A New Marketing Landscape is Forming
Marketing is a quickly-evolving role, where necessary skill-sets come in waves. In the late 90s with the rise of Google, marketing moved from traditional tactics of print, television, and events to online tactics, including SEO and PPC. And in the last decade, we’ve seen the most in-demand marketing skills shift heavily to digital--mostly in digital advertisements, thanks to the rise of Facebook and Instagram. This is supported by a 2017 study by McKinley Marketing Partners which found an undersupply in this area. And within digital marketing, 46% of the demand was for digital advertising.
Marketing is no longer just a soft-skill. Sure, you need to understand messaging and positioning, but how you execute on those skills is, these days, much more technical. (Can you deploy those skills within digital advertisements? Can you leverage APIs to create a comprehensive set of data-centric analytics to support your marketing strategy and better calculate ROI?) A truly smart marketer is one who has one foot in the marketing world, and the other in new, emerging technology.
As the world changes, marketers need to quickly adapt and build skill sets to match the way people consume products and services. It is only be adapting, that marketers can truly access and inform potential customers and create winning demand generation strategies. New ways of reaching people include internet-of-things, augmented reality, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence. So what should you focus on first?
Artificial Intelligence is the Next Wave in Marketing Skills
In the 2017 Digital IQ Survey, companies were asked where they were making investments, and if employee skills matched those investments. The largest emerging tech skills gap is in artificial intelligence (See Chart II.) Moreover, it is one of the largest areas in which companies are making substantial investments, which means this will become part of the fabric of our society, or as they say in the movies: “Coming soon to a theater near you!”
Educate Yourself on Artificial Intelligence Through Bots
Artificial intelligence is a vast and complex science. The term ‘artificial intelligence’ was first coined in 1956 by John McCarthy when he invited a group of researchers from a variety of disciplines, including language simulation, neuron nets, and complexity theory, to Dartmouth to discuss what would ultimately become the field of AI--allowing machines to mimic human reasoning, thinking, and performance of tasks. 
Today, the meaning of AI has been slightly bastardized; often algorithims which can do tasks such as classification and organization have been called AI, but many think the original goal will be realized. Beyond this, there are sub-categories under the umbrella of artificial intelligence, such as machine learning and natural language processinglea, that immediately create value and increase efficiency for the work we do today.
This is where bots come in. Marketers can start learning skills in machine learning and natural language processing by leveraging bots. Creating a bot is a building block to understanding the field of artificial intelligence. First you build a decision-tree focused bot (an exercise in creating logic); next you start employing natural language processing and training your bot with Dialogflow or Wit.ai; then as you gather more data through your bot, you can start utilizing more advanced machine learning. If pot is indeed a gateway drug; then it is bots that are a gateway to a new and important field that will be, make no mistake, the fabric of the future. 
Marketers who are smart will be looking ahead, not just at the skills necessary 5 years down the road, but those needed in 10 to 15 years. Making yourself relevant tomorrow, starts today.
How Marketers Can Start Employing Bots + Artificial Intelligence Today
So how can marketers start using bots and artificial intelligence today? There are several different useful applications across content, e-mails, advertising, etc.
1.) Replace Contact Forms with Lead Generation Bots
This is the quickest and easiest way of testing out bots. Instead of having multiple contact forms throughout your site, you can keep a main contact form, but have bots act as lead capture devices. We’ve seen some of our clients increase their lead capture by over 30% through bots. The benefits of this, is that bots can act dynamically--popping up according to user behavior, or triggered based on the page the user came from. And (unlike forms), bots will always ask relevant questions (e.g. if you know someone has been on your site multiple times, you can remove questions that are specifically designed for first-time users, or questions the user has already answered.)
Another benefit to bots versus forms is that bots will capture information as people type it in (so there is no need to wait for a confirmation button click). It will also save the information to their user profile, creating robust user profiles over time.
Beyond this, we are finding that users who have conversational interactions with bots, are more likely to convert after lead capture (stay-tuned: a deeper discussion on this topic is coming soon!)
2.) Connect Bots to Advertisements + E-Mails
The beauty of a website is that it maintains a consistent brand. The downside of a website is that it is not dynamic enough to curate information specifically for certain demographics or audiences. This leads to the creation of a scattering of microsites which usually have lower quality graphics /copy and become difficult to manage over time.
The beauty of a bot is that it can know what advertisement the user tapped on, or which e-mail campaign the user came from to get to the site. So that when the user arrives, the bot will automatically use language to continue the conversation from the original ad or e-mails. Moreover, bots can curate your website content for the user so that you don’t have to create a new microsite—just push users to the content that is relevant to them and their needs, and message them the rest.
3.) Replace FAQs with Bots
For customers who are very interested in your products and services, they may first try to help themselves by going to the FAQs, but getting through a list of 20 questions or using a poor search functionality may make this more difficult. Sometimes, users just take one look at a long block of text and abandon reading to e-mail the support team---or even worse, don’t contact you at all!
Bots make FAQs much easier, asking the user for what they need and then dynamically showing content when the user has specified their interest.
4.) Better Understand the Quality of Your Campaign Leads
The benefit of using bots, is that not only do they perform marketing attribution, immediately tying a prospect to a campaign, they also can ask pertinent questions of that prospect. Right now, people often calculate the number of leads they receive from a campaign.
For example if Campaign A received 550 leads and Campaign B received 223 leads, you may say that Campaign A was more successful. And if you have a long sales cycle of 3-9 months or more, you may never be able to track the success until you track the ROI some (many) months later; but this will be far after budgets have been set and strategy plans have been made.
The beauty of bots is that when a user comes in from a campaign, you can ask questions that test the quality of a prospect (e.g. Are you looking to buy a car in the next 6 months?) which show a quality value of the leads; that is often not apparent when you pass the lead on to your sales team.
This will help you better understand your prospects, your campaigns, and allow you to adjust and improve your strategy in a shorter period of time.
5.) Onboarding + Product Training
After you have spent so many resources obtaining a client, the best way to retain the client is to ensure that they are onboarded smoothly and educated on your product and services efficiently. This will help clients obtain the maximum value from the experience—and increase customer lifetime value.
Bots are extremely effective at helping first-time users through an experience, guiding a user based on who they are and their needs.