Originally published on Forbes.com by Forbes Agency Council on June 14, 2019.
Recently I was asked, “As an agency, how are you using AI within your marketing?” And honestly, the question gave me pause. I know we are using AI, but could not answer exactly how. Since it was (and is) a really valid question, I wanted to have a really good answer the next time someone asks.
Artificial intelligence (AI) boils down to a relatively simple concept: using machines to process data and automate repetitive tasks. And in my experience, AI also helps with seamless integrations that have been overlooked and taken for granted.
While AI, by definition, seems quite simple, the execution and process are not. Developing a program that can mimic the human brain, solve problems and apply reasoning is actually quite complex. We are lucky enough today that there are multiple box-like solutions that we can apply to our challenges without the demand to design and develop them.
Today, I’d like to open the discussion to five internal applications for AI that you may not have integrated into your practice yet. Based on our own agency’s experience with them, I believe that each of these, while simple to integrate, also streamlines workflow, reduces errors, cuts costs and delivers better insights.
1. Sales Predictions: Our sales team relies heavily on a CRM system to house information on clients, prospects and sales history. To date, much of this has been a library of information with search functionality. However, we are seeing systems such as Salesforce, Active Campaign and many more, beginning to incorporate predictive analytics (AI) into their services. We can now search our database for most engaged leads and prospects most likely to close, along with other key indicators. This seemingly logical information has allowed our team to focus their time and energy on yielding improvements in the close-rate percentages as well as shortening the time-to-close ratio.
2. Ad Bids: Google is leading the way in AI development, testing and integration (alongside Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple). If you are executing a paid ad campaign with Google’s search pages, you are likely using its artificial intelligence technology. Called Smart Bidding, the platform will test, monitor and adjust your Google Ads bid strategy with the intent of improving the quality and return on investment (ROI) of your ad campaign. In our experience, this is still new and needs consistent human oversight (it does not always work the way it should). However, as machine learning goes, we know it will gain intelligence and improve on the structure quickly.
3. Dynamic Ads: Use predictive analytics to serve the most relevant online ad to your prospective customers, and your ad buys will become exponentially more successful. For us, this means providing Google a list of landing pages we would like to use in an ad campaign. The program will then scan the pages and identify critical phrases and keywords for each page. Those are then injected into the paid search marketing campaign when an individual uses a search for a related product or service. Often, when dynamic ads are incorporated into a campaign, we realize a three-to-four-point increase in ad engagement.
4. Improved Internal Processes (And Fewer Errors): This is where the automated processes portion of AI has impacted our firm. We have automated our proposal tracking, follow-up and reporting processes between our software used to generate proposals and our CRM software. Additionally, we have implemented email marketing automation within our business development processes to send and personalize emails delivered, depending on the interactions by the recipient and the content they view within our website. We have also been successful in reducing staff time in campaign reporting, and have virtually eliminated errors in our client reports. Through linking the various ad platforms we use monthly (e.g., Google, social platforms, programmatic platforms and others), campaign data is shared directly with our reporting dashboard, providing real-time access to the data for our team and our clients. Combined, these have made our firm more responsive to our clients (building loyalty).
5. Chatbots: Chatbots allow brands to have conversations and answer inquiries, even when the office is closed. Our use of this technology is fairly limited at this time, but really, the opportunities are endless. Recently, I had a client testing this technology at live events to share updates and answer questions from attendees (e.g., Where is the closest bathroom?). Facebook Messenger has been testing and improving chatbots through its platform for a few years now and have gotten pretty good at carrying on a conversation without the challenges of 24/7 staffing.
I could keep going — there are many more potential applications for incorporating AI into your organization. Have you started testing any of these uses? What else have you tried that have been successful for your business?