Marketers today rely on various types of marketing technology to launch campaigns, monitor their efforts, and keep their overall strategies organized. Every year brings new marketing technology (martech) products and technological advancements that can benefit marketers. At last count, the martech landscape included more than 7,000 products, and the list grows every year.
In a number of common martech categories, from tools that help with content strategy to those that aid in promotion, one of the biggest trends we see is artificial intelligence (AI). Scott Brinker, the man behind the ubiquitous martech landscape graphic, shared last year that they did away with the AI category in the graphic not because AI martech tools are uncommon, but “because AI is embedded in so many products across all martech categories.”
Marketers can trust that AI will increasingly be a part of the way we do our jobs. It’s important to understand what AI is and how to select the best artificial intelligence marketing platforms to aid in your work.
Artificial intelligence is the term used to describe any type of technology that can get smarter by learning. That’s a fairly broad definition, one that encompasses the fictional entities like Skynet and Cylons—which are far from the current reality of how AI works—as well as the more practical products we now see in many industries that employ machine learning to help professionals make better decisions.
AI is becoming the norm in so many types of products that Gartner now predicts AI tech will be pervasive by 2020. And Business Insider lists it as one of the fastest growing marketing technologies, with a 53 percent anticipated growth rate year over year.
As vendors have clearly realized, AI can be applied to solving a wide array of problems, enhancing what products could already do with ever better results. But as with any type of technology, AI in and of itself won’t solve any problems. How much it can help you depends entirely on how you use it.
Asking the right questions will help you make the best decision when getting started with AI marketing technology.
1. Does it solve specific marketing problems you have?
AI tech is exciting. It might not be on the level of flying cars or personal jetpacks, but it feels like the future, even as it’s become a regular part of our present. The more a type of technology seems cool or interesting, the more marketers risk coming down with “shiny object syndrome”—the tendency to buy a product because it impresses you, rather than because it meets a specific need.
Before you invest in an AI marketing platform (or any martech at all, for that matter), ask yourself what specific problems need solved. Will the product actually help you with your needs? If not, it’s probably not worth the investment.
2. Was it made by people who understand marketing?
HubSpot considered this important enough to put at the top of their list of criteria to look for in an AI product. Obviously tech vendors need to understand the technological side of what they’re selling, but for the product to be useful to you, the end user, it needs to be made with your particular needs and challenges in mind.
An AI vendor that understands marketing will know how to build a product for marketers. It should be easy for your team to use, answer the common issues you face and fit seamlessly into your process.
3. Does it work with the other martech products you depend on?
You’re not buying your AI marketing platform in a vacuum. Chances are you have a list of other tech products your team uses on a regular basis. From your CMS platform to your email marketing software, any new AI product you buy needs to work seamlessly with the technology you already depend on. Before making a purchase, take stock of all the products you use now that the platform will need to work with, and ask the vendor about compatibility.
4. Is it user friendly?
Fifty-six percent of companies say they’ve bought marketing technology that they don’t use often enough. While there are a number of reasons martech products go underused, a big one is if it’s too complicated for your team to learn. Busy marketers don’t want to spend time learning a complicated new product when they already have a process that works in place (even if they’re told the product will make it work better). If you find a product that’s intuitive for users on Day 1, you win part of that battle before ever fighting it.
5. Does your company have enough data for it to learn from?
For AI to learn, it needs information it can learn from. One of the biggest limitations any AI product still has is that its learning is only as good as the data you feed it. For some AI marketing platforms, that means you need enterprise-level quantities of data to get real results. For others, you can get good results with less, especially if the product already has a lot of past data it’s learned from.
This is an issue with AI that will become less of a concern over time. The more clients use each product, the more data they’ll have to learn from. With every year, AI-fueled martech products will get smarter and more advanced. But for now, it’s still important to ask yourself, and any vendors you consider, if you have enough data for the product to do its job.
Just as AI is infiltrating a wide variety of industries, it’s also becoming common in a variety of different types of marketing technology products. In particular, there are five types of products where you can find artificial intelligence now playing a big role.
All good content marketing efforts start with a well-developed content strategy. And a good content strategy is created with a mix of human insights and data on what works. For that latter part of the process, AI platforms can play an important role in helping marketers better parse the data you have to create more accurate personas, more useful goals, and develop a stronger content plan for your business.
As one of the top CMS options on the market, HubSpot provides a lot of different features and functionality for clients, a couple of which are fueled by AI technology. Specifically, HubSpot uses machine learning to help customers better understand the main topics and themes that get you the results you want with both customers and the search engines. It provides data-backed topic suggestions you can build your content strategy around. And using the data you have from past leads and current customers, it provides predictive lead scoring to find and target your most valuable leads.
Concured provides an AI-powered content strategy platform. The product uses data and machine learning to suggest content topics based on what your audience responds to, finds gaps in the content already available in your industry and provides tips on the best content to promote to make your content marketing go further.
MarketMuse uses machine learning and natural language processing to analyze a company’s content and compare it to thousands of other websites covering the same topic areas. Based on the comparison, it supplies topic ideas to flesh out your strategy and suggestions for how to improve your content as you create it.
Getting a solid content strategy into place is the first step for content marketing, but one of the hardest ongoing tasks involved is creating new content. A number of AI products help with the content creation process by analyzing the content you already have to look for data-proven ways to improve it.
Atomic Reach is an AI-driven content intelligence platform. The product analyzes content you’ve already created, or that you’re in the process of creating, and provides a score based on a number of linguistic measures to help you gauge quality and keep your tone consistent across pieces. It also analyzes the data from your content results to provide conversion suggestions to help you get better results over time.
Where the products in our first category help you create a content strategy, Acrolinx helps you ensure the content you create lines up with your strategy. You provide the tool with any guidelines you’ve created, and it provides real-time feedback on how well your content aligns with your rules. Over time, the product learns from the content it analyzes and is able to provide better metrics for how to improve the content you create.
The SEO platform Brightedge provides an AI-powered feature called Insights. The tool analyzes millions of web pages to provide clients with clear action items they can take to improve their SEO, including suggestions on ways to update the content you create for better results.
Email marketing is one of the most important online marketing tactics because of the impressive ROI (return on investment) it delivers. But you can increase that ROI by using AI martech tools that turn data into clear insights on how to write more effective emails.
Nothing else you include in your email matters if the subject line doesn’t get people to click. Phrasee is an AI tool specifically focused on helping businesses write better subject lines. The tool develops an algorithm tailored to your specific brand voice, and uses a natural language generation system to generate subject lines your data shows will perform well.
Optimail lets you define your main email marketing goals. Then, with every email you send, it analyzes the results to provide you suggestions for optimizing your campaigns to better meet those goals over time. The longer you use the product, the better the technology learns what works for your list.
Automizy provides an email marketing platform that includes AI tech to help you write better subject lines and choose the best ones to try each time. It compares your subject line to all past email campaigns on Automizy to provide a score based on its likely success, and lets you A/B test different options both to improve your own results and give the tool more data to work with.
For your website and content to do its job, people have to be able to find it. Promotional channels like pay-per-click advertising and social media are an important part of any good marketing strategy. AI tools can now help you get better results for your promotion campaigns.
Albert is a self-learning marketing platform that automates the creation of marketing campaigns based on past data. That includes both paid search and social advertising campaigns. By improving targeting and cross-channel execution, it can optimize campaigns for better ROI over time.
The social media management platform Sprinklr announced a new AI-powered feature that processes millions of social media messages across platforms to better understand what people are saying on social and what they respond to from brands. The tool helps brands manage their social profiles more effectively with alerts about conversations to track, and insights into how to prioritize customer interactions on social.
Acquisio is an AI tool for managing PPC campaigns. The product uses AI to streamline the campaign creation process and optimize campaigns for better ROI. The technology monitors PPC data constantly to learn from it, and applies what it learns to automate bids and budget management for brands.
Cortex is an AI-powered social media management product that analyzes millions of data points from different brands on social to learn what people respond to. It uses that information to help companies know when and what to share on social media to get the best results.
People increasingly expect a personalized marketing experience and brands that can pull it off get better outcomes as a result. Some of the tools already mentioned in other categories aid in better personalization, HubSpot and Concured both do, for example. But there are some AI martech products particularly focused on using machine learning to help marketers deliver experiences to consumers tailored to their interests and where they are in the funnel.
Uberflip’s content experience platform uses AI to determine which of the content pieces you have that will be the most useful to each visitor based on data about their behavior, interests, and where they are in the buyer’s journey. The tool automates the process of creating a relevant experience for each person that comes to your website, increasing the chances they’ll stick around and take a specific action.
Drift provides AI-driven chatbots—a different way to create a personalized experience for visitors to your website. With machine learning and natural language processing, the chatbot can determine the best answers to the questions visitors have in real time. And when a visitor’s questions suggest it’s a valuable lead, it connects them to members of your team to continue the conversation with a human.
In many ways, AI in marketing is still in its infancy. But with every year, as these tools gain more data to learn from, the results they provide will only improve. All marketers can benefit from having AI solutions on the radar. Even if none of these AI marketing platforms are a good fit for your business (or budget) today, you can still expect to be using them in the near future and reaping the benefits self-learning tech can provide.