Promethean moment? Apocalypse? The latest over-hype? Sue Mizera reflects on the ever-changing tech landscape and if these new developments are a scifi dream, dystopian nightmare, or the latest bandwagon. Part II.
If you haven’t had a chance to read it, check out part I here.
Here’s our take on six key areas that we believe AI and ChatGPT will impact in a B2B Marketer’s typical day. We’re all necessarily in an “explore” vs. “exploit” mode when it comes to AI and ChatGPT, both of which are shifting and advancing daily, so do please consider this a thought-piece vs. a manifesto or specific agenda. You will correct us where we are in error. Presumably most projections will apply to our colleagues in B2C marketing as well.
1. For content-creation: effectiveness and efficiency X10
Any content that you, B2B marketer, need to create — emails, ad copy, presentations, pitches, survey reports, marketing plans, market research (primary and secondary,) management summaries of market trends and competitive activities — ChatGPT can produce a version of as well. With ChatGPT as a content generator – from first drafts of more substantial, sophisticated documents to potentially final versions of more basic tasks— it elevates your role to editor-in-chief; you’re no longer author, alone, facing a scary tabula rasa against a tight deadline. See ChatGPT as an immediate sparring partner, interlocutor, answering the various challenges you put to it; the more direct and clear the tasks you pose it, the more focused its responses.
See ChatGPT as a brainstorming partner, helping you to generate everything from new product names to hashtags and captions and new ad campaign themes; as with brainstorming sessions, you’re unlikely in the first go to get a final answer, but you at least now have lots of raw material to build on. And you’ve not taken two hours plus of your colleagues’ time for the brainstorming session. In fact, if you see ChatGPT as your personal Sancho Panza, allowing you to become more efficient and effective, maybe even X10, you can now devote more of your high-value creativity and imagination to your other, ever-expanding, ever-demanding marketing responsibilities. Nothing is more valuable than your time, and you just got a lot back.
Of late, there has been lots of hand-wringing and angst-trolling about AI replacing high level content and copy-writing. Let’s move on, please; there’s been enough “ink” on this already. ChatGPT is just not there (yet;) It is so not ready for prime-time. The content that ChatGPT generates, presuming it is not “hallucinatory,” is still anodyne and soulless; it needs guardrails, time for vetting, and multiple re-writings before any final publishing of results or implementation of recommendations. This is clear.
I offer my own take on this process in the Annex (below). I asked ChatGPT to write an introduction to this article, citing the most important differences of opinion about what the systems actually do and what impact they are having today. Compared to my introduction, I hope the text will be seen to be correct, even factually complementary, but entirely without a voice or personality or depth or nuance or insight. Copy-wrtiers: deep breaths, chill.
2. For “tech stack” management: Will it finally get sorted and properly utilised?
Recent surveys from B2B Marketing/Propolis, e.g., ABM Census 2022 (December 2022), confirm what is reported widely and generally in the press: data management systems like CRM, ABM. the greater “tech stack”, are much heralded for the range and scope of customer data and insights they can provide and the transformational power they offer marketing to better serve customers. Troubles, however, are many, including systems often don’t talk to one another; business objectives are not reflected or are contradictory to marketing objectives; alignment between sales and marketing, and agreement to shared strategies, is weak or absent; due to lack of expertise and resources, human and financial, much data goes unanalyzed and under-utilised. The result: data management systems in general, particularly CRM, ABM, the tech stack, are “still in the woods,” advancing in increments, but somehow, forever promising “free wine tomorrow”. All the while, these “shiny objects” keep their allure and we all remain hopeful that finally, one day, they’ll deliver ROI.
Enter ChatGPT. What ChatGPT and neural network systems are really, really good at is finding patterns in data; autofilling analyses and responses, from basic to sophisticated, making suggestions and recommendations for actions; and still currently doing so in some capacities at relatively low to no costs. The more data, even near-infinite data, the better: bring it on. (This is why AI and ChatGPT hold the potential to revolutionise some STEM sciences, like biology and genetics, given the vast numbers of data these disciplines must necessarily deal with.)
Many plusses emanate from AI’s baked-in, ever-growing and ever more refined functionality — for marketers, IT, sales, customers, companies and their partners. What if you could apply AI across the entire buyer’s journey ? What if you could enhance data consistency across all platforms; remove guesswork while providing better CX; identify predictable pipelines, generate leads and make more direct connections to business growth? What if you could finally segment customers and target accounts; personalise their content and communications; track customer interactions and predict buying habits; create personalised messaging for different customer segments and measure ROI? Once output is delivered consistently, reliably, and made equally accessible, could AI and ChatGPT finally even signal an end to the often tortured, hoary-old turf battles between sales and marketing?
Wouldn’t all this be a wow! Early days yet, but AI and Chat GPT’s gargantuan appetite for data, combined with their ability to integrate with different systems and to be coded/code themselves, suggest a vibrant future. Would this spell the end to “never quite getting the ‘tech stack’ right?” We’re not Pollyanna. We’re not talking 100%. The concept of GIGO persists for a reason; no amount of sophisticated systems integration or analysis can ever rescue irrelevant data or draw real meaning from information that was ill-conceived to start with. Still, we firmly believe AI and ChatGPT bring us that much closer to “free wine today.”
3. For your customers and CX: (ideally) surprise and delight
What if every time a customer visited your website, it changed just for them? Theoretically, every website visit could present a unique experience just for that customer. Targeted, individual images and bespoke messages could provide the kind of interactive, personalised, sui generis experience that will generate customer surprise and delight. Satisfaction, loyalty to your brand, preference and reference for your company, should rarely trail far behind. Add some holograms to the interaction and there is the opportunity to brand your company and offering even further.
Little question, AI is likely to make an enormous difference to your customers. Website theatrics aside, AI and ChatGPT can enhance customer experience, based on their own data, on numerous levels: provide critical, basic help and instant responses to inquiries: 24/7, multiple languages, voice and text; assist navigation and the purchasing process with information about products, pricing and delivery options; target messaging and customised support to their behaviours and usage patterns; anticipate needs with proactive support, e.g., reminders for upcoming renewals, upgrades, new product suggestions, how best to optimise product use.
Too good to be true? A slam dunk? While the upside potential of AI and ChatGPT to enhance CX is huge, the downside risks are arguably even greater. When it comes to customer inquiries, human or chatbot, you absolutely have to “get it right;” there is little room for fudge or wiggles, or you risk losing that customer vs. gaining one. Truth is, however, to keep AI customer interfaces maximally smooth, efficient, accurate, and fast — and worth the effort to you and your company –CX needs interactions to be exquisitely managed and possible, default scenarios to be scrupulously anticipated. Even then, it’s impossible to manage every dimension of customer interfaces and one thing is for sure: lots can go wrong! We offer here a few cautions already manifest in this sphere.
- AI responses are as yet unpredictable: they can range from factually inaccurate (although so can human responses) to outright hallucinations; this is just the current nature of the beast. Customers may pose questions about specific, complicated business needs that exceed what the system is capable of handling; this may require multiple layers of responders and responses. Certain technical challenges may require significant investment and expertise in the set-up and implementation, beyond original anticipations.
For whatever reason the system may produce inadequate or incorrect answers, should this happen, your company risks angering, frustrating and alienating customers – exactly the opposite of what you’d hope to achieve with the system. Additionally, should AI responses strike the wrong tone or voice or be off-brand (see 4. Brand below), you risk customer confusion and ‘bad’ surprises, hardly delight. Some people may always baulk at reduced human interactions, in spite of AI’s ability to deliver them unique personalization and greater efficiencies. This comes down to human nature, you can’t ever please everyone, although “less personal” can mean “less trusting” when it comes to relationships.
- SEO brings further complications. On the plus side: “AI and ChatGPT can improve SEO and increase traffic by providing relevant content through chatbot interactions. This can improve website rankings and search results, attract more visitors, and generate more leads.” This is how ChatGPT answered my query about how SEO can benefit a B2B company; it’s very “boy scout” for how SEO is supposed to work, when everyone plays fair and minds their own business, as it were.
SEO is also increasingly problematic; e.g., one could reasonably ask ChatGPT, What (do you) mean by ‘chatbot interactions?’ In the war for top rankings, dark clouds are forming, predictions are worrisome, and intentions are potentially, mountingly, nefarious. According to Gary Marcus, LLNs/AI can create up to 20-30 false websites at a time; (‘chatbot interactions,’ indeed!) Competition could reportedly stack the deck and tinker with the mechanics of the whole system: Is traffic going to your website or someone else’s? How would you begin to find out? Is this all about online advertising or something more? Which website is your customer on? Were they ‘surprised and delighted’ by the experience? Headwinds ahead: A big, new, hairy topic.
- Sensitive customer data requires proper security. The myriad and counting enhanced personal experiences that AI and ChatGPT deliver are, of course, based on the system’s use of customers’ own data. As the technology advances, and as more personalised CXs are generated, exposed and accessible, security and privacy concerns will only mount. We haven’t exactly covered ourselves in glory when it comes to managing security and privacy on social media: another big, new, hairy topic.
For your brand: new demands, challenges and opportunities
So, marketer, what role (if any) do you envision your brand playing vis à vis AI and ChatGPT?
In our (unabashedly optimistic) view, AI and ChatGPT will shine a whole new spotlight on your brand. The systems will demand new reliance on, and create a big, new, prominent role for your brand, in a wholly new space. Given their customer-facing interactions, AI and ChatGPT’s new demands may represent the biggest challenge and renewed importance for your brand (and for brands generally), that we’ve witnessed in a long time. You know you have to get CX and all external brand communications, ‘just right’ – and with AI and ChatGPT, this means in real time, without fully reliable technology, left most of the time to its own devices; see above. Enter your brand: the best ally and partner you may not ever realised you have.
With the advent of AI and ChatGPT, what better filter exists than your brand – like sun’s rays breaking through a cloudy day – to put through all your communications and customer connections? Your brand is the rich and abundant source of your company’s “story” – your values, voice, vision, positioning, personality, and messages. Your brand can effectively be your personal surrogate – trustworthy pilot, able guardian, and unwavering steward, – through all touch points, company and brand. For populating the new AI medium, with its plethora of personalised messages and limitless images, your brand provides the “guardrails” to ensure your company maintains its differentiation; its uniqueness vs. competition; its all-important familiarity to your customers and targets. Allowing access and navigation through the new AI medium — without your brand as “arbiter of truth” and “adult in the room” – inevitably spells at some point customer push-backs, frustrations, even rejections.
Only beginning to be explored, this frontier offers a big, new, shiny opportunity for you, B2B marketer. Consider first a big rethink. What is the new brandscape out there? Experiment with what this new platform means and how your brand character and personality will help take you forward. What’s the same or different vs. traditional media, social media? How is this new medium, that will soon be generating a plethora of new messages and images, different? Who, for example, will figure in that CX hologram? Who should not? Be prepared to step in, define the role you need to play in creating and managing this space, and articulate your needs and the value you will deliver. Look to your brand as a true ally and partner in the implementation of all-things AI, generally, and keep mutually strong.
Another big consideration: Will ensuring adherence to your brand require new, dedicated resources? Is there a role, for example, for a human brand pilot or steward or guardian, to manage and control the intersection of your company and customer, on a daily basis, in strict accordance with your brand? Should this new resource also be required, e.g., to ensure efficiency and if possible, eliminate inaccuracies and hallucinations? If ‘yes’ is the simple answer, this requires additional planning and argumentation in terms of job descriptions, values to the business, and corporate return. A happy problem!
All of this goes without saying: There has never been a more important moment or opportunity for your brand to be truly authoritative, authentic, and visionary. Should your brand need strengthening, evolution or further articulation, now is the time to act! Be honest: Is your brand fully up to date in terms of Vision, Mission, Core Values? What about your Brand Positioning, Personality, and Promises? Your Total Offering and Customer Segments? Even your Name? Can you, in fact, take the Brand Octagon Challenge and fully articulate all nine of its critical, intangible elements for your brand? You need a strong, sure partner going forward into the new AI brandspace; the pressure will be on for smooth delivery at all touchpoints, especially the customer interface. If a brand refresh is in order, raise a hand with your management, sooner rather than later.
5. For your agency partnerships: tricky navigation ahead
I worked for Young & Rubicam for 30 years, 5 in NY on Madison Avenue and 25 in Geneva, Y&R’s international, B2B centre of excellence. I well know that the basic currency of the trade are words and images, and both of these are under direct threat, perhaps even siege, from the content generation that AI and ChatGPT can, reputedly, duplicate. Of course, I feel very deeply about the incomparable, human value an agency brings, whether to traditional or new media. I worked side-by-side and hand-in-glove with creatives and account managers and media guys who poured their hearts and souls into campaigns and client businesses, day in and day out. We always felt deeply privileged to work in this business, but also deeply responsible for providing the very best work — the most compelling and differentiating and memorable creative we could muster — to serve our clients, by serving their clients (“surprise and delight”), thus helping to drive their business.
It deeply saddens me to acknowledge that agencies are in the cross hairs of AI and ChatGPT developments; their hold on words and images, their “bread and butter”, is ever shakier, especially given agency costs. So it becomes increasingly a burden – and an opportunity – for agencies to demonstrate their added value – their true creative depth and shine, nuance and shimmer— and to put AI and ChatGPT in their place. This crucible will surely sort out the real professionals, the truly greats, from the rest of the pack; this is inevitable and probably necessary. At the same time, agencies will need to be extremely mindful of their costs, and of developing their own skilled use of AI and ChatGPT – as devil’s advocate, brainstormers, first-drafters – to profit from their immediate input; this will also afford their work greater efficiency and effectiveness in behalf of their clients.
You, B2B marketer, will surely have a strong point of view on the value your agency partners bring to your brand, your company, and your company’s business success. You will doubtless have to make the case for your agencies, and their distinctive worth vs. AI-generated campaigns, to those in management less sensitive to brand value, and more concerned with cost rationalisations. This is inevitable, I daresay, moreso in B2B than b2c, given B2B’s overall preference for science, engineering, chemistry, hard facts and all things tangible vs. all things intangible when it comes to brand and communications. B2b marketers have always had to make these kinds of arguments to their B2B management; I think it’s fair to say, the road ahead has become a good deal trickier, more difficult and complicated. Forewarned is forearmed.
6. For your management team: significant choices ahead that you can significantly impact
It’s the job of any first-rate management team to seek out growth, profit, competitive advantage, innovation and shareholder value for their company. Prima facie, AI and ChatGPT are likely to tick many of these boxes. In fact, depending on the costs of new systems (this area seems as yet very vague, from prohibitively expensive to some versions and uses still being offered for free), AI and ChatGPT may seem like the latest “gotta-have shiny objects.” especially among early adopters. They would seem to offer huge benefits and solve multiple problems, which in the best of all possible worlds, include: efficiency and effectiveness for content generation of all sorts, company-wide; resolved and utilised data management systems that (finally) deliver customer insights, personalised, superior CX (literally, one-to-one marketing), and fully developed, differentiating marketing programs; and, sorry to say, cost-savings in staff reductions and supplier partnerships due to AI’s ability to duplicate their services. In theory, AI and ChatGPT offer an overall “winning formula” for companies, which is why we believe these systems will move forward and are here to stay.
You, B2B Marketer, will have direct exposure to and experience of all of these aspects of AI and ChatGPT, and more. You will have a more nuanced understanding, for example, of the role your company’s brand needs to play in all AI touchpoints; e.g., how this will impact the necessity for critical, new branding programs; how new personnel priorities (adding, not subtracting, from staff) may be emerging that your management team may not have considered.
You will also have a point of view on how useful are the results and analysis created from bespoke coding across your data management systems: Are you tracking the right measures? Are sales and marketing working more compatibly with this newly sorted and rationalised data? Have “ownership” and “turf battles” diminished? What adjustments need to be made to CRM, ABM, the “tech stack” generally, based on new learnings and insights?
Even if your agency, or agencies, can seemingly be replaced by advances in AI and ChatGPT’s generation of messages and images, what downsides to your brand might their elimination create? What damage might this ultimately do to your company’s successful implementation of AI and ChatGPT; to your company’s growth, profit, competitive advantage and shareholder value? (Herein, the outline of your argument on behalf of your agencies to management.)
Based on your on-the-ground experience, see yourself already as an advisor to your management team. They will have lots to decide, heavy burdens on their shoulders, and you can become an invaluable source of insights, deeper understanding and potentially counter-factual points of view. Be sure, always, to “speak their language:” couch your arguments and rationales in business- and finance-speak, whenever possible, as suggested above. Because everything you do actually ramps up to these levels, or you wouldn’t be doing them. Because everything you do is ultimately fully strategic; your discussions with management will provide you golden opportunities to demonstrate this.