I remember sitting in a meeting at my old marketing agency in 2013, thinking about how exhausted I was by our company’s mundane routine. Rather than channeling our creativity into new marketing programs, my colleagues and I were spending countless hours on administrative tasks, including everything from sending emails to creating spreadsheets to organizing reports.

Although we had a sterling work reputation — our agency was featured on AMC’s series The Pitch, won countless awards, and had a robust client roster — I knew there was untapped potential. I knew we could deliver our services better and faster than competitors while eliminating and automating trivial tasks.

Two years later, I launched Five Tier, an AI-driven company that capitalizes on how the future of marketing is automation. Demandbase just conducted a survey that reveals that 80 percent of marketing executives from companies with more than 250 employees also believe AI will revolutionize marketing by 2020. The transformation is already underway, and we’re already seeing retailers like Estée Lauder, Macy’s, Chevrolet, and others apply AI to improve customer service.

As AI evolves and becomes more widely adopted in marketing, it’s inevitable that some professionals will lose their jobs to technology. However, just like the first Industrial Revolution ended up creating new opportunities for mankind, AI — and specifically, marketing automation — will propel entrepreneurship to new heights in the long run.

Good for entrepreneurs

Let’s take the founders of Jerry’s Vodka, for example. When Gerard Jansse and his partner first considered launching their own vodka business in 2016, they had serious reservations, especially that they lacked the budget to buy marketing services. Without the financial flexibility to build a brand, Gerard feared that he’d be unable to get the company off the ground.

Instead of abandoning his dream or taking out an expensive loan, Gerard and his partner leaned on AI to jump-start their venture. They centralized their workflows, created a logo, found new leads, designed basic marketing materials, and extracted insights from unstructured data. Within a day, Gerard had email and social marketing campaigns up and running, which ultimately allowed his team to launch Jerry’s Vodka in less than three months.

In today’s data-driven world, marketing automation is leveling the playing field and putting small businesses in the position to compete against larger, more established corporations. With AI, entrepreneurs no longer need to spend money on ad agencies. In fact, they can save money and invest those funds to hire — or retain — talented employees to accelerate their individual growth.

Marketers benefit, too

In addition to empowering small business owners, AI will also enable marketers from companies of all sizes to enhance the quality of their customer service. Retailers now have immediate access to AI tools that can assess their target audience’s attitudes, emotions, and preferences. In turn, they can use those insights to provide tailored recommendations to buyers that will help foster customer loyalty.

For example, we’re approaching the one-year anniversary of the 1-800-FLOWERS’ launch of GWYN (Gifts When You Need), an AI-powered, gift concierge service that intuitively guides customers through their shopping experience and helps them pick the perfect gift. The service can interpret a customer’s questions, gauge sentiment, learn about the buyer’s needs over time, and refine gift suggestions accordingly. It’s a brilliant concept.

AI is giving marketers access to far more data than we would’ve ever been able to gather. Today in 2017, we know exactly who our customers are, which products they prefer to purchase, how they buy products, and how often they make these purchases. By utilizing these personalized AI-powered marketing services, retailers are establishing an unprecedented level of brand engagement with consumers.

Marketing automation has come a long way in the four years since I had my eureka moment at my previous agency. As technology evolves, I’m confident it will usher a new wave of entrepreneurs that will create disruptive small businesses and allow professionals to focus more on strategic tasks than mundane work.

Frank O’Brien is the CEO of Five Tier, a marketing automation platform.

Above: The Machine Intelligence Landscape. This article is part of our Artificial Intelligence series. You can download a high-resolution version of the landscape featuring 288 companies by clicking the image.


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