Marketers take on an incredible challenge creating lasting customer relationships, curating a positive brand image, and implementing strategies to promote products/services effectively. It’s no wonder they’re constantly on the lookout for ways to streamline less-pivotal processes and ultimately give them room to focus on projects that need them. Artificial intelligence and automation were introduced in marketing for this purpose. 

Although they’re sometimes used interchangeably, AI and automation present some intricate differences that influence when and how they’re used in marketing. But even with these differences, they could and should be used in tandem in any marketing strategy to ensure you’re taking full advantage of their benefits. 

Artificial Intelligence 

WGU defines artificial intelligence as “the theory and development of computer programs that can do tasks and solve problems that usually require human intelligence.” In other words, machines or software are engineered to mimic human behavior and intelligence by learning patterns or features within a set of data as it’s processed through advanced algorithms. The most notable AI theories are: 

  • Deep Learning: a branch of machine learning that pulls insights from more extensive sets of data.
  • Machine Learning: finds patterns and other insights from data without being prompted to do so, increasing its intelligence over time.
  • Computer Vision: interprets the surroundings in real-time in an image or video. 
  • Cognitive Computing: hopes to mimic a human interaction by seeing, hearing, and doing as humans would in particular circumstances.  

Further, AI is so loved by business owners everywhere because its technologies aren’t affected by human challenges like age, ability over time, or human mistakes like overlooking data or forgetting to report. With proper maintenance and monitoring, these technologies can mimic what a human can say, think and do with greater intelligence. Uses of artificial intelligence include:

  • Self-driving cars
  • Online shopping
  • Smart assistants 
  • Chatbots 
  • Streaming services 
  • Translation tools
  • Social media timeline filtering 
  • Managing healthcare 

In its attempts to mirror human behavior, AI constantly explores patterns, learns from experience, and outputs the appropriate responses in situations based on that experience.

Automation 

Automation was first popularized within industrial manufacturing, using sensors, automatic testing and control systems, mechanical labor, smart factory systems, self-operating equipment, and computers in order to improve efficiency in manufacturing. It has since made its way into other industries like marketing with tools to make such jobs more efficient. In marketing automation, software is mainly leveraged to automate repetitive marketing tasks such as email campaigns, following up on leads, and more, such as:

  • Helping to nurture leads.
  • Integrating with customer relationship management (CRM) and customer data platform (CDP) software to store prospect information.
  • Following top-of-funnel activities to drive qualified prospects to sales.
  • Personalizing email marketing messaging to develop better relationships with customers.
  • Managing and monitor marketing campaigns.
  • Transferring lead information between marketing and sales departments.
  • Automating and personalize marketing messages and content.

Marketing automation tools must be set up using workflows, triggers, programming scenarios, and other sensors to run efficiently. They’re smart enough to follow orders, just not to make the orders themselves — such as what we see in AI. Because of this, it’s imperative for marketers to be able to thoroughly analyze the data collected from these tools and implement the right solutions for better results, always improving on and adjusting commands to ensure automated systems are running as they should be. This human touch ensures your devices are working with your marketing goals at the forefront. 

Data collected through automated systems is important, as it informs future decisions when it comes to making adjustments in marketing campaigns to find the most success. This data should not be squandered or brushed aside, as it is a treasure trove of information, including but not limited to:

  • Tracking how someone first lands on your website.
  • Knowing how to auto-respond to social media direct messages.
  • Tracking how someone converts to a customer, usually via the customer journey.
  • Tracking how well visitors are engaging with forms, chatbots, or signups.
  • Allowing discounts and coupons to be offered for visitors based on browsing and spending behaviors.
  • Helping sales professionals have meaningful, fruitful conversations with prospects through collected personal data.

Marketing automation allows businesses to send relevant messages to their customers exactly when they need them. It also makes it easier to collect pertinent personal data about your customers so that you’re able to tailor those messages seamlessly. 

How Marketers Can Use Both AI and Automation to Their Advantage 

From the examples above, it’s easy to see how AI and automation are assumed to be interchangeable without knowing the nuance of their benefits. Artificial intelligence uses machines to conduct specific tasks or solve problems that otherwise would require a human. Automation uses tools to take humans out of the equation for specific, monotonous tasks and complete them on their behalf to give them more time to complete priority projects. The purpose of both automation and artificial intelligence is rooted in making human jobs more efficient. 

Promoting your products/services to an ever-growing audience and growing your brand can be quite challenging without the strategic use of AI and automation. For example, a single person or team of people would be responsible for:

  • Gathering data on thousands of individual customers.
  • Thoroughly analyzing collected data.
  • Noting patterns and consistent behaviors that influence marketing messaging.
  • Personalizing each email with names, dates, and what they’d consider to be useful content.
  • Being available for chats initiated on your website at all times.
  • Learning about each visitor’s buying patterns and browsing behaviors, and applying them to datasheets.

A human trying to do all of this as quickly as possible would surely be counterproductive. 

Data drives both AI and automation, and much of your automation strategies can be based on the data you get from artificial intelligence. This means that through automation, you can “…easily target customers through multiple channels, perform A/B tests, consistently post to social media profiles, find and nurture leads, and use analytics to learn more about potential customers.” Effectively automating these tasks is dependent on how accurate and efficient your AI tools are when it comes to learning about:

  • How your customers like to communicate.
  • What devices they’re using.
  • What they like to learn about.
  • How they like to learn (visual, hands-on, hearing).
  • What their current challenges are.
  • What social media platforms they’re on.
  • How they interact on those platforms.

Putting tasks on auto-pilot is only effective if the tasks are conducted with a complete picture of who the customer is and what they need. All marketing processes can’t be automated, but doing this makes it so you can devote more attention to creative work.

Automation tools collect and combine data, while AI systems do the work to understand it. Using automation in tandem with AI allows you to:

  • Provide a more personalized experience for your customers based on each individual’s needs.
  • Make determinations about how your audience and potential customers best interact with your website. 
  • Gather data on how to best collect and pursue leads.
  • Create the most relevant marketing messages.
  • Produce valuable social media content that builds a contextual, efficient experience.
  • Perform better and achieve substantial revenue growth.
  • Let employees focus on creative or/and strategic operations.

Here are few ways to use Artificial Intelligence to mimic human decisions and actions while simultaneously using automation to focus on streamlining repetitive tasks: 

  • Use machine learning to identify patterns about how visitors inform you of customer service issues. Then, use automation to streamline your response time. For example, if your customers primarily contact you on Instagram to resolve a problem, you can use an autoresponder for your direct messages. The message they receive depends on the criteria you’ve set for how the messages go out. A message can be triggered by a keyword like “issue” or a phrase like “who can I contact for…”
  • Use AI to learn about the most visited pages on your website. You can then install chatbots on these web pages to give visitors extra support when they need it. You can set up your chatbots to respond automatically with relevant questions that will speed up the process for when a live person is available. Chatbots can sometimes take the role of a live support person and allow them to focus on interactions with customers on platforms with more engagement. 
  • If you offer courses or virtual learning services, you can use AI tools to identify learning patterns most relevant to your target audience. You can implement smart assistants or animated teachers to walk students through your course or lesson. When the course or class is complete, you can use automation tools to send automatic emails with completion certificates or reminders about where a student left off.  

Conclusion 

Although artificial intelligence and automation have similar roots, their purposes are different. Automation can help you streamline mundane tasks, while AI can help you learn critical information through collected data and implement solutions without human intervention. Ensure that you’re using them in tandem to get the best results from your marketing efforts. 

Rukham Khan
Author

Rukham is the Content Lead at Mailmunch. He believes trust should be the basis for all marketing communications.