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Should You Invest in AI for Creative Development? The Answer May Surprise You!

posted by Michael Epps Utley Michael Epps Utley
Should You Invest in AI for Creative Development The Answer May Surprise You

It's not uncommon for small business owners and marketers to clash with technology.

Unless they own — or work for — a tech company, advances in technology can seem confusing and disruptive in all the wrong ways.

Artificial intelligence (AI) — in other words, tech to the nth power — is bringing this issue to a head.

The reality: Even the most tech-phobic person doing any type of marketing, including social media, email, and Google Ads, uses technology (even AI).

Like it or not, technology is a central part of any marketing strategy or tactic today. Unfortunately, small business owners and the marketers that support them aren’t always adept at acquiring and leveraging new tech solutions.

A 2023 Gardner survey found that marketing productivity has fallen to new lows, despite increased investment in technology in the last few years. The research reports that 75 percent of the people participating in the survey say they’re under pressure to cut spending on marketing technology this year. Yet the same study found the most significant new marketing-related investment is — surprisingly — in technology. The increase in tech spending is coming at the cost of labor, where budgets and personnel are being cut.

This scenario suggests businesses spend so much time acquiring, implementing, learning, and managing MarTech that they have too little time and money to work on projects related to what they bought the technology to help them do. It’s a pretty lousy investment in precious marketing dollars.

So, what’s the right approach?

How to Approach Purchasing Marketing Technology Like AI

Small business owners and marketers must rethink how they acquire and use marketing and communication solutions — from content and digital asset management systems to marketing automation and customer data platforms.

The process must begin with understanding how the new or replacement technology will fit into the marketing or communication process. If no defined process exists, take a step back and create one. Buying MarTech without a defined process and purpose is like buying a car without knowing where or how you’ll drive it and for what purpose. You may end up owning a sports car when you really need a box truck.

Instead of focusing on the novel, sophisticated capabilities tech products offer, business owners and marketers should first figure out which processes the new technology purchase will simplify, amplify, standardize, or scale. In other words, identify a problem technology can solve before seeking out a tech solution.

This is particularly important with the spate of new Artificial-Intelligence-based tools being introduced into the content and marketing worlds.

In a study reported by the Content Marketing Institute, of the 200 marketers surveyed, 84 percent say they experiment with or actively use generative AI technologies to develop content. However, only 17 percent of them have a formal process to use AI to create content.

This is another example of businesses being attracted to the bright and shiny tech toy without a clear concept of how to play with it. It’s why so many MarTech purchases are bad investments.

With generative AI tools, most companies aren’t sure how, where, or even why the tool makes sense in their marketing and content development processes. They know it’s a hot capability that might supplement or even replace costly content creators.

The truth: The few organizations that successfully integrate generative AI into their marketing and content workflows don’t use the tools to create engaging blog posts or insightful e-books. Most generative artificial intelligence just isn’t smart or accurate enough.

Recent research shows that businesses using generative AI successfully leverage it to fine-tune workflow processes. They also use it to summarize longer content, create derivative materials like abstracts, outline and organize future content, and handle real-time translation, automated contextual email responses, and meeting notes.

Bottom line: Successful marketers use generative AI tools not to enhance creativity but to standardize and scale derivative marketing and content efforts. This buys them additional time to up the creativity on original, high-profile work.

Processes Make MarTech Effective

Sustainable strategies leveraging AI or any form of MarTech aren’t about creating engaging words, images, or experiences. Instead, they’re about activities and processes that free up bandwidth, so business owners and marketers can perform at their peak.

Everyone involved in marketing and communications at a company must buy into this philosophy and stick with it. It’s easy to fall off and start purchasing useless tech that doesn’t serve a purpose.

What’s vital about process is that it takes what a single person may be able to do (like author a piece of content) and institutionalizes the capability, leaving the organization less vulnerable if the person leaves and making it less likely to make a tech purchase only one employee may be able to use.

AI and MarTech: The Bottom Line

AI and other marketing technology can be an extremely valuable resource. However, technology is only as good as the processes it’s intended to support. If you use technology to automate ad hoc tasks, you’re not getting total value out of it, and your investment will not pay off.

The next time you consider adding new marketing or communication solutions, ensure you can define the processes and activities they will support and whether the investment will improve efficiency enough for it to pay off. Only buy or add something once you can. Otherwise, it will just be another shiny object on a shelf, providing no value.

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