From Buzzword to Basic: What Marketing Automation & AI Have in Store

    By: Erica Allaby, Content Manager, ROBO Global

    Amid the rolling hills of South Dakota lies a long strip of highway that billboard marketing has effectively served for nearly a century. Today, I-90 remains scattered with billboards advertising Wall Drug. Standing at just a hundred feet apart for more than a hundred miles, the signs deliver a simple message: “Stop at Wall Drug for free water and fun!” It’s a near-constant barrage of in-your-face marketing that can’t help but fill passers-by with curiosity.

    What was once a Hail Mary effort by Wall Drug’s owners back in the 1930s has become a tourism hallmark. Wild as it seems, this billboard strategy to lure in thirsty visitors from Badlands National Park turned the backcountry, drive-by town of Wall, South Dakota into a thriving roadside attraction. Marketing mission accomplished.

    But oh, how times have changed. In the era of the internet, marketing has become a massive machine where the rules aren’t so clear. Small businesses and colossal corporations alike strive to find the sweet spot where dollars and sales leads come together to deliver a clear bang for the buck, or, in corporate terms, a sustainable ROI. It’s no simple feat. As marketing has turned digital, the internet has become marketing’s modern battleground, and AI and marketing automation have become the must-have weapons in the battle for the top rank. Today, 61% of marketers say that AI and automation are the most important aspects of their data strategy. It’s a shift that begs marketers and investors alike to take a deeper dive.


    Hubspot, a ROBO Global THNQ Index member, is one company that is taking the power of automation and AI to new heights to help pave this path toward the future of marketing. The marketing AI company hosted its eighth annual Inbound conference this month. The goal: to teach marketers how to effectively capitalize on the capabilities of automation and AI to reach their goals. Here are the top takeaways from the experts at Inbound:

    Automation is the key to aligning sales and marketing.

    In the session, The Robots Are Coming - How to Use AI to Make Smarter Marketing Decisions, Mike Lieberman, chief revenue scientist at Square 2, walked through the transition from marketing without automation and AI to a world where marketers are “eliminating the guesswork from marketing through the utilization of AI tools.” When marketing without the assistance of automation, a marketing team gathers data, which is then passed on to a sales team to support traditional sales techniques like cold calling and emailing. It’s an age-old process that typically delivers mediocre results, frustration, and a vicious, continuous cycle.

    Compare that to the new world of AI where marketing uses what’s called intent data. Intent data is information acquired about an individual based on website visits, form submissions, and advertising clicks. Sales is able to use this information to personalize the shopping experience, leverage warm leads, and close sales faster. Voilà! Marketing’s value is clear, and sales is more able to deliver. Marketing AI and automation is the key to eliminating the guesswork from the entire process.

    Selecting the right marketing tools.

    According to Lieberman, there are over 7,000 existing sales and marketing tools available today—many of which are utilizing AI and automation to streamline their systems. But not all tools are created equal. To select the most appropriate functionality, he recommended that marketers start by compiling a list of key goals and current problems that need solving within their organization, and from there create a short-list of applicable solutions. It’s easy to be distracted by the flashing lights and smart features of marketing automation products. By reverting back to a strict set of guiding questions before making a purchase, buyers can “push the pause button” to make sure they are getting the right value that is specific to their needs.

    AI is the next evolution of marketing automation.

    In preparation for the future of marketing, companies like Hubspot are reaching beyond simple marketing automation to incorporate sophisticated AI technologies into their platforms. For example, machine learning is helping to drive predictive lead scoring by using AI to analyze existing datasets and score systems to be more precise as new leads flow in.

    Beyond spreadsheets and databases, machine learning is also being incorporated into the creative side of marketing, supporting activities like brainstorming blog topics and evaluating the successes and failures of past social media posts. With the increase of digital footprints and customer data, the use of AI in marketing will continue to grow through analysis and training. There’s no doubt that AI will be imperative for the future of marketing business models.

    Software alone won’t solve the problem.

    While AI is already transforming the way marketing tasks are approached, it is the human side of the equation that requires a readjustment to fully transform and take advantage of the technologies. The challenge: it is extremely difficult for us humans to change behavior.

    To turn the tide, the experts at Hubspot suggest taking steps that illustrate the benefits to help drive new behavior. After installation, establishing and reviewing benchmark data can help measure and mark performance and keep each project on track toward meeting its initial intent and goals. By immediately setting up automation rules, marketers can more easily identify when benchmarks are met, as well as provide the sales team with leads that are defined using the power of intent data rather than guesswork.

    As our world grows increasingly more reliant on robotics, automation, and AI (RAAI), industries far and wide are being critically impacted by technology’s touch. Marketing is no exception. Like the small town of Wall, South Dakota, marketers are anxious to find a strategy that sticks, and while it’s a bit more complex than a billboard, automation could very well be the tool to deliver those results.


    To learn more about the investment potential and market growth of artificial intelligence, check out how the ROBO Global THNQ index is capturing the investable universe of AI.

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