Episode 343:

Whether we realize it or not, artificial intelligence (AI) has already impacted countless aspects of our everyday lives. And as the technology we rely on continues to adapt and change, those changes will inevitably shape the future of our businesses, our industry, and our society. As agency owners, it’s our job to stay ahead of those changes — even if the thought of an AI-driven agency is, understandably, a little intimidating.

Our guest on this episode of Build a Better Agency, Paul Roetzer, is not only an expert on all things AI, but he’s also someone who is dedicated to helping agency owners and other industry professionals. Paul teaches those agency owners and industry professionals how to pilot and scale AI technology so they can use it to drive efficiency, growth, and creativity for their business.

During our enlightening conversation, Paul demystifies the fascinating realities of artificial intelligence by walking us through what it really is, how AI agency tools can help make us better at our jobs, and why shaping the future of marketing starts with understanding how to use AI platforms, programs, and services responsibly.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

leveraging artificial intelligence

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How artificial intelligence will — and already is — shaping the future of agency tools
  • Why AI is NOT here to take your job
  • Where you’re already seeing AI in your everyday life, and where you WILL see it in marketing in the marketing world
  • What AI technology can do to help you make your agency smarter right now
  • Why Paul says that you don’t need to go shopping for AI tools — and what to do instead
  • How AI agency tools can be used to drive efficiency and growth for your business
  • What Paul believes a “Next Gen” agency looks like — and how to become one
“The vast majority of AI is going to be assistive in your life. It’s going to help you be better at your job.” @paulroetzer Click To Tweet “The marketing industry and marketing technology just aren’t that advanced yet. AI’s not ubiquitous in every piece of software we buy — but it will be.” @paulroetzer Click To Tweet “Once you understand what the technology is capable of at a high level, then you can start looking at solving problems very differently.” @paulroetzer Click To Tweet “We want to help people realize that there are more intelligent and smarter ways to do what we do every day.” @paulroetzer Click To Tweet “It’s more a mindset of accepting where we’re going as a business, as an industry, and as a society so that we can get there first.” @paulroetzer Click To Tweet

Ways to contact Paul Roetzer:

Resources:

Speaker 1:

It doesn’t matter what kind of an agency you run, traditional, digital, media buying, Web Dev, PR, whatever your focus, you still need to run a profitable business. The Build a Better Agency Podcast presented by White Label IQ will show you how to make more money and keep more of what you made. Let us help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable, and if you want down the road, sellable. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody, Drew McLellan here from Agency Management Institute back with another episode of Build a Better Agency. Welcome back if you’re a regular listener, and if this is your first episode, welcome to the future of marketing. That’s what we’re going to talk about today. Before I tell you a little bit about our guest and introduce him, let me remind all of you that we have two different AE Bootcamps that we teach every year. And we have the advanced AE Bootcamp for people who are four or five years into their career or more. And we get a lot of 20, 25, 30 year seasoned veterans at these workshops. So doesn’t have to be early in the career. I think we still have plenty to offer, even folks who’ve done it for a long time with the tools and tips that we have, and I think a new perspective on the job itself.

Anyway, that workshop is in Chicago. It is June 16th and 17th. And so you can register for that or the AE Bootcamp. So the one, I was just talking about the advanced AE Bootcamp, that really requires people to have four or five years of AE experience under their belt. And then the regular AE Bootcamp, that’s for people who are just getting into the business, been in the business for a couple years, project managers, account coordinators. Junior AE, somebody’s got less than four or five years of experience. That is August 1st and 2nd, also in Chicago. And you can register for both at the agencymanagementinstitute.com website. So if you get to the website, look for the navigation tab that says how we help. When you pull down there, you’re going to see workshops and you’ll see both the advanced and the regular AE bootcamp there.

I will tell you that we always have offered a money-back guarantee if you come to the workshop and it wasn’t useful, you didn’t learn anything, it didn’t serve your purpose. All you have to do is ask for your money back and we’re happy to give it to you. I’ve never had to do it, but we are happy to do it if you would like us to. And again, June 16th and 17th in Chicago for the advanced AE Bootcamp, August 1st and 2nd for the entry level AE Bootcamp.

All right. So let me tell you a little bit about our guest. He is a repeat guest. He’s been on the show two or three times, and always comes with such a generous spirit, willingness, a desire to teach. And so Paul Roetzer is one of my favorite human beings and certainly one of my favorite podcast guests. So Paul, until recently owned an agency in Cleveland and many of you know him from writing the book, The Marketing Agency Blueprint and The Marketing Performance Blueprint.

Paul’s got a brand new book out. A couple years ago, probably three or four years ago, he started the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute and also the conference MAICON, Marketing Artificial Intelligence Conference. It is one of my favorite conferences. It is brilliant. And I went thinking I was going to be intimidated because AI is so ever-changing and we’re all still learning about it, but actually I didn’t, I felt welcomed and encouraged and inspired to dabble in it even more.

So Paul and a guy named Mike Kaput have put out a new book that launches officially at the end of June, but you can pre-order it now on Amazon or your favorite bookstore called Marketing Artificial Intelligence, AI, Marketing, and the Future of Business. And I was lucky enough to read a preview copy and be able to leave a comment on the book jacket.

And I got to tell you, the book is spectacular. It’s like a guidebook, just walks you through all of the different ways that we as agency folks can and should be playing with AI. And so it’s a fascinating read, but it’s a fast read. And I think it’s like an action-packed book in terms of getting you to actually do something, which I love. So without any further ado, I just want to introduce you to Paul, welcome him back to the show and dig into the content of the book. All right, let’s do it. Paul, welcome back to the podcast. Thanks for joining us again.

Paul:

Always fun to be here. I don’t know, it’s been a few months, at least since we did this, but I’m really looking forward to the conversation as always.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I think it’s been about a year. I think it was right before last year’s summit.

Paul:

That summit, your event feels to me like it was so recent, because I was actually talking to Jay Bearer just yesterday, and I was like, “We just saw each other at Drew’s event?” And he goes, “Yeah, that was a year ago.” I’m like, “Oh my God.”

Drew McLellan:

That wasn’t really a year ago. It was August.

Paul:

Okay. Oh, it’s all right. So yeah, it doesn’t feel too long.

Drew McLellan:

No, no. In some ways it feels like it was yesterday in other days. As we’re gearing up for the 2022 edition, it feels like, “Oh my God, we just did this yesterday. Why do we do it again for?” Here we are. So you’ve got a new book coming out this week. So tell everybody a little bit about that.

Paul:

Yeah. It is Marketing Artificial Intelligence, AI, Marketing, and the Future of Business. And I co-wrote it with our chief content officer Mike Kaput who’s been with me for 12 years or something. We were together at the agency and then he came over and moved full time at the Marketing AI Institute. So he and I have been at this since 2016, writing blog posts doing talks. We’ve published probably 900 articles about artificial intelligence since 2016.

And so really this book was something I started on 2018, tried to write this story and just couldn’t, we knew where AI had been and we thought we knew where it was going. And in 2016, 17 we realized we don’t know the middle part. We don’t know how to actually tell people to get started, where to go, which vendors to use. We didn’t know the actionable part yet. And so we really had to step back for a few years and just grind and research and write and talk to vendors. And that’s really what the book is, a culmination of all that research, all the writing, all the demos and trials and everything we’ve done in trying to make this very actionable guide for people that want to pilot and scale AI.

Drew McLellan:

So I had the good fortune of reading the book already. And gosh, I learned so much from it, but it certainly is structured in a very specific way. So talk to us a little bit about how you structured it and why you structured it that way?

Paul:

Yeah. Our research has told us that the average marketer and certainly the agency owner, agency professional, really is it a base level at best of understanding what AI is? So it was very important to me to not retell the AI story. It’s been told very well. The history of AI has been told very well in a number of books. But I wanted to tell it in a way that made it make sense to marketers and agency professionals, where they realize the significance of what’s happening.

So the book starts off with the science of making machines smart, and it tells this broad picture story of how the major players like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, how they have been working on AI for decades. And it lays the groundwork like these tools, these companies that integral to, especially Google to what we do as marketers and search, just organic search on its own and paid that these companies have believed AI was going to change everything for 20 years, and they’ve had these stops and starts.

I tell this story a little bit of Microsoft with language technology, they’ve been working on this stuff, and it finally around 2012 became possible to commercialize and build products around the things that had largely been theorized in academics for decades. And so I wanted people to realize AI isn’t a new thing, but we didn’t want to repeat the other stories. So we wove it through the stories of those three major companies and then showed what their AI units look like and how many thousands of people they have working on AI at these companies, how many pre-trained models they have. So the basic premise was it is already here. The major companies that are driving the economy, driving our industry, driving business, they have believed this for a really long time and now it’s coming to us-

Drew McLellan:

Invested millions.

Paul:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Paul:

Yeah. So then it goes into language, vision. Prediction is the category. So understand big picture what these things are. Then we teach a little bit about how to buy the tech, but then the whole middle part of the book, we break into 10 categories of marketing from advertising and analytics to social media and email marketing and advertising. And each chapter is structured very specifically to introduce like, “Okay, here’s AI for advertising. Here is a sample case study. Here are sample technologies. Here are sample use cases. Here’s how you can get started.”

So if you’re an advertiser or if that’s mainly what your agency does is advertising, you can read the first four chapters, get a really broad macro level understanding of AI and then you can just dive in and pick the middle chapters of like I do communications and advertises. I’m going to focus on those two. And then the end of the book is more, what does it actually mean to you? How do you apply this to your career? How do you get a head start? How do you differentiate your business based on it?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. As I was reading it, I was taking notes and a lot of my notes were, I felt more confident about experimentation after each chapter, was like, “Oh, okay, now I get what this does. I have potential partners to experiment with. And I now actually know the questions I should ask or the things I should see if we can do.” I think the book empowers people, as you say, everybody’s at this baseline, it empowers people to begin to experiment without having to guess where to go or what to say or do or what to expect. So I think it is a field guide of experimentation, I think.

Paul:

Yeah. And that was-

Drew McLellan:

That felt to me anyway.

Paul:

Yeah. And that’s by design because you do, once you break down the barrier of, “Oh, okay, this isn’t sci-fi, it’s not going to automate away all of our jobs. It’s actually just a practical technology.” And the thing we always tell people it’s just smarter tech. If your agency already does email marketing and you already do advertising and you already do social media management, you just need to be buying technology that has AI built into it, that makes you better at your job every day, that tech that itself learns and evolves. So when a company that you’re using introduces 10 new features, your agency doesn’t sit around not using those features because no one on your team’s been trained to do it yet. What if the software just gets smarter and continually new makes you better at your job?

And so that’s really what we teach people. And once it’s like, “Oh, okay, fine. I’m not scared of smarter technology. Tech’s always getting better. Now, what do I do?” Then it’s like you got to find something the trial. And I always tell people like, “I can sit here all day and explain to you that it’s not that scary. It’s not that hard,” but until you go test a GPT-3 tool and realize like, “Oh, it’s just assisting me in my copyright. This isn’t going to take my job as a copywriter. It’s just recommending some creative to me. That’s cool. It said it better, I hadn’t thought about saying it that way.”

That’s really what the vast majority of AI is going to be, is assistive in your life. It’s just going to help you be better at your job. And then it’s just like test a few tools and you start to realize like, “Oh, this isn’t really that big of a deal. It’s actually is just smarter technology. This is cool.” But you need that on-ramp for people. And so many people avoid taking that on-ramp because the topic itself just seems so abstract and overwhelming.

Drew McLellan:

It’s interesting as I was reading I was thinking, we almost do some of the tech a disservice by labeling it with AI because that makes it scarier. As opposed to someone saying, “Well, go to Grammarly and you plug in your text and it tells you where you need commas.” That seems super practical and easy and… Well, there’s not a person on the other end suggesting where there are commas and things like that. But for some reason, the umbrella term AI, I think is intimidating still to a lot of people.

Paul:

It is. And that’s, we try real hard to break down those barriers. Again, you had a great example, Grammarly, auto.ai. People do Zoom and then they get the automatic transcription. You don’t stop and think like, “Oh, thank God for natural language processing and generation that it just was able to take speech and turn it into text.” But there’s all these underlying functions, well, I’ll often say your life is AI assisted and your marketing will be too. And what I mean by that is Netflix recommends shows and movies, Google Maps recommends destinations or routes to get you to your destination faster. Gmail finishes your sentences by predicting your next word. It’s everywhere in your consumer life. Every time you get personalized promotions and stuff, you’re seeing it all the time.

The marketing industry, marketing technology just isn’t that advanced yet. It’s not ubiquitous and every piece of software we buy, but it will be. Five, seven years from now, you’re not going to be buying marketing technology that isn’t infused with AI. But right now you have to seek it out and you got to find the tech that actually is more advanced. Because we also say all AI isn’t created equal, just because that vendor buying a content strategy tool and one of them says they use machine learning for X, Y, and Z, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s actually that much better than what you’re already using. So AI isn’t like, “Oh, okay, it’s got AI good.” There’s lots of different levels of AI and how advanced it might be.

Drew McLellan:

So I think part of it too is the industry and the tools are evolving as we begin to experiment and involved. So I suppose it’s a little different than walking into a mature industry or a mature offering, there’s experimentation on both sides, right? There’s still experiments. You were saying to me before we hit the record button hundreds of these companies are cropping up all the time and there’s a lot of new technology and a lot of new players in the space.

So everybody’s experimenting all together, which probably also makes it a feel a little more… When you say use Google, everyone goes, “Oh, I got that.” Right? We know what it is. It’s established, it’s mature. Great. But some of these other tools, I think, for some folks it’s like, “Well, are they even going to be around in a year,” et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Paul:

Yeah. What we always tell people is, “You don’t need to go looking for AI tools. You don’t need AI.” What you do, and there’s basically two ways we teach people to adopt and from your agency. And again, I owned an agency for 16 years. I sold it last year, but the way I would look at it as an agency is the fastest path is to make a list of all the things your team does. So let’s say that 80% of your revenue comes from advertising, social media and email marketing. I’ll just make up categories. I would break them into those three categories. And then I would itemize all the tactical things we do. So for advertising, we develop creative, we test creative, we manage ad spend, we develop performance or points, whatever it is, just get a list of use cases.

Then I would put how many hours a month do you spend doing each of those things and how much money are you spending on the tech to do those things? And what you’re doing is you’re building a prioritization of where could AI potentially help me the most? And you’re trying to find use case say, “Okay, we’re spending 120 hours a month developing performance reports for our 30 clients about ad spend. And it’s all human, all manual development. And it’s being done by junior associates, doing what they’re doing.” That’s a use case. So it’s AI for performance reports. That’s what you need AI for. You don’t need AI. You need AI to do a thing you already do more efficiently.

Drew McLellan:

Yep. Yeah. It seems so simple when you say it that way, but I think you’re right. I think people are still floundering around trying to figure out how to use it. So I know one of the things that you did was you actually used AI to write the book. So can you talk a little bit about what use cases you identified and how you went about finding the tools and how that all worked out?

Paul:

Yeah. It’s a cool story that demonstrates for everyone where we’re really at with AI. We started development of the book last March. We started working on the idea, building the outline, starting to work on the manuscript and the research. And so I had this grand vision. I was going to redefine how book writing was done. We were going to put AI into everything. And I have this sandbox of all the things I wanted to use AI for. So one practical example was I wanted to use AI to write the summaries at the end of each chapter. So feed it the 9,000 words from the chapter and have the AI write a summary of it. And I’m not saying pick 10 excerpts like verbatim. I wanted it to write a summary, that tech didn’t exist.

So when we tried to do it, this content summarization, it’s called abstractive content summarization to be specific, didn’t exist, that where we could buy it off the shelf and do it. You had to pre-train on 10,000 models, 10,000 examples to create a model to do this thing. So I was like, “Oh, okay, well, I guess we’re not doing that.” We thought about having a synthetic version of me do the audiobook. You can just do Google Wave. People aren’t familiar, Google has Google Wave technology where if you invest couple weeks, you can actually train a synthetic version of your own voice and then you just feed a text and it’ll read it, and it sounds exactly like you reading it. So we toyed with that, we weren’t allowed. The book-

Drew McLellan:

What do you mean you weren’t allowed?

Paul:

The audio book industry isn’t a fan of the idea of voice actors being replaced by synthetic voices. So we couldn’t do it. I don’t think we could license the audio version of the book that way. So we just couldn’t do it. Now, we may experiment with it. We’re still debating on taking excerpt from the book and training a Google Wave model and actually doing just a demonstrate the technology. So there was a bunch of areas where I wanted to do, we couldn’t, but I will tell you where we did do it.

So to start, we’ve published about 900 articles on the institute blog. We’ve probably done about 40 or so webinars. I’ve been on dozens of podcasts. We’ve done dozens of podcasts. We have all of this audio, video and actual written text, combined hundreds of thousands of words. So the starting point was anything that we had done in audio or video that wasn’t previously transcribed, transcribed that, turn the speech into text, that is an AI application. So whether use auto.ai or Descript is another tool we would use, you could use a Google or Amazon, AWS, but we took every spoken word and turned it into transcribed content. Then we were able to actually look at that content and start building out the brief. And so we took chapter by chapter, dumped all this transcribed content into it. So something that could have taken weeks, we did in a couple days. And all of a sudden to write a 60,000 word manuscript, we had 200,000 words already there and you almost… It’s like the sculptor where you start carving [crosstalk 00:19:25].

So that was a starting point. Another would be research briefs if we had a topic that we were writing about that we hadn’t previously written about, you could use a market news or a phrase, a tool like that and develop a brief. And then rather than us Google searching 15 different times and copying and pasting links, whatever, just put a topic into a research brief generator and it would develop it, recommend what questions to ask and answer, things like that. So same kind of tools we would do used to develop our content for the site, for the institute, we used as the starting point for the book. And it saved us probably dozens or hundreds of hours off the hold.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So one of the interesting things I think is that, and I’m reminder to all of us is that this is an immature technology, it’s been around for a while, but there’s still a lot still being developed. You probably know more about this topic than just about anybody, even you were still discovering what you could and couldn’t do.

Paul:

Yeah. All the time. So the way we explain this is once you understand what the technology is capable of at a high level, then you can look at problems very differently. So in the case of the book, we were almost doing more problem identification like, “Hey, how do we do this thing? We have to create this thing in four months. We have to write these 60,000 words and do all this.” It was like, “How do we do that differently than we previously would?” And it wasn’t existing use cases. It was like, “Well, let’s reimagine how to efficiently create a really high quality book.” And so I think that’s where we’re at in the industry, is we don’t have enough people who know what to look for, to understand what’s possible.

And that’s our hope for this book, is we can just create more marketers, agency professionals, business leaders who understand what the technology is capable of and who almost challenge vendors to create these smarter solutions. There are some very established marketing technology companies that I would consider significantly behind the curve of building smarter technology within their platforms. The opposite of that would be an Adobe. Adobe in 2019, I watched a keynote on product features they were running out, they had 75 to 100 AI powered features built right into the platform. Three years ago.

So there are some platform companies that have seen this coming and have invested billions of dollars to build these capabilities, to make products smarter. So all of a sudden, when you’re doing graphic design work, it’s already got these built in filters and it can already do these amazing generative things with the creative. And you don’t even think about it, because it’s just been there for three years. But a lot of companies don’t and so agencies have to work hard to find the right vendors to work with.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and that’s why you created MAICON, right? That is the whole idea of grooming and growing up marketing professionals on both sides of the fence, both on the brand side and the agency side, to be smarter about being part of the pioneering effort to create this new technology, to test this new technology, to put it into use. So talk a little bit about the conference, because it’s coming up in a couple months.

Paul:

Yeah. It’s August 3rd to the 5th. In 2019 was the first one. We had 300 people from 12 countries. I don’t think we’re going to have 12 countries represented this year, but who knows. But yeah, that’s the whole idea, the tagline for the conference is more intelligent, more human. What we want to do is help people realize that there are more intelligent, there are smarter ways to do what you do every day that drive efficiency and drive growth for your business. But at the same time, we want people to do them in a responsible way that’s good for the industry and good for society, because similar to once you know what it’s capable of, you also realize the bad it can do. And there are bad actors and there will be bad actors with AI, an example everyone’s probably from it, but now is deep fake videos.

You can take my voice. You can take this interview and someone who knows what they’re doing could train a deep fake of me saying whatever they want me to say. And the average person would not be able to tell that it wasn’t actually me. That is a readily accessible technology that you can get open source code to build. It’s being used right now in Ukraine. There was a deep fake made of Zelenskyy, saying things he didn’t say. It’s going to be used in politics. Next political cycles are going to be a train wreck because deep fake technology is going to be embedded with everything. And once it spreads on social, doesn’t matter if it happened or not. So you have Facebook and Google, they have teams dedicated to building AI to find AI.

Drew McLellan:

To detect, right?

Paul:

Yeah. To detect the that’s a deep they can get it off of the social media before it spreads. So there is a war behind the scenes happening of misinformation, disinformation, deep fakes, and it’s all AI. It’s AI created and it’s AI monitored. And so this stuff can go really bad. And so our conference is we’re trying to bring the people together who want to be the pioneers who want to not only understand it and apply it, but to be the ones that ensure that we use it to the best of our ability to enhance what humans are capable of, not replace them, to create more trust for brands, not break trust down, and to just ensure that it’s used for good, because it can do amazing things in society and in the industry but it can also have the opposite effect.

Drew McLellan:

So I was at the 2019 conference and it was fantastic. Now we’re at 2022, we’ve had a little pandemic in the middle. What can people expect at the conference? And by the way, it’s in beautiful Cleveland, correct?

Paul:

Yeah. It’s at the convent center in Cleveland by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame overlooking the lake. A lot of people get here and think its an ocean, it’s so funny. People don’t realize Cleveland [crosstalk 00:25:09]. Big, beautiful lake. So yeah. It’s great. So it’ll have a main stage, we’ll have four breakout tracks with planning, production, promotion, personalization, performance, these five Ps we’ve created and content that fits within those if you’re looking to improve in those areas.

There’ll be 38 sessions, 50 plus speakers, five interactive workshops, including the NexGen Agency workshop. So there’ll be optional day one where you can come in and for a three or four hour workshop learn how to build a NextGen Agency. So NextGen now is the theme this year. It’s like you can be this, we have a NexGen Agency, NexGen writer, NexGen designer, NextGen leader, and then responsibly eye workshop. It’s going to be amazing. I know you experienced last year just to be back in person, be back with our community is just going to be phenomenal. I can’t wait.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. Well, and I think one of the things that I thought in 2019 and I know will happen in 2022 too, is I think it’s a little intimidating to go to a conference where you are admittedly a neophyte in the topic, but everybody was at that point and everybody was very comfortable talking at whatever level you were at. And you just walked away feeling so much informed and smarter about what was possible. So you walk in a little anxious and you walk out excited to experiment and try things. And so I think for everybody who’s listening, who’s like, “Mm, I don’t know enough about this to go to a conference about it. I don’t want to be exposed to somebody who’s not very current or far along.”

That was the vast majority of people there. And so it was actually very comfortable to admit that, “Oh, I don’t know very much about that yet.” And have people who were willing at the exhibit booths and the speakers, everybody was great about being super accessible and comfortable having those conversations. So for those of you listening, if you haven’t thought about going, this is one of the handful of conferences that I would say every agency owner or leader should be at, because we’ve got to understand this stuff. Our clients are going to be asking about it and this is a really comfortable place to learn more about it.

Paul:

I appreciate that. We do try hard. It is designed for a non-technical audience and it is very much catering to the beginner level because we know that’s where the vast majority of people are. So it is trying to create that, we have a lot of AI in action focused stuff. We talk with the sponsors, you have to show them the techno, don’t sell it, educate them on what it is and how it’s different. So there’s a big focus on yeah, making this approach as possible for everyone.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. All right. I want to take a quick break, but then I want to pick up the thread of this NexGen Agency. And I want to talk a little bit about how way back in the day when you started your agency, how you really leveraged technology and what we should be thinking about in the future. So let’s take a quick break and then we’ll come back and talk about that.

Hey, sorry to interrupt. But I wanted to make sure that you are thinking about how to connect with your clients by figuring out what they love and maybe a few things that they’re not so crazy about with your agency. So at AMI, one of the things we offer our client satisfaction surveys, we do both quantitative and qualitative. So an online survey, but also interviews with some of your key clients. And then we come back to you with trends, recommendations, what they love, what they don’t love, lots of insights around how you can create an even tighter relationship with your clients.

So if you have interest in that, you can go under the how we help tab on the AMI website, and very bottom choice on the how we help tab is the client satisfaction surveys. You can read more about it. But whether you have us do it or you do it yourself or you hire somebody else, it is really critical that you be talking to your clients about what they love and what they wish was different or better. So do not miss the opportunity to tighten your relationship with your client, whether we help you or not. All right?

All right. Let’s get back to the show. All right. I am back with Paul, and we are talking all things, AI and agencies. So tell everybody who maybe is not familiar with your story, the origin of your agency and how technology played a big part in that and translate that for us now to today and how AI can play a part in all of that. And then let’s define what this NexGen agency looks like and is all about.

Paul:

Yeah. So I started PR 2020 in November of 2005, which ended up almost paralleling, if that’s a word, paralleling. That sounds weird.

Drew McLellan:

I think it is.

Paul:

Running in parallel to the founding of HubSpot. So they founded HubSpot. I believe it was summer of ’06, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. And I became aware of HubSpot in 2007. So all this happened over a two year period. Now keep in mind in 2007, September, the iPhone is invented. Social media is emerging as a dominant new channel.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. That sounds insane, doesn’t it? When you say that it’s like that wasn’t that long ago and it feels like the iPhones and things like that have been around forever.

Paul:

Yeah. When I do talks to college students, I’ll try and put this in context of like, “No, I started an agency before mobile marketing was really a thing and apps and all of this stuff.”

Drew McLellan:

They must think you’re so old.

Paul:

Google was five years old when I started. It’s just, yeah.

Drew McLellan:

And this is actually a valid point. We forget about how quickly technology advances.

Paul:

Absolutely.

Drew McLellan:

And so again, if we’re a neophyte today in AI, that’s okay. But we can’t stay in that space because this technology is going to advance like Google did and like mobile marketing and iPhones, in a blink it’s going to become mainstream and we’ve got to be there.

Paul:

Yep. Yeah. That’s in the introduction of the book, it actually lays that out. I give 15 examples of tech that you’re just so used to. And then it says all of that was created in the last 10 years. Now imagine that level of innovation every 12 months or every six months or two weeks or whatever it is, that’s what AI is doing. It’s accelerating how quick the tech can change and get better.

So yeah. So 2007, I discovered HubSpot, the iPhone comes out, facebook is now a publicly available social media platform. Twitter, I think was created in 2007, if I’m not mistaken or right around that time. So all of this is happening. And so I’m running an agency I’m like, “Whoa, I didn’t learn of this stuff in college. I didn’t do any of this stuff with the five years I was at another agency.”

So HubSpot became our way to follow along because they were doing an incredible job of teaching, building their academy and sharing what was going on. And so I wanted access to their education more than anything. So in 2008 we actually realized the value to resell HubSpot licenses before they had a partner program. We started building service packages, specifically designed for HubSpot customers that became the catalyst for what eventually became HubSpot’s partner program years later. And today is probably, I don’t know, six, 7,000 agencies worldwide of HubSpot partners. I don’t know how many it is. But that was really it for us. That led to me writing the Marketing Agency Blueprint in 2011, which Brian Halligan wrote the forward for. And that was where we told the story of the founding of the HubSpot partner program with Pete Caputa.

So that book became a catalyst for HubSpot building their program and it became a catalyst for our agency, but it happened also be the same time that IBM Watson won on Jeopardy, defeated Brad Rudder and Ken Jennings. And so I write this book How to Build an Agency like, “Let’s just do these 10 things I outline in the book and we can build this mammoth agency.” And then I started changing my focus like, “Well, what is that AI thing? How does that work? How could that play into solving some big problems we’re trying to solve with the agency?” And so I started spending a good portion of my time researching artificial intelligence and trying to comprehend what it was, how to apply it, wrote my second book in ’14, which was more written for marketers and entrepreneurs than it was for agencies.

And in that book, we started telling the story of AI and this idea of this intelligence engine where AI could help us build strategy and budget allocation and stuff. And then that led to the launch of my speaking around AI and really my own focus. And I started spending less time working on the agency of that day like how do we grow today and how do we do what we’ve been doing? And I started working on, what does the agency of the future look like? And when AI is readily available, how will it change everything for us and how do we get there first and then help other people get there? And that led to the creation of the institute and eventually me selling the agency and doing what we’re doing today.

Drew McLellan:

And so for you, what made you think, “You know what? I should partner. I want to build my agency on the back of this platform and this.” What was the thought process around that? Because I think for a lot of agencies, they wouldn’t have immediately gone there.

Paul:

Yeah. I actually wrote a blog post probably around 2013. It was before HubSpot had their IPO in 2014. And I think the title was Why We Bet on HubSpot’s Six Years Ago and Why You Should Now. And I remember it became this viral thing within HubSpot, it got passed everywhere, became this rallying cry. But my whole point was, I believed in the people. At the end of the day there’s going to be at least thousands of vendors and especially CRM, hundreds. So I had gotten to know Brian and Dharmesh, I had gotten to know many of the other leaders in those early days, you had Mark Roberge, leading sales and Volpe leading marketing, just amazing people.

And I believed that they believed what they were doing mattered. And so there was a lot of fundamental problems with the technology in the early days, but they were aware of that and they listened and they put a lot of processes to take feedback in and to continually evolve and make the product better and to make the company better.

And they put a lot of investment in people and culture, and I spent a lot of time around them in those early days. And so I became very comfortable with like, “Hey, if I build my agency around this company, I don’t think we’re going to get screwed in yet. I think it’s a good bet to make.” And so that’s as an agency and you’re looking at all these dozens or hundreds of AI vendors popping up, how do you make those bets? And I think you could probably follow a similar blueprint, but the trick is AI is built to do very narrow things. You don’t really have AI platforms that solve a lot of problems. You only trained to do subject line writing or ads, AI has to be built to do very specific things.

So there are a lot of AI companies right now that are features that will be features of bigger platforms. And so that’s the one hard part right now, is making bets on companies that there’s a pretty decent chance will be acquired within 18 to 24 months, if not for their products for their people. Because there aren’t that many… Still there aren’t that many people capable of building AI products. And a lot of them get swallowed up by the eight to 10 biggest companies in the world for AI, which are Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Baidu, Nvidia, Tesla. They just absorb these people, and they’ll pay anything to buy the talent. So that’s what worries me about betting on companies now is they’re not platform companies, so they’re harder to make bets on.

Drew McLellan:

Right. So you’re not going to bet on one, right now you’re going to have multiple partners-

Paul:

Most likely. Yeah. And you got to be careful. As a giving agency anecdote paid media was not something we were really good at. So we found a product that used AI to assess the paid campaigns that were running. And it actually built recommendations that our people would then look at the recommendation, that makes a ton of sense. Let’s do that. But the AI was doing all the work. So we were building services around that product. They just sunset the self-service version and now they’re trying to sell you consulting work. You got to pay them to do the analysis rather than the AI. So if you’re going to build services around an AI product, it can get yanked out from under you and you got to be really careful with that.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. All right. So last question, this NexGen Agency that you’re going to be talking about a lot at the conference, and I know you’re spending a lot of time thinking about and consulting on, how does it look different?

Paul:

Our assumption is that within three to five years, at least 80% of what agency professionals do will be intelligently automated to some degree, meaning AI is going to be used in some capacity for at least 80% of the things you do every day, from content strategy to creation, to ads management, whatever they may be. So the NexGen Agencies accept that now. They’re not going to fight it. They’re not going to say, “Nah, I don’t believe that guy. I guess what he is talking about.” It’s like, “Trust me, it’s coming.”

So by accepting this hypothesis, that intelligent automation is going to be infused into everything we do, the NextGen Agencies go now, they go seek out the right partners. They go figure out which services they offer today. They can intelligent automate already, and they build efficiencies there. And then they look out and say, “Well, where is it going? What services? Language generation, the ability for the AI to create content is moving at light speed right now. So if your agency creates content for a living, that’s largely what you do, AI is going to play a major role in that in the next three to five years. It’s more of a mindset of accepting where we’re going as a business, as an industry, as a society and getting there first. And [crosstalk 00:38:47].

Drew McLellan:

I was going to say, it’s the mindset accepting it, but it’s also the competitive of, “I want to get there before everybody else does.”

Paul:

And I’ve talked to some agencies, some are decent size that they’re on board, like, “We want to do it. How do we get there?”

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Right. Yeah. It’s exciting. Okay. So if I’m going to start tomorrow doing something, I’m going to read your book, where should most agencies… Where should the first sandbox be? Is that based on what my agency already does? Is there an easy place? Is content the easy place? Where is the easiest place for me to start splashing around in the water and experiment?

Paul:

Yeah, I would say again, the middle section of the book. The piloting AI section has 10 chapters that are all category specific to disciplines of marketing. That’s probably where I would start. It’s like if you do e-commerce, or you do SEO or you do customer service or content, pick that chapter because there are example, vendors in there, there’s case study that… There’s things to give you enough to say, “Okay, I get it.” Then you can start going. So I would always start with what is known to you and find ways to make that smarter. Then you can branch out and look for the things that maybe are the stuff that isn’t being done yet or that other agencies haven’t thought of.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. I love all of this. It’s exciting. It’s challenging. It’s experimental. It’s all the reasons why we all got into the business in the first place was to be creative, and this is a new way to be creative.

Paul:

Yeah. It’s going to unlock creative potential.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. Okay. As always, I could talk to you for another hour, I think. Well, another 12 hours probably, but I want to make sure everyone knows how to find out about the conference, keep track of you, find everything that you’re reading and talking about. What’s the best place for them to go to plug in to all of the work you’re doing?

Paul:

Yeah. If you just go to marketingaiinstitute.com, that’s probably the best path. You can subscribe to the newsletter. There’s a weekly newsletter. You can go to the resource section, the book link is right there, the event link is right there. So that’s the simplest hub for everything else. And if there’s some way we can help, we have a free community, a slack community that people can join and-

Drew McLellan:

And you’re doing some webinars too, right?

Paul:

Yeah. We do. I do an intro to AI for marketers live class every couple weeks that’s been having 500 people on average [inaudible 00:41:10]. So that’s really cool. Yeah, we do one or two webinars a month with partners, vendors. We try and do a lot of AI in action style webinars, where they’re just learning about the tech and how it works. Yeah, we have a ton of free resources that people can learn, and when they’re ready come to the conference or join the online education platform. But yeah, we always just try and give people the on-ramp and then they choose what you want to do from there. Choose your own adventure.

Drew McLellan:

Yep. Yeah. It’s awesome. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate you making the time to be on the show. And as always, you have such a heart for agencies and I know that comes from your own origins, but you’re just helping all of us get better and smarter. I am grateful that you took the time. So everybody for sure, grab the book and if your game to be at live events, MAICON would be a really great one to go to. Cleveland’s lovely if you’ve never been there, but I’m telling you will walk away, fired up about this stuff and really feeling like you have a much better handle on it. So regardless of where you’re at, I think it is a really comfortable and exciting place to be. So check it out for sure. Paul, thank you as always for being here.

Paul:

Thank you so much. And I appreciate it. And I appreciate your community. They’re amazing people. I love being a part of the conference last year and getting to meet a lot of them. Yeah, let us know how we can help. We want to see these agencies grow and be successful and see these entrepreneur live the lives they want to live by building agencies that they can sustain and grow over time.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. There’s the key right there, right? sustainable, scalable, stable. All of this, we have to bring into our agencies if we want that. All right guys, Paul gave you a ton of actionable things. Again, check out the book. It comes out next week, check out the conference. It’s in early August, and recognize that this is inevitable. This is where the train’s going. And so either we better get off the train or we might as well enjoy the ride. And I don’t know about you, but I want to be in the front of the train. I don’t want to be in the caboose. So don’t let yourself stay ignorant for too long. This is too important to our business.

So before I let you go, a couple things, one big shout out and thanks to our friends at White Label IQ, as you know, they do white label PPC Dev and design, and they are the presenting sponsor of the podcast. So super grateful for them. And as always, I just want to say, thanks for listening. I love that we get to hang out together every week. I know you’re busy and whether I’m walking the dog with you, or I’m on the subway with you, whatever we’re multitasking together, I appreciate your time and your feedback. So I’ll be back next week with another guest. In the meantime, you know how to track me down Drew @agencymanagementinstitute.com. All right. Thanks for listening. I’ll see you next week.

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