Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning are often associated with the likes of Amazon and Google, two companies who use it frequently for business operations, however, the growth of AI has provided a unique opportunity for smaller businesses to cash in on it and use it for marketing purposes too. Today, turning a small business into a completely data-driven organisation is a lot easier than it sounds, and many are transitioning towards AI as it becomes more advanced, widely available and even more cost-effective.
Marketing is a rapidly evolving field where major changes can take place overnight. Today, businesses of all sizes are gearing their marketing efforts more towards focused groups of individuals who are likely to be interested in what a business has to say, and ultimately sell.
How Does AI Impact Marketing?
It is clear that AI will play a huge role in the future of marketing, but to what extent? Tasks which can be automated and have a clearly defined routine are the ones which AI will handle.
In the context of marketing, such tasks may include –
- the harvesting of data from sources to produce a report for decision-making;
- optimising the timing of marketing for maximum engagement;
- actually coming up with ad copy and marketing materials.
These tasks require the manipulation and processing of data in a predictable way, and this is exactly what AI does. Marketing tasks which are limited to a specific set of smaller data inputs are the ones which will fare best with AI automation.
It is still early days, however, and we have yet to see exactly how AI is going to impact marketing. In fact, it is still very early days with AI for smaller businesses too, however, over the next few years especially, it is expected that small business use of AI will skyrocket; the costs of AI is falling, and its use is becoming a lot more mainstream.
Many disruptive technologies take time to manifest themselves into something which is regarded as useful by smaller businesses, often because these businesses have stricter cost considerations and cannot afford to risk investing in something which may provide little value.
Around a decade ago, Facebook was relatively new and although it was used as a marketing platform – not to the extent it is now, of course – it was only utilised by larger businesses who had the money to spend on what was a new concept, social media marketing. That is no longer the case today, which is why we can predict the same fate will await AI and machine learning in marketing for SMBs.
How Can Small Businesses Use AI for Marketing Now?
The majority of major marketing services now – the type which companies outsource their marketing to – are now using machine learning technology throughout their operations. Marketing companies are transitioning to “personalised marketing”, i.e. where marketing is highly targeted towards very specific demographics, and AI is going to play a central role in this.
Companies and manufacturers want to target specific consumers based on detailed pieces of personal data and match this data to what they are likely to find appealing. AI’s role here is clear – analysing this personal data and learning from it over time to show only the most relevant and personalised pieces of marketing to target consumers.
Why Should Small Businesses Use AI?
The management of a marketing budgets or marketing plans requires a lot of expertise and, for small businesses, this is something which adds to the burden and cost of operating it. Even now, small businesses have the opportunity to use relatively modest budgets to access AI marketing solutions.
There are a number of AI-powered marketing platforms which can manage entire digital marketing strategies across a wide range of channels such as Facebook and Pinterest. These platforms provide detailed analytics which can then be used by these small businesses to make commercial decisions and optimise their marketing strategy.
When used properly, AI in marketing and fully-fledged AI marketing solutions can help small businesses create a digital marketing strategy which works for them and reduces overall costs. Clever algorithms which are able to analyse engagement and other metrics can be used to reduce cost-per-click, for example, which can streamline marketing budgets as well as automate the entire process. Additional opportunities to save costs include not having to hire dedicated marketing staff to come up with new marketing strategies, and then plan and execute them.
The best way to introduce AI to your SMB’s marketing efforts is to use chatbots – they are very cost effective, easy to make than some other more complex pieces of marketing software, and they can significantly reduce your customer service costs.
Will AI Take Over?
AI is often preferred by businesses because of its characteristics: it’s a non-human entity which doesn’t get tired, doesn’t need a work-life balance, doesn’t need to be paid, doesn’t need to take sick leave, and has the capacity to make better-informed decisions over time.
In the years to come, AI and machines are going to streamline many industries – marketing included – so that they can operate more efficiently. This will enable better human decision-making to take place. Because AI and machines are not likely to be able to determine a vision for the future of a marketing agency, for example, human leaders are still going to play a huge role, and the broader role of strategically managing a marketing agency and everything it involves is beyond the scope of machine learning… for now, anyway.
Whilst AI can harvest data from a variety of sources and present it in a way which can be analysed and acted upon by humans, complete automation is not possible. Whilst the tasks we have mentioned can be augmented by AI and machine learning, they still require interpretation by marketing specialists in-order for them to work.
Varied context work such as planning and selling are tasks which are unlikely to be automated by AI and machine learning in the near future. It is the collecting and processing of data and the optimisation of marketing strategies which are going to be the most viable AI applications within the marketing industry, and it is likely to be a good few years yet before smaller businesses start bringing these AI marketing solutions in-house instead of using AI marketing platforms.