AI… Artificial Intelligence may have a greater impact on business, communication and interaction than social media has today, according to Marketing Expert Jeffrey Whitney.

We ask him three critical questions for how marketers should be thinking about AI in the new year.

What impact do you think AI will have on marketing strategy in 2018?

JW: The debate is over. AI is already having a huge impact on marketing. Amazon, the company that wants to eat everyone’s lunch is driving a third of its business from an AI-powered function.

But, it’s not just large corporations that can benefit, AI can play a critical role in everything from building target lists for start-ups, to driving account based marketing, to keeping up with cross-channel buyer preference and next-best-action.

AI has the potential to revolutionize customer engagement, customer service, and marketing automation. It can enhance the way we communication with new, current, and inactive customers, and automate admin functions in the backend. In other words, it can help make marketing and marketing operations far more efficient and effective.

What kinds of skills and insight/intelligence will marketing professionals need in the future to work with AI?

JW: What marketing professionals need is a basic understanding of AI. AI systems shouldn’t require you to become a mathematician or a data scientist. Just like we don’t need to be a mechanical engineer to use cars with AI system, marketing professionals will be able to focus on the results not the process.

AI can have a far greater impact on marketing than even social media.

How should a marketing department get started with AI?

JW: In 2018, marketing departments should be using, testing, or at least strategizing for AI. Immediately, look for tools that solve real business problems, now. I have a small start-up client that’s using an AI tool to build its target list. Another client uses it to pull together all customer interactions across channels to better understanding them in real-time (rather than waiting 2-3 months for the IT group to analyze the data). A third is looking at AI tools to help with analyzing their account-based marketing targets.   These are just a few examples and none of these clients have massive IT resources or particular strengths in AI.

Then longer term, as you better understand AI, look for ways that can dramatically change your marketing paradigm.