Inbound Marketing Blogfor Manufacturers and Healthcare Companies
AI in B2B Marketing | Do Androids Dream of Writing for B2B?
I’ve always been fascinated by robots.
My favorites – undoubtedly – are R2-D2, and yes, even C-3P0. Cortana from Halo is pretty cool, too – we’ve waged war against the Covenant many times together. Cylons and the robot from Rocky IV are also in my top 10.
And while those droids and artificial intelligence (AI) are firmly rooted in the world of science fiction and a few clever builds at fan conventions, it seems I’m getting closer each day to living in a world where having a robot counterpart is the norm.
If you’ve done a Google search for outsourced writing services or working with a content marketing agency, undoubtedly you’ve come across news stories and ads for AI.
“Write blogs faster!” “This post was written by a robot & it’s working!”
For any company looking to gain ground on the Internet via a robust content marketing strategy, these ads are hard to ignore. Who wouldn’t want to dominate search engine rankings with a robot assistant doing all the hard work?
However, the fact is AI-generated content is a ways away from being flawless and completely effortless. In addition, it’s nowhere near being able to outright replace a writer.
What makes me say this?
I’ve experimented with AI content creation a bit.
And as a professional writer, I’m not worried about AI’s presence in B2B content marketing.
Rise of the Machines (Sort of) & a Step Back in Time
Though I couldn’t tell you the exact date, I remember the day I got a cell phone.
Fair warning: I’m about to date myself.
It was 2003. The Lord of the Rings trilogy was wrapping up in theaters and it was a breakout year for Kelly Clarkson and Justin Timberlake, respectively. I was a junior in high school and my parents were due for phone upgrades.
My father, a crime reporter at a major metro newspaper, had already long enjoyed the freedom mobile phones brought. “Phoning it in” (calling the newsroom to dictate an article) could be done comfortably from the scene and not in a payphone booth far away.
On the other hand, my mother rarely looked at her cell phone, and it found a semi-permanent home in the dark recesses of her purse.
When my parents upgraded to a matching pair of white Nokia phones with blue backlighting, their old phones were up for grabs. I had my eye on my mom’s old phone as it was in near-pristine condition – original Gameboy-esq green screen and all. I got it, preloaded with one whole hour of minutes. At best, my cell phone was only a means to reach my parents to let them know to pick me up somewhere. Beyond that, there wasn’t a whole lot the phone could do. Still, there was a sense of … stepping into something bigger, even if it was throttled by limited minutes.
I wasn’t the only teenager to find the freedom of mobile phones – many of my friends also became armed with prepaid cell phones. The luckiest of us got on a plan, making unlimited calling on nights and weekends a thing. My friend, Pat – he even got to send 20 texts a month! (And any text after that cost 10 cents).
As cell phones found their way into the pockets and purses of millions, there was still a very loud contingent of folks against this technology.
“They’ll cause cancer!” “They’ll down planes!” “Our pets will be driven crazy by their radio waves!”
Suffice it to say, times changed. The masses adopted cell phones and no docile canine ever went full attack dog after sitting next to a mobile phone. It’s become almost impossible to live without a cell phone. I’d be more surprised if you were reading this on a desktop computer.
In a certain respect, we’re seeing the same with AI content generators. The early adopters are now veteran users and artificial intelligence for content is now becoming more accessible. (Did you know the Associated Press was one of the first organizations to use AI to generate content?)
Now, more organizations are looking into AI for content generation and marketing. There’s a good chance you’ve already read AI-written content at some point today.
And while search engines were initially hesitant to welcome AI-generated content with open arms, they seem to be joining the party.
Microsoft recently updated its Bing search engine to include ChatGPT. Google isn’t too far behind, announcing it will be integrating AI features into its services – something some might argue as the search engine's de facto acceptance of AI.
AI-Generated Content: You Get What You Pay For
Like most automation, robot-written content has a few selling points that are hard to argue:
- A finished piece is produced a lot faster
- A robot can write whatever’s needed
- Aside from the occasional maintenance break, AI is ready to work 24/7 and doesn’t need company benefits
But when you get down to it, AI-produced articles are the automated phone systems of content. While they’ve become better at anticipating and responding to need, they still need a human to provide guidance – and plenty of it. Or to be more direct – you won’t be able to purchase access to an AI content generator and have fully finished pieces start churning out. It is a tool, not a full solution.
<Insert Prompt> What AI in B2B Content Marketing Can & Can’t Do
An AI that writes is no different than the Trade Federation’s battle droids in Star Wars or the drones in Spiderman: Far From Home. An AI in B2B marketing is only as good as the inputs it’s given. Even Watson struggled to answer questions on Jeopardy!
In other words, without a human in the driver’s seat, a content-producing AI won’t be able to do much. What’s more, working with an AI to create a piece isn’t a matter of telling it the topic and letting it do its thing. There is very much still a writing process.
Though technology has come a long way, we’re not at the point where it fully understands context, nuance, or intent … yet. There’s still a lot of room for error and misunderstanding. Until that day comes (which will hopefully look nothing like Judgement Day in The Terminator franchise), what we’re left with is nothing more than an artificial intelligence that’s a far cry from anything you’d see in a movie.
In my experience with AI, I’ve found:
- AI does not make a non-writer a writer – This is probably the most important point. Think of it this way, even with an expensive set of golf clubs, someone who’s never held a driver before doesn’t play a round with Tiger Woods-level skill. To that end, while you may know your way around a sentence, an AI won’t make you a seasoned wordsmith.
- AI is slow to adapt – Yes, you read that correctly. AI is almost completely dependent on human guidance and uses crowdsourcing as a mechanism to learn. It needs to “see” things thousands upon thousands of times and review scores of data before being able to make a decision in seconds. (Did you know that when you clicked on the CAPTCHA images that contained stop signs, you were helping an AI learn?)
- AI cannot write for inbound – While an AI does put blog articles in a logical format, it’s not one that’s necessarily Google-friendly or follows best practices. And unless it’s being told keywords, it’s not going to put the targeted search terms you want in a piece. It does not insert links and sometimes its information is a bit dated.
- AI’s knowledge has its limits – AI only knows what it knows. Some AI services limit the robot to only reading so much of the Internet – meaning if the AI has only ever read content up to 2019, it will never give you info from beyond that point in time.
- AI-written content requires a lot of editing – At first glance, that giant paragraph or whole section AI spits out in seconds looks great. But once you get into the weeds, there’s odd phrasing, some grammatical/mechanical errors, and wordiness.
- AI can be redundant – It’s not that AI will say the same thing the exact same way multiple times per se, but it does have some go-to phrases that it reuses often – e.g. “it is extremely important.” Those redundancies are something that can hurt your search engine rankings.
- AI does not actually know its human audience – The person you’re writing to might be an astrophysicist who enjoys a good technical piece. Or it could be an engineer at an OEM trying to solve a problem. Your AI doesn’t know that, and it won’t automatically address your audience
So what can an AI in B2B marketing and content production do?
- AI can help you get past writer’s block – For a writer, there’s nothing more frustrating and humbling than being at a loss for words. In fractions of a second, an AI can produce that word or word(s) you’re missing and give you something to work with.
- AI can do some research for you – To the crowdsourcing point above, AI can do the heavy lifting of seeking out general information and writing it fresh. For instance, if you wanted to write about what each club does in a set of golf clubs, an AI can easily do that, saving you the hassle of researching each driving implement individually.
- AI can help keep your copy in line with what else is out there – With writing for inbound, one of the main tricks of the trade is take what others have done and do it better. To be certain, that’s not saying copy & paste other’s work. Rather, it’s about looking at what’s being discussed on a topic and addressing those points to be part of the same conversation while providing more valuable insights. In AI’s scouring of the web, it does see these things and can provide some guidance in crafting a piece.
- AI saves you time – There’s no arguing this. If your prompts are on point and you come to the table with a thorough outline, AI cuts down the time it takes to write a piece. As I’ve found it, any time saved is time given back to make a piece even better.
- AI helps you keep content production moving – To the last point, with the ability to produce better content faster, posting a steady stream of content at a good cadence follows suit. Buyer beware, posting too frequently does hurt your site rankings.
- AI is another safety net against plagiarism – No one ever sits down to write an article with the intent to blatantly rip off someone else’s work. In many cases, plagiarism is unintentional. AI does parse the internet for published content and can write sentences that are truely unique. To be sure, it is not a 100% safeguard against plagiarising, but it helps.
AI in B2B Marketing: Replacement? Upgrade? … Friend?
Will AI replace content writers or the need to work with them? As I see it, not anytime soon. There’s no way to completely remove the human element needed to create compelling copy or the expertise required to identify and adapt to the way the Internet works. Pre-programmed parameters only go so far.
Still, the potentials for AI b2b lead generation and writing for b2b are exciting. Who wouldn’t be eager to try out another tool to boost an online presence and churn out better content?
For now, we’re at the very beginning of a revolution between humans and their relationship with AI – one that will *likely* take a couple decades to figure out.
But just in case – for the record, I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.
Going it Alone With AI? I’m Sorry, I’m Afraid I Can’t Let You do That
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