At the heart of all great businesses are domain experts who are excellent at execution. Regardless of whether the business remains highly analog (increasingly rare in today’s marketplace) or is the latest emerging digital start-up domain expertise and execution wins over technology disruption alone.
There’s an old joke about two guys walking through the woods. All of a sudden they see a bear, and the bear starts moving towards them. The first guy sits down, pulls a pair of running shoes out of his backpack and slides them on. The second guy says, “What are you doing? You’re not going to outrun that bear.” And the first guy says, “I don’t have to outrun that bear. I just have to outrun you.”
In high stakes competitive chess, there’s a gaming style called “Freestyle” which is just as “ditch-the-rulebook” as it sounds. The best players are called “centaurs” and although these particular centaurs aren’t half-human/half-horse, their makeup runs along the same logic.
Since the beginning of the year, I’ve had 147 conversations with B2B marketing leaders. These aren’t sales calls. I’m not pitching anything. They’re conversations about the issues that are top of mind for these professionals. I guide these discussions with questions around areas we’re interested in, but the main goal is to get a sense of the market. It turns out that personalization is a top of mind issue.
“Come on. All this AI stuff, around marketing and sales, that’s all just hype, right? That’s not a real thing that matters. Maybe it’ll matter someday. But it doesn’t yet matter today.”
That’s a question I got recently, and it got Steve Zakur and I wondering where we are on the hype curve. Is it really just all hype? Maybe not — platform companies are snapping up data scientists the way early internet companies snapped up web developers.
Why is it that with all the marketing technology vendors claiming their products are fortified with AI pixie dust, business results aren’t better? The same goes for internal IT projects. Everyone wants their process to be better–and artificial intelligence, machine learning, and text analytics can provide that something special. And yet, it doesn’t feel like something special is occurring. At least not in the way that lots of consumer products are getting smarter and better.
Many people have only recently become acquainted with the concept of Artificial Intelligence (AI), but the term was first coined 55 years ago this month at the Dartmouth conference. The name AI has never sat well with me, partly because calling computers “artificial” seems strange. (I haven’t heard Google referred to as “artificial search” to contrast it with the good old-fashioned searching that human beings do when poring over books in the library.)
Digital transformation is all around us–no company can escape. Most companies recognize this, and focus on managing the change in an effective way. But then there are others that think they can avoid digital.
Since January I’ve had dozens of discussions with marketing professionals as part of a product roadmap listening tour. My goal is to hear what’s top of mind for thought leaders, understand the pain points, and figure out how to align our product and our marketing messages with what I’m hearing. While most of the conversation focused around our new product thesis: effective visitor journeys and customer experience powered by behavior-based personalized content recommendation, people couldn’t help but talk about search failure.