.
It’s best to unify your data in one central repository so all your teams are working from the same source of truth, most commonly by creating a database (or “customer data platform (CDP)”) of profiles for each customer incorporating data from every stream. Once you have your CDP set up, you can use AI-powered analytics to find insights, patterns, and connections that reach across all your disparate data streams.
While that massive quantity of data would be incredibly time-consuming for your team to parse without AI assistance, AI can comb through it rapidly enough to provide effectively real-time insights to give your teams the most comprehensive and up to date understanding of their audience – like customer lifetime value and product interest scoring.
This unified data is available to everyone who needs it, so Marketing, Sales, Service, IT, and other teams are all working from the same source for maximum alignment and efficiency.
3. You can make sure your marketing emails reach the right audiences at the right time
How do you get a stranger to open your email, how do you make them read it, and how do you make sure they click through to your website, asset, or special offer? When should you be sending your marketing emails, and how many is too many, or not enough? These are answerable questions for any one customer, but there’s the rub: every individual customer has different answers to them.
Email marketing AIs are built to answer those questions on a case-by-case basis for every individual customer. They draw on your existing data and ongoing engagement to learn each customer’s behavior and preferences and deliver the best possible messaging and recommendations.
For example, in this dynamic email, AI uses a personalized image to grab the recipient’s attention and encourage them to shop their Black Friday deals.
Predictive AIs can identify when customers have historically been most responsive to email and tailor send times so that your emails reach them at the best possible time. It can also detect patterns and let you know if some customers are seeing too many (or too few) messages, so your marketers can adjust the frequency of their outreach.
From there, they can suggest, test, and refine different subject lines and strategies. They also quickly figure out when each customer is most likely to respond to an email, which need a steady drip of marketing to keep them engaged, and which are better off being left alone for a while between each message.
AI can also protect you from changes to popular email clients, so the personalized marketing machine you’ve built will keep humming even if Gmail or Apple Mail make an unexpected change to their inboxes or policies.
AI turns email marketing at scale from largely a guessing game into an exact science, and a fairly low-effort one at that.
4. AI can automate time-consuming manual tasks and simplify workflows
The “A” in AI stands for artificial, but it might as well stand for “automation” too, since that’s what it fundamentally accomplishes.
One way AI can help free up your employees is through flow orchestration. Flow orchestration allows you to design multi-step processes that interact with multiple users and multiple systems. You can use it to create advanced approval processes, task lists for groups, or any other processes that require multiple interrelated steps.
By building these workflows with AI assistance, you can automate large sections of processes that require a lot of time to complete. This is true for both internal processes (for example, you can automate large chunks of your content workflow) and customer-facing flows such as registrations, sales, or even tech support.
Automating time-consuming and monotonous tasks frees up your marketing and sales teams to focus on big picture ideas, long-term strategy, and conversions, instead of spending hours per day combing through data or plotting out email send-times customer by customer.
Marketing isn’t just about getting their eyes on your messaging – it’s about understanding customer needs and addressing them. That AI can do that for thousands or millions of potential customers simultaneously is what makes it perhaps the single most potent marketing tool on the planet today. Add in the ability to make your team better and more efficient, and it’s a win-win.
Blake Miller, Senior Director of Product Marketing, Salesforce, has over 20-years of experience working in media and technology, primarily in product development, sales, and marketing. For the last decade, he has been focused on email marketing and advertising technology, helping brands create relationships at scale. Prior to joining Salesforce, he worked at ESPN and CareerBuilder. He has an MBA from DePaul and BA from Baylor.