A flywheel graphic shows the marketing functions AI can help streamline

Marketing Automation and AI: How Will the Industry Look 3 Years From Now?

How will marketing automation and AI work together to make life easier for marketing teams?
Article Outline

There’s no doubt about it: AI is having a moment. More specifically, generative AI has moved out of the lab and into the hands of eager adopters across industries. The launch of ChatGPT and the rapid spread of generative AI in recent months marks one of those pivotal moments in the history of tech. And unlike some over-hyped innovations, this one will change everything.

It’s an exciting time to be working with these technologies. Meanwhile, the very human marketers tasked with learning these tools need to stay adaptable and ready to drive results. Marketers will see an exponential change in efficiency as AI proves itself through marketing automation.

Today, Act-On AI Create brings the generative capabilities of Open AI into the email composer within the Act-On platform. This product is the tip of the spear for an aggressive innovation roadmap for AI. Still catching up on the AI excitement? Read on and we’ll fill you in.

Generative AI and the Marketing Function

The advent of accessible, affordable generative AI couldn’t have come at a better time for marketing leaders. Marketers face increasing pressure to create more operational efficiency in their teams and organizations, and drive the kind of business performance that can buck the larger macroeconomic trend of contracting growth. Generative AI offers marketers tools to tackle these challenges.

Generative AI adds value by simplifying the execution of marketing campaigns. For example, equipped with a campaign theme, a target audience, and a list of desired deliverables, a marketing manager can generate a suite of content with tools like ChatGPT and, for email, Act-On AI Content Create. Using their own expertise and standards, a marketer can refine and improve on the AI creation, leveraging the tools themselves to do the rewriting.

With this powerful technology, marketers are empowered to more confidently and efficiently build and optimize marketing campaigns and deliverables, even among more scarce resources. 

Marketing Automation and AI: Exponential Increases in Personalization and Productivity

Now, add marketing automation to the equation. The possibilities quickly multiply. To content generation, add data augmentation through machine learning, predictive scoring and sales intelligence, advanced analytics, and AI automated multichannel programming.

In this AI-automated world, marketing automation platforms will integrate AI tools into every level of functionality. This will further drive the development of smarter, more responsive AI, as machine learning algorithms advance to incorporate the new inputs. Informed with more data and expanded across channels, the power of AI will only increase. 

We’re not quite there yet, but the path is laid out. Here’s what to expect as we watch these important areas of technology advance:

AI Content Generation — This is the most obvious growth trajectory for AI at this time, with the advent of generative tools like ChatGPT for copy and Dall-E for visuals. Generative AI’s proficiency unlocks a multiplier effect for busy marketers. In the same amount of time it takes to write a single email, it’s already possible to prompt ChatGPT and similar tools to adjust that email and create dynamic versions based on segments, seasonality, industry, and other factors.

AI Segmentation and Personalization — Personalized content will be the ultimate testing ground for AI content. Imagine a world where every prospect receives emails, lands on webpages, and engages with chatbots laser-focused on what they’re interested in and struggling with in their roles. AI will instantly know who they are engaging with, their company, industry, role and title, and what content they have consumed or topics they have searched in the recent past, to provide a more relevant and personal experience. The human element remains crucial here. Without having to do the manual work associated with segmenting and personalizing, marketers can focus on prompting AI assistants to refine and improve segmentation strategy and personalized content, adding more value.

AI Data Augmentation — AI’s continued growth depends on the continued availability of data. Data is the food that fuels AI machine learning. Marketing automation providers will need a frothy mix of data: 1st party data (the data that a brand collects from its customers comprising the interactions they have across all communication channels) and third party data on demographics, firmographics, and internet intent signals. As AI ingests and parses this data holistically, its capabilities will only grow.

Advanced Analytics — Even the most data-obsessed marketers can go cross-eyed after too long staring at spreadsheets and pivot tables. AI assistants don’t have the same limitations. Imagine the value it will bring to your organization when your marketing automation platform is equipped with advanced analytics powered by AI. In one area of advanced analytics, marketers will be able to query AI to create custom analysis on the fly. For example, today marketing automation provides funnel metrics out of the box. But you may want to look at just specific segments, by industry, title, or company size. AI could do that, on the fly. 

AI can also tell you what you don’t already know to analyze; we call these insights. What is my highest performing segment? Where are my fastest sales? What is the optimal sequence of emails to a VP of Marketing? Or What is my next best action? Insights such as these will help those new to marketing automation optimize their performance virtually overnight.

AI Predictive Scoring and Sales Intelligence — Marketing automation platforms linked to CRMs (customer relationship management platforms) can quickly develop predictive models based on closed-won data to help marketers and sales identify those leads with the highest propensity to close, taking the guesswork out of lead scoring. 

AI will equip MAPs to assign predictive scores based on intent signals, and route those prospective customers through customized journeys accordingly. Over time, predictive models’ accuracy will improve with the quality of data and modeling, and as more specific data sets are introduced to the models, such as industry-specific, solution-specific, and customer specific data.

AI Multichannel Automated Programs — The multichannel marketing potential of AI is impossible to overstate. When fully integrated with marketing automation, AI will be able to leverage massive amounts of engagement signals and intent data to improve your marketing programs at the campaign level and beyond. Just like with Generative AI, AI should be able to automate the entire program generation sequence, suggesting the right steps of offerings based on target audience and generating sample content for each step. 

Here again, the importance of data is paramount. Value will grow for solutions that offer data extensibility, portability, and autonomy. The more available MAPs make their data to customers, the more they’ll be able to offer added value in the form of AI and machine learning improvements to core marketing automation functionality. 

The Human Factor: Still Essential in an AI-assisted Environment

It’s important to keep in mind that AI tools are nowhere near as powerful without human operators with expertise and specialized know-how. Marketers are still, and will remain, necessary to interpret AI recommendations and insights. It will take subject matter experts to configure marketing automation platforms and associated AI tools. Only people can interpret and prioritize their business’s specific needs to drive the most value from AI. But the potential for AI to create a 10x increase in productivity and a similar impact on effectiveness is not far-fetched.

The possibilities are enough to have marketers breaking out the flip flops and little drink umbrellas already. Imagine: You’re onboarding to a new, fully AI-integrated marketing automation platform. The program takes you through a brief onscreen setup wizard: Answer a few key questions about your ideal customer profile, your customer journey and your product, point AI at relevant sources of data (CRM, augmented 3rd party data, website for content) and let the platform get to work. 

The platform delivers branching campaign flows with fully personalized emails, web experiences, and decision tree talk tracks for sales. It’ll take us a few years to fully realize this vision, but with the acceleration of Generative AI, the advancements coming in large language models, and the increasing effectiveness of machine learning for predictive models, it’s easy to see this future is coming.

Watch this space for more information on Act-On’s point of view on AI in marketing automation, and more tips on how marketers can leverage AI in their daily operations.

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