Machine Learning and Marketing — An Introduction

Wendy Kelly
Mar 23, 2016

Machine Learning. If you haven't heard this term yet, you will soon. If you have heard it and you're not a data nerd, you're probably a bit curious about it.

Marketing -Machine -Learning

Machine learning is not new. In 1959, Arthur Samuel defined it as the "field of study that gives computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed." Arthur Samuel pioneered artificial intelligence and machine learning and was unofficially one of the oldest programmers until his death in 1990.

Content for the People

If you have read anything I've written before, you know I am a fan of well-researched and well-written personas. They're a great way to ensure that the content on your site "fits" the people you want to reach. Going through the process, even in a really "quick and dirty" way can remind you of who you what people you should be focusing on and targeting. And that person is not you!

But once you get past that basic level, personas are pretty clunky. Especially when you can look toward the horizon and see the possibilities involved with machine learning.

The leap to a small or medium sized business owner being able to use machine learning solutions to offer content perfectly tailored to the visitors is the next step.

From Spell Checkers to Content Optimization

Currently, machine learning works in finance, health care, real estate and, of course, on Facebook.

Spell checkers use machine learning to tailor suggestions to you. Levelling up a bit, one of my favourite content optimization programs out there, Atomic Reach, is machine learning for your content. In fact, they currently offer a highly targeted solution for creating content that targets your audience. I'm impressed.

Back to Facebook. Did you know that Facebook can predict your future purchases and decisions better than a work colleague after analyzing just 10 likes? After 150 likes, Facebook is better than a relative. After 300, Facebook knows you better than your life partner. The next obvious question is, "When does Facebook know me better than I know myself?" The answer will be coming soon, I'm sure.

Of course, you don't have access to the amount of data Facebook does. Nor do you have access to the number and genius level of engineers that Facebook does. 

But this knowledge is converging, and we are nearing a point where access to this level of granularity and ability to predict our customer's next decisions and ultimately purchases is within reach. 

The Future is Now

One thing I have noticed again and again in this field is that predictions always fall short. The future is now, and solutions get offered up almost faster than we can realize we've got a problem.

My suggestion: Start readying yourself and your brand for this new wave of big data and even bigger solutions that come from intelligently using that data.

Will we still need humans? Of course. The data and the intelligent analysis of said data need us to conjure that rare set of gemstones: Attention, Attraction and Desire. According to futurist Dietmar Dahmen, that is the holy grail, and the one thing only humans can do well. 

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