A new decade is officially upon us, bringing with it anticipated growth in artificial intelligence (AI), with the market projected to reach $200 billion by 2026, according to a Fortune Business Insights report. 

But while AI remains a “sexy” topic with significant potential to impact markets, like increasing operational efficiency in manufacturing or enhancing customer service in retail, AI marketers are facing an uphill battle to demonstrate the validity of their solutions as we enter the new decade. 

Why? Many companies are still undecided on the need for AI technology adoption, and those that are on board, are still grappling with the complexities of implementation…especially at enterprise scale. In fact, many need more tangible information in order to evaluate the opportunities for their business and justify the cost, while others will want to wait and see how the road gets paved by early adopters. 

So, as the AI market continues to mature, the burden of proof will only get higher. AI companies will no longer be able to get away with the “sexiness” of their tech with surface-level descriptors and demos and no customer use cases or case studies to be found. Simply put – as AI enters the mainstream – potential customers and reporters are demanding objective reasons to believe, which will increasingly rest on marketing’s shoulders. 

Here are three strategies you can deploy to start getting real with your AI marketing efforts in 2020, and beyond: 

1. Customer-centric storytelling (with or without customers)

Across the industry, customer success stories are essential for demonstrating credibility and are critical to fueling the marketing and sales machine. A lack of customer use cases is one of the biggest gaps we continue to see with AI software companies rushing to market.

Lacking referenceable customer examples? Below are a few best-practice processes and creative approaches to customer-centric storytelling:

  • Build marketing agreements into the sales process – the most effective customer success programs are often those that are ironed out as part of the original customer deal. That way, your sales team isn’t immediately following up on contract signature with a “favor” as marketing and communication participation is baked into the deal. 
  • Comfy with a little risk? Fill your news pipeline with anticipated customer momentum, communicating “installations in progress at X customer sites across X markets, expected to be up and running by X date…” And if your customers are recognizable by their descriptor alone, reference them indirectly with phrases like “one of the largest e-commerce retailers in the U.S.” or “same-day grocery delivery tech company,” etc. The key here is to be confident enough about what’s in progress that you are comfortable being bullish with creative communication strategies. 
  • Proof points as customer story substitutes – gather a list of stats that help paint a picture of your AI solutions’ business impact. Metaphors and comparisons are helpful tools to bring data points to life, like “AI solution X can process data that would fill the entire ocean in X seconds/minutes/hours.” Positioning statements like this can be used across marketing and sales materials as well as arm your PR team’s pitches, describing functionality and capabilities in a more creative and compelling way. 

2. Educate potential buyers on why AI, and why now (your solution implied…)

Knowing the common barriers to AI adoption – buyers need justification and the complexities of integration – nurturing customers down your sales funnel will most definitely require education on why now is the right time for AI implementation. 

Gated content marketing pieces can be an effective tool to offer thought leadership from an educational perspective while generating leads for the sales funnel. Consider developing a playbook designed for decision-makers to help inform why AI, why now for their business and market, and the types of solutions they should consider for their unique business needs – making sure these non-promotional recommendations are largely supported by your company’s AI solution.

Then put your resources behind amplifying that content across channels with paid and earned tactics, and watch right-fit leads roll in the door. 

3. Integration as a key differentiator

One of AI’s largest hurdles for adoption is in the complexity of integration into existing cloud infrastructure and/or with legacy on-premise systems. Does your company boast differentiating capabilities when it comes to systems integration, and how you partner with companies to successfully implement and train people to use the AI model? If so, you should be shouting it from the rooftops. 

These are just a few thought-starters on how you as tech marketers can help bring your company’s solutions to life as AI experiences the growing pains of market maturation. 

Need help devising your AI marketing strategies in 2020? Get in touch to learn more.

Blair Ruth leads the ARPR cloud practice. She loves nothing more than building strategic communications plans to help clients tell their unique story to audiences who matter.

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