AI in Marketing: The Ultimate Guide to Creating Your Strategy

illustration of using ai in different stages marketing
Published on
Nov 9, 2023
Written by
Deja Amato
Deja is a Product Marketing Manager at Attentive. She enjoys console gaming and horror films, and once won an arm wrestling contest in Mexico.
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AI has the potential to transform your day-to-day life as a marketer. Dive into this AI marketing guide to learn how you can start using it.

Marketers across industries are working with increasingly tighter budgets, and they’re looking for ways to maximize their limited resources. Thankfully, the rapid development and innovation of artificial intelligence (AI) can help marketers thrive.

The global AI market is expected to continue growing and will reach $1.8 trillion in value by 2030. These impressive growth numbers make sense, especially considering the recent success of Open AI’s ChatGPT launch and the release of new AI tech from big names like Google. Not to mention the integration of AI into ‌everything from the supply chain and retail operations to the native platforms marketers use every day.

While there’s massive potential for AI tools to improve workflows and initiatives, it’s important to recognize that AI is still in its infancy, and many of us are learning how to use it effectively in real time.

If you're curious about AI and how you can start using it, this guide is for you. We’ll walk through the basics of AI, why the technology matters for marketers, and its advantages and disadvantages. Plus, we’ll break down how to integrate AI into your marketing processes at a basic, intermediate, and advanced level.

What is artificial intelligence (AI)? 

Artificial Intelligence is the science of developing machines and software with human-like intelligence. These machines combine large sets of data with repetitive processing algorithms to continually identify patterns and learn. AI can handle tasks like reasoning, problem-solving, perception, prediction, and language processing.

How does AI work?

In general, AI systems work by using computational models that mimic the process of learning to analyze and interpret complex data. This process of continual adjustment and improvement is called machine learning. It begins with feeding an AI system large quantities of data, and then training it to make predictions or decisions. 

AI programming focuses heavily on developing cognitive skills that allow systems to adapt and improve over time, without being explicitly programmed to do so. These skills include:

  • Learning. AI systems learn through exposure to data. The more data they're fed, the more they learn and adjust their algorithms.
  • Reasoning. AI can be programmed to use logic and reasoning to navigate through problems. This enables it to make decisions, solve complex problems, and even anticipate future events based on past data.
  • Self-correction. AI uses a process called backpropagation to adjust its own algorithms and improve its predictions. If an AI makes a mistake, it analyzes the error, identifies the misjudged parameters, and adjusts its algorithms accordingly for future predictions.
  • Creativity. Generative AI models can create new content based on patterns and structures from the data it's been trained on.
  • Natural language processing (NLP). NLP is a branch of AI that refers to the ability of a computer program to understand, interpret, and even generate human language.

While AI is booming right now, the concept isn’t new. It’s been around since the mid-20th century, with programs like MIT’s ELIZA, an early NLP program created in the 1960s. Considered one of the first chatbots, ELIZA used pattern-matching and substitution methodology to generate canned responses that simulate conversation.

AI has come a long way since ELIZA and now permeates several aspects of daily life. Today, it’s not uncommon to chat with digital assistants like Alexa or Siri, use ChatGPT to research and write, or even spot a self-driving car.

Types of AI

There are several types of AI systems that are important for marketers to know and distinguish between. The most common ones are:

  • Generative AI, which creates new content or data that didn't exist before, such as images, music, or text.
  • Predictive AI, which analyzes historical data to predict future outcomes like customer behaviors, well-performing subject lines, and trends.
  • Conversational AI, which understands and responds to human language in a conversational tone. (Customer service chatbots and virtual assistants use this type of AI.) 

AI can significantly enhance the way you work, but, as we move through this guide, keep in mind that it’s a tool to help—not replace—human marketers.

Why does AI matter for marketers?

"AI is necessary to survive in today's marketing landscape,” says Ben Radack, the Nomad Marketer. But why, in a matter of months, has AI become necessary for marketers to integrate into their toolkits?

The main reason is that AI can analyze data and generate actionable insights with speed, accuracy, and at a scale that goes beyond human capabilities. 

Consider how essential it is to understand consumer behavior in today’s marketing landscape, for example. AI not only enhances the precision and speed of evaluating customer data—spotting trends and patterns that inform marketing decisions—but it also enables personalized marketing at a scale that’s virtually impossible to achieve manually.

In an increasingly competitive market, consumers also expect even more from brands. Marketers who use AI tools to meet their customers’ needs and expectations will win. 73% of businesses that have already adopted AI believe it’s critical to their success.

“Soon AI will be integrated into about every tool we use for work. Companies and marketers who aren’t currently familiarizing themselves with these tools are going to have a much harder time adjusting, and may get outperformed by competitors who have already adopted AI,” says Krista Doyle, Manager of Content Marketing at Jasper.

Advantages of artificial intelligence

Few of us remember living through such an incredibly fast-paced technological revolution, but that's exactly what we're experiencing with AI. Here are just a few of the ways that AI is rapidly transforming work.

1. Helps with brainstorming and ideation

Human creativity sometimes hits a wall. Illness, burnout, imposter syndrome, fatigue, and stress can all lead to creative blocks that hinder performance and productivity. 

Unlike humans, AI doesn't fatigue or lose inspiration—it can continually generate ideas without experiencing a creative slump. When you’re staring at a blank page, AI is an excellent tool for sourcing fresh ideas and new perspectives. 

2. Automates repetitive, time-consuming tasks

94% of workers say they perform repetitive, time-consuming tasks in their role. That stat alone highlights one of the biggest benefits of AI: its ability to automate mundane tasks and, in turn, free up people's time to focus on more complex or creative work.

Creating and sending email marketing campaigns is one example of a task that can benefit from the assistance of AI. By analyzing subscribers' behavior, purchase history, and previous engagement, AI can determine the optimal time to send emails to each individual. It can also personalize the email content for better engagement, and automate follow-up emails based on the recipient's response. All of this ultimately helps boost the campaign's effectiveness with minimal human intervention.

3. Enhances and polishes content

While AI is great at editing content, it also excels at optimizing the finer details that make a difference in campaign performance.

For example, Attentive AI™ can evaluate the details of past high and low-performing SMS campaigns. Then, it can recommend things like better word choice, link placements, or the optimal send time to improve conversion rates.

4. Speeds up content production

AI writing tools can’t replicate the best aspects of human writing, like adding personal narrative, brand voice, deep empathy, or original research—but they can speed up production.

Content marketer and founder of Close, Ryan Robinson, explains, “My AI-assisted writing process takes about two hours for a long-form article, whereas that same article would have taken me more like 5-8 hours without AI.”

AI can speed up other tasks, too, like developing content briefs or outlines, summarizing key takeaways, defining basic concepts, and creating first drafts of articles or marketing copy.

5. Provides better data insights

Creating winning digital marketing campaigns is as much about analyzing data (and putting it into action) as it is about creative execution. Even so, 87% of marketers say data is their most underutilized asset. 

AI makes data entry, tracking, and analysis exponentially easier. Not only can marketers use AI to process massive amounts of customer and campaign data, but it can also make actionable suggestions based on those insights.

What’s more, machine learning algorithms can predict future consumer behavior based on past data, allowing marketers to be proactive rather than reactive in their strategies. For instance, AI can identify which customer segment is most likely to respond to a particular type of SMS campaign and then personalize future campaigns to fit that audience.

The shortcomings of third-party AI tools

AI tools—especially specialized, platform-native tools—can help you capture better data, enhance automation, and create higher-quality marketing campaigns. But third-party AI tools have some limitations.

Here are some of the current shortcomings of using generalized and third-party AI tools that you should be aware of and consider. 

1. Hallucinations

Occasionally, AI tools experience errors in training data, programming, or algorithms. As such, AI sometimes hallucinates. In other words, it can produce output that sounds real but isn’t true. 

Google Bard made a factual error in its first demo. Bard offered three bullet points about the James Webb Telescope, with one stating that the telescope “took the very first pictures of a planet outside of our own solar system.” Astronomers quickly pointed out that the first image was actually taken by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in 2004.

“This aspect of AI [hallucinations] will get better over time, but, for now, fact-checking is key for any AI-generated content you produce,” advises Doyle.

2. Lack of originality

Most AI tools are currently predictive, not creative. That’s because AI can analyze large sets of data and draw conclusions, but it can’t conduct its own research or produce original thoughts.

Producing quality marketing materials of any kind still requires the creative input and subject matter expertise of actual people. Think: original research or offering a unique analysis of trending topics.

3. Writing that’s cyclical and bland

It’s incredible that third-party AI tools can write at all. But, when compared to a professional copywriter, AI falls short.

“Many creators use these tools to mark things off a checklist versus figuring out how to use them to take their already-amazing writing skills to a new level,” says Tina Donati, freelance e-commerce SaaS writer and Content and Partner Marketing Lead at Alloy Automation. “That means not abandoning your writing strategies and tactics, and finding a way to tell your piece in a way no one else has already done.”

“Remember, AI can only regurgitate—it's just the canvas. Your brain is still needed to make the copywriting masterpiece,” adds Donati.

4. Absence of empathy

AI does an excellent job of defining, synthesizing, and informing. But—it’s a machine, and it doesn't have empathy or a personality. “While AI is getting better at sounding less generic, it will still initially lack a lot of the other elements that make content stand out and make it, well, human,” says Doyle.

Jason Resnick, founder of NurtureKit, adds, “When using AI, remember it only has a subset of information to produce results with. Use critical thinking, give hyper-specific context, and take care in not assuming anything when going through an exchange with AI.”

5. Potentially biased output

AI produces content based on human prompts and natural language models. That means if someone feeds a biased prompt or an incorrect set of data into an AI tool, it can make inferences that contain those same biases. 

Some more advanced AI tools have built-in applications that can minimize potential biases and abuse, like content filters that prevent the use of certain terms, but they’re not flawless.

The possibility of creating content with AI that contains bias is an issue of accuracy and ethics. It’s critical for marketing teams that use it to implement a system of checks and balances, and remain vigilant in making sure content is both inclusive and sensitive.

How to get started with your AI marketing strategy

The past year has seen some impressive advances in AI. Its vast capabilities can feel both overwhelming and challenging to understand. The rest of this guide will dive into some of the most helpful ways marketers are already using AI to boost productivity and generate higher-quality output.

We’ll break these strategies down by complexity, showing you how to get started with AI and how to gradually get more advanced with how you incorporate it into your marketing strategy.

Crawl: Get familiar and experiment with AI

The first step is to familiarize yourself with the most prominent AI tools and experiment with how you can use them to support your marketing efforts. If you’re using AI for the first time, here are some ideas for how you can start incorporating it into your workflow.

1. Ideate copy and concepts

No marketer likes staring at a blank page, especially when they’re up against a deadline. Generative AI tools are excellent companions for marketers in a crunch.

​​Take writing email subject lines, for example. Typically, there’s a lot of trial and error involved in finding the right combination of words to drive optimal results.

But tools like our Subject Line Assistant take the guesswork out of this process. It uses historical performance data to identify and suggest the best possible subject lines for a new campaign. For email marketers, the benefit is twofold: less time (and budget) spent manually tweaking and testing copy, and more confidence in maximizing open rates.

Attentive AI™ Subject Line Assistant

Other ways to use AI for ideation: coming up with content ideas, creating product descriptions, generating SEO keywords, or collecting consumer insights to identify new marketing opportunities.

2. Simplify complex ideas

Marketers dabbling in AI for the first time can take complex ideas or texts and simplify them to create copy that reads better and resonates well.

Let’s say you’ve drafted a long monthly newsletter for your customers. You could feed the text into an AI tool and ask it to give you suggestions to simplify your language, paraphrase, and make sentences shorter.

3. Create on-brand visual assets

There’s no replacement for a talented designer, but what if you’re part of a smaller marketing team without the budget for one? In this case, using AI to create visuals is a thousand times better than dusting off your clip art skills from the 1990s.

With features like Attentive AI’s Image Generation for Email and SMS, you can quickly modify images from your product catalog or that you upload directly. Simply describe how you want to customize the image, then AI will transform it into a stunning visual based on your prompt. From there, you can make adjustments to the style, color, and orientation to end up with a design that fits your campaign.

Attentive AI™ Magic Message Image Generation for Email

4. Write high-performing copy 

It’s challenging to write fresh copy for every email and SMS marketing campaign. This is where AI jumps in as a competent writing co-pilot

Tools like Attentive AI’s Magic Message can generate copy in seconds that fits your brand voice. The copy assistant reviews a brand’s unique tone, analyzes past high-performing campaigns, and taps into anonymized historical data from a robust customer base. Armed with this information, it then suggests engaging text messages that are poised to dazzle your audience and inspire them to convert.

Attentive AI™ Magic Message Copy Assistant for SMS

“We're in the early stages of incorporating Attentive’s AI tools into our workflows,” says Hayley Squire, Senior Manager, Lifecycle Marketing at LIVELY. “We've used the copy assistant to help generate copy for our campaigns. Whether we have last minute comms to send out, or we have multiple messages to schedule, it’s proven to be a big time saver for us.” 

example of an SMS campaign message powered by Attentive AI™

5. Repurpose content for other channels

94% of marketers currently repurpose their content or plan to do so. That’s because consumers view 12 digital touchpoints before making a purchasing decision, making it critical for marketers to post consistent messages across multiple platforms.

While repurposing content is a great way to engage customers everywhere, it’s also cognitively demanding and time-consuming. They good news is that AI can offer assistance here, too. 

If you’re turning a high-performing marketing email into a tweet to reach a wider audience, for example, an AI-powered tool could analyze the key points of your email and help you turn them into a single tweet or even a whole thread.

Walk: Make AI your newest teammate

Once you’ve experimented with the basics, you’re ready to onboard AI as the newest member of your marketing team. Let’s dive into the intermediate steps for integrating it into your daily operations

1. Audit your workflows and processes

AI isn’t just a tool to help you enhance your current marketing campaigns. It can also help you identify and improve problems with your overall processes and workflows.

“If I were getting started with AI today, first I would do an audit of all my current workflows and processes to look for two things: What are the bottlenecks or parts of my workflow that take up too much of my time? What parts of my workflow do I not enjoy or not get energy from?” advised Doyle in Not Another AI Newsletter. “Once you identify the time-sucks or the things you just don’t like doing, you can start researching which AI tools can help you automate those parts of your process a little more.”

2. Adopt more helpful AI tools

Once you understand where you can use AI to make improvements, it’s time to research the best tools for your needs (and get your team on board with using them). 

Let’s say your audience responds well to email and SMS, and creating campaigns is something you dedicate a lot of time to. Identify which parts of the process are the most repetitive and could be automated with an AI tool. Then, make the case internally to adopt a tool like Attentive’s copy assistant that’ll not only cut your copywriting time in half, but also enable you to maintain or even improve overall performance on both channels.

3. Automate your full, multi-channel marketing strategy

AI makes it possible to automate individual steps in campaign creation, like copywriting or modifying images. But platform-native tools can also help you automate the entire process from start to finish. 

Automated Campaigns is a feature of Attentive AI that uses both generative and predictive AI to create and schedule multi-channel campaigns (i.e., content creation, segmentation, and sequencing). It leverages trillions of data points to identify patterns and correlations, and determine the best possible strategy for your brand. These capabilities allow you to do things like you schedule your entire holiday marketing calendar in advance, or set up recurring messages with personalized recommendations for your subscribers. 

Attentive AI™ Automated Campaigns

Your AI-generated campaigns will automatically be planned around your scheduled campaigns to avoid subscriber fatigue. But the major benefit is that you're still in full control. Copy and imagery are completely editable, and you'll get routine alerts and approval reminders so there are no surprise sends. You just won't have to manually handle every step of the planning, writing, segmenting, and scheduling.

example of an SMS campaign series powered by Attentive AI™

4. Take your personalization to the next level

Most consumers are willing to share data like their name, age, email, gender, and birthday in exchange for personalized content and recommendations. With AI, marketers can access and understand these insights faster to deliver highly personalized experiences for all customers at scale—and they’re excited about the possibilities

Cindy Roath, E-Commerce Operations Project Manager at GUESS, has high hopes for bringing the possibility of 1:1 personalization to their customers. “We’ll finally be able to speak to our customers how they want to be spoken to while also predicting their next need—key factors in building customer loyalty. I truly believe that AI will help us increase brand loyalty in a way that will feel natural to our customers,” said Roath.

Run: Let AI scale your marketing operations

Even though AI technology is still in its infancy, it has plenty of advanced applications that marketers can use today. This section will cover some of the more sophisticated use cases for optimizing campaigns, engaging audiences, and driving business results.

1. Dynamic content optimization

Many buyers have similarities—age, gender, preferences. We can create segments based on those shared attributes, but customers can still vary significantly within those segments. So, even when targeting specific audience groups, it’s possible to miss the mark. Luckily, with access to your first-party data, dynamic content optimization with AI is possible.

For example, a set of twins may fall within the same age group, gender category, and geolocation, but have completely different styles or product preferences. As a marketer, if you knew this, it might change the products you serve each twin.

This is where dynamic links and variables come into play. When you add the product recommendations macro to an email or SMS campaign in Attentive, AI evaluates which items to populate based on a subscriber's browse and purchase history. In other words, it predicts what will be the most relevant and likely to drive conversion at the individual level. 

The result? Within a single marketing campaign, Twin 1 might see a recommendation for boots that align with their unique style, and Twin 2 might see a recommendation for jewelry to match their other accessories.

Since their individual styles and product preferences will likely change overtime, using this macro also allows you to continuously adapt and deliver the most relevant content recommendations based on your most recent first-party data.

2. Conversational AI

40% of US consumers are using chatbots to engage with retail companies—but marketers are taking the conversational experience a step further with AI.

Conversational AI uses NLP, machine learning, and speech recognition to understand, process, and respond to human language. It also supports multiple languages, making it a great tool for brands with international customers. Voice assistants, virtual personal assistants, and live chat messaging apps are all examples of conversational AI.

You can adopt conversational AI tools to serve consumers on demand, even when a live representative isn’t available. That’s why we’re bringing the power of Attentive AI to Attentive Concierg​​e™. Customers can ask a question directly via text message, and the AI will respond instantly with on-brand, human-like responses that provide personalized support and recommendations.

3. Machine learning-based optimization

Machine learning-based optimization is when an AI system analyzes large amounts of data, identifies patterns, and then continues to learn and adapt the more data it receives. 

In the context of marketing, you could feed AI APIs huge amounts of data, including customer demographics, past purchases, and the success metrics of past campaigns. The AI would then crunch the numbers and tell you what worked and what didn’t, helping you optimize future campaigns.

Take an SEO tool powered by machine learning as a practical example. It could analyze content to find places that are missing keywords, then recommend semantically related keywords to include, suggest structural improvements, or even predict how likely the content is to rank on the first page of search results.

Triggered winback messages are another example of machine learning-based optimization. They allow you to target the right subscribers with the right message at the right time. Our winback journeys use predictive AI to assess past interactions and purchases, and identify "at-risk" subscribers who've lapsed, but are still likely to convert if sent a re-engagement message. 

Stay ahead of the game by adopting AI marketing tools

The AI industry is growing rapidly, and it’s fundamentally changing how the world operates. Over the next three years, it’s predicted that AI will accelerate up to 80% of what brands do and disrupt 40% of the daily tasks individuals complete.

In other words, AI is here to stay. “The best thing you can do right now is be open, learn how these tools work, and familiarize yourself with different use cases. If you’re doing that, you’ll be set up really well to grow alongside these tools and the companies adopting them,” advises Doyle.

Marketing teams that learn early on how to effectively adopt AI will thrive. Not only will they be more productive, but, more importantly, they'll also be able to do things like capture better insights, make smarter business decisions, and drive better results.

Ready to learn more about what you can do with Attentive AI? Sign up below to join the waitlist. 

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