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How Artificial Intelligence is Changing Marketing Forever

Today, marketers need to be agile, intuitive and strategic to thrive. In future, they’ll need intelligence, of the artificial kind. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing how we market forever. AI is the ability for computers to process data and make decisions based on that information. It can solve complex problems, identify patterns in data and learn from new information. AI uses Machine Learning algorithms so that computer programs can learn as new information becomes available. Marketing programs are using AI in everything from audience segmentation and targeting, to content creation and social media optimization. Let’s explore how businesses are using AI in marketing today.

NOTE: This article was written with the support of Writesonic. In fact it should take credit for about 60% of the content you read in this post. I wanted to make a case in point and test out the options. I read about the options from this article: 31+ Best AI Writer: Free AI Writing Assistant [July 2022]. That article was pointed out to me by a friend on LinkedIn. If you read that thread on LinkedIn you will see that that start of it is a similar case in point – I was trying to automate some content publishing functions. As you can see this topic is very much top of mind and that’s because a lot is happening in this space. In this article, I took the copy that was produced by Writesonic and tweaked it, exactly as my friend suggested and I was left feeling inspired and not that I was cheating. You be the judge on how it worked.

Why Is AI in Marketing Important?

For decades, marketers have been using data to inform their strategies, but manual, human-led processes are limiting. Manual processes aren’t scalable, and it’s difficult to get the level of precision that an AI solution can offer. AI offers marketers a chance to automate and increase the effectiveness of their strategies by creating the right technology to meet their unique needs. There’s evidence to suggest that AI adoption in marketing will increase significantly over the next few years. Past reports from a CMO Survey indicated that 41% of marketers were planning to increase their AI spending in 2018. The same report predicted that AI adoption in marketing will grow globally by 5X, with $37 billion being spent on AI in 2020. Considering it is now 2022, you’d expect that to be borne out and a quick search finds many studies corroborating that, like this one: AI Marketing Adoption: A 5-Step Guide | Emarsys.

Audience Segmentation and Targeting

One of the best uses for AI in marketing is audience segmentation and targeting. AI helps marketers create more personalized marketing campaigns by segmenting their audience and targeting specific groups. For example, AI can help marketers identify which customers are more likely to buy their products. Some marketing software can automatically collect data about customers, campaigns or website visitors. That data can then be used to build customer profiles. Other marketing software can use your existing customer data to create audience segments. AI can also be used to explore your existing customer data to find patterns that can be used to create audience segments.

Content Creation

With AI, marketers can use technology to help with this task, as I have. This could significantly reduce the time and cost of creating content. A few ways that AI can be used to create content include:

  1. Sentiment analysis – AI can help analyse the sentiment of your current content to provide insights that can be used to create more effective content.
  2. Automated journalism – AI can be used to create articles based on what’s happening in the world, or on topics you want to cover. This technology can be used to create weekly or daily content without the need for human intervention.
  3. Automated content curation – AI can be used to collect, organise and publish content from various sources. It can be used to maintain your social media channels and from the video at the end, you can see how the tool can be used to arrive at SEO optimised material that is useful for attractive and relevant post titles.

What I fear is that authenticity and originality is lost. And what about the nuanced perspective that you get from deeply personal insights in a specialist topic in which you have deep experience – can AI ever replace that?

I think that as long as you use it to support your writing and not in place of, this could be a winning combination. One I am willing to try and evolve with.

Summing up

Artificial Intelligence has been around for a long time and has always been used to automate repetitive tasks, but only recently has it been used to replace the most creative tasks in marketing such as content creation. With AI playing a significant role in marketing, there is no doubt that it will change the industry forever and it will be difficult for marketers to ignore this technology. Check out a video demo below of the very same function I used to create the basis for this article.

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Creativity Boosters to get you in the Flow – 3 of 4 – Meditation

We all know Creativity at work is important. It is a leading driver of innovation and it boosts productivity. And when you are in the right flow, you are more creative and productive. Other than having a formulaic approach to better flow (Formula pins down what gets people in the “Flow”) we all want to know what leads to better creativity and some of the other outcomes it contributes to. I know what works for me and instinctively and from experience, you might know about these too. In this four part series I want to share what works for me – this post covers meditation and the creativity boosters tag captures all the posts.

Creativity

First a little more about creativity and why it is so important at work. Each post from the series will elaborate on one aspect of this and then go onto the specific creativity booster that supports it.

Does creativity still matter in the age of Artificial Intelligence? That is a central question of our times as both “capabilities” are so in demand and prominent. My view is a resounding YES.

AI is becoming capable of creating music, art, code, etc. It is even driving outcomes in customer engagement. What then for the role of human originality. In my view, it is in combination that we can expand the infinite possibilities and solutions – technology, data and the human touch blended to achieve scalable solutions that meet unique human needs or spark unique human engagements.

Take customer engagement. Though AI is being used to driver greater customer engagement outcomes, humans are creative thinkers, seeing connections between things that might not seem at all related. Humans often see obscure links to find solutions to seemingly impossible problems. Humans also bring emotional intelligence and empathy, interpreting emotions and meaning from nuances in body language, voice, and even silence and adjusting as needed.

Empathy is critical too and showing that you understand a customer’s dilemma is the first step to helping them solve their problem. 

Human cognition is also innately intuitive, using life experiences to make rapid decisions. We don’t just use the facts in front of us to make judgments and draw conclusions. We draw on experience and knowledge accumulated over a lifetime. 

These are the things that make us creative powerhouses but together with machines we can stretch possibilities and performance as this HBR study confirms: Collaborative Intelligence: Humans and AI Are Joining Forces.

Click to enlarge

Meditation

I have written an eBook on Mindfulness practice and how it can lead to better outcomes at work including how it can improve your creativity. Improved mindfulness is an outcome of meditation BUT that is not the point of meditation.

As Alan Watts conveys in this video:

Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment and therefore if you meditate for an ulterior motive, that is to say, to improve your mind, to improve your character, to be more efficient in life, you’ve got your eye on the future and you are not meditating.

Meditating to improve your creativity is the same thing. Having said that, done well and for the right purpose, meditation definitely does improve a vast number of things as a result, including your creativity – or so I find.

And whether it’s through meditation or an increased level of mindfulness, there are also things you can do to increase your flow state and inspiration potential or just get you back on the right path. Here are a few pointers:

  • Activities you can do to influence an “aha moment” brain state:
    • Reduce distractions (sensory deprivation), e.g. meditation session with eyes closed, go into a dark space, etc.
    • Think positive (it activates the anterior cingulate which expands your scope of thought)
    • Widen horizons (imagine yourself in a vast environment like space, or a different one, like another country)
  • Notice when you have the urge to “push through” or “think harder” and try stepping away instead. Stepping away is part of the creative process. Giving your unconscious mind time to reorganize the information and clarify it for you. 
  • Setting aside time for creative play provides the space the mind needs to work out how to bring ideas to life.  Everyone has the capability of creativity.  Think of it as forming patterns in unique ways. Here is a sample of some activities for creative play.  The key to play is to detach from the outcome and release yourself from the rules and structure.  In other words, just see what comes up without judgement!
    • Sketching – I swear by it with my DanelDoodles.
    • Brainstorming
    • Free-writing
    • Non-dominant hand exercises
    • Fantasy/Day Dreaming
    • Dance/Free movement
    • Decorating your workspace or home – just rearranging things can sometimes help, even clearing things up (especially clutter)
    • Tinkering
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Microsoft Teams and CRM for Sales Productivity

Bringing CRM tools into Microsoft Teams makes sellers more collaborative with the intention of making them more productive, ultimately to drive top line growth. Microsoft where I work (disclosure) positions this as collaborative Apps that keep you in the flow of work. I’ve already written about the work I am doing with customers on this here, including other technologies: Microsoft 365 customer questions – Sales Productivity. In this post I wanted to zoom in a little with a demo video I created around some new Salesforce and Microsoft Teams integrations just out and some of what others are doing.

Salesforce and Microsoft Teams

This demo goes through the standard Salesforce and Teams integrations to date but recently the functionality has been extended for Teams Meetings and so this video covers that in a little detail.

Q!kom has extended the standard integration further, powered by Microsoft Graph API. This video explains how and shows the possibilities of extension and customisation.

Microsoft Teams integration with SAP Sales and Service Core

SAP Sales is not necessarily one of the powerhouse CRM platforms out there, but they are showing innovation by focusing on this integration with Microsoft Teams

With monthly active users in the hundreds of millions, Microsoft Teams cannot be ignored.

As a core platform where work happens, integrating your solution with Teams is a great way to enhance its use.

Dynamics 365, Context IQ, Loop and Teams

You would expect Microsoft with its own CRM platform Dynamics 365, to be driving this integration too.

In this video (time stamped to start at the right time) you see it being incorporated into Microsoft Teams but also other technologies like Outlook alongside Loop and Context IQ (new AI based technologies being developed and released at present). The video is from recent announcements at Ignite – a Microsoft conference.

On the integration of D365 with Microsoft Teams Meetings, I don’t have a video to show but this is all being worked on – see documentations here: Drive seller productivity with a seamless experience between Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Teams meetings.

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Minding the accelerating technology gap

Even if every company is now a tech company, there is still a massive gap between the early and fast adopters and the laggards. It goes beyond the chasm of initial technology adoption because now the assumption is all companies have to be using technology in some form or other to compete. The question is how well and how much are they keeping up.

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Jobs of the future will be what robots cannot do

The title of this post actually comes from a video I viewed on Big Think way back in 2016. It was a short video by renowned American physicist, Michio Kaku. I’ve just searched the site extensively to try and find it again but couldn’t. Good thing I downloaded a copy at the time and uploaded it to YouTube. I wanted to capture it as I recall it was not shareable. I have based a lot of my thinking on its prognostications since then. I first referenced it here: After robots and AI – intellectual capitalism where creativity and imagination thrive.

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Considering Microsoft Teams as a Platform – get started with App templates

In several foundational pieces I have written about Microsoft Teams as a Platform (disclosure). This post gets to some of the detail and focuses on a simple way to get started with use of App templates in Teams. This is a big focus of my work with customers at the moment and I give an overview of the App template library and then dive into two popular Apps.

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In an age of machines human organisations matter – an ode to joy

There is an explosion of automation, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning with many fearing job losses. In the attention economy we have proliferation of social media, questionable content, digital addiction, etc. Freedom of expression knows no bounds yet sensitivities are tested like never before. There are many benefits to adopting these tools and approaches and there are those that countervail – some stand out, either as out of touch dinosaurs or innovators. In all this there are many reasons to be joyful.

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Startup innovation is alive and well in UK GOV

I’m a fan of startup innovation having followed the practice and written about it extensively. This culminated in an eBook/trend report a few years back: Startup Innovation. The Information has just written a post about how the UK government is embracing the practice: How Silicon Valley Is Rewiring Downing Street’s Brain (registration required).

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The business of culture change in the tech industry

I had interesting chats with customers and colleagues recently that I wanted to capture and share. The context was enterprise collaboration technology but I also wanted to expand a little on the increasing business of technology’s influence on culture more broadly and vice versa. It probably raised more questions than answers.

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Corona as a catalyst for teamwork customer success and AI

I wouldn’t be the first to jump on the Corona Virus bandwagon, if that’s what I was trying to. No, I’m simply observing the ways I see others doing so, with varying degrees of success, and for good and bad reasons. Mostly it’s a way to conflate the unintended impact it is having, or where it is catalysing efforts and could impact several areas I personally have an interest in.

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Homo Deus and the cosmic dance between humans, mind and machine

I’ve just come back from holiday where I read Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari.

It focuses on many things and chiefly the direction is forward looking, as opposed to his first book, Homo Sapiens, which looked backward from whence we have come.

One aspect I was fascinated by was his account of the recognised decoupling of consciousness and intelligence and how this might play out in the future given the rise of “machines” and their impact on humans.

With machines and technology getting bad press of late, I thought it would be useful to highlight the positives that I see.

It’s very much in line with my take on Dharma Hacking – more below.

I created a #daneldoodle of course, to summarise my thinking. Here it is:

And some added notes to elaborate:

Why the Dharma Hacking in the title? There is more here on what it is but essentially it is based on the the interplay between humans finding our way, developing our mental capacity (especially consciousness) and using technology to help.

We have only just scratched the surface in terms of expanding our known mental states and utilising our super consciousness.

Technology, far from being the bogey man that it currently is, can greatly help us get there.

It plays its role (intelligence), we play ours (consciousness), in a unique cosmic dance of creativity.

In this past post (The post robotic AI age and the role of creativity and innovation) I think I was somewhat deluded in my belief of what will distinguish humans based on their unique skills in the future. Intelligent technology will be able to master these skills and are already (see next point) but it will be advanced levels of consciousness (super consciousness) that will be our unique differentiators.

AI and Super AI is already doing credibly well with being creative and innovative. Check out the comments in this video I uploaded a while ago of famed theoretical physicist and futurist, Michio Kaku (you’ll need to view the video on YouTube for that). He also it appears, was deluded.

How technology will help us develop our consciousness and to what ends is outlined in some of the elements I position in the doodle. Essentially it is between the island on which we currently find ourselves with our known mental states and the antipodes of the mind as I call them. I’m not sure what these supporting roles and end states all are yet but I will be exploring further – watch this space 😊

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Favourite demos from Microsoft Ready and Inspire 2019

Ready is an annual employee focused event run by Microsoft and Inspire is partner focused. We generally run them in July and present some really cool demos and content and so here is some public facing material I can share and my favourites from a bunch.

Notice in the case of the Teams in the Classroom demo, how rich the scenario is in terms of the technology being put to use to achieve really useful outcomes for the lecturer and students. And don’t let the Classrooms in the title put you off, this shows how Teams can be used to drive learning in any organisation. Its a great example of the approach described in this previous post: Beyond technology adoption – business scenarios with Microsoft Teams.

And there are some pretty cool adoption hacks in there – more about adoption hacks here and I’m tracking them with this tag.

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Adoption Hacks

Adoption hacks are little tips and tricks you can use to stimulate adoption of technology. Actions that can include any number of activities, all designed to get users learning about, understanding and using features of a technology to get new value from it.

Activities can be anything from communication, learning components, social proof (showing how others are getting value) all the way to mandating something. All is fair when it comes to adoption hacks :)

I’ll start documenting what I am doing and what I learn about from others in the way of adoption hacks in posts like these.

At the moment, at Microsoft, I am focusing heavily on Microsoft Teams adoption. Teams is is seen as a platform play because it is the front end to a lot of other tools in the Office 365 technology stack as well as those outside through various integrations.

Teams is extensible and customisable so that you can reach users in their chats, channels, notifications and personal workspaces. A single app can provide one or more capabilities.

They enable users to make decisions and take action faster. They reduce context switching on important tasks. They create opportunities for collaboration around external content. They make for the perfect adoption hacking tools in other words 😁

Teams apps come from different publishers. 1st party apps are developed by Microsoft for Office 365 or Office workloads as mentioned and enable better together scenarios. 2nd party apps are those not built by Microsoft and are popular work applications enabled in a central location (the store you can access in Teams). Custom apps are built by your organisation to meet specif business needs. Just some examples below:

  • Bots help users get tasks done in conversations. I’m using https://zoom.ai/ a lot at the moment in Team channels and in direct conversation with the Bot and its great for things like setting reminders to follow up on actions that stem from conversations.
  • Tabs surface rich content within Teams. For example, O365 activity usage reports from PowerBI that can be discussed and actioned right from within Teams
  • Connectors allow you to post rich updates from activity in other applications into your Team feeds.
  • Actionable messaging adds rich interaction to your connector cards so you can act on new information you receive from ☝
  • Compose extensions allow you to query and share rich cards in conversations.

Conversational AI and the new dynamics of computer assisted collaboration and automation to aid adoption

One key learning we’ve had at Microsoft is that Bots, custom line of business applications that integrate business processes, and ‘ready to use’ applications integrated into Teams = stickiness and relevance that keeps users coming back every day and drive company-wide adoption.

One very specific example of this I am making use of with my customers to support end users is combining Teams and the Microsoft Bot framework to create Q&A Bots. Users can query the Bot and get answers to questions on Teams as well as other applications. In my case I am focusing on other O365 related applications but it could be used for any.

Here is documentation on some Bot service templates which can be used to get started building Bots and includes one on to build a Q&A Bot.

Dentsu Aegis Network have done a great job with this and you can read this article to find out more: Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN) builds Teams chatbot to drive internal adoption of new technologies.

This is such a great example of using new technology to support adoption of technology which I am hugely motivated by. I’ll be sharing more as I learn in this super interesting space.

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An explorers guide to the new era of work

The explorer

There’s a long list of traits prevalent in the explorer, people that are naturally inclined to overcoming challenges and seeking new discoveries in any field, place or time. Those traits that stand out for me are the joy of mastering new skills or knowledge, an insatiable desire for uncovering truth and new things and stoic perseverance.

No matter how you define it, you sense whether you have it from an early age. I remember as a little boy, wondering the savannas of Southern Africa where I grew up, feeling like Livingstone even though I was only in open fields (veld as its called) immediately surrounding my home. In the early days few houses had been built where I lived and it was more savanna than suburb.

And far from new lands, wild animals and indigenous peoples it was ants nests, puddles with tadpoles spawning, old ruins and early constructions of the new house being built in the twilight hours, after the builders had left for the day, that I was exploring.

I spent hours there. In the holidays it stretched into days.

The joy and thrill I felt has never left me and I know I am not alone in this feeling.

It has guided me in everything I have done since. Leaving the country of my birth to explore London with my new wife a month after we married. A changed career from advertising to technology supported by new studies there. Again leaving for new lands, this time The Netherlands, for new work opportunities and to build a family, three wonderful children all born there. Then after 7 years, back to the UK starting my own business which I ran successfully for a similar time period. Since then it has been forging new paths in customer success management, in itself a new career type.

Being an explorer is part nature part nurture. From a work point of view, my experiences transcended into making me an accidental intrapreneur.

I’m not sure we (as workers) have a choice any more.

I remember reading an article back in 2013 by John Hagel, John Seely Brown, Tamara Samoylova called Unlocking the passion of the Explorer.

It resonated powerfully with me. It captured the essence of what I was and how I approached things. I’m an explorer. I’m passionate.

It captured beautifully the era we live in and the shift we are undergoing, especially in the world of business.

In my mind, the shift refers to the transition between the industrial era into the one we are now in, the digital era.

The Digital Era

Digital explorers have advantages over our industrial era forebears. In the digital era, things can be measured more easily (response and feedback loops are immediate and traceable). It’s all manifested through data. Insights are the outcomes you achieve once you have sifted the data tea leaves. The digital world is more open to more people and experimentation is rife. Experience is more malleable and accessible to more people.

Digital explorers can learn more quickly by doing. They create meaning as they experience. They are data driven and entrepreneurial. They learn from and are driven by others like them who share their learning openly.

Oh what a joy to be a digital explorer 🚀

I put this daneldoodle together to characterise some of the different traits I think are important. Other than the traits needed, whatever you think they may be, the one other factor that you need to consider is speed and agility.

So get cracking fast or face extinction. Being a digital explorer has to be a given in today’s business world if you want to be successful.

And build the capabilities of the explorer that will allow you to discover your place in the next era.

The Next Era

As the industrial era ended, so too will the digital era.

We are well into the digital era and feeling the early impact of the next era.

The next era will be characterised by intelligence, automation and creativity.

The intelligence will be artificial. The automation will be machine led.

The creativity will be human led.

Explorers of all era’s but even more so in future, will have to rely on their imagination, their passion, their humanity and most importantly, their creativity. Things machines are not great at.

I’ve written more about that here: The post robotic AI age and the role of creativity and innovation