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Embracing AI: Why Marketers Need New Skills to Thrive

Still stuck with the same old marketing rituals? Learn how AI can enhance your skill set to a different level.
Embracing AI

I’ve built my career at the intersection of marketing and high tech, working in industries that focus on using technology to improve people’s lives and work — like telecommunications, networking, data management, artificial intelligence, and now digital learning. So, it hasn’t been too big a leap for me to embrace all the ways that marketing has evolved in the digital age. After all, these days every company is a technology company. Tech is at the core of every industry and every function, and marketing is no exception.

It’s not as if we must abandon tried-and-true marketing methods — they are still highly valuable — but, we must augment and enhance those efforts to drive effective programs that deliver results for our companies. For example, my fellow marketers have long used technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) to improve precision targeting, drive personalized recommendations, and predict optimal timing of seasonal promotions, among so many other things. Prior to joining Skillsoft, I served as CMO of IBM Watson, spearheading marketing for AI products and solutions. It was thrilling to watch AI redefine the customer experience and go-to-market strategies – among many other applications – for so many organizations around the globe.

And now, it may go without saying, but the most significant innovation — likely since the onset of the Internet and the advent of the iPhone — is Generative AI (GenAI). Hyperbole? Not really.

GenAI is something entirely new and, arguably, game-changing. You only need to look at today’s industry headlines to see how GenAI is transforming the way we do business, how we learn, and how we work. And yes, it will also transform how we create the best possible customer experience. In our rapidly evolving landscape, AI has evolved into an indispensable tool for marketing and GenAI is proving to be even more critical. Embracing it is no longer an option, but a necessity. As marketers, we must become adept at leveraging this exciting, ground-breaking technology if we want to move forward, deliver optimum results, and remain competitive.

Quite simply, GenAI will affect virtually every member of the workforce. In fact, a study this year by University of Pennsylvania and OpenAI predicts at least 80% of all jobs will be influenced, changed, or augmented by GenAI. All knowledge workers, including marketers, will use this technology in some way soon if they aren’t already.

GenAI has the capacity to create human-like content, such as blog posts, social media updates, scripts, artwork, video, music, and more. Conversational tools like ChatGPT, the fastest growing app in Internet history according to a UBS study, demonstrate impressive capabilities in understanding context and delivering relevant responses. For marketers, this opens up a world of opportunities to create compelling content at scale, engage with customers in real-time, and deliver personalized experiences — faster than ever before.

But, incorporating AI into marketing strategies goes beyond mere efficiency gains; it’s critical to succeeding in today’s hyper-competitive landscape. Customers have come to expect personalized experiences, and AI is the linchpin that enables marketers to cater to those individual preferences. The ability to analyze vast amounts of customer data, understand behavior patterns, and predict future preferences is a tipping point for marketers. Those who grasp the potential of AI can create precisely targeted campaigns that resonate with their audience, driving higher conversion rates and customer loyalty.

AI is also a powerful tool for continuous learning and campaign improvement. By analyzing data from campaigns, AI can identify patterns and insights that humans might overlook. Marketers can use this information to fine-tune their strategies, making them more effective over time. It’s a symbiotic relationship, with marketers harnessing AI to reach greater business outcomes.

Of course, spurred on by dire headlines, some marketers fear that AI will replace their roles or diminish the importance of their skills. On the contrary, AI should be seen as a valuable ally. By automating mundane tasks, it frees up time for marketers to focus on strategy, creativity, and building authentic connections with customers. AI supports and enhances how marketers work and learn. Despite what you may have seen in movies like WALL-E, Ex Machina, and M3GAN, AI doesn’t possess emotions, empathy, or creativity — qualities that make human marketers irreplaceable. Instead, it complements these human traits, enabling marketers to make better informed decisions, reach broader audiences, and craft even more persuasive messages. But, all of this requires a commitment to building new skills.

Because, in the race to leverage GenAI, success centers around skilling.

Marketers need to be comfortable with and fluent in GenAI. That’s why education plays such a vital role in equipping marketers with the necessary skills to thrive in this AI-driven landscape. Upskilling and reskilling initiatives must be prioritized to bridge the widening skills and talent gap. Marketing professionals should be encouraged to learn about AI, understand its applications, and develop hands-on experience with tools like ChatGPT. Relevant courses might focus on prompt crafting, potential applications, and ethics and governance. This knowledge not only enhances marketers’ value as employees, but also empowers them to contribute meaningfully to their company’s success.

The individual and the organization have an opportunity to grow together.

The right skills and training will enable marketers to integrate AI into workflows, seek insights, generate content ideas, and refine campaigns. And, because the AI industry is rapidly evolving; new tools and resources will continue to emerge. Ongoing education and training programs can keep marketers up-to-date with the latest advancements, enabling them to make the most of AI now and in the future.

Getting started is one of the best ways to build basic skills.

I recently had the opportunity to listen to Nicole Leffer, a senior marketing leader with a passion for AI. Nicole encourages marketers to open themselves to AI’s full potential, but to remember that while AI is an innovative and valuable tool, it needs a human operator to conceive an idea, give direction, set parameters, provide the intel and resources the technology needs, and then to edit, adjust, and improve. For example, if you’re enlisting GenAI to help you produce marketing content, you need to “teach” it your brand’s voice by providing samples, describe the thesis you want it to explore, and explain who the target audience is. Ask for an outline first, just as you might from a human writer. Then, work “together,” section by section until there’s output ready to review.

You can see how the human half of the equation is never far from the process.

To look at it another way, think of GenAI as the car and yourself as its driver. As Dom Toretto in The Fast and the Furious movies reminds us, “It doesn’t matter what’s under the hood. The only thing that matters is who’s behind the wheel.”

The AI revolution is undeniably impacting every facet of our lives, and that certainly includes marketing. Consequently, adapting to and embracing new technologies like GenAI is not an option; it’s a necessity. By leveraging AI, we can efficiently and effectively create highly personalized, data-driven campaigns that resonate with our audience and deliver exceptional results.

Education plays a crucial role in empowering all of us to embrace AI with confidence. Upskilling and reskilling initiatives can bridge skills gaps, ensuring we stay relevant and valuable assets to our organizations. Remember, AI is not here to replace marketers; instead, it empowers us to work smarter, make data-driven decisions, and continuously improve our strategies. By understanding and embracing AI and the skills needed to fruitfully deploy it, we unlock richer possibilities and steer our organizations toward a more prosperous future.

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Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek,  Chief Marketing and Sustainability Officer, Skillsoft

As Chief Marketing Officer, Michelle leads a global organization that uses the power of learning to drive business transformation and build a more skilled, resilient, future-fit workforce. Drawing on more than 25 years of marketing, branding, and strategy experience, Michelle serves as Skillsoft’s brand evangelist, nurturing and growing a vibrant community of lifelong learners.

Michelle is a firm believer that doing the right thing is always the right thing to do. As such, she serves a dual role as Chief Sustainability Officer, proudly overseeing Skillsoft’s commitment to environmental, social responsibility, and corporate governance. Prior to Skillsoft, Michelle served as CMO of IBM Watson, where she helped develop the first “Women Leaders in AI” program. She also served as global head of marketing for The Weather Company, an IBM Business, helping companies make better decisions with greater confidence in the face of weather. She holds a Master’s degree from Simmons University, and sits on the pro side of the Oxford comma debate.

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