We have a special guest on the DesignRush Podcast today.
Our Senior Editor Vianca Meyer is joined by Isabelle Guis, an AI engineer and one of the first researchers in the field of speech recognition in the world.
In an hour-long conversation, Vianca talks to Isabelle about the path that led her from engineering to becoming the marketing chief at Brevo, a SaaS solution for relationship marketing that advertises itself as the most approachable CRM on the market.
If you are looking to understand how you should utilize generative AI to make the most out of your marketing efforts for Black Friday, you are in the right place!
Isabelle is a seasoned marketing and business professional with a remarkable career trajectory. A graduate of Harvard Business School, Isabelle has showcased her expertise across various roles, including serving as Chief Strategy Officer at Egnyte and leading roles at EMC and Big Switch Networks. Currently, as the CMO & CEO of North America at Brevo, she plays a pivotal role in driving the company's vision, harnessing the power of AI in marketing, and delivering transformative results for its clientele.
Vianca: It's evident that you're passionate about AI. Can you describe what the AI landscape looked like when you first started?
Isabelle: It was incredibly challenging back then. In 1997, I was involved in speech recognition and speaker verification, long before Siri existed. I was essentially working on what would become Siri.
We had to record numerous people in a quiet room reading dictionaries and books to collect audio samples for modeling. This extended to recording in cars, as people wanted to use speech recognition on their cell phones in various environments.
I worked on the first public phone that allowed voice commands like "call mom" or "call home." Back then, building your own database was mandatory. If I discovered a bug, there was no remote access to fix it. I had to physically drive to the office, sometimes in the middle of the night, because our tests took 24 hours to run.
The pace of work was much slower, and it could be frustrating. However, I'm thrilled about the progress made in the last few decades.
We wanted to create speaker verification systems for secure access to bank accounts back then, but achieving over 97% accuracy was challenging. Factors like voice changes due to a cold posed significant hurdles.
The computing power, databases and models we have now are far superior, opening up a realm of new possibilities.
Considering your experience from the early stages of AI to its current stage, what are the things that you find easiest to handle now in terms of using AI in marketing?
First off, AI has long been a part of the marketing tech stack, something I emphasize in my marketing tech stack classes at Santa Clara University.
The tech stack is ever-evolving, especially with AI innovations. There are over 11,000 applications out there for marketers, many of which already incorporate AI, like chatbots and analytics on e-commerce platforms.
- The most significant recent innovation is generative AI
Unlike traditional AI, which helps in identifying patterns across vast datasets, generative AI actively creates outputs similar to the inputs fed into the model. This is not just about analyzing; it's about actively generating, which opens up numerous practical applications for marketers.
The adoption rate of new technologies like ChatGPT, which gained a hundred million users in just two months, is staggering when compared to platforms like Instagram, which took two and a half years to reach that number. This rapid adoption signifies a major shift in how technology is integrated into our lives and work.
Marketers, in particular, need to constantly adapt and reinvent themselves, typically every four to five years. From the emergence of social media to account-based marketing, each new wave requires adaptation. Generative AI is the latest significant milestone. It's not just transforming marketing but also other fields like medicine.
One of the biggest challenges for marketers has been generating personalized content quickly enough to engage with various segments. Generative AI is now enabling this, making it an exciting time for marketers and the field of AI in general.
Can you tell us more about what Brevo offers, its unique value proposition, standout services and its global impact on brands?
Brevo is a customer relationship management (CRM) suite designed to cater to all sizes of businesses for their marketing needs. We focus on marketing automation, helping businesses engage with customers through campaigns across various channels like email, SMS and WhatsApp.
Our platform also supports sales teams by managing pipelines and moving deals from prospecting to closing.
- Brevo is unique in its approachability
Despite integrating sophisticated features like AI, our user interface remains simple and user-friendly, ensuring that users are not intimidated when they start using it.
- Another aspect that sets us apart is our pricing model
We charge based on the level of engagement rather than the number of contacts or customers, making our platform accessible to businesses with any budget. We offer customer support with real people, regardless of the size of the customer.
Initially, we focused on small businesses, mainly online. Now, while our platform has become more sophisticated, we've maintained our approachability and have begun attracting more enterprise customers.
With Black Friday approaching, could you share your insights on the most pivotal AI concepts or tools businesses should incorporate in their marketing strategies?
AI enables three key advancements in marketing, particularly crucial for events like Black Friday.
- First is micro-segmentation
Traditionally, segmentation has been broad – by business size, industry verticals or regions. With AI, it becomes more granular. For instance, you can target retail customers in North America who open emails on Mondays and have a specific purchasing history.
However, the complexity increases exponentially with micro-segmentation, creating a bandwidth issue for marketers who can't produce content for every small segment.
- This is where generative AI comes into play
It enables faster, more personalized content generation, allowing marketers to cater to refined segments with tailored communication.
Hyper-personalization of content at scale is another game-changer.
You don’t need a large team to write individual emails for each segment anymore. Generative AI can propose specific content based on the unique characteristics of each segment.
Also, understanding and catering to the varying preferences of customers – whether they prefer emails, WhatsApp messages, whitepapers or podcasts – is crucial. AI helps in discerning these patterns, enabling marketers to communicate the right message, through the right channel and at the right time.
The integration of AI in marketing is transforming it into a blend of art and science.
How should businesses adapt their Black Friday campaigns to make the most of AI-driven marketing solutions?
Personalized content is the key.
We're all familiar with generic Black Friday emails offering blanket discounts. However, AI enables a more tailored approach.
Imagine receiving an email that not only offers a discount but also references your past purchases and current trends. For example, it could highlight a shift from skinny jeans to wide-leg jeans, recommending products based on your size and previous choices.
Such personalized messaging greatly increases the likelihood of a customer clicking through and using a coupon, compared to the customer having to navigate a website to find something of interest.
Using AI to tailor offers to each individual, considering their past preferences and communicating over the right channel, is what I believe will make Black Friday campaigns more successful. This level of personalization was not possible before AI, and it's set to revolutionize how we approach such campaigns.
With tech giants showing impressive AI gains in their recent earnings reports, can you speculate on their marketing strategies and suggest how smaller businesses might apply similar tactics for Black Friday?
Giants like Amazon have long been using AI to optimize and leverage their extensive data sets. They remember your purchases, track your browsing, and recommend products based on your and similar customers' preferences. They'll certainly use these strategies for Black Friday, finding the right price for the right group of people.
- However, most businesses aren't equipped with such vast data
For smaller businesses or SMBs, like a local bakery or a gym chain, the approach is different. They should focus on what's special about their data – like class attendance, trainer popularity and location of a gym. It's more about personalizing their schedule and offerings based on customer preferences.
For instance, a gym could use AI to inform customers about new classes with their favorite trainers or suggest trying a different class based on their interests.
- Here, AI can help tailor the schedule and promotions
For email marketing, tools like Brevo can optimize titles and content. But remember, the differentiation lies in what you offer – the trainers, the classes, the location – rather than the email title itself.
Use AI to enhance what makes your business unique and cater to the specific needs and preferences of your customers.
Having extensive experience with AI, have you encountered any misconceptions about AI in marketing, especially in the context of Black Friday?
There are several misconceptions about AI in marketing.
It's similar to how social media was perceived a few years back. Everyone was experimenting, but not always in the most politically correct or thoughtful ways, leading to professional and personal repercussions.
With AI, the key is to understand and experiment with its impact, but with caution.
One major area to be cautious about is data ownership. There have been instances, like with Samsung, where intellectual property battles arise because what's put into systems like ChatGPT becomes public domain. It's crucial to be mindful of who owns the data you're using.
For example, using AI to optimize email marketing may not involve proprietary data, but when it comes to critical business data like schedules or trainer information, you should be more protective.
Another aspect to consider is the cost of adopting AI.
It can make life easier, but each added data point or prompt can increase costs. It's like cloud computing, which seemed cheaper initially but can end up costing more in the long run.
Use AI for what's truly relevant to your business, but also plan for potential future expenses. Be strategic and avoid becoming too dependent on AI too quickly. It's about balancing its benefits with a cautious approach to your unique business needs.