AI is Extremely Important and You Probably Shouldn’t Care

Posted by Robert Barclay 

Anyone who is paying attention in marketing has probably heard a lot about AI and data science and how it is going to change the world. You may be wondering what this means for you.

Having worked at building data and analytic products and services longer than data science has existed as a job, here is my (possibly contrarian) opinion. For most of you, the answer is you shouldn’t have to care. If your vendors do their job, then your life should just get easier—just as it would with any enhancements they release.

The core challenges of marketing haven’t really changed very much over time. How do I find more customers? How do I keep people engaged with my brand for the longest time possible? How do I get the right message in front of the right customer? The list goes on. Luckily over the years a ton of effort has gone into building tools to solve those problems. Unfortunately, all of those tools have just exacerbated what is maybe the most common problem: “I don’t have enough time or enough budget to do my job as well as I want to.” Marketers are uniformly busy, and the plethora of tools has both helped and hurt that problem.

Tools are supposed to solve problems. The question is not whether the tools use AI, but whether they solve your problem. Judge each potential tool on the metrics you care about. The real promise of AI is realized when it can solve the problems above efficiently, at a scale that may have been impossible before. However, unless you are in the business of building marketing technology AI, you should almost never have to know that you are interacting with AI.

Despite all of that, I spend very close to 100 percent of my time working on these solutions, and your other vendors should too. These tools will enable you to do more of the higher value work and get to know your customers better. The best tools will make you a more effective marketer and allow you to get the most benefit out of your expertise.

In my opinion, the key takeaways are:

  • Don’t panic, no one’s taking your job away.
  • Ask your vendor hard questions and be as clear as you can about your goals.
  • AI tools aren’t perfect, so think about both the current work and what they could do for you in the future.
  • Do expect that your workflows will change as more of these tools evolve. When you look at your goals, try to set aside time to experiment or try new things. Change always has a cost but the long term benefits could be huge.
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About Robert Barclay

Robert has spent the majority of his career building data products for marketing clients. He has worked at Return Path for the last 13 years and at Experian and several other email service providers prior to that. Among his many roles in that time, he has been a Product Manager, Software Developer, a Data Scientist. Robert now focuses his work on R&D efforts to find new ways to help clients improve their email programs and make better use of the vast amounts of data available to them.

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