Inbound marketing is about providing unique, standalone value via content to your prospects. It's a "show, don't-tell" methodology: I will show you that my brand is empathetic, helpful, and trustworthy, rather than simply telling you it is.
But what about a world in which people don't turn to your brand anymore to find content … They turn to AI?
The marketing industry is changing rapidly as a result of AI, and with any change, it's normal to question the status quo: Will the traditional inbound marketing playbook continue to triumph in a post-AI world?
Inbound marketing isn't going anywhere, but it is changing as a result of AI. Here, let's dive into some changes marketers’ can expect to see when it comes to inbound marketing and AI over the next few years.
How Inbound Marketing Will Change as a Result of AI
1. AI will transform the content creation process.
In the short-term, HubSpot Creative Director Matthew Watkins believes AI will decrease the quality of content we see across the web and social channels.
As he puts it, "AI has made it easier to create the absolute worst type of content. It hasn't changed much about creating really good content that matters and improves people's lives. Can creators create faster with AI tools? Sure, but truly valuable content still requires a human to extract an insight. Creators still need a great idea to make AI work for them."
Watkins adds, "Unfortunately, AI will fill up the internet (more than it already is) with bland, empty platitudes, images, and video. Finding the good stuff will get harder before it gets easier."
When you consider all major technological shifts, you'll see this same pattern occur. In the early days of social media, for instance, people were largely posting large piles of unedited photos to their Facebook accounts. Nowadays, people have become much savvier at creating high-quality content because it’s the only way to stand out on social.
While we'll absolutely see a decrease in content value short-term, it will inevitably boomerang back to high-quality content in the long run. As the quantity of content increases online, quality will become an increasingly critical aspect of your strategy if you want to stand out in a post-AI world.
Additionally, a marketing team of one will have an easier time competing against major enterprise teams with the help of AI.
As Principal Editorial Lead Ben Harmanus puts it, "AI tools empower people to take an idea to 'experience’ in a short time. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It helps to iterate faster and test again as 'testing' isn’t as expensive as it used to be."
He continues, "It's now easier for a single person to outrun a corporate Marketing department, because that person can take an idea to publication in no time. It still needs a person that can enter a smart prompt, a person that understands how important brand consistency is, a person that can differentiate between good and bad."
This is one of the major shifts we'll see as a result of AI: marketing will become a more level playing field. You won’t need enterprise-level marketing budgets to compete. AI will become a tool any marketer can use to create stronger content.
Harmanus believes that AI will have the same impact on content creation that the cloud CRM had on spreadsheet contact management — in other words, it will change virtually everything.
2. AI will drastically change user expectations when it comes to newsletters.
Right now, email personalization is largely limited to token personalization, like the "Hey, Caroline" I see at the beginning of my emails.
But that will change drastically as a result of AI.
To learn how AI will impact newsletter creation, I spoke with rasa.io Chief Innovation Officer, Paul Christmann. rasa.io is a tool that enables companies to automatically pull relevant articles from across the web to include in their email newsletters.
A process which only works with the help of AI.
As Christmann told me, "We've got AI that tries to find other content that is accessible on the web, and is relevant to both the sender and the recipient. And that's where AI truly shines: When it can create newsletters that are tailored to each individual based on what we know about them."
He adds, "If we're scouring the web to find strong content for our recipients, how do we comb through 500 piles of junk to find the good ones to really spend your time in? And then, within that content pool, how do we find the selection that is right for each individual reader?"
Imagine a world in which each newsletter has been curated with your interests, values, and content preferences in-mind. Similar to a social media algorithm that becomes smarter with time, these newsletters will hand-deliver the content that resonates most with you.
This is a powerful opportunity for a major revamp when it comes to your newsletter strategy. In the future, users will expect this personalization, so email marketers will want to prepare by testing how AI can help them now.
Christmann points out that there's also currently a challenge to mass personalization: Namely, that you can’t edit each individual email before it goes out.
As he puts it, "If I've got an audience of a hundred thousand people, I'm not going to read a hundred thousand of these emails in proofread. So it still leaves me in this weird blast method."
Over time, Christmann believes this challenge will be solved with AI. He told me, "AI will help me tailor those messages over time, and ensure it has my voice, my tone, etc. There will be ways AI is going to continue to enhance the creation of newsletters."
3. AI will shift how marketers' analyze data.
Beyond content creation, AI will revolutionize data analytics across marketing teams.
For instance, Chris Devona, HubSpot's Senior Paid Media Manager, currently leverages ChatGPT to format his ad campaigns.
He says, "I have a working prototype that allows me to submit a brief I created into ChatGPT's code interpreter. ChatGPT then formats the brief into a CSV file that I can download and then upload into Google Ads to bulk-create entire campaigns or make edits easily. This saves hours of manual formatting."
Imagine some of the more manual tasks you do throughout the day as a marketer. Which ones could be potentially automated using AI?
As Devona told me, "I’m also working through a workflow that will allow AI to 'analyze' week-over-week data and produce insights to cut down on time needed to log into the platform and form them myself."
Devona told me, "I think when AI is initially brought into the ring the first thought is creation, but using it as an assistant can potentially bring greater value."
In the long-run, entire marketing teams will adopt AI-driven data analysis strategies to bypass the current messy and ineffective processes of data collection and analysis.
AI Will Fundamentally Transform Inbound Marketing … But The Foundation Will Remain the Same
There's no doubt that AI will drastically alter how inbound marketing works on a step-by-step basis.
In the next few years, we'll see AI transform how marketers create content, analyze data, and connect with their audiences.
As Christmann puts it, "AI is going to fundamentally transform inbound marketing. It's going to transform everything we do. It will make us think differently about problems that we took for granted. Jobs will be different, and it will be uncomfortable for a lot of people, but it's ultimately a job enabler, and a job creator. But the game's still the same."
One thing AI won't change? The purpose behind inbound marketing. At its core, inbound marketing is about forming connections with your prospects through valuable content.
The how's, what's, and where's for content creation will drastically change as a result of AI. But the 'why' will remain the same.