Alan Joenn
posted by Alan Joenn on January 31, 2019
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Artificial Intelligence (AI) crops up everywhere. Informed people keep telling me that my life as a marketer is in transition and that AI will rule the world before my very eyes! Well, it’s not quite that simple, but I’m sure you’ve read the same stuff. So how can I make sense of all this? Cut through the hype, plan for the future with AI automation, identify some quick wins? The answer seems to be that whatever I do, I need to think ‘major change’.

To get under the skin of it all, last week I attended a workshop day at IBM. The theme was Watson Assistant and chatbots. My conclusion is that there might be some quick wins from AI and that it is not all ‘major change’. Here is my logic …

Digital transformation

First things first. AI clearly has a major role to play in marketing, lead generation, sales, CRM, customer service and the whole world of business development and customer relationship management. In reviewing the future of marketing automation and CRM for a client at the end of last year, we identified trends using Gartner Hype Curves and pulled out two examples of digital transformation using AI. We identified Watson Campaign Automation as a good use of AI in marketing, and as one potential future for AI in CRM for sales people. The 5-minute and 2-minute videos are worth watching.

But there’s a problem here. These AI transformations represent ‘major change’. Sure, I can get marketing and lead gen improvements through AI. Yes, I can make the life of a sales person so much easier through voice interaction and natural language processing. But I can’t do that quickly and I can’t do it at low cost.


So my second train of thought is the chatbot. Chatbots are becoming (or have become?) prolific. Last week I was on a print website and I needed to know the delivery lead time involved in getting the print job back to my office. The website chatbot gave me the answers I needed within 30 seconds. And that was on a Sunday afternoon when the print company was closed. Perfect. So we have the potential here for a digital transformation in marketing and lead gen based around something running across the website. I’m looking at the ability to harvest more from people who visit. Convert more web traffic into potential leads at any time of day from any type of enquiry. As a result of attending the IBM workshop, I learned that AI is now so far advanced that a chatbot can be built without any technical know-how. All you need is a true grasp of the lead capture process you are trying to automate. Interesting? Well, here some more details …

To build a chatbot you need to map out a few things. Most importantly, what is the purpose of the chatbot and what is its role? For example, I could say the purpose is to make more people complete an enquiry form and hit the ‘submit’ button and that the role of the chatbot is to identify whether the enquirer wants advice, products or services. If this is the purpose of the automation, then I need to be able to understand the intentions of the website visitor. And understanding intentions is where the AI kicks in. An AI engine like Watson has the ability to map natural language onto an array of possible intentions and to determine which is the most likely. Which one gives the best fit. Or to recognise that it doesn’t yet have enough information and to enter into a dialogue with the enquirer to better determine the intent of the visit. If I can blend this information (the intention of the enquirer) with my capabilities to offer advice, products and services, then I can create a meaningful dialogue with the enquirer. And I can do this to such an extent that, even though the enquirer knows it’s a chatbot and not a human, they still leave feeling that they received great service. Witness my dialogue with the print company chatbot.

Quick win

For me there’s a quick win in marketing and lead gen using AI. It’s the chatbot that works on my behalf whenever people visit the website, whether during normal business hours or not. My simple quick win process is straightforward:

  1. Determine the purpose of the chatbot
  2. Define its scope and role
  3. Match the ‘intent’ of the enquiry to my content (advice, products, services)
  4. Create natural language responses for the chatbot dialogue with the enquirer
  5. Map out the pathways that the dialogue could take and their logical end points
  6. Teach the chatbot tool all of the above
  7. Launch it, learn from it, improve it with hindsight.

I don’t think there’s a right or a wrong way to go about this. But taking a first step into marketing and lead gen improvements through AI using a chatbot will give me a head start and, if I get it right first time, a significant quick win.

In the long run

Whether you find a quick win from AI chatbots or not, in the long run AI will arrive in your marketing automation and CRM world. The Watson and the Tact video links (above) bear witness to this. We have been tracking both the hype and the reality of AI in CRM for some time now and will keep on top of this subject. How you take your first steps into AI will depend on the way you go about your business. For example, if new customers is your lifeblood, then AI in marketing and lead gen will be your start point; whereas CRM and customer service would be the first port of call for your business if you have very low churn rates and strong recurring revenues from your existing customer base.

If you’d like to know more about marketing, lead gen, CRM and AI, please get in touch.


  • 1 Comment
    1. Simon P

      Do you think there is a “minimum size” below which it’s not worth considering? Is this “minimum size” based on my organisation, or my numbers of clients, or the size of my prospect universe?

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