First of all, apologies for going back to a prediction piece! We’re already almost halfway through 2017 – and it’s around this sort of time of the year that I like to go back and take a look at what’s been predicted, and what’s come to be. I ended up reading this piece by Peter Isaacson on how artificial intelligence will massively impact the ABM world, and it got me thinking – well, will it?
It’s particularly the heading “Next year, AI will bring hyper-personalized ABM to scale” which got to me. It’s an odd relationship that ABM and technology have, from my experience. There’s an inherent contradiction in attempting to do Account-Based Marketing at scale: the very quality that these campaigns are trying to capture is the individual, 1:1 approach that has worked since time immemorial. But there’s surely an issue in trying to speak as effectively to 1,000 companies at once (don’t even get me started on trying to speak to a company rather than an individual!).
I think my primary issue is that it takes one simple misstep – or sometimes even just a step that’s taken the wrong way – for the whole thing to come crashing down. Imagine for example a company that personalises its homepage dependent on the visitor’s vertical (well, the company the visitor works for!). There might be an issue with the IP recognition software and the visitor might be met with a banner targeted at the automobile industry; the only problem is, this visitor is trying to sell aeroplanes… If I’m that user – boom, I’m put off immediately. Alternatively, I’ve seen homepages that greet the visitor like so: “Welcome to our site, Microsoft!”. That’s a little… creepy? Even if that user is actually from Microsoft – won’t they be thinking more ‘how do they know’ rather than ‘ah, finally a personalised experience just for me!’.
This notion of “hyper-personalisation” skirts around the issue, and it’s connected to the Uncanny Valley – there’s something about the tiny differences from an actual 1:1 experience that upsets the whole balance of the process. The algorithm can never be ‘real’ – it’s either too perfect, or not perfect enough. At the end of the day, ABM needs to be personal – not personalised.
I think that the one thing that takes the most manpower and the most time is something that can never be done at scale, and that can never be turned over to AI. The technology can help us get there, sure, but actually making the sale – starting and maintaining a relationship with another individual – is something that simply has to be done human-to-human.
At Pulse, we combine cutting-edge tech with the personal touch. For every platform we use (and believe many, I’ve used a lot!), there’s that personal element – setting up the technology, sure, but also understanding it, and being able to make something out of it. That’s where the real secret is; however good the technology, as ever, it’s only as good as the humans using it. Once you’ve identified a target account, great! Don’t lose sight of what makes that account unique, and even more so don’t forget that you’re selling to individuals. A platform might suggest targeting Audi.com with automobile-related banners. But you’re not targeting the company, you’re targeting people associated with that company. And they all have their own needs, wants and interests. Going back to the uncanny valley idea – getting close but not quite close enough to ‘personalisation’ may hinder rather than help, as it makes that lack of a human element all the more glaring.
- Take it easy: don’t let AI whisk you away without establishing the proper foundations first.
- Take it slow: introduce elements of AI into some areas your marketing strategy where you feel it would benefit – but not just for the sake of it!
- Take it with a pinch of salt: Whilst AI could hold some great potential for your marketing, don’t lose sight of the personal touch and human investment that clients respond to.