I have a little bit of a rant for you today.
I have been doing a lot of work with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, as I am sure you are all aware of.
If not here’s a link to my Medium Page
Anyway one of the things that is really interesting about the marketing in the AI world is that IT ALL SOUNDS THE SAME!
This is something I have noticed in very technical or academic types of businesses. These sorts of businesses get very concerned with sounding scholarly or academic and end up sounding out of touch.
One of the big reasons for this is something called “The Curse Of Knowledge.”
The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias which states that the more you know about a subject the more likely you are to explain it in a way that assumes a high level understanding in the listener.
So for example an AI company might do text analysis and text analysis is kind of like the swiss army knife of Artificial Intelligence it works for a variety of industries from law to human resources which means there are a lot of companies that this AI firm could do business with.
Not only that, but the guy(or girl though it’s rare) who founded the company did his/her thesis paper at some super fancy tech school on text analysis. They have been working on this stuff since he/she was literally a teenager. We’re talking 15-20 years of daily obsessive focus on text analysis. So when he’s thinking about marketing, he REALLY wants to show off all of the high level cutting edge functions of this technology.
And he/she forgets that their audience is not nearly as advanced.
If you look at the AI marketing that is currently being done, the voice is academic, and technical.
It’s writing that is designed for academia not sales.
So, how can AI companies find their voice?
I have a few suggestions:
- Don’t let your engineers or founders create marketing materials. One of the most frustrating things about working with AI companies in 2018 is that they have marketing departments that are staffed with engineers and technical writers not marketers. There is a strange distrust and quite frankly and obvious lack of respect for the marketing profession at most AI companies as if somehow marketing is a “soft” science as opposed to the more rigourous computer and data science needed for AI. Right now having technical content is not hurting these companies but it will VERY soon. 85% of executives surveyed by the Harvard Business Review predicted that AI is going to change their companies by 2021. This means that in order to grow AI companies are going to need to stop focusing on Fortune 1000 companies and start focusing on SMBs who are not going to have anyone capable of doing some of the equations in these white papers.
- Find the fun. One of the best examples of AI marketing done right is Soundhound which showcases it’s unique Houndify voice enabled platform in everything from cars to break dancing robots at CES in 2018. Instead of focusing on the science behind their platform, Soundhound put the focus on all of the fun and entertaining ways their platform could be used. People gravitate to content that is enjoyable and fun. As Bomani Jones once said ” No one can regulate how much fun you have at work.” AI companies should find the fun both in the office and in their marketing.
- Identify and Write To Your Evangelists. One of the interesting things about technology and media is that they need evangelists to spread. I personally learned about Spotify, Uber, S-Town, and Serial from friends and media personalities I trust. When it comes to technology because the learning curve is usually so steep the early focus has to be on finding and creating evangelists both in the press and in the business world. Quick question, right now who is the most trusted writer in artificial intelligence? Chances are you couldn’t think of one because there really isn’t one. Furthermore there isn’t even a group of gurus who you can trust like there is in marketing or other industries. The group of experts are a bunch of data science PHDs who have trouble explaining these concepts without using words that the audience has to look up. Right now when you google AI talks or videos there’s an 89.9% chance you’re going to get a PHD up on stage. And who do academics talk speak to? Other academics. At some point the cycle has to be broken and companies have to identify who the AI evangelists are in the media and who knows how to market AI to SMBs and other companies that didn’t even realize they were the ideal audience.
- Pick a niche and produce the best AI content in it. Right now another problem for AI companies is that their products can be used in too many different ways which means that the same company might have a white paper on using AI in sports and a video on using AI in medicine. Right now there is an incredible opportunity to own parts of the AI world. Companies need to focus their content and the voice in their writing and videos on being the best company at a certain niche whether that’s being the best drug discovery AI firm or being the AI firm that handles legal briefs. Once you define this niche it helps you to define what your content is actually about and frame things appropriately.
I’ve tried really hard to avoid saying HIRE CONTENT PROFESSIONALS because I understand that right now the online sales market for AI is not really there and all sales are made at the C level face to face or through long arduous government contracts. But the point stands. Before these companies know it, the time to sell to SMBs and focus on widespread adoption will be here and the companies that take their time in finding their voice, dominating a niche, and continue to let academics create marketing materials the further behind they will fall.