a neon sign that says "Data has a better idea" with window view of city overhead
PHOTO: Franki Chamaki

In 2011, when IBM Watson won an exhibition match on Jeopardy against two of the show’s top champions, Paul Roetzer was fascinated. While he was impressed that a computer could beat two world-renowned Jeopardy champions, he was already thinking ahead.

As the CEO and founder of PR 20/20, a Cleveland-based digital marketing agency, Roetzer began to wonder about the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) in marketing. Thus began a journey that led him to found the Marketing AI Institute in 2016.

The AI Institute’s mission is “to make AI approachable and actionable for modern marketers, so they can build a powerful competitive advantage with this technology.”

Recently, Roetzer gave a presentation at MarketingProfs’ B2B Marketing Forum in San Francisco titled “How to Get Started With Artificial Intelligence in Marketing.”

In this article, I’ll highlight elements of Roetzer’s presentation, including what B2B marketers should know about AI, how we should think about it, and how we should start applying AI in our marketing.

Related Article: Why Marketers Have AI on the Brain

What B2B Marketers Should Know About AI

Speaking at a town hall event hosted by Recode and MSNBC in January, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said, “AI is one of the most important things humanity is working on. It is more profound than, I dunno, electricity or fire.”

Roetzer agrees. He thinks AI will be more disruptive than the internet. In his presentation he said marketing will be unrecognizable in a few years because of AI. “Eighty percent of what we do every day will be intelligently automated to some degree in the next three to five years,” he said.

While we may not consciously use AI in our jobs, Roetzer points out AI is already a part of our daily lives. He showed a screenshot of his phone’s home screen:

machine assisted marketing

Noting he organized his apps in a certain way to demonstrate a point, Roetzer said the apps all use AI: Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, Google Maps, Uber, etc.

Roetzer’s tip for B2B marketers? To be conversant in the basic terminology and to know both the limits and the potential of AI. While we need not concern ourselves with the nuts and bolts of how AI works, we need to know what it can do, along with the benefits of doing it.

In addition, marketers need to know enough to sift through vendors’ claims and identify the potential misinformation that exists in the market. Just because a vendor claims its product is built on AI, it doesn’t mean it is.

How B2B Marketers Should Think About AI

A recent CMSWire article by David Roe was titled “Stop Thinking AI vs. Human, Think AI With Human.” Roetzer made a similar point when he said, “AI enhances human knowledge and capabilities. The future is marketer plus machine.”

At his own digital marketing agency, Roetzer analyzed all of the disciplines and tasks his team works on and evaluated where AI tools could be used. He said he observed that, “AI solves problems and achieves goals more efficiently than traditional marketing technology.”

AI tools can make your marketing team more efficient and even drive a competitive advantage. You can have AI handle tasks with limited ROI (e.g., updating reports or writing summaries based on data) and have team members focus on activities with higher impact (e.g., developing strategies, meeting with customers, etc.).

According to Roetzer, success with AI requires a lot of data. Machine learning algorithms rely on a combination of data and human-led training. The training helps the algorithms learn and become smarter, adjusting their knowledge based on human input. Therefore, if your organization starts using AI now, you’ll have an earlier start on generating the required critical mass of data.

Related Article: Where Does AI Fit in Your Marketing Strategy?

How to Get Started With AI

Roetzer recommends B2B marketers take a tactical approach to AI. He said it is best to start when “you have a known pain point, a challenge that may be solved more efficiently, and at scale, with AI.”

He shared a scenario in his presentation to illustrate his point: Leads have been flat for 12 months even though you have doubled the number of blog posts you publish and have increased the amount of money you spend on content marketing by 50 percent. An AI tool could ingest your marketing campaign data (e.g. web analytics, advertising expenditures, budgeting figures, etc.) and apply machine learning algorithms to determine the root cause.

To help marketers understand potential uses of AI and connect them with vendors who may provide helpful solutions, the Marketing AI Institute developed an interactive scorecard called “AI Score for Marketers.”

The scorecard takes five to 10 minutes to complete and asks you to rate the benefits, on a scale from 1 to 5, of assorted AI-based automations. You progress through five categories: planning, production, personalization, promotion and performance.

Completing the scorecard is educational, because it shows you all of the potential use cases of AI in B2B marketing. 

I completed the scorecard, and here are activities I rated with high importance and the vendors it recommended for me in the planning category:

ai planning

Important: Before you schedule sales calls with five new vendors, Roetzer recommends you evaluate your existing marketing technology stack. Your current vendors may already use AI in their platforms, and if they don’t, AI could be on their product road maps. In addition, market consolidation (e.g. Adobe acquired Marketo) enables some vendors to acquire technology that’s AI-enabled.

My recommendation: Take the scorecard and keep tabs on what your B2B marketing peers are doing with AI. If you’re concerned about job security, think about this: The likelihood of a robot taking your job is lower than the likelihood of you losing your job for not implementing AI.