Artificial intelligence (AI) helps machines do cognitive tasks typically reserved for humans. It has the potential to enable marketers to create content at scale and distribute the right content at the right time to better-segmented prospects. But, it’s not always obvious how marketers, executives and entrepreneurs can take advantage of AI.

Artificial intelligence is a broad term that encompasses many different technologies and processes, such as machine learning, deep learning, image recognition and natural language processing. With so many terms, plus the pace at which AI is advancing, it can be a bit overwhelming, but forward-thinking businesses are using AI to gain a serious competitive advantage in their markets.

I began heavily researching AI in 2012, shortly after IBM Watson demonstrated the power of cognitive computing by winning on Jeopardy! In addition to reading everything I could find on the topic, we experimented with building an AI-powered marketing strategy engine that would recommend actions and campaigns based on probabilities of success.

Then, in October 2016, I decided to shift our focus from software to storytelling, launching the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute. To gather the best information, we went straight to the source, interviewing more than a dozen founders, CEOs and marketing executives to date at companies that offer marketing AI solutions.

What we learned about the future of cognitive content hints at an exciting – and transformative – future for content marketers and brands that use content to attract, nurture and close business.

Personalized Content At Scale

In our interviews, one key benefit of AI for content marketers became clear: using artificial intelligence to personalize content marketing at scale.

“The most prolific content marketers have lots of content,” Adam Weinroth, chief marketing officer at OneSpot, a machine learning content distribution platform, told us. “Consumers won’t spend their time and attention with content that isn’t relevant to their interests, because they have infinite choice and complete control.”

A number of AI solutions use advanced machine learning to predict which content will perform best with an audience and suggest additional content pieces that may encourage a conversion. These predictions and recommendations can be executed at scale, leaving human marketers to do what they do best: drive strategy and performance at a high-level.

“AI in marketing helps better target messages so that the right information reaches the right person at the right time,” says Aki Balogh, co-founder and chief product officer at MarketMuse, an AI-powered content optimization platform. “It’s a necessity because we’re all drowning in noise.”

Automatic Content Creation In Seconds

Several companies we interviewed use natural language generation (NLG) to tell data-driven stories far faster than humans ever could. NLG parses data using human-designed algorithms and turns that data into readable copy.

Says Adam Long, director of product management at Automated Insights, which sells Wordsmith, an NLG system: “Artificial intelligence is being used to create product descriptions for ecommerce firms and property listings for real estate agencies. These firms are able to replace expensive freelancers (who have questionable quality) with high-quality, automated content. It’s so cost-effective, their in-house marketers can use [it] to write more descriptions than they could afford to with freelancers.”

NLG makes it possible for marketers to automatically create content from their data. This opens up the possibility of writing thousands of stories in minutes, attracting exponentially more traffic, leads and sales for the same or fewer resources than is possible with an all-human team.

Deeper Insights That Humans Don’t See

Artificial intelligence isn’t just making content creation and targeting easier; it’s providing deeper insights into how content marketing fits into a brand’s larger marketing efforts. Tools exist to extract patterns from your marketing data, then detail which marketing actions work and which don’t.

“By analyzing the vast amount of data that is now available to marketers, combining it with other data that they typically don’t have access to and applying machine learning, AI can help marketers understand how their campaigns and actions work like never before,” says Guillaume Decugis, CEO and co-founder of Scoop.it, a content publishing platform that uses AI.

Artificial intelligence systems offer unprecedented insight into campaigns, both content and otherwise, delivering findings that human marketers just don’t see — or have the time to unearth.

Limitations Of Content Marketing AI

However, as we learned in our discussions, implementing these tools isn’t always easy or fast. The AI tools out there for content marketers are diverse and offer varying levels of complexity.

Most people we talked to recommended starting small with AI and setting clear goals for what you’d like to achieve. Or Shani, CEO and founder at Adgorithms, an autonomous marketing platform, advises: “For larger organizations that want to explore a holistic solution that solves bigger problems, rather than bolting on yet another point solution to their already complex tech stack, they can start and test small — maybe one campaign, in one region, on one channel. And then, over time, they can expand to all regions, all channels and all campaigns.”

But don’t get intimidated, despite the complexity of terminology or the tech involved.

“AI doesn’t have to be expensive or scary,” says André König, co-founder at Opentopic, which uses machine learning to personalize marketing efforts. “There are many specialized AI vendors for sentiment analysis, NLP, image recognition, etc. that make their technology available as an affordable SaaS product.”

Join Paul for his presentation Cognitive Content Marketing: The Path To A More (Artificially) Intelligent Future at Intelligent Content Conference, March 28-30 2017; where he also joins the panel discussion on The Future Of Content.