It’s hard to avoid the buzz about Artificial Intelligence (AI) these days. One thing is certain: technology is constantly improving and evolving at an exponentially faster pace – a pace that is hard to predict for most business leaders. As marketers, we need to train our brains to start thinking about all of the ways AI could, or will, impact us. There are two basic types of AI you should be familiar with:

Narrow AI: This intelligence is task-based. Examples include:

a. When Amazon prompts you to buy new products based on your purchase patterns.

b. When you ask Siri a question and she sends back search results.

General AI: This is a more human-like intelligence based on reasoning. It is also the kind of intelligence that represents a scary unknown for many people, as it’s the basis for many science fiction movies about robots taking over the planet.

Artificial Intelligence, by design, is a machine that mimics, and ideally perfects, cognitive functions that we associate with human intelligence, such as learning and problem-solving. The understandable worry is what will happen when humans become replaced by machines. Elon Musk recently tweeted that AI posses a bigger threat to humanity than do international nuclear weapons conflicts – a pretty profound statement. I’m not sure I believe that AI is going to lead to a robot takeover or an apocalypse, but I do believe that, as a society, we’re doing one thing wrong: we’re treating AI as if it’s so far in the distant future that we don’t need to plan for it.

As marketers, we need to train our brains to start thinking about two things on a regular basis:

  1. How is AI going to impact my company and my job?
  2. How is AI going to impact my clients and prospects?

Thinking Ahead – How Will AI Impact You?

AI in our marketing futureAccording to a recent Forbes article, experts are estimating that 800 million jobs will be replaced by AI by the year 2030, a mere 12 years from now. Unless you’re heading into retirement in the next few years, that means it’s critical that you take a hard look at how AI is going to enter your industry and your company. Most experts say that early adoption is the best way to keep your job. By integrating AI into your everyday processes early, you’ll likely prevent AI from replacing parts of your role – work with AI, don’t compete with it.

I’m predicting that early AI adopters in the marketing space are going to have real success by focusing on how AI can help them better connect marketing and sales initiatives. It’s an age-old question that all C-Suite leaders will look to you to answer, i.e. how are your marketing efforts leading to bottom-line results? You still need creativity and strategy from your marketing team, but where AI can come in to play is by taking over some of the elaborate metrics and data that link the marketing lifecycles of your customer to their entry into your sales processes. As many of you probably experience daily, that’s often the biggest challenge to untangle and the most important to understand.

Thinking Ahead – How Will AI Impact Your Clients?

This is a two-fold challenge when it comes to AI within your clients’ companies and industries. First, you need to be thinking about job replacement, industry turnover, innovations, and many other factors that may be looming in the future for your key accounts and general customer base. How can you help them solve or anticipate these problems – thinking like this will let your clients see you as a strategic partner and not just a vendor. Second, when it comes to your clients and prospects you should be thinking ahead about how to integrate AI into your approach. It’s infiltrating all industries with increasing speed, so why not be the first to make it work! As a more concrete example of some thinking I’ve been doing here, I’ve recently floated a few anticipatory AI adoption suggestions to the CEO and CMO of our company. As a management consulting firm, we consult our clients (mainly Fortune 500 executives) on how to improve their strategy and become all the leader they can be. I think one subset of AI, known as virtual reality (VR), is going to infiltrate the coaching and consulting space within the next 15 years. When prepping our clients, I’ve suggested we start thinking about how we could use virtual reality simulations to help our clients navigate tricky leadership situations they might encounter.

Final Thoughts

According to CMO.com, “Today, just 15% of enterprises are using AI. But 31% said it is on the agenda for the next 12 months.” That number is going to compound with greater urgency year over year, I’d imagine. Whether you’re adopting new AI systems into your own organization or working with clients who are implementing new machine intelligence solutions, AI is a strategic opportunity that you need to be exploring. Think about AI the way you might approach retirement planning – start preparing early so you don’t have to worry about it later. There is great opportunity here for experimentation and innovation that could take your company’s marketing strategy to previously unimaginable places.