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AI marketing: The bottom-up approach to avoid AI swamping your content marketing

Well, we might all be out of a job soon, but Jimmy definitely isn't. Our in-house guru doubles down on what's important in the face of all the hype when it comes to using AI in your content marketing.

A photo of a person in a black suit with white shirt and a tie pulled loose away from their neck, as if to show they're dejected and they've had enough. This is confirmed by the fact they are carrying a box of possessions, which suggests they're out of a job.

In an interview that may well turn out to have been a job application for Rishi Sunak’s post Downing Street life, Elon Musk talked of the idea of a world in which AI does everything. The message from Musk was that AI will be smarter than humans and will make us all redundant.

That dystopian fun is in the future and quite where the AI takes us, who owns it and what it's programmed to tell us are all ongoing high-level debates. But, in the here-and-now, with Bard, Inflection and ChatGPT and the take-your-pick AI content creators, there’s already an almost generational battle between enthusiastic engagement with the shiny new tools and sneering criticism from those who view themselves as artisans of the written word.

AI, for the moment, remains a work in progress for those trying to generate content (and we’ve had our own little tinker). There has been the slow dawning of realisation that, by replacing a process with a completely different one, then you’re not comparing like with like. It's like comparing photography with video and then complaining that photographs don’t move as much.

And in the ensuing debate, you’d expect content creators to complain that AI isn’t as clever as them and that when someone uses ChatGPT to generate their copy (or their essays), then ‘we can spot it, you know’.

Now, this isn’t a case of Luddites raging against technology (well, only a little), just that much of this technology is in its infancy and much of it is being used for a variety of purposes, some of which will fall by the wayside. And this isn’t the space, or the author, to discuss the wider societal and technological implications of the coming AI boom.

This is more about wondering how AI affects the little world of content marketing and content creation for education.

There has been a lot of chuntering that AI will break the content model and that search optimisation will become a fool’s errand as search engines try and rank almost identical copy.

And that, of course, means that, essentially nothing has changed. The battle to avoid duplicate copy remains and the role of the content on your site and in your social media remains as it always was - to make you look different and more attractive than everyone else.

For the moment, AI-generated copy makes you look the same - it lacks editorial tone, character, nuance and knowledge of your audience. Above all, AI content lacks audience-led structure and it lacks content strategy planning.

Large chunks of content marketing (when done badly) are the regulation 400-plus words that make a page visible to the Google search bots and little else, and much of the use of AI in marketing falls into that trap.

‘AI-generated content’ still, to most minds, means 'words', but search engine results pages are showing greater varieties of content, so telling your message through video, images or infographics, for example, can give greater visibility. And breaking up a page with those extra elements makes the information more memorable too. People skim-read and the eye is drawn to the colourful bits. In human terms, it’s called ‘being more interesting’. But it also works for algorithms.

And don’t forget the ‘calls to action’ on each page too. Give people a way to do something, especially to move them on to have a conversation with you. Talking of which:

Get in touch to discuss how we can help you plan your content.

But AI can have a purpose, in its bland generality. Do you remember AIDA? The ‘old school’ manner of getting your customers aware of what you do; get them interested in your products and services; create a desire for those products and get them to take the action to make a purchase.

The AIDA acronym represents a sales funnel - awareness at the top and action at the bottom. In short, TOFU and BOFU - the sort of gibberish that marketing types say, thinking it shortens the valuable time taken to say ‘top of the funnel’ and ‘bottom of the funnel’.

Top of the funnel stuff is competitive and difficult. It’s a relatively large number of people making more generalised searches about the service you sell. Search strings like ‘learn English in London’. A lot of people asking and a lot of people answering. It’s not necessarily advisable, but it is feasible, that AI generated content can, as a blunter instrument, perform a function here of creating that TOFU content that alerts potential customers that you’re there and you do what they want.

The task at the bottom of the funnel is to persuade that you do it better.,

Your customers are a few short steps away from making a buying decision and are comparing just one or two places for that final choice. And that’s when the content needs to be specific, bespoke, nuanced and human because it is answering very particular questions:

Does this organisation do what I need it to do? Does it do it for people like me? Is it better at that service? Does it do the exact things I need it to do? Is it better value?

This content is very targeted. AI isn’t going to know your company in the right amount of detail (yet), so it’s down to you to create the copy that answers those questions:

Case studies: That shows that you, and only you can deliver for your target market. And look, here’s some real people to prove it.

Testimonials: Not that dissimilar to case studies, but created by the users of your services, rather than the company that provides them. They can be text on your site, but also video generated on the social profiles of your customers. Getting your students to post about you on TikTok, for example, can be invaluable (as well as embedded on your website pages).

Use cases: Do you provide very particular versions of your service? If you teach Business English or English for use in particular industries, then highlight that. Create content (and case studies) around the transformational service you can provide.

Remote equivalents: Don’t let all that pandemic work go to waste. Delivery of your product remotely through online lessons and asynchronous can both grab the attention of a different cohort and demonstrate the quality and efficacy of your courses in the real world.

Pricing page: Some people think that getting people to call to discuss pricing puts fewer people off. Others feel that showing the price gives clarity. You can make your choice (and ‘pricing from’ is not a bad compromise), but remember that at this BOFU stage, people need the information to make a decision.

Your own voice and your own content is what makes you different in the sales process, so the energy-effeciency of auto-generated copy can only take you so far. You’ll need, if anything, to put more thought into your content marketing, as you use it as a precision tool to reel those customers in.

If you want to talk more, then get in touch.