LSA17 Insights: Automation and AI is the future of SMB digital marketing

Let’s address something that is always on everyone's mind - what will the future bring for SMBs? 


In this article, I will dig more into the growing trends in digital marketing for SMBs based on the interesting conversations going on during LSA17 this February, where our very own Eric Owen talked about automation and artificial intelligence (AI) on stage.

Discussing automation and artificial intelligence 

One thing I had been looking forward to at LSA17 was to hear the panel discussion between some industry veterans, including our North American CEO - Eric Owen. The panelists discussed the growing trends and technology developments that they believe will shape the digital marketing future for SMBs. The panel consisted of:

  • Eric Owen - CEO, North America at Mono Solutions
  • Andrea Kayal - VP of Marketing at Signpost
  • Thomas Lang - CMO and Co-Founder at TIMIFY
  • Jay Bean - Founder CEO of Freshlime

More specifically, the hot topics were especially automation and artificial intelligence, and how these technologies will affect advertiser acquisition and retention.


The panel discussed the advances in machine learning and automation disrupting industries, and concluded that computing was not ready to displace marketers working with SMBs in the immediate future. Although, as more and more companies gain an interest in the technology and start investing in it, it is important for marketers to start considering what automation and AI will mean for their industry. It is understandable why many marketers may fear automation and see it as a threat, but instead they should see it as an opportunity.

Automation technology offers great solutions to one of the biggest problems in our industry - the ability to efficiency produce quality online products at scale for SMBs that allows service providers to keep a high margin while offering great prices to SMBs.


Let’s take an example of an automation technology that is helping SMBs and their service providers: Mono One-Click Sites was awarded a SIINDA Industry Excellence Award for its innovative technology - which is basically taking pre-structured data from a partner’s CRM or a content provider, like uberall or Yext, and with that automatically produce quality one-page websites for SMBs in just seconds. This technology was created with automation in mind and help our resellers exceed in efficiency and offering high-quality service at a great price to their SMB customers.


“Automation is only as good as the data”

While Eric Owen was on stage, he made a very important point: “Automation and AI can only be as good as your data - garbage in, garbage out”. What you should make of this is, that if you don’t have correct quality data, investing in this technology is useless. If your company is considering moving into the world of automation and AI, you should first look inwards: How do you currently gather and maintain/update your data? How will you do it in the future? How do you intend to improve your data collection and adapt it to the changes in the market?When you believe that you are efficiently gathering and maintaining your data, you can start thinking about incorporating automation in your workflows. 


Robots (AI) will NOT take over the industry

Technology will continue to improve and at some point in the not so distant future, AI may severely disrupt the local marketing space. There will always be a need for individuals who can support, execute, and run campaigns. During the LSA17 panel discussion, Andrea Kayle passionately argued that automation is not the answer to everything and the panel seemed to agree. New technologies are alway exciting and getting attention for their potential for companies, but at this moment, human intervention is still very much needed to ensure quality output of campaigns and marketing activities. 


AI and automation will help service providers with quality data

So, the conclusion is that at the moment, AI can be a great support to existing processes, but it cannot stand alone. Automation will continue to improve and streamline business processes and help for companies that are developing their go to market strategies. My prediction is that AI and automation will ultimately be a boon for local service providers if they embrace it, as it can help them make better decision and lower costs, allowing them higher margins and the ability to address lower spend market segments. However, that said a human touch is still necessary to ensure quality services and support, while differentiating your services from the DIY space. So should SMB marketing providers fear the evolving technologies? Maybe - if they fail to realize the importance of gathering and maintaining data while respecting the technology changes in the industry. But should they embrace the new technologies and go with the flow, chances are they will see more opportunities for effectively streamlining operations, sales and marketing.


Want to learn more?

For more information, you can also read Matt Matergia’s article on the LSA insider “LSA17: Automation, AI & Back Office Integration” or the article by Wesley Young on Search Engine Land “Top 10 insights on local marketing at LSA17”.

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