Could AI help you unleash your creative beast?

11th September 2018

For marketers, artificial intelligence has lately become the grand moniker for any process that depends on algorithms to provide ‘intelligent’ responses to a variety of inputs or user behaviour. This kind of big-data-crunching automation actually falls far short of true AI: think quantum computing, super-intelligence and independent machine-learning, try not to think Westworld style awakenings or (for those of us who remember the early 90s) Skynet. Nevertheless, there is significant value to be gleaned from systems that can help marketers process huge quantities of data and use it effectively. The technological advances we currently label as AI have enormous potential when it comes to helping businesses better understand their customers. This deeper understanding is giving rise to bespoke, personalised and dynamic customer journeys  - and this enhanced customer experience is in turn helping businesses to grow and diversify with confidence.

That’s not to say that AI will be right for every business right now.  Despite the current hype, AI is actually still in its development stages.  For smaller businesses or those with a smaller number of large clients and an ABM focus, the AI available right now may be too expensive, too complex or just unnecessary. If it doesn’t fit seamlessly into your processes or have the ability to consistently improve daily performance, there’s little point in forcing AI to fit. The trick is to be aware of it, stay abreast of developments, and be ready to adopt AI at a time and at the level that is right for your business.

B2B businesses should have one eye on AI

Getting the customer experience right is more important now than ever before. While technology has made fast responses to customer issues and individualisation of the customer journey possible and scalable, on the flip side it has also made it easier for customers to switch brands - and it may only take one negative engagement for them to do so. A recent Salesforce survey revealed that 70% of consumers agree technology has made it easier than ever to take their business elsewhere. In the B2B world, where decision-makers with bigger budgets expect companies to understand their unique business needs and expectations, this figure increases to 82%.

While AI can never provide the complete solution to customer satisfaction issues, it can sometimes provide the missing piece to a communications or knowledge sharing puzzle. And it isn’t just B2C businesses that can harness the power of AI and use it to become more agile, more responsive and more in tune with their marketplace. With 80% of business buyers expecting their suppliers to interact with them in real-time and with a new set of tech-savvy consumers demanding a consistent experience across multiple platforms, the options for larger B2B businesses wanting to keep up with the pace of change are limited to two: either use scalable AI systems or enlist a small army of eternally cheerful super-humans who need no sleep.

The essential human element

Despite the revenue generating potential of AI and the opportunity it creates for businesses to provide a flawless, real-time customer experience across the full spectrum of communication platforms without so much as breaking a sweat, some marketers are still a little afraid of what the ‘rise of the machines’ may mean for their industry and their roles. In reality, automation of our time-consuming daily processes should only ever be a good thing - because it leaves us free to get our teeth into the creative, exciting stuff. So, perhaps it’s time to put away our niggling fears; AI doesn’t have what it takes to replace the human marketer, manager, salesperson or customer service colleague. While it may be able to take on some parts of some job-roles, if businesses try to substitute real intelligence with the artificial kind, they will soon realise their mistake. Even the most sophisticated behavioural algorithm - one capable of adapting and improving its own digital responses to better meet a customer’s likes and dislikes - will need a guiding human mind and a more nuanced understanding of other human minds when the formulaic responses can’t quite deliver what a customer needs or bring issues to a happy conclusion. AI isn’t sentient (yet), and it isn’t creative – adopting it into our daily processes gives us back some precious time: time for our best talent and brightest minds to come up with inspiring and imaginative ideas.

Making it work for your business

There are myriad applications of AI and once we realise that it is friend and not foe, we can start to truly understand its usefulness. As with the implementation of any technology or trend, the key is knowing exactly what you are setting out to achieve and how the new tech complements your broader strategy. If it doesn’t have a clear purpose within your business, don’t be fooled into thinking you can’t do without it - but do keep up to date with new applications for your sector.

While the kind of AI that can adapted to bespoke business needs without the help of a team of data crunching tech wizards is still some years away, there may be off-the-shelf products that utilise AI and could make a real difference to your productivity, customer experience, sales or online marketing (for example). With carefully considered objectives and a set of clearly defined outcomes, AI can help drive measurable value. It can enable digital tactics such as dynamic pricing and multi-channel touchpoints and it can also help large organisations with clunky legacy processes to completely streamline their customer journey. What’s more, customers are keen to interact with businesses who treat them as an individual and will therefore willingly trade data for improved services – provided you handle it securely of course.

The vital questions to ask before adopting AI are: is it practical? Will it integrate easily into my existing systems? How will it help me to understand my customers and respond to customer needs? And, most importantly: does it pose ‘a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilisation*’? (Only joking).

While Mr Musk has his concerns about the regulation of cutting-edge AI, the kind of artificial intelligence B2B businesses are using right now has been designed to help you nurture your customer relationships hassle-free. The customer gains personalisation and convenience, your business gets to increase productivity and boost revenue, and your teams get to leave the repetitive stuff to the machines. With the daily task list under AI control, it’s time to unleash that creative beast!


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