As AI Democratizes Analysis, Marketers Must Remember to Ask the Right Questions

AI is changing every industry. Consumer facing applications, like Alexa, are what most people are currently aware of. As this HBR piece showcases, deep enterprise applications are coming to light, as UBS Group AG is now using Alexa to answer questions of for its wealth management clients.

Although the HBR piece focuses on the bespoke consulting firm business model (e.g. Bain, BCG, McKinsey), it’s not a big stretch to imagine how AI may impact the daily lives of other workers in various industries. We are all looking at a near term timeline where AI, through applications and cloud computing, will be deployed in every industry. Does this mean marketers are about to be marginalized? How do marketers and PR people pivot to make themselves still valuable?

We’ve talked on our blog before about the role of data, the need to embrace automation and the role people can play in the future. Be it creatively, analysis, experimentation – it’s the people telling the machines what to do that will drive the value of AI and machine learning in marketing.

There is one skill area marketing and PR pros needs to have, and that’s the ability to ask the right questions. This ability will need to be applied in two distinct areas.

“What is this Data?”

You need to know where your data comes from, know or encourage the testing of how accurate that data is, and understand what gaps exist that might bias the analysis. What data don’t you have access to that could make the machines give you the “better” answer vs. the right answer?

Marketers will need to make the case for budgets and plans for additional data gathering and access. The necessary processing power exists, the algorithms will be available, and the front-end programs are getting better every day. The next step in differentiating a marketer’s role in data processing is knowing what’s going into the machine and how that effects what’s coming out, instead of just accepting the analysis wholeheartedly.

“Data, what will happen when ____?”

Assuming high data quality and appropriate data inputs, being able to ask better questions will be the second key ingredient to high performance marketing. Are competitors targeting new segments via organic or paid channels? What market sector are we underserving that will have a need for our product/service in the next 12 months? As our customers age, how much will they stop purchasing our product/service in the next three years?

How you frame the questions you ask of your data becomes just as important as the data itself. Curiosity, a larger understanding of the world your customers live in and the dynamics at work in their world will become even more vital.

The good news for marketing and PR people is that these skills aren’t foreign. They are fundamental building blocks of any liberal arts education. Becoming more fluent in data and analytics certainly is a must. However, blending the best of new data skills with “traditional” thinking and analysis will help set you apart professionally.

Derek Lyons
Senior VP


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