The future is already here. And it’s not trying to kill us.
That’s the good news.
The bad news? In a recent survey, while only 18% of marketers say they’re currently using Artificial Intelligence, 66% say they’re actively working to adopt it. So if you’re not seriously considering adding AI to your martech stack, it’s highly likely that your competitors are.
AI isn’t a ‘flash in the pan’ trend. If traditional methods of processing data are an abacus, AI is the iPhone.
Not So Fast...
The human brain is capable of processing an
enormous amount of data. We’ve evolved to process a
three-dimensional world (four-dimensional, if you
include time), but that’s about the limit any of us can
really deal with.
As explained by Malcolm Gladwell in chapter five of The Tipping Point, this processing limitation is why phone numbers are seven digits long and why the most successful organizations or groups never number more than 150 people at any given time. Those numbers represent the limits of our cognitive abilities.
Where AI has the upper hand over our own innate information processing abilities is in complexity. The patterns needed to really understand how any given thing - in our case, companies - will behave, have many, many more dimensions that what our brains can reasonably process.
We’re terrible at accurately spotting patterns past a few dimensions. Whereas machines - artificial intelligence systems - do just fine in higher dimensions.
AI powers the email auto-responses that allow us to quickly respond to messages with realistic, relevant responses. AI is how Netflix knows what shows you are likely to enjoy next, and how Amazon gets consumers to buy more of, well, everything, through their ‘Customers who bought this item also bought’ prompts.
All B2C examples, sure. But given the success of these small, everyday improvements, surely AI must have profound implications for the B2B world - where reliable data processing can make or break a successful quarter, a year, or a business.
It’s taken a bit longer to get the AI flywheel turning in B2B. It’s not complacency. The higher the stakes, the more reticent people are. It’s easy to test drive AI assistant programs like Siri or Alexa - it’s much more difficult to bet next quarter’s revenue, or potentially your job, on an as-yet-unproven system.
Today, the flywheel is starting to gather speed - because marketers are inherently risk takers. From targeting to messaging to campaign strategy, we’ve all adapted to living with a lot of unknowns. We’ve made reasonable compromises to move things forward, based on the available data and hard-won lessons learned over the course of a career. We’ve done pretty well. But all of us know we can do better.
And while we’ve been thinking about how to get to better, the risk has shifted. As more marketers move to add AI capabilities to their martech stack, it becomes riskier to wait.