Friends, colleagues, and clients have asked me about AI for the last six months. Some fear for their jobs or companies, and others believe AI tools like ChatGPT are a fad. Most everyone agrees that AI tools are confusing.
Specific to the marketing industry and my experience with marketing technology, I will tell you I am unfazed by AI. Let me tell you a secret - we’ve used AI tools at Illumine8 for years.
AI has been part of marketing for a long time, from chatbots to quizzes, ad predictive analysis to SEO, and even video editing. AI is a part of our daily life.
AI is part of the mainstream conversation because tools like ChatGPT and Bard have made AI more accessible to everyone. AI is no longer just for marketing and programming professionals.
So what does AI mean to the building industry? Historically, the built environment needs to be faster in adapting to technology.
Ironically, we’ve found that most companies we partner with are eager to embrace AI tools if it means slashing costs. But should you be so fast to adopt these tools? What are the consequences, and is AI even reliable?
Will ChatGPT, Bard, and other AI tools replace your marketing, sales, customer service employees, and service providers? The short answer - no. Will these tools change the way you do business? Yes.
Let's dive into the most popular AI tools related to marketing and sales at your built environment company. We will also explore how they can assist in transforming your business for efficiency.
Chances are, you were already using some of these tools, and you didn’t even know it.
AI for the building industry explained
AI or artificial intelligence is part of many common tools you use daily. Ever write an email and suggested text fills in your sentence? Does your project management software automatically adjust timelines based on shifts due to late material deliveries or contractors completing work early?
AI is already at work in the built environment - here are just a few examples:
- Real-time safety monitoring: A startup that provides an AI monitoring integration platform for the construction industry is the Hong Kong-based viAct. AI-powered sensors and cameras monitor job sites in real time and identify potential hazards. With construction injuries claiming over a thousand lives each year, this AI platform is life-saving technology.
- Automated scheduling: AI can automate the scheduling of construction tasks, which can help improve efficiency and reduce costs. AI-driven scheduling systems use algorithms to analyze data, such as historical project data and other factors, to create accurate and reliable construction schedules. INEIGHT schedule is an example of AI-powered construction scheduling software.
- Virtual reality and augmented reality: VR and AR can improve communication and collaboration between project stakeholders and train workers on new skills. Yulio VR is a program that allows designers to turn their 3D designs into VR-compatible renderings they can show collaborators and clients.
Outside of building industry-specific applications, AI has applications in your back-office operations, including marketing, sales, administrative, and customer service departments.
AI digital marketing tools for builders, contractors, and manufacturing companies
Illumine8 has used AI-enabled tools for years as part of its digital marketing strategy. These tools allow our team to work more efficiently, allowing us to do our best work with your budget instead of squandering it on mundane tasks or inflation. Here are our top three AI-enabled tools and how we use them daily to accelerate our marketing effectiveness for our clients in the built environment.
- Ideation: ChatGPT and Bard are great tools for working through content ideas or getting “unstuck.” As creators, we believe in researched original work, but that doesn't mean the ideation process works only in a vacuum. Both Bard and ChatGPT are helpful tools to help outline and generate ideas that we then research and expand.
- Writing assistance and tone: Grammarly is a grammar, spelling, and tone editor that works seamlessly with most word processing and email applications. Imagine having a helpful editor for your written work at your fingertips, making suggestions as you write.
- Image editing: Adobe Firefly is Adobe’s newest beta AI integration into Photoshop. Firefly allows you to edit images with ease. Some creators have begun to create original art with Firefly, but we use it to speed up routine image editing.
What AI doesn’t do is replace our strategic efforts, and we don’t rely on AI for accuracy. It's known that these tools do not always give you facts. Just ask this New York lawyer who relied on ChatGPT to produce his legal brief. Instead, consider AI a personal collaborator that can make suggestions that speed up ad improve your work.
And what about those Instagram reels claiming AI can write an entire business or marketing plan? Yes, those tools can write a plan for anything. Wouldn’t it be a dream if you could ask AI to write a thoughtful, original article about a topic in your industry? It's not a dream that is possible.
What can AI do, then? It makes the process easier. AI is a tool that accelerates creativity; it doesn’t replace it.
AI sales tools for builders, contractors, and manufacturing companies
If your company utilizes a CRM for sales, you are likely already interfacing with AI. If you are still managing your bids, projects, and proposals in spreadsheets, implement a CRM before considering any AI effort.
Popular CRMs include our two preferred platforms: Salesforce and HubSpot. Ultimately the right CRM for your business depends on many factors. Our guide to preparing to implement a CRM for your business is a great place to start.
Here are some of our favorite AI-enabled sales intelligence software tools that can speed up your sales processes:
- Salesforce Einstein: Salesforce Einstein is an AI-powered tool that uses your company’s sales data to give you a predictive analysis of the likelihood that sales will close. The software also gives your team timely insights on the news affecting your prospects that your sales reps can use to forge deeper connections with leads. Salesforce is the original sales-focused CRM and works exceptionally well in enterprise-sized operations.
- HubSpot Sales is a CRM platform that integrates with HubSpot's AI-powered marketing and customer service tools. Because HubSpot’s systems are integrated, it allows businesses to use AI to improve their customer experience, from lead generation to customer support.
- ZoomInfo: ZoomInfo is an AI-powered sales intelligence platform that can help businesses gather information about their prospects. ZoomInfo integrates well with other CRMs, such as Salesforce and HubSpot, to bring AI features directly into contact records. Using AI, Zoominfo collects contact information, social media profiles, and company data. Zoominfo is a must-have for a sales team working with cold prospects.
HubSpot is Illumine8’s favorite platform to unite the entire customer journey into one powerful place. The sales tool allows you to automate follow-ups, use predictive analysis to forecast revenue and close rates, and bring insights about your prospect's companies directly into the CRM, saving your team valuable hours of research they can then use for prospecting. This sales AI tool works well for small, mid-market, and enterprise businesses.
The goal of any sales software is to decrease the time sales spend doing administrative tasks and increase the time spent dedicated to the sales process. AI assists salespeople closer to that goal by delivering intelligence on leads and using your company’s first-party data to surface sales opportunities likely to close for your company.
Whether your sales process involves bids or proposals, AI can focus your attention on the efforts that lead to revenue.
How AI can transform your marketing and sales efforts
At its core, AI works from the basis of information that already exists. AI can already pass basic academic tests based on published knowledge. Tests demonstrate our ability to interpret and answer challenging questions based on learned knowledge.
For AI to work for your built environment company, you still need original inputs to get an output from your AI-enabled technology. All the tools reviewed in this article still require your company’s data. That data could be an article, an idea, a question, or its customer database. Without the “inputs,” there is no “output.”
To transform your marketing and sales with AI - or any other effort - your company still has to put in the human effort to generate data for the AI to analyze. You can reap the rewards of AI-generated gains if you commit yourself to best practices in your marketing and sales efforts.