Episode 261:

A.I. As agency owners and leaders, we understand what it is and what it does, but we haven’t quite figured out the best way to use it in our own agencies for ours or our clients’ benefit. Many still believe it’s something inaccessible or unaffordable. But, A.I. can transform our deliverables, change the ROI we deliver to clients, and make us even better at what we do. Today. At an affordable price.

My guest for this week’s episode is Neil Sahota, a professor at UC-Irvine in California. Neil is a specialist in artificial intelligence marketing. He was an IBM Master Inventor and is currently doing some astounding work as an A.I. Advisor for the United Nations. Neil authored the book, Own the A.I. Revolution, and is one of the foremost expert on emerging technologies as they relate to business strategy.

In this episode of Build a Better Agency, Neil joins us to share his journey and technical expertise. He explains what agency owners can do to harness the power of artificial intelligence marketing so we can use it in ours and our clients’ favor. He also walks us through some of the most progressive A.I. tools marketers are using to communicate with their audiences more effectively.

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.

Artificial Intelligence Marketing | How agencies can use A.I. to communicate more effectively

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • How we as agency owners can harness the power of artificial intelligence marketing and use the technological disruption in our favor
  • How to use A.I. to get data and use it in your client interactions
  • What tools agencies can use to leverage data and turn it into ROI
  • Where agency owners should look for guidance on what A.I. can do and how to do it
  • What inspired Neil to write his book, “Own the A.I. Revolution”
  • Neil’s perspective on the ethics of A.I. in marketing

The Golden Nuggets:

“We live in an age where people are giving away their data all the time. We need only a little bit of information to construct a model using A.I.” @neil_sahota Click To Tweet “Start small to get your feet wet with A.I. so you can see what the effect is. Often people see that the results are mind-blowing.” @neil_sahota Click To Tweet “Artificial intelligence marketing is not going to solve all of your problems. But it will give you another powerful tool in your toolbox to communicate with different audiences more effectively.” @neil_sahota Click To Tweet “Even if you are already doing a microsegment campaign, A.I. can help you subsegment that to the individual level.” @neil_sahota Click To Tweet “Social media companies are now using A.I. tools to create packages we can use to buy a customer base of specific demographics and psychographics.” @neil_sahota Click To Tweet

Ways to contact Neil Sahota:

Speaker 1:

Welcome to The Agency Management Institute Community, where you’ll learn how to grow and scale your business, attract and retain the best talent, make more money and keep more of what you make. The Build A Better Agency podcast, presented by White Label IQ, is packed with insights on how small to mid sized agencies survive and thrive in today’s market. 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. Welcome back to another episode of Build A Better Agency. We are going to mind expand today. That’s my goal, is for us to think about things in a way where that we have never even thought about before. And I think our guest is going to help us do that.

Before I tell you a little bit about him and we get into the conversation, a couple quick things. We are doing, every week, we give away something from one of our podcast guests. So, a lot of our podcast guests have written books, or have courses, or done other things that they very generously give us to give to you. So, all you need to do to get in that drawing, and by the way you only have to do this once and then you’re in the drawing forever, is head over to agencymanagementinstitute.com/podcastgiveaway. And you just fill out the little form, give us your name and your email address and we will take it from there. So, again, giving away a lot of good books, a lot of courses. We’re giving away my new book, Sell With Authority. So, lots of great prizes and all you have to do is sign up, all right?

Let me tell you a little bit about today’s conversation. I think one of the challenges, one of the places where agency owners feel a little ill equipped or, I don’t know about you, but I feel like I get it. But I don’t get it. So, I’m talking about AI. I get in general what it is. I get some of the things that it does, but I don’t really feel like I understand all the things that it does. And I certainly know that there are probably things that, ways that we could be using it inside my own agency, ways I could be advising all of you to use it inside your shop that is not on my radar screen.

So, that’s what I want to talk about today with our guest, is sort of what’s possible? And how is AI changing expectations? How can it change our deliverables? How can it make us better at what we do? So, my guest is a gentleman named Neil Sahota. He is a professor at UC Irvine in California, but he has worked at IBM. He’s currently working with the UN to do some really amazing projects using AI, which I want to ask him about. Even though it’s not really marketing related, I want to chat with him about that as well because they’re doing some really remarkable work. Really my goal for our conversation today is just to give us things to think about.

So, with that, let’s jump into the conversation because I have more questions than we’re going to have time. So, let’s just get right to it. Neil, welcome to the podcast. Thanks for joining us.

Neil Sahota:

Hey! Really excited to be here. Thanks for having me on Drew.

Drew McLellan:

So, give the audience just a sense of your background, because I know you do some interesting things at UC Irvine, and how you came to write the book. Then, I have a million questions to ask you, so we’ll get to that. But first, introduce yourself to the audience and help them understand how you came to have this knowledge and insight.

Neil Sahota:

Well, I’ll tell you I cut my teeth as a management consultant helping global Fortune 500 companies with their business and marketing strategy. And I was always the kind of guy that likes to solve the problems more generally. About 14 years ago now, business intelligence was taking off. They had a lot of these sea level folks telling me, “Hey, it’s amazing the insights machines are giving us.” I’m like, “Machines aren’t telling us anything.” They had the tools that collect and store, and slice and dice, and write quick and precise reports. But it’s not telling us anything, but could it?

And it kind of put me on this quest to figure out a way for machines to do that. So, I went developing a lot of intellectual property, a lot of patents around what we call machine learning and AI today. And one day I gained a call from IBM RND about my work. The next thing I know I’m working on something called Watson.

Drew McLellan:

Wow.

Neil Sahota:

I was part of the original Watson team. That’s how I got my foray into AI.

Drew McLellan:

Not a bad foray, to start with IBM, right?

Neil Sahota:

Not at all. It was a fantastic endeavor, and when we won the Jeopardy challenge the question was, “What are you guys going to do?” Right? Because we spent a ton of money and we’re like, “Well, we’ll get back to you.” Because we never thought that far. But I was one of the people advocating to create an ecosystem, you know? Open up the platform, let the people and the business, expertise, the business problems come in; help them figure out solutions.

Drew McLellan:

So, how did you end up becoming a professor, or was this all concurrent?

Neil Sahota:

It was total accident. I enjoyed teaching, but I was just teaching those continuing education classes.

Drew McLellan:

Sure, yep.

Neil Sahota:

Back in the day I was advocating about we’ve got to teach more classes in analytics, some of these things to the MBA students. Full disclosure, I’m an MBA myself. And, one day they kind of called my bluff, so to speak, and said, “Hey, we’re talking about putting this class together. Can you help us out?” And so, I did help them put together, it’s a two year approval process that I learned, and when it got approved they called me up, said, “Congratulations.” They’re like, “You’re the only guy qualified to teach it. You want to do it?” That’s how I wound up breaking into a professor.

Drew McLellan:

Wow. And, before the interview, you were telling me that you split your time between the business school and the law school, right?

Neil Sahota:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Neil Sahota:

But not a lawyer, never went to law school, but law is a great example of how much some of the professions were changing.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Neil Sahota:

That there was a recent case a couple years ago where it was a murder and the only “people in the room” were the victim, the killer and Alexa. So, the DA essentially called Alexa as a witness. They allowed it. So, then the defense attorney is like, “Whoa, how do you cross examine Alexa?”

Drew McLellan:

Right. That’s crazy. Yeah, our world is changing so fast. So, I know you also, the culmination of all of these experiences for you, so far anyway, is that you just have recently published a book, right?

Neil Sahota:

That’s right, I published a book called Only AI Revolution, and it’s meant for a non technical business audience. In large part, I saw lots of companies struggling with the same questions, right? I’d hear it every time I worked with them. I know I need to be doing something with AI, what is it? And when I figure that out, how do I actually get started?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Neil Sahota:

And most of the books I saw were very technically oriented or they’re more about the viewer’s concerns, not something that’d be helpful for people that want to figure out what to do.

Drew McLellan:

Awesome. That is exactly, I think, our audience and that’s where I want to sort of start our conversation, is I think a lot of agency owners and leaders are very familiar with AI. They’re trying to learn as much as they can. They know that it could and should be able to help them in their business. They just don’t know where or how. And I think the assumption is that it’s too expensive for a small agency to tap into.

So, let’s start with, I know you have sort of a premise or a belief that the disruption that technology is bringing to all or our worlds is actually being driven more by marketers than by technologist. So, talk to me a little bit about how we are driving the disruption, and maybe how we can harness and use the disruption?

Neil Sahota:

It’s interesting that one of the earliest adopters of AI was actually digital marketing. Right? We always talk about it’s a volume business.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Neil Sahota:

Right? The more reach we get, the more eyeballs, the more conversions we’ll have. And with AI technologist coming out, like personality insights, the [inaudible 00:08:37] graphics and your linguistics you had, probably six years ago, a lot of sharp marketers realize, “I’m busy trying to construct this 360 picture by looking at all this outside information. Suddenly I can get information about kind of the inside.” You know? The psychology of the customer. So, I don’t need to worry about collect models and all these so much; I can actually know the person. I don’t need to worry about volume anyway. I know exactly who to target.

So, they want to call it individualized targeting, or some people call it precision marketing. The fact that we can know each person at a psycho graphic level, know what words to use, what they’re going to value the most. Are they going to care about the features? Are they going to care about cost? All these things, it’s become a really powerful tool because rather than say, “Okay, I want to go out and market to 100,000 people and hope for a 10% conversion rate.” Now, it’s like, “I can go out and market to 20,000 people and get an 80% conversion rate.”

Drew McLellan:

So, how do I scratch the surface of that? So, if I said, “All right, I’ve got a client that they’re game to have that kind of conversation about the psycho graphics and the neuro linguistics and all of that.” How do I get that data and how do I use it?

Neil Sahota:

So, the good thing, and maybe some of the thing’s the bad thing, we live in an age where people give away their data all the time.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Neil Sahota:

You need just a little bit of social media information about a person to be able to construct this, right? You could create a whole psycho graphic profile across 56 personality traits with less than 2,000 characters, right? So, if you can ask for Twitter handle, LinkedIn profile, Facebook posts, or you could even ask them a couple of simple survey questions when they write out your census. All this actually gives you the data you need to actually construct these profiles on them.

Drew McLellan:

So, I get the data and I put it into a what? Or I run it through a what? So, probably a month or so ago, maybe two months ago, we had a guest on and he was talking about Crystal and how that draws the data from LinkedIn and gives you kind of a frighteningly accurate look at a person’s personality. So, how do I do that in a more aggregate sense, rather than I don’t want to just know what Drew’s personality is on Crystal, but I want to, let’s say to use your example, I want to talk to 20,000 people and I want to figure out which 20,000 I should talk to, to get even a 50% conversion rate.

Neil Sahota:

So, it’s an interesting question there, Drew, because the guys who’ve built a lot of the tools expect you to have data. Now, you’re seeing more and more companies, even some of the social media companies start to put that data together for sale. So, if you’re saying, “I’m looking for these type of people, not just a demographic level but a psycho graphic level.” Right? They’re actually now using some of these tools to construct those things for you so that you can actually buy the people, so to speak, buy the customer base based on demographics and psycho graphics. So, they’re actually doing some of the hard work for you now.

Drew McLellan:

So, what are some of the tools? Because I know before we hit the record button I was saying I think a lot of agencies want very much to use AI, they just can’t figure out how. And their assumption is too expensive. So, what are some of the tools that you see that agencies can take this sort of data and then use it for their client’s, obviously, ROI advantage?

Neil Sahota:

I mean, there’s some big, big notable names. All this stuff I’m talking about are literally pennies to the dollar. So, they’re meant for even the smallest of the small businesses. But you have IBM Watson [inaudible 00:12:41] the insights that help you do the psycho graphics. There’s actually a company called [inaudible 00:12:46] AI that ironically was started by a therapist, a neuro linguist to help depressed and suicidal teenagers. But what they realized is they actually constructed was an AI communication coach. So, with their actually API, they can actually take what a person is saying and figure out what they value, what’s the best way to communicate, what they’re going to care most about it, what their commitment level is. And they don’t need a whole lot of data to actually do that.

They actually did a test with an auto dealership because no one seems to believe you could do something like this. So, they said, “Okay, we’ll predict who will buy a car today, who will probably buy a car within a month, and who is probably just window shopping.” So, they went through the test. They were given 30 customers, and at the conclusion of the pilot the guy that owns the dealership came out and said, “Before I tell you how you did, I want to invest in your company.” Because they went 30 for 30.

Drew McLellan:

Wow!

Neil Sahota:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Wow! I expected, because you were telling the story, that they did well, but 30 for 30 is pretty impressive.

Neil Sahota:

That’s really impressive.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, yeah. So, let’s talk about how are you seeing marketers, I know because one side of the fence in your world in terms of both I know the book, but also that you’re teaching on the business side at UC Irvine; how are businesses and marketers… Tell us some of the ways they’re using these tools and technologies. What are they able to do that maybe we weren’t able to do before?

Neil Sahota:

Well, other than the inside look, actually goes to way it actually customize the message of a marketing campaign where we always segment it up, and we come up with the different messaging, maybe different visuals for each one. They have the ability to say, “Well, I still got to keep the visuals, but let’s say I chunk up my segments and I have a segment of 10,000 people. These tools are actually not giving us stability, and it’s automated to actually tweak that message for each one of those 10,000 people.”

I’m not just saying like, “Hey Drew, how’s it going?” Or anything like that.

Drew McLellan:

Right, right.

Neil Sahota:

But even pick what the specific words that’s going to resonate strongly with each one of those people. So, even though you’re still doing kind of a micro segment campaign, the AI is helping you subsegment that to the individual level. I mean, imagine just plugging in a few keywords here and there that’s going to up a person from maybe 60% to 85%.

Drew McLellan:

And what kind of a tool is someone using to do that? So, basically you’re saying if I have an email database of 10,000 people, if I have in essence scored them, and so I know different things about each of them on an individual level, then I’m going to write a newsletter article. I’m going to send it out, but this tool, which I’m about to ask you about, is going to say, “Okay, for Neil, you want to use touchy feely words. But for Drew, you want to use numbers and money words.” Right? Is that what you’re saying?

Neil Sahota:

Yeah, but it actually takes it one step further where it’ll actually suggest what word to use.

Drew McLellan:

Huh.

Neil Sahota:

Let’s just say, “Hey, you need to use a more touchy feely word.” It’s like this word over here you’re using, let’s say you’re using supports. If you actually use the word helps, it’ll connect stronger with this person. Right? The final decision on language can still be left up to a person, right?

Drew McLellan:

Sure.

Neil Sahota:

You don’t have to automate all the way through.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Neil Sahota:

But that’s the level of sophistication that some of these technologies are. And that’s actually what Code Breaker Technologies is doing. When you want to send a marketing campaign or even write a followup email to one of your customers, that’s the level we’re actually at today.

Drew McLellan:

So, what are some of the tools that we could, if somebody’s like, “I want to do that.” What are some of the tools that we should be exploring that would allow us to do that?

Neil Sahota:

I mean, in addition to Code Breaker, and [inaudible 00:16:57] AI, there’s actually several tools. But you want to look at things that talk about psycho graphics and neuro linguistics. And I know those are big, heavy words. I’m not going to bore people with the science, but what people who tend to get caught up with is sentiment analysis. Right? And they think every time they hear sentiment analysis, this is what they’re really getting. But you’re actually not. Sentiment analysis just tells you how people are generally feeling. Do they feel positive, neutral or negative? But they don’t really give you these level of insights or give you that kind of coaching on how to speak with your customers.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Do you expect… I read an article the other day that was saying that within the next 50 years, AI is going to be writing music and TV shows and movies. Will we get to that point, do you think? I’m just curious. I know this is a little off topic, but I’m curious, because when I hear these things I think, “Where do people draw the line and say enough is enough?” And I don’t think we’re anywhere near that yet, but I’m curious what you think about how prevalent will AI be in the creation of all things that we create by hand now, by human, in the future? What’s your take on that?

Neil Sahota:

I chuckle off to myself because some of the things you’re talking about have already happened. I don’t want people to get me wrong. There are things that people are much better than machines at. Right? There are. Some of the things machines can do, we do find surprising. So, I’ll tell you two quick stories. Right?

So, one, my good buddy, Ross Goodwin, actually created an AI called Benjamin that wrote a screenplay for a short film called Sun Spray. Right? The language is a bit hulky and bit, but people like, “How in the world could it write an original screenplay?” Well, we can teach AI anything that we can commoditize and it turns out we can commoditize movies.

Drew McLellan:

Sure, there’s formulas, right?

Neil Sahota:

Yeah, every movie ever made fits into one of 12 archetypes. So you teach the machine those 12 archetypes, little bit about characters and dialogue, and you have a machine that could write a screenplay, right? They lack some of the deep emotion or connection, but it has the ability to do that. And we have AI that are already writing news articles and blog posts. And one of the things I do in my role as the UN AI advisor is we run the AI for good initiative, and last year in Geneva we had a big summit, AI and art exhibit. We actually had a performance. So, LGA Rich is a famous teaching. He came on with an AI that’s taught to help write music, right? So, it writes original music.

MEPS1, who’s a vocal artist came on. He said, “No one’s disrupted the human voice in 50 years.” Came on with an AI he did that’s disrupted voice and created new sounds. Then, you had Mio, who’s one of the greatest mime dancers in the world, happens to have a PhD in computer science, created-

Drew McLellan:

As all mime dancers do, I think. Yeah. Yeah.

Neil Sahota:

I think they go hand in hand.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, right.

Neil Sahota:

Created an AI dancer that never saw a human dance before. So, it does some very human like dances, and some funky dances. And all three of them came together for a mutual performance. So, they had human AI music, you had human AI vocals, you had human AI dancer all together for a performance. So, some of these things that we’re talking about are not so far off, but don’t worry, we have not figured out a way to commoditize imagination or creativity.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Neil Sahota:

Huge limitation for AI, and I’m not sure we’ll ever figure that out.

Drew McLellan:

And maybe we don’t want to. Maybe there’s a fine line between that, but it does remind us how powerful this is. And I think most agencies would say that they are not tapping into the power of this at all. So, let’s say there’s an agency owner who’s listening, who’s like, “You know what? We do a little bit of demographics, psycho graphics, that kind of thing. And we’re probably using tools that, even unbeknownst to us, maybe use some AI. How do I begin as a business owner and leader, how do I begin to learn more about this? And what’s a reasonable experiment to run inside my agency to begin to play with what’s possible?”

Neil Sahota:

Good questions. I mean, obviously I’d say read my book. It’s a-

Drew McLellan:

Of course you would. Yes, and I would concur with that recommendation. So, after they’ve read your book, then what should they do?

Neil Sahota:

I think just learn a little bit of the foundational knowledge. You don’t need to be technical and you don’t need to get to the guts. You don’t want [inaudible 00:21:49]. You have to learn what are the capabilities and what’s possible and not possible because AI is definitely not a magic bullet solution. And once you kind of have a feel for, I call it the art of possible, there’s plenty of tools out there that you can demo. You can do for free trials, give a whirl. And I always tell people to start small.

Try and do maybe a small campaign using some of these things, even if it’s just something as simple as the personality traits to just see what the effect is, because I know a lot of people tend to be a little skeptical and I know that they don’t want to go invest a lot of time and money on something. But often what they see is the results are mind blowing. And I think that’s it, you’ve got to wade your toe into this a bit, but come in with the right expectations. The AI is just not going to solve all your problems, but it’s going to give you another powerful tool in your toolbox that you can apply.

Drew McLellan:

I want to talk more about that, but first let’s take a quick break and then, we’ll come back and talk a little bit more about some of the experimentation we can do inside our agencies.

Hey there, do you have an up and comer inside your agency who’s become like your right hand person? How are you investing in them? Who are they surrounding themselves with? And who are they learning from? You might be interested in taking a look at our key executive network. It’s built to help you groom the leaders in your agency. It’s designed to surround them with other AMI taught agency leaders, and it’s facilitated by one of AMI’s top coaches, Craig Barns.

They meet twice a year, and they stay connected in between meetings with calls, Zoom get togethers, and email. AMI agency owners call it one of the best professional development investments they’ve ever made. Head over to agencymanagementinstitute.com and look under the membership tab for key executive network. All right, let’s get back to the interview.

All right, so welcome back. Neil and I have been chatting about all things AI. And we were just chatting about how we, as agency owners and leaders, can begin to experiment with what Neil calls the art of possible, which I love because honestly, I think that’s one of the biggest challenges is that we don’t know. We as an industry, especially on this smaller side of the agency, some of the big box agencies may already be using some of these tools. Although I don’t really see a lot of stories about anybody using it particularly well yet. I don’t know that we know what’s possible.

So, one of the things that I think is challenging is to figure out when you’re buying something you don’t know about, right? So, for example, I don’t know anything about cars. I know how they work when I get in the seat, but if you opened up the hood and pointed things out to me I would have no idea. Other than where you put the windshield wiper fluid, I don’t know, right? I can probably point the battery out. So, when I go to buy a car, one of the reasons if I go to buy a used car, I’m ill equipped to ask the right questions, to even know what to look for to figure out if somebody is blowing smoke up my skirt or if it’s legit.

So, I think one of the things that makes agency owners nervous is they don’t know who to listen to. They don’t know who to follow. They don’t know who to ask like, “Hey, we want to do this better. Is there a tool out there that would help us do that better?” So, are there resources, are there trusted guides? Because I think when they talk to the vendor they assume, “Well of course you tell me it does that because you want me to buy the thing.” Right? So, where should agency owners and leaders go for reliable guidance when it comes to what AI can do and how to do it?

Neil Sahota:

That’s actually a really good question. I mean, the good thing about some of the big companies out there with APIs for the small businesses is there’s now thousands of reviews and stories about how well or not well things actually work. That’s what research guys should tap into. The other thing is actually the United Nations and actually some government agencies are actually very big about… I’m trying to think of the right word here. Honest descriptions of what’s possible.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Neil Sahota:

And we know that some sales people like to puff things up. So, they’re really trying to crack down on this because nobody wants to be oversold, and in some cases, if you’re trusting in a machine to make a recommendation or even decision, you may have detrimental impacts on a person’s life or a collection of people if they’re faulty. So, there’s a lot more oversight now about what people are claiming, even for something that seems innocuous like recruiting a person or doing a digital marketing campaign.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Neil Sahota:

And so, the best is the proof is in the pudding, and the best way to do that is to actually experiment a bit. I mean, that’s one of the big things about AI. There’s not a lot of coding in AI, it’s more about experimentation and you have the data.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Neil Sahota:

And you don’t have to try and run, necessarily, a real campaign, but you can do some small things even for 10 people in your office or friends and family, just to see how effective it actually is.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, you bring up an interesting point there. There’s an ethical side to this as well, right? So, we’ve all heard about sort of the data breeches and all of the issues around data, where do you think business needs to land when it comes to the ethics of all of this in terms of in essence we’re using “secret information” about people to get them to do something. So, where do you stand or where do you provide guidance for us in terms of how to do this well and ethically? But obviously also to harness the power of it?

Neil Sahota:

That’s a great question and a difficult one, Drew, because the definition of right or even fair is very subjective.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Neil Sahota:

Right? And, I always kind of tell people the mantra is you should focus about how you can do good and you have to think about how people might misuse what you’ve actually got. That’s something we’re not good at or, we think happy path, not sad path.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Neil Sahota:

And, I mean, I hate to say it this way but I feel like the whole privacy concern, I think a lot of people don’t really care about privacy as much as they did, especially younger generations, and that we’re just used to giving stuff away. And subconsciously we know that I’m giving a lot of information. Instagram or Facebook, and as long as nothing goes wrong I’m cool with that.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Neil Sahota:

It’s when something happens, suddenly, “Oh my gosh, this is a huge problem.” I think there’s that implicit level of trust. But even before we had AI, I can tell you that Target, they were so good at analytics that if in the summer time you suddenly bought large trash bags, then you had two kids at home that were probably between the ages of eight and 14. Right?

Drew McLellan:

Right, wow. Yeah.

Neil Sahota:

So, what people already know about is, I mean, we don’t realize that we’re like data factories, Drew.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Neil Sahota:

We’re producing so much data every day. Our phone, geo location, what website, what apps, all this stuff. And most of this is actually public domain. And again, I think as long as we think no one’s misusing it, we’re okay with it. But I think that’s a conscious decision all these companies have to make, and had to take steps to ensure the protection, the security of the data and adhere to ethical standards they’re going to adhere to. Like I said, if you just want a flat baseline for everybody, the truth is there’s not. Right?

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Neil Sahota:

What we think is okay in the US may not be okay in Europe, right? And what might be okay in China may not be okay in Canada.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Neil Sahota:

That’s the internal struggle that we’re going to face, and that’s something that with my work with the UN we’re trying to address because there’s no simple answer for it.

Drew McLellan:

What responsibility do we have around disclosure, because I think part of it too, is if you know what they’re going to do with your data you may be like, “I actually would give you more data.” So, for example, I’m a big Disney guy and I purposefully use the same Magic Band every time I go into the park because I want them to know as much about my patterns as possible so they serve up more stuff that makes me happy when I’m there. So, I want them to know more about me than they probably do know, because it enhances my experience. But, I know how they use that data, so I’m willing to give it to them.

So, as marketers, how do we guide our clients in terms of disclosure and what do we have to do? What should we do? What actually encourages more data sharing?

Neil Sahota:

That’s a great question. Well actually the most effective is that there’s an incentive or an award for doing this. There are people that want to give their data to brands that they love, and they’re like, “I would love to get more targeted advertising and better deals on stuff I want to buy.”

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Neil Sahota:

When people want, let’s say, I’m either going to get really good discounts, or you’re going to pay me for my data, or I can earn points that I can redeem. They want that [inaudible 00:31:17]. I’ll tell you a story, and it was like 10 or 11 years ago now, where I’m working with The Gap, the clothing store. And they built their mobile app and they put these beacons inside the store. So, if you went inside the store, and looked around and bought nothing, they knew it.

I think within two minutes of leaving the store, they would send you a coupon. Right? 25% off these jeans or something, to try and entice you back.

Drew McLellan:

To get you to turn around and go back.

Neil Sahota:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Neil Sahota:

And people were furious. They were furious about it. They were furious, saying like, “Look, if you’re going to send me a coupon, you should know me well enough to send me a coupon on something I want to buy.”

Drew McLellan:

Right, right.

Neil Sahota:

Right? They weren’t angry that you knew I was in the store or anything like that. They were like, “You should know me as a customer to give me something I’d be interested in buying.” That’s kind of what unlocked this Pandora’s Box for all of us.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Neil Sahota:

You’re like, “Hey, people actually do want some of these things.”

Drew McLellan:

Right. I just think about all of the ways that we share data today, and that our customers, it really speaks to brand and creating a brand, a trust relationship with your customer, so that they want you to know them better. And therefore, under the assumption as you said, that you’re going to serve them up something that they’re going to be super excited about or give them an opportunity to bait and test, or whatever it may be. But they want to be an insider, and they want to feel like you really know them if there’s that trust relationship.

So, I think one of the places where we can really help clients is to figure out how to create an protect that trust.

Neil Sahota:

Oh no, 100%, right? And I think when you talk about safe guarding the data and all these things, but I think the honest truth is as long as nothing happens, people are okay. So, it’s on the brands and these companies, the IT security companies, to ensure nothing happens. And to ensure that we’re not taking the data that we’re given and just turn around and selling that to somebody else.

Drew McLellan:

Right, right. So, I want to switch topics for a quick second before we wrap up. I know you’re doing some really interesting work with the UN around preventing child sexual abuse and some other things. So, I’d like to talk a little bit about how AI is being used to make the world a better place in some of the places that you’re spending your time doing that. So, can you tell us a little bit about that work?

Neil Sahota:

Yeah, I’d be happy to because I’m very passionate about it. The United Nations does 17 sample developing goals, so things like zero hunger, actions to get healthcare, education. We want to try to make it reality, and there’s unfortunately a lot of gap between achieving the goals and the resources and funding available. So, we look at emerging technology like AI to see if we can partially bridge some of that gap.

So, we actually have currently right now, active, about 116 projects going on using AI specifically to help with the 17 sustainable developing goals. So like you mentioned, child sexual abuse. It’s a huge problem, unfortunately, around the world.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Neil Sahota:

And we’ve been using AI to kind of help with some of the survivors and deal with this because unfortunately, most children don’t know what’s happening when it happens. They’re too young.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Neil Sahota:

It kind of hits them later on. But we’ve also learned that there’s certain kind of red flags or triggers, like symptoms that a child might be at risk. And could we use AI to do early detection of these and actually try and protect the child, get the child help, or even figure out who the perpetrator might be to prevent the act from happening in the first place.

Drew McLellan:

And so, this work that you’re doing, is this at a global level? Is this here in the States? What part of the world are you impacting at this point?

Neil Sahota:

It’s on a global level, but a lot of the work right now is going on in North America because for whatever reasons it seems to be a hot bed of problems. And we have more reliable data on this than we do in other parts of the world. But we’re also confident that if we can really figure this out here, we can scale that out to the other regions because some of the numbers that I’ve seen are scary, or I think they say that one out of eight children has experienced some form of childhood sexual abuse. Well, that’s a crazy number.

Drew McLellan:

It’s a crazy number. It’s an awful number, yeah. But, it’s a reminder that AI has already, and is going to change our world. It’s certainly not just from a marketing perspective, but hopefully in some ways that have a deep significance in terms of societal change.

Neil Sahota:

Oh for sure. And I think we always think about, well you either do commercial or you do nonprofit. We rarely think about doing both. Right?

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Neil Sahota:

We have to get that mindset of social enterprise, social entrepreneurship that there’s nothing wrong with making money, but sometimes in the course of our work there might be an opportunity to make a positive impact. And, do we take that opportunity or not?

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Neil Sahota:

And that’s one of the big things about thinking about AI, there’s a whole bunch of opportunities. Could you do both at the same time, right? And not have to sacrifice profitability or anything like that to do some good. We’re all emerging from kind of the COVID-19 world here, and everyone’s talking about reviving, reviving their business. And I think there’s actually a real opportunity to kind of rebuild, right? And rebuild a more sustainable way, because if anything, COVID’s shown the light in all the deficiencies, the weaknesses, the things that were good enough that are no longer good enough. And we know we have to fix or redo them, or find a better way of doing them. Let’s do it with that kind of social enterprise mindset.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, one of the things I’ve said throughout COVID is one of the silver linings, painful but silver linings of COVID is you’re very quickly going to recognize the weak spots in your business where there is a fracture that quickly turns into a break because it couldn’t sustain the weight of what COVID brought against your business. So, you’re right, this is… We’re emerging out of all of the lock down’s and all of that, and it’s a time for us to really rethink about our business and how do we do things differently and better and how do we do it in a way that is stronger so it can withstand whatever comes next. God help us, whatever comes next after a pandemic, but nonetheless, whatever it is, let’s build our business to be stronger.

So, it seems like now would be a great time to start experimenting with AI and thinking about how you can use those tools. How are companies using AI, not necessarily from a marketing perspective, but even internally? How are they using it to make their business better? How can you use AI to turn the lens back on you and improve things?

Neil Sahota:

Well, good question, Drew. A lot of people think like operations and could I automate some things? And there’s always opportunities, but one of the big trends happening right now is more and more companies, especially the small to medium businesses are using it for human resources. So, to actually recruit and retain talent because you can think about you want to hire somebody. Are they qualified? Are they going to fit in with your team or cooperate culture? Qualifications, we do the interviews, we do tests. But, how do you know someone’s a fit because you ask them during the interview, “Hey, sometimes you have to work 80 hours a week, is that cool?” “Oh yeah, totally. I’d love actually 100 hours a week.”

Drew McLellan:

Right, right. “You bet, I want to work all the time.” Yeah, right, right. Yeah, it’s first date answers, right?

Neil Sahota:

And so, what they’re finding out, there’s actually some simple AI tools out there that can actually assess people against your cooperate culture and say based on kind of their personality, their work style, how they match up against your cooperate culture and how people like to work. And, is there a fit or not? Right? And they do like it’s an 80% fit, or 90% or 40% fit. So now suddenly, you don’t have to get a bunch of resumes and do the keyword search, and the screen. Now, what they’re doing is they’re doing this fit first and say, “Okay, I went from 500 resumes to 17. Now I’ll do my keyword search and see who might look qualified.” Say, “Okay, now I’m on to four people. So, I’m going to go interview these four people.”

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So, what are some of the tools that are helping assess that cultural fit?

Neil Sahota:

Ironically, some of the same tools that marketers are using. They’re using a lot of psycho graphic profiling, and personality assessments, but not just on the job candidates. They actually apply it to their own company. So, they look at the different teams, every team has their own culture. And the company or the firm as itself has a culture as well. So, that works as kind of your baseline.

Drew McLellan:

So, if somebody wants to go find a tool like that, where do they go to find that tool? If after hearing you say that, I’m like, “I want to do that to my agency. I want to figure out what our culture is and how to define it. And build sort of a baseline so I can test future employees.” How would I find that tool?

Neil Sahota:

There’s a lot of great tools out there that you can research, but one you can check out is called Pye Metrics, that’s Pye, P-Y-E, Metrics.

Drew McLellan:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Neil Sahota:

But, they have a lot of case studies, they explain some of the science, but you actually see some of the things that they do. They actually work with one of the largest law firms in the world now where they actually help them build an AI system that does their entire recruiting. They no longer just say, “Apply to a job, [inaudible 00:41:15] interview.” They’re like, “If you want to work at our firm, forget about what kind of job, if you work at our firm you have to take this test run by an AI.”

Drew McLellan:

Right. Yeah, first we’re going to hire for fit, then we’re going to hire for competency.

Neil Sahota:

Yeah.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. So, as you’re talking, I’m thinking one of the questions I should be asking more often is I want to do X, Y, Z. I wonder if there’s an AI tool that would help me do that? So, let’s say that’s what I want to do. I want to look at my customer base and decide who has more…. if I have the right project for them, or right product for them, who has more money that they would give me, right? How do I match what I want to know with if there’s a tool out there that will do it? How do I begin to search for what’s, to your point, the art of what’s possible? How do I answer the question, I wonder if there is a tool out there that does X? Is there any sort of a database or a repository of vetted AI tools somewhere? Is there a consumer reports version of AI tools out there?

Neil Sahota:

I wish there was. There, unfortunately, is not.

Drew McLellan:

So, Neil, that’s your next project.

Neil Sahota:

Yeah, it’s something that we need.

Drew McLellan:

It seems like you have a lot of spare time on your hands. So, if you could work on that, that’d be awesome.

Neil Sahota:

I’ll get on that, but in the mean time, I mean, it does require a little bit of legwork, or just reaching out and asking somebody that’s an expert in the field, like myself. Or just some suggestions or guidance. I mean, it’s a very good AI ecosystem worldwide. You’ll find a lot of people that are willing to help. But, right now, unfortunately there’s no tool like that. I would love to have one, and I’ll put it on my to-do list for you, Drew.

Drew McLellan:

Thank you so much. So, is anybody out there sort of reviewing… I mention Consumer Report sort of tongue in cheek, but then it occurred to me, is somebody out there sort of looking at some of the tools that are out there for marketers to use or businesses to use? And sort of assessing them, like here’s what they say they do, here’s what they really do, I give them a three star on user interface. I give them a five star on results. Does anybody doing that kind of a review out there?

Neil Sahota:

Not like in an aggregate. I mean, I know there are people that have post them kind of individually or to some of the sites about their experiences. But the ironic part is that a lot of the agencies don’t want to share what they’re using. They feel like it’s a competitive advantage.

Drew McLellan:

Sure.

Neil Sahota:

And they don’t want to kind of suddenly disclose to the competitors, “Hey, I’m using this tool. It’s working out really good for me.” Right?

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Neil Sahota:

[inaudible 00:44:02] guys jump in.

Drew McLellan:

Right. But it would seem like if there was, in essence, a governing body or a quality control entity, if somebody took that on; A, that would be super useful, but B, I think it would probably be pretty profitable, right? I mean, I would think the revenue you could get from either subscriptions, so I’d get to see behind the curtain or whatever, might be fruitful for somebody. And maybe we’re too early in all of… Maybe it’s too much of an emerging industry yet for that to happen.

Neil Sahota:

I don’t know if it’s too much of an emerging industry because there’s lots of tools out there, but I think it’s finding someone that’s willing to commit the time and money to actually do it. I mean, a lot of people have suggested via AMA, The American Market Association, pick something like that up. But, they don’t seem to have the resources to actually make that happen. I mean, it does take time to build something like this and put together a type of platform. I totally get that, and I’m with you, Drew, I think it’d be a fantastic investment. But so far, no one has been willing to commit to something like that. Maybe we could inspire some people to do that.

Drew McLellan:

That’s right. Some listener’s going to jump right on that as a side hustle. I like it. If folks want to learn more about you, Neil, or about your work, or if they read the book and say, “I want to follow this guy and see what he’s up to.” Where are ways that people can… And, if they want to keep track of this new project you’ve just agreed to live on the air, how is it best for them to find you and follow you, and keep learning from you?

Neil Sahota:

There’s a couple of ways. So, one, go to my website, which is neilsahota.com. That’s [inaudible 00:45:47] my latest things, and interviews and articles and stuff like that. Or, you can follow me on social media. I’m very active on LinkedIn and Twitter. I’m always sharing what I’m up to with some latest trends with AI, especially in marketing. So, either way, and around any questions you can connect to me through either channel.

Drew McLellan:

Okay, that’s awesome. Thank you so much for being on the show today, and sharing your expertise and getting everybody to think about what is possible. I think sometimes we get so in the grind of doing what we always do, and the way we always do it, we probably don’t as often as we should stop and ask the question, is there a better way to do this? A faster, more efficient, more effective way? So, I think you asked everybody to sort of ponder those things today, so I appreciate that.

Neil Sahota:

Yeah, my pleasure.

Drew McLellan:

It was great to have you. All right guys, this wraps up another episode of Build A Better Agency. Thanks for joining us. I think Neil gave you a lot of resources. Go check out his book for sure, but I think he also, what I’m hoping is that he’s peaked your curiosity, that there is absolutely an AI tool or three, or five out there. That no matter what your size, no matter where you are in the world, that you could be using to your advantage and your client’s advantage.

So, the question is, what are they? And how can you start experimenting with them? So, that’s my ask for you off of this episode is, I would love for all of you to commit to finding some AI tool that you have not used yet, and experimenting with a little bit to see what you could do either for your own agency or for a client. And then, report back. I’d love to hear back from you on what you’re playing with and what you found out. I would love for AMI to be a great resource for the tools that are working, but I need to hear from you about what you’re using, how it’s working so that I can share that out with other folks, all right?

A couple quick reminders before I let you go. As always, just want to ask you if the podcast is of value to you, please run over to wherever you download podcast, iTunes or wherever it may be, and leave us a rating and review. And here’s why that matters, so the more we can get on the radar screen, the more agency owners that have access to us. And the more that they can learn alongside you. But, also, there’s something in it for you. If you leave a rating and review, and you take a screenshot and email it to me, as you know every month we give away a seat at one of our live workshops or our on-demand workshops. So, a value of around two grand. Every month we give one of those away, and all you have to do to get in the drawing is send me a screenshot of your rating or review so that I know it’s you.

I read them all, but I can’t match up the fact that you are KittyCat102, to who you really are and your agency name. So, take the screenshot, send it to me, and we’ll put you in the drawing.

Also want to remind you that we have lots of resources on the website that I hope you’re taking advantage of, and so, if you head over to AMI’s website, agencymanagementinstitute.com and there’s a tab there that says how we help. And there’s all kinds of free resources, there’s research, there’s blog posts, there’s all kinds of free tools. So, if you haven’t been there recently, head over there and check out the free tools that we have for you because we’re just trying to be as helpful as we can be.

If there’s a tool you wish we had that you can’t find, let me know, and we will see what we can do. Okay? As always, a huge shout out and thank you to our friends at White Label IQ. If you are looking for a partner to white label design, dev, or PPC, they do an amazing job for many AMI agencies. I get rave reviews on their performance, on their customer service, on their responsiveness. So, head over to whitelabeliq.com/AMI to check out the offer that they have, just for you the podcast listeners. Okay?

I will be back next week with another guest. In the mean time, take good care of yourself, thanks for listening, and I will talk to you soon.

That’s a wrap for this week’s episode of Build A Better Agency. Visit agencymanagementinstitute.com to check out our workshops, coaching packages, and all the other ways we serve agencies just like yours. Thanks for listening.