Don’t worry, AI won’t steal your marketing job. But you should update your skills and learn to stay flexible. And AI may even help!
Most of us are aware that artificial intelligence and machine learning are already working in the background of our business and personal lives.
“… a lot of the value that we’re getting from machine learning is actually happening kind of beneath the surface. It is things like improved search results, improved product recommendations for customers, improved forecasting for inventory management, and literally hundreds of other things beneath the surface.”
But that’s just for now. Very soon, AI and machine learning will move into the foreground.
More of us will use them at our jobs.
And for some of us, they might even replace our jobs.
This is a real concern for many Americans, though it’s something they consider to be a bit far off. In a survey from Pew Research, two-thirds of Americans believe robots (aka AI and machine learning) will do “much of the work currently done by humans within 50 years.”
And yet, 80% of those same survey respondents believe their own jobs will be spared.
Why AI won’t steal your marketing job
Marketers may be a little more pessimistic than the general public. While AI and machine learning hold amazing promise for marketers, there are rumblings and rumors that AI could take our jobs.
After all, what will we do when an algorithm can review reports, make decisions based on those reports, and even write the content those reports recommend?
Who will be out of work once a program can create a simple ad, or automatically optimize an advertising campaign? Will there be anything left for us to do when a predictive marketing automation system can know what our prospects want ― even before they do, and even before we do?
If you go too far down this path of thinking, it’s easy to get anxious.
But is AI really worth all the worry? Are we really going to be put out of work?
Or is it possible that we won’t lose our marketing jobs, and that artificial intelligence will instead be a fantastic tool that serves us?
Let’s look at AI another way.
Instead of taking our jobs, maybe it will free us from tedious spreadsheets and the more boring tasks of marketing.
Maybe this AI/machine learning thing is actually good news. In fact, “32 percent of [marketing study] respondents believe artificial intelligence (AI) is the “next big thing.”
And while it might be the next big thing, very few marketers are already using AI, at least when it comes to content strategy.
But, if you step back from using AI for content strategy, the adoption rates go higher. According to the same eMarketer article cited above,
“NewBase (formerly Publicitas International) polled 1,019 marketers worldwide in April 2017 and asked them which types of technologies they plan to prioritize over the next 12 months. Three in 10 (30%) respondents said they planned to prioritize AI.
A year prior, only 13% of respondents said the same.”
So artificial intelligence and machine-learning adoption is increasing quickly. And it has applications far beyond content strategy. Here’s just a partial list of what AI can do for marketers ― right now:
- Predict which members of a general audience might make the best prospects for your company.
- Schedule emails (and any other messaging) at a time when someone is most likely to read the message.
- Personalize messaging (with far more than just someone’s first name).
- Predict which message is most likely to be effective, given a customer’s profile and their past engagement history. For example: Send a webinar invite, or a whitepaper? Offer a discount, or an invite to an event?
- Provide radically improved lead scoring.
- Offer the holy grail: a truly omnichannel, “one-to-one” buyer’s journey and customer experience.
- Predict which products people would be most likely to buy (aka, “product recommendations”).
- Predict which content people would be most likely to consume (aka “content recommendations”).
- Offer help ― and the right help ― at just the right time.
- Power a chatbot.
Read customer emails or social media posts to access customer sentiment (aka, to read the customer’s mood).
The list of applications goes on and on. And it’s easy to see why there’s so much anticipation.
But if we really could let machines (or, more accurately, algorithms) make all those decisions, and take all those actions, and basically manage all those systems, would that cost us our jobs?
I don’t think so. I think marketers are going to be fine. In fact, I think we’ll do better than ever before.
Here are three reasons why:
Industries change, jobs change ― and so skills should change, too.
About 20 years ago, when “the commercial Internet” was young, I would read printouts of the server’s visitor logs from the website I worked for.
The printouts would be several inches thick. Each page would have the server logs of humans clicking from page to page, except back then our reporting was so basic that there would be a line for each item on the page that needed to be downloaded.
A visit to the site that involved anything more than someone looking at a website page or two could go on for two to three printed pages. The logs for a complete order would typically fill seven pages.
When Google Analytics and other traffic-reading tools came along, I was fine with giving up that part of my job ― reading server logs ― and letting it be automated into nice graphics-based reports.
I found other uses for my time.
So when AI and machine learning can take over some of your work, I bet you’ll find other things to do, too. Most of those repetitive, boring-as-all-get-out tasks you probably won’t even miss.
That’s one way of showing how skills have to change over time. This is true in almost any industry, but we marketers deal with it more than most.
Our skills need to evolve all the time.
So, if your job relies solely on your ability to lay out an email newsletter (for example), or your ability to set up a simple Facebook ad, or your ability to write a “filler” piece of content ― then yes ― your job may be in jeopardy.
Because machines (artificial intelligence, or the more “simple” machine learning) may be able to do all that not too long from now. Already, some of what we read is written by machines.
But as long as you can keep learning new skills, this is not going to harm your ability to earn a living.
Want a suggestion for one new skill to learn? How about data science or analytics? Data scientists are in demand right now, and will be in even more demand in the near future. An online course like the one General Assembly offers might work for you.
Technology has made marketers more effective ― and made us more valuable to our companies.
As you know, marketing technology has gotten a lot smarter and more effective in the last ten years ― even in the last two years.
Has that cost anybody their job? I’d say no.
Our new martech tools have let us be more effective. Proving return on investment is still dicey for some marketers, but more and more of us are able to demonstrate a positive ROI. That has led the C-suite to give us more budget and more resources.
So we’re better at what we do, and our responsibilities are expanding ― thanks to better technology.
As marketing ― and our competition ― has gotten more sophisticated, and as technology has allowed us to gain a much more holistic view of our customers, the idea of “customer experience” has bubbled up.
“Customer experience,” as you probably know, is a 360-degree view of how the customer finds, interacts, and purchases from us. It covers everything from their introductory “first touch” with us when they see one of our ads or articles, and goes all the way through the sales cycle to when they are repeat, long-term customers in the care of customer service.
That “customer experience” is usually managed by marketing.
That marketing has evolved (or is evolving) into customer experience is a big deal. And, as you probably also know, customer experience is considered to be the competitive advantage for businesses now.
Or, as Jerry Gregoire, former CIO of Dell and Pepsi says, “The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.”
In other words, this new, evolved marketing we’re all aiming for will be the competitive advantage of the next ten years. And it requires a ton of data at a volume that is really best managed by machines and algorithms.
In order to become the data maestros we need to be now, we need AI and machine learning. They’ve become essential tools for us, and they beat trying to scry the data for ourselves. Just like Google Analytics beats reading thousands of pages of server logs.
Marketers need help anyway.
Let’s also consider our time. As you most definitely know, marketers are not just hanging out, idly twiddling their thumbs.
If we had better technology and smarter data to help us do our jobs, would that put us out of a job?
In fact, it might mean we’d get a weekend off now and again. It might mean that instead of having 37 items on our list of “Marketing Projects I’d Really Like To Try, But Don’t Have Time For,” we might actually get most of those projects done.
As a result, our bosses and companies would be able to reward us accordingly. And so we’d have more time, more money, and more resources (and more confidence) to go out and kick our marketing and the customer experience up another notch.
So bring it on, AI. We’ve got work for you to do.
Back to you
Do you think artificial intelligence and other “smart data” applications will take your job? Tell us about it in the comments.