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Wouldn’t it be great to have a robot butler?

Until recently,  robotic personal assistants were just the stuff of movies. Then along came Siri, Alexa, and a whole other hosts of other apps that suddenly made the notion seem a lot less far-fetched.

Yet they all pale in comparison to Sophia, the world’s first robot citizen.

Created by Hanson Robotics, Sophia is one of a range of humanoid bots, whose stated purpose is to “teach, serve, entertain, and… in time come to truly understand and care about humans.” Or, in other words: a robotic butler.

Behold, the future is here:

But Sophia’s lifelike features and her (or rather, her programmers’) penchant for dark humor, hasn’t done a great deal to assuage fears of Artificial Intelligence rising up to take over the world.

Neither have creepy videos like the one above. (Although the arguably creepier scientist does make Sophia look positively charming.)

As we’ve discussed previously, this is one of the major conceptual challenges of AI. All the hype and hyperbole surrounding it makes it very hard to distinguish fact from fiction, and harder still for people to relate to AI as anything that could possibly have relevance to their lives or jobs — other than another hysterical hypothesis about how AI will take all of our jobs (it won’t).

Reality Check

In reality, however, beneath the humanesque facial expressions and cleverly programmed one-liners, Sophia’s purpose isn’t any different to less remarkable-looking technologies we use every day. Her purpose is to make life easier for people; to help us navigate our way through the various technical challenges we face in our personal and professional lives, and make us more efficient by giving us more time and energy to focus on what we really want and need to do.

If Sophia (and her even creepier “brother” Han) don’t fulfill that purpose, they’ll pretty quickly be consigned to the history books as yet another technological oddity that never quite made it to our shelves.

B2B marketing is no different (bet you wondered how I’d get that in there eventually). Marketers, like any other profession, are constantly looking for technologies that can help us be more effective at our jobs, particularly by taking care of the boring, tedious, repetitive or just plain difficult tasks we’d rather not spend our limited time on.

The problem is, the MarTech scene is so noisy and confusing that building a marketing stack that actually makes our lives simpler — rather than complicating things further — is easier said than done. In fact, a survey conducted earlier this year by the Leadspace-sponsored Marketing Technology Industry Council revealed marketers are feeling increasingly frustrated at perceived lack of ROI from their MarTech investments.

That finding spurred the Council to published a guide to building an effective marketing stack.

Here are three important highlights from this first-of-its-kind guide, to help you build a marketing stack so effective it’ll almost feel like your own personal assistant. Just less creepy:

1. Aim for automation

There are some jobs computers or machines are just better at than us humans. Coincidentally, these are also the jobs marketers hate the most.

According to the Council’s survey of nearly 300 senior-level marketing executives, most B2B marketers prefer spending their time either Developing and Launching a New Campaign (77%) or Creating and Building a New Marketing Program (70%). By contrast, the least popular marketing tasks were Developing New Campaign Workflows (16%) and Managing Prospect Data (11%).

Surprised? Of course not.

The only problem is that in order to develop and launch a (successful) new campaign or build a (successful) new marketing program, you can’t avoid actually doing the boring stuff like managing prospect data.

Fortunately, these are tasks Artificial Intelligence is literally built to do: from keeping your database fresh and accurate, to translating your mountains of data into immediately actionable intelligence.

For that reason, the Council recommends that these kinds of technologies should feature high up on any Marketing organization’s MarTech wish list.

2. There’s no choice: Marketers must become more tech-savvy

One major obstacle getting in the way of marketers effectively using technology is that we also really dislike “Learning and Managing New Technologies” — that being the third-least popular job ranked by the marketers polled.

But this case, unfortunately, there are no short-cuts — we really just need to get over it.

To quote the Council’s recommendations:

[M]arketers… need to accept that marketing today is increasingly technology-oriented, and adapt to that fact if they haven’t already. Precisely in order to avoid drowning in the more tedious aspects of their work, marketers must learn to use technology effectively. Many of the previous recommendations will certainly simplify the learning process and make it less painful, but getting to grips with technology cannot be avoided altogether.

This all applies as much to a junior marketing executive as it does to a CMO, or any other marketer in between:

First, it is crucial that every marketer, from the CMO down, educate themselves on the technologies that are relevant to their jobs, or risk getting left behind as the B2B marketing profession becomes increasingly tech-driven.

Secondly, marketing departments must focus on building a technological “muscle” within their organizations — i.e. an analytics and systems-savvy individual or group of people, with a particularly strong grasp of current technology and technological trends.

3. Think… like a marketer!

According to Council member and Integrate CMO Scott Vaughan, one of the biggest obstacles to building an effective marketing stack is that many B2B marketers are forgetting a basic rule of marketing:

“Every B2B marketer knows that the key to successful marketing lies in focusing on solutions, rather than focusing narrowly on product features,” said Vaughan. “But this approach is equally relevant for when we find ourselves at the buying end.”

Yet the Council’s survey revealed that when we’re the buyers, “marketers often get distracted by sophisticated or exciting product features. That can cause them to lose track of their fundamental business needs, and whether a specific technology — for all its bells and whistles — actually aligns with those needs.”

Buying technologies that don’t align with business goals “is worse than useless,” Vaughan warns. “It’s an unnecessary drain on your precious resources.”

It’s for this reason that the Council recommends that “B2B marketers… establish a clear and robust framework for their martech purchasing and management process. This means having a formalized process to identify where and when a new technology is required; whether it is possible to integrate a new technology; and how best to do so.

“In practice, this requires identifying the company’s strategic needs, and what result is required to satisfy those needs. Once marketers have a clear measure of success, they can gauge each technology against it.”

Notably, the Council concede that it may sometimes be legitimate for marketers to adopt new technologies purely in order to stay ahead of the curve. But even so, they caution that “even when Marketing organizations are legitimately ‘reacting’ to an emerging new technology, they should always evaluate any potential purchase by measuring it against their central strategic business needs.”

Download the free guide to learn how to build a truly valuable, reliable marketing stack:

The Modern Marketer's Guide to Building an Effective MarTech Stack

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