Ep. 56 | How AI and Machine Learning Will Impact B2B Marketing

This is a picture of Paul Roetzer for the Rethink Marketing Podcast where he talks about what marketers need to know about artificial intelligence

Featured eBook: The New Marketing Metrics for B2B

When IBM Watson’s wowed the world with its 2011 win against two of Jeopardy’s greatest champions, Paul Roetzer was in Cleveland wondering what if that machine learning technology was applied to marketing.

“What if instead of me or any marketing strategist trying to figure out how to get the next 500 leads, a machine was there to assist me, and to spit out ideas of how I could achieve that goal based on probability of success?,” Roetzer asks. “I didn’t know at the time what AI was really or if this was even possible. But it started this journey for me of discovery.”

Roetzer is the founder and CEO of PR 20/20, and founder of the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute. In this week’s Rethink Marketing episode, Act-On CMO Michelle Huff has a conversation with Roetzer about what marketers need to know about Artificial Intelligence.

He said the institute’s mission is to identify the current and future potential of AI, and provide that education to marketers so they could look for ways to transform their own marketing, as well as their careers.

Google’s AI & Machine Learning Research

If you don’t think AI will play a role in your career, whether that’s marketing or something else, then think again. Recent news about Google’s AlphaGo Zero research illustrates the point.

“It kind of goes back to Watson winning on Jeopardy for me,” Roetzer said. “Most of the innovations that are happening in AI are not happening in the marketing and sales space. And AlphaGo Zero is an example of technology that’s being developed, that once you understand what’s possible, you can’t help but look ahead and say, ‘oh my gosh, when that technology gets to marketing, it’s going to change everything.’”

You can read more about the AlphaGo Zero project on Google’s blog, but the short of it is that in 2016 an earlier version their technology beat the world’s expert 4 out of 5 games in Go, a 2,800-year-old game that in any given moment has some 13 million potential moves. Fast forward to this year, and the current version of the technology was only given the instructions to the game and within 72 hours taught itself all those 13 million moves and then some and went on to beat the earlier version of the tech 100 games to zero.

“The system would make moves that wouldn’t make sense for another nine moves. And then all of a sudden, the human would realize what it had done nine moves prior. It would make moves people would never fathom making. And the significance of it was that it learned from scratch on its own,” Roetzer said.

Applying Machine Learning to Marketing

In AI there are two kinds of intelligence: narrow intelligence and general intelligence. General intelligence is what humans can do. It’s the ability to look around and understand, to develop meaning, to be conscious, to be sentient, like all these things that make us uniquely human. The stuff you see in the movies, like Ex Machina and Terminator, that doesn’t exist in machines yet. There is no true general intelligence. AI is built to do specific narrow things. Take a use case in marketing, and the AI must be trained to do that one thing, like writing email subject lines, or AB testing a landing page. You have to train the machine to do that. You can’t just tell it to learn how to do all of marketing.

The AlphaGo Zero example is a step toward the ability to do general intelligence where you could in theory give the AI basic instructions of how to do lead generation, and it could then run millions of models and figure out the best way to generate leads.

It is significant because, as Roetzer said, “it’s more of a potential look ahead of what could find its way into sales and marketing, but will certainly find its way into healthcare, and logistics, and retail, ecommerce, and all these other bigger industries, and eventually trickle down into marketing.”


In their interview, Michelle and Paul go on to discuss

  • What is the first thing marketers should know about AI?
  • The Five P’s of AI and machine learning?
  • How should a company get started with AI and machine learning?
  • What marketing jobs are safe in an AI world?
  • Who should marketers be paying attention to with regards to AI and marketing? Who are the other thought leaders?

Enjoy the conversation, and we hope you can get one or two takeaways that you can bring to your business.