Marketers not afraid of failure will win in the AI age

Artificial intelligence expert Michael Priddis discusses AI's impact on B2B marketing, and how embracing risk is the key to success.

All signs suggest that artificial intelligence (AI) will radically alter almost every profession. Promising in-depth and highly efficient data analysis, and the capacity to transform customer experience, AI has the potential to be an invaluable tool for marketers.

Michael Priddis, AI expert and CEO of AI research and development firm Faethm, says thoughtful implementation and investment is instrumental to successfully using AI in B2B marketing.

[caption id="attachment_1180" align="alignleft" width="300"]Artificial intelligence expert Michael Priddis Artificial intelligence expert Michael Priddis[/caption]

He says AI isn’t yet the futuristic technology of self-driving cars and fully humanised, robotic workers. “It's still very nascent in technology applications,” Priddis says. “They're nowhere near as advanced as they're going to be.”

But he believes applications of AI, even in its current form, could be transformative for B2B marketers. “In any B2B environment, the ability for marketers to serve very tailored information, very specifically to a particular person or small group of people, will increase the quality of demand as it presents to the point of sale,” he says.

An area where Priddis has already seen AI make a significant impact is segmentation, which broadly categorises huge numbers of people. AI, he says, has the potential to allow companies to speak to customers on a more individualised level.

“AI will recognise segments as one, so they will be able to accumulate a much, much more sophisticated, deeper, more granular view of the customer base in order to understand how to position, communicate or frame information for a much, much smaller segment than a human can get their head around,” he says.

“The notion of segmentation as it exists in traditional marketing is probably coming to an end. Segmentation will continue, but the use of data-driven tools will allow a much greater level of sophistication than people have had in the past.”

How local marketers can be industry leaders

Although human-like AI is not yet a reality, and may not be for a very long time, Priddis suggests that now is the time for companies to invest and plan for a future where AI is more sophisticated and ubiquitous.

“This is something that's going to transform pretty much every area of work in the not too distant future,” he says. “Any type of work that's process-driven or information-driven is ripe for AI. The fact that it's not yet in widespread adoption doesn't mean that people shouldn't be looking at it. I think now is the time to do it. You want to get ahead of the curve and not be behind it.”

Australian companies are particularly well equipped to start planning for a rise in AI, though many don’t yet realise it.

“Australia is the worst country in the OECD at collaborating with research and development [R&D]. In the 2015 OECD survey, Australia ranked 33rd out of 33 for R&D collaboration,” Priddis says.

"We need to understand how to try, fail and try again in the company setting."

“It's just not on the general radar, across industries, and that's retail, manufacturing, insurance. You name it, they're not doing it. In other countries, Europe particularly, North America to a certain degree, it's quite standard for marketing teams and strategy teams, product teams, whatever, to spend a good part of their time with the local R&D labs saying, "What's going on? What's happening? How do we use it?".”

But Priddis points out that if companies in the Asia-Pacific region were to make more of an investment in AI research they might be pleasantly surprised with the results.

“Australia has a very good R&D sector,” Priddis says. “There are 67,000 people working in R&D in this country, and it's well-funded by government. It's just not got a huge amount of corporate involvement, so marketers should be going to R&D, whether it's major universities or private companies, and saying, "How do we get our hands on these sorts of technologies? How do we understand what the impacts of them might be?".”

Embracing a culture of risk

The successful implementation of AI means that companies will have to embrace a culture of risk, something that often runs counter to corporate culture in Australia.

“Australian companies have not had to try very hard to grow,” Priddis says. “The whole economy has had good growth driven by external factors and context and, as a result of that, big companies in Australia, medium-sized companies in Australia, they don't really have a history or a culture of driving their own growth by exploring, experimenting, designing, creating, having a crack at things, failing and doing it again.”

To embrace AI, this culture will have to change.

“The number one thing, apart from collaborating more with R&D, is we need to understand how to try, fail and try again in the company setting," Priddis says. "We need to understand how to invest in disruptive [technology] over multiple financial periods, not just in the course of this year.

“It's just not how Australian companies tend to work, and it really needs to be.”

Further reading: AI pushing sales and marketing together

Photo: Blake Wheeler on Unsplash