Some fear AI will unravel society (Terminator, anyone?). Others are convinced it will cure all that ails the modern world (Star Trek: Next Generation?). However, for those of us who don’t sleep in tinfoil hats or chase pies in the sky, where’s the true value of generative AI today?
Time is money… or is it?
Content marketers have demonstrated the power of copy to raise brand awareness, generate demand, and bring in leads. In professional services, this content also helps establish the bona fides and trustworthiness of individual experts.
Yet, the demand for more and better content often outpaces the resources available to create it. The glint of time-saving tech is what makes AI so seductive. Boosting production efficiency and unlocking capacity for activation and distribution could increase the overall effectiveness of a piece of content.
But in practice, relying on faceless or generic AI content risks losing clients who are paying for a human expert, not an AI product. And no one wants that.
Keep your eye on the prize
Generative AI will certainly have an impact in marketing, but it’s real value, like most technologies, will be its application as part of a broader strategy. Knowing where it fits is the real challenge. Our proposed starting point (unsurprising given our jobs) is where content and tech intersect.
Conducting a deep, qualitative audit into your content is necessary, but so is looking beyond the data and vanity metrics. Establishing a tight list of commercial, not editorial, KPIs allows you to gauge the true bottom-line effectiveness of a marketing campaign.
Creating a compelling piece of content is only part of the equation (SHOCK: probably not the most important part). What else contributed to hitting those KPIs? How was that investment activated? As we ask our consultants all the time: What did you do with that piece of content that we spent hours or even days agonizing over? Did you share with your network and engage in a discussion of it on LinkedIn? Did you send it to all the clients or prospects that you think could be interested? Did you pick up the phone to talk to someone about it? Did you schedule a meeting?
Identifying a formula for commercial success gives you a much stronger basis for effective measurement. It will also enable you to understand the crucial role your client-facing teams play in activating campaigns, typically with much greater commercial outcomes than more centralized approaches.
People buy from people
Think back to the last time you had to mash buttons to get through a robotic customer service menu. Did it make you want to buy something from that company? Probably not. Professional services is similar. It’s not just about providing a service; it is also about selling a good experience, engendering trust, and providing reassurance. These qualities are deeply human, and any content you create should not only reflect this, but also demonstrate how the people associated with it embody these characteristics too.
Hasty adoption of AI can erase individuality and personality—think any chatbot you’ve interacted with lately. This often leads to commercial consequences in a sector where clients are deeply concerned with expertise, track record, and, increasingly, the values of a particular adviser. This makes maintaining a human touch a crucial component in professional services marketing efforts.
Finding the right path to efficiency
With the AI hype still churning, we marketers are facing, or in some cases being presented with, a critical decision to make. On one hand, we have the promise of better operational effectiveness, more capacity in the team, and faster delivery. On the other hand, we need to invest in building visibility through compelling stories conveyed in a personal and authentic way.
Having a clear sense of your marketing technology stack will help you identify gaps in your toolkit that could be filled to improve content effectiveness. A thorough review will also help you eliminate what’s not working (or not working as well as it could), freeing resources for more effective investments and even experimentation. Additionally, this process will give you a greater sense of how everything fits together to deliver against and measure your KPIs. Ultimately, you’ll be able to scale without impacting crucial functions while avoiding unwanted distraction or wasted investments.
From there, the key to finding the right tool, AI or otherwise, is about experimentation. Experiment freely and with an open mind but evaluate the results with a keen eye to your goals, your time, and the quality of the results.
Always leave time to add a human touch where it counts
This is a turning point for marketers in professional services. We have a chance to demonstrate a profound understanding of our organizations, commercial goals, and the means to achieve them. Now is the time for conversations about maximizing marketing effectiveness and the role marketing plays in our organization’s commercial success.
These conversations should look to balance efficiency with an authentic human touch in your marketing efforts. Properly implemented, AI can certainly drive efficiency, free up capacity, and save time. But AI is not particularly adept at personal branding which plays a vital role in nurturing valuable relationships and highlighting the expertise that they’re ultimately paying for. No AI can replace your unique strengths, empathize with your audience, build your network, or drive change in your organization.
In the age of AI, your greatest strength is being you.
Disclaimer: we developed the first draft of this article using ChatGPT. It required significant editing.