Forrester B2B Summit 2023: The Year of the Content AI Clarion Call
By Christine Polewarczyk, SVP Product Marketing and Research, PathFactory
Last year at Forrester B2B Summit, I was on the mainstage with former colleague Phyllis Davidson giving a keynote on “Time Travel and Transformation: The Future of B2B Content.” This year, I returned for my eighth Summit experience. But for the first time ever, I did not attend as a SiriusDecisions or Forrester research analyst, but instead as a delegate and sponsor.
Last year, I predicted that the B2B content engine of the future will:
- Deliver highly contextualized experiences
- Create the core of the CX data model
- Merge human and machine
I also emphasized that metadata, tagging and mature content operations are critical to achieving CX optimization. We need the first-party data from content engagement — correlated with analysis of the aboutness of that content itself – to train AI, drive personalization and automation and give us the analytics we need to have truly intelligent and actionable CX data models.
Finally, I predicted a massive paradigm shift with ~50% of the B2B CX content engine being run autonomously by AI before the end of this decade; as well as the emergence of new content roles that will be required to adapt to a merged human/AI world.
I’m feeling quite prescient right now with the paradigm shift that I was talking about having rapidly accelerated in the past year. Content AI has now reached a critical inflection point in the market. There is definitely no turning back now and I couldn’t be more excited about what’s to come.
George Colony’s Generative AI “Clarion Call”
Forrester founder and CEO George Colony kicked off the week in his opening keynote with a “clarion call” to all of us to figure out the role of generative AI in our organizations. He emphasized that now is not the time to wait and see – but to immediately strategize, prioritize and begin generative AI investment and experimentation. George also declared that B2B CMOs should lead the charge on generative AI.
GenAI Is Good – But Comprehensive Content AI Is Better
Later that day at an Executive Leadership Exchange lunch, Autodesk CMO Dara Treseder, respectfully disagreed with George when asked about her thoughts on the CMO leading generative AI transformation, expressing concerns about an “unfunded mandate” for marketing organizations that simply don’t have the subject-matter expertise, budgets, or engineering resources to lead the execution of a generative AI vision alone.
I couldn’t help but clap when she gave her opinion. While I was thrilled to hear George put out the clarion call and think it is on point, I also believe that B2B organizations need to think more holistically about generative AI ownership, strategy and execution to avoid misalignment and costly missteps. It needs to be a C-suite strategy with thoughtful alignment across all CX/revenue functions, including marketing, sales, product, support, and success.
More importantly, I also believe that the focus on generative AI alone is shortsighted. Generative AI is only one piece of the content AI puzzle. Yes, now is absolutely the time for B2B organizations to make sure they have a plan around content AI. If they don’t, they will be at a competitive disadvantage within the next 18-24 months. Now is not the time to be technology laggard!
However, when thinking about content AI, I recommend thinking comprehensively about the different uses and applications of content AI across revenue and CX teams – beyond just generative AI – to include:
- Authoring and authoring assistance
- Experience automation and personalization
- Workflow automation
- Intelligent activation
- Tagging and governance
- Predictive insights and analytics
The fact is that not enough B2B companies are even using the road-tested content AI technology that has been available for years now from trusted vendors like PathFactory. For example, in the 2022 Forrester Global State of AI In B2B Marketing Survey, only 36% of B2B marketers said they were using AI for personalization, 25% for content recommendations, 22% for website conversion optimization, and only 13% for content governance.
Content AI success will require a holistic approach that focuses on aligning and combining your use of content AI, automation and analytics (what we call “content intelligence”) to prioritized use cases that create measurable business impact. It will also require governance and guardrails – especially for companies in regulated industries – to mitigate compliance and legal challenges that could arise from unsanctioned or ungoverned use.
So, as you start applying all the awesome knowledge you inevitably gathered at Forrester B2B Summit 2023, heed the clarion call for content AI. But don’t get shiny object syndrome for generative AI alone. Do your due diligence as you scope, invest and experiment.
Click here for more highlights from Forrester B2B Summit 2023.