We are living in an exciting age, full of robots earning citizenship and check-out free shopping experiences. Artificial intelligence is no longer an abstract idea relegated to the world of science fiction.
According to a Teradata survey, 80% of enterprises are investing in AI. For years, large companies have been exploring AI and the technologies that fuel it: cloud computing, automation, and machine learning.
It’s 2018, and AI is no longer just for the mega corporations. The AI revolution is coming to the small business market, and you can either be part of it or caught playing catch up.
Your small business marketing efforts should be closely tied to industry trends, and we’ve rounded up three trending technologies to get you started.
AI and marketing
For decades, there has been a prevailing but misguided fear that, someday, robots will attack us in our homes and take our jobs. While there’s a kernel of truth to the latter in sectors such as manufacturing and retail, neither will happen in service-based businesses, which rely on human interaction.
In the B2B realm, automation cuts down on manual data entry and administrative tasks, both of which bog down client work.
So how will the cloud, automation, and machine learning change the way businesses operate in 2018? Let’s take a look.
1. Mass migration to the cloud
Not the actual cloud
Over lunch one day, my aunt and mother asked me: “What exactly is the cloud?” If you look at Wikipedia’s first sentence on cloud computing, your eyes will glaze over:
Cloud computing is an Information Technology paradigm that enables ubiquitous access to shared pools of configurable system resources and higher-level services that can be rapidly provisioned with minimal management effort, often over the Internet.
Say what, now?
To put it simply: using the cloud means storing data remotely over the internet, making that data accessible from anywhere.
Remember the days of CD ROMs? AOL would send you their internet browser in the mail, and then you’d be stuck with that version of the product until you ordered an update.
Sadly, there are still desktop solutions that operate in similar ways, forcing their users to remain in the dark ages of technology. This cannot go on into 2018.
Let’s look at how cloud-based software can help in a marketing setting.
Imagine this: your smartphone rings with a call from a prospect. Your CRM sees the call, and opens a window with a timer and the notes from your last conversation. Because you were so on the ball, you convert this prospect to a client, and your account lead is immediately notified of a new project and receives notes from past calls and email correspondence.
How is this possible? The cloud has given rise to a wide selection of impressive SaaS technologies that are extremely scalable, and therefore more affordable. Because the technology lives on the internet, it’s easy to make improvements and add key integrations that help data flow through programs in real time.
Some automation is more low-tech than you may realize
When you employ a service business, you’re buying time. That’s why the bulk of businesses in the service industry uses some method of time tracking, which can be a black hole of guesstimation.
Differing priorities and the limited number of hours in a day contribute to the sheer amount of guesswork around one of the pivotal inputs that data business operators need to know to scale. This is where automation comes in, and helps everyone succeed.
Automated data entry technology (such as email and calendar syncing, as well as specific triggers) sits in an emerging category known as ServOps (service automation operations).
Lets look at how ServOps can make a marketer’s life easier in 2018.
By automatically pulling in new data with every interaction you have throughout the day, ServOps frees marketers up from things like manual data entry and time tracking. This means marketers can allocate their time to what they do best, such as coming up with creative campaigns, collaborating with teammates and clients, and improving their work-life balance so that they’re more energized and productive while on the clock!
Automation technology is getting smarter and decreasing the impact of human error in the workplace. The technology automatically tracks changes and compares them to plans and budgets, meaning it can identify differentiation and proactively flag it for account leads.
3. Machine learning
Some machines learn faster than others
A lot of people use machine learning and artificial intelligence interchangeably. But: they’re not the same thing.
Think of AI as the umbrella that machine learning and deep learning live under. Machine learning is, essentially, algorithms that recognize patterns and improve as more data is inputted.
With machine learning, the massive amount of data that flows through your business every day in 2018 is tracked and analyzed in a way that will pay off exponentially through 2020, and beyond.
The benefits of machine learning for marketers include obtaining insights into things such as team utilization rates, clients that are too needy for the scope of their contracts, or looking at the level of activities around a given project to judge if the project will be on time and profitable—all in real time.
Are you ready for the AI revolution?
This will be a year of impressive growth and change for small businesses that are able to leverage these emerging technologies. The best way to prepare is to evaluate your current tech stack. After compiling a list of every tool your business uses, ask yourself these three questions:
- How does data flow into my current tech stack?
- Do my tools integrate with each other?
- Can I easily answer high-level business questions?
The answers to these questions will give you the starting point for your new technology adventure.
Looking for Marketing Automation software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Marketing Automation software solutions.