With any transformative technology, it can be difficult to separate the signal from the noise.
And though Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been called overhyped, that hasn’t stopped businesses of all types from eagerly embracing it — and changing our professional lives forever.
How big is the impact of artificial intelligence on the future of work? There certainly are signals indicating that the AI future may be arriving much sooner than many people think.
- Global spending on AI technology is expected to rise from $6 Billion in 2018 to nearly $29 Billion in 2021, according to Gartner group.
- The global economy will grow by $16 Trillion by 2030 because of advancements AI, according to the World Economic Forum.
- AI milestones seem to be arriving well ahead of schedule. AI technology was supposed to surpass humans at the game of Go in 2027. That already happened in 2015. The same research estimates AI could replace all human workers by the year 2141.
So, great outlook for AI. What about humans?
That question has prompted a lively debate. Are we facing a grim future where millions of humans are automated out of their jobs? Or is the AI future one where workers are freed from the drudgery of repetitive manual tasks to be more creative and experience a better quality of life?
Whatever the case, today’s business news is filled with stories of how quickly AI is encroaching on formerly human domains.
If you’re in sales and marketing, the AI stakes couldn’t be much larger.
According to McKinsey & Company, AI will unlock the most value in marketing and sales– between $1.4 Trillion and $2.6 Trillion.
Are sales and marketing careers in danger?
If you’re a marketer in a data-driven industry like retail, manufacturing, travel or ecommerce, you can expect a double dose of transformation. Industries driven by the analysis and processing of large datasets stand to gain the most, and change the most, from the use of AI.
AI is the leading technology where marketers expect the most growth over the next two years. Marketers anticipate AI use will grow by 53% – a much higher rate than any other tech type. – Salesforce
And it’s clear that AI is quickly becoming a key advantage for some of the world’s most innovative organizations.
Companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, Netflix and Salesforce are all heavily invested in AI and compete aggressively for talent. High-performing companies are more than twice as likely to use AI than low-performing companies, according to Salesforce.
Anyone looking for insights on the future of AI should watch how these companies leverage the technology internally and what types of AI-powered products and services become publicly available.
So, transformation is under way and the rate of change is increasing. But what skills should sales and marketing leaders develop to join the innovators and avoid disruption?
You will have your career disrupted. So you have to either proactively turn the impending change into something more enjoyable and fulfilling, or you sit in fear of the inevitable day when the hatchet comes your way… – Jay Samit
While it’s impossible to predict exactly which sales and marketing roles might be eliminated, it’s safe to assume that all roles will change. Here are some hard and soft skills that can be learned to minimize the impact:
Commit to lifelong learning
In sales and marketing, a good start is to read up and absorb everything you can about AI. There are a number of blogs that cover AI developments from a sales and marketing perspective, including:
- The Content Marketing Institute
- Deloitte Marketing Blog
- IBM research on AI – see the featured projects section for uses cases
- The Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute
If you kicked ass in calculus or have a technological bent, check out Google’s free Introduction to Deep Learning course and the same Machine Learning Crash Course they provide to their own engineers. Sales and marketing pros don’t necessarily need to become Python experts, but it couldn’t hurt.
Stay AI alert
One of the most powerful free tools available for sales and marketing is Google Alerts. These useful alerts can be set up in minutes and can save you hours by sending curated content straight to your inbox or RSS feed.
For example, say you are a content marketer in financial services and you want to keep up with what’s going on. Simply visit the Google Alerts page and enter the topic you want to follow. In the settings, you can choose options like how often you’ll receive alerts and which sources you prefer. Some examples might be:
- “content marketing” AND AI
- FinTech AND AI
- “AI news” San Francisco
- “your brand” + AI
- “competing brand” + AI
Setting up alerts will enable you to see real-world use cases and how competitors and related industries are using AI.
Speak the language
It’s important to be fluent in AI terminology, for the ability to separate business value from buzzwords, and to understand AI projects that use a combination of technologies.
AI terms are sometimes tossed around and puffed up in the service of sales and marketing. For example, the terms AI, machine learning and deep learning are often used interchangeably. But as you can see in the image below from Nvidia’s blog, both machine learning and deep learning are subsets under the AI umbrella. Marketing and sales pros should understand which types of AI are at work and what value they bring to their audience.
For example, machine learning is a breakthrough technology because it uses training algorithms to learn from large data sets, rather then being explicitly taught by humans. But without high-quality, complete and current datasets, there are no insights to be gained about your prospects, conversions and customer experiences.
Other key areas for sales and marketing leaders to understand include chatbots, computer vision, natural language processing, and neural networks.
Artificial intelligence + your natural intelligence
The best way to avoid being blindsided by the growth of artificial intelligence is to grow your natural intelligence. Become a lifelong learner on the subject of AI and related disciplines.
Recently, Google Research changed its name to Google AI to underscore their commitment to CEO Sundar Pichai’s promise to make Google an “AI-first” company. It’s a clear sign that Google’s innovation is now clearly focused around artificial intelligence and machine learning. Amazon, Microsoft and IBM are following similar strategies of reinventing their companies around AI.
Clearly, the world’s most innovative and successful organizations are leading the way on AI. Today’s most innovative sales and marketing teams may do well to learn from that data and take action.