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Bernard Marr

Bernard Marr is a world-renowned futurist, influencer and thought leader in the fields of business and technology, with a passion for using technology for the good of humanity. He is a best-selling author of over 20 books, writes a regular column for Forbes and advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations. He has a combined following of 4 million people across his social media channels and newsletters and was ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world.

Bernard’s latest books are ‘Future Skills’, ‘The Future Internet’, ‘Business Trends in Practice’ and ‘Generative AI in Practice’.

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Bernard Marr ist ein weltbekannter Futurist, Influencer und Vordenker in den Bereichen Wirtschaft und Technologie mit einer Leidenschaft für den Einsatz von Technologie zum Wohle der Menschheit. Er ist Bestsellerautor von 20 Büchern, schreibt eine regelmäßige Kolumne für Forbes und berät und coacht viele der weltweit bekanntesten Organisationen. Er hat über 2 Millionen Social-Media-Follower, 1 Million Newsletter-Abonnenten und wurde von LinkedIn als einer der Top-5-Business-Influencer der Welt und von Xing als Top Mind 2021 ausgezeichnet.

Bernards neueste Bücher sind ‘Künstliche Intelligenz im Unternehmen: Innovative Anwendungen in 50 Erfolgreichen Unternehmen’

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How Mailchimp Hopes To Build The End-To-End AI Solution For SMEs

8 July 2024

I often write about AI’s potential to transform any business. Yet, a question I frequently get from small businesses is, “Does that really include us?”

The reality is artificial intelligence isn’t just for big businesses that are well-staffed with data analysts and IT experts. Today, a plethora of tools and applications are available that can help anyone to innovate, create new products and services, improve customer support, and optimize operations.

In addition, generative AI levels the playing field. It allows smaller companies to compete with larger players by managing marketing, admin, product development, and customer support tasks that once required entire teams to scale effectively.

Mailchimp, now owned by QuickBooks developer Intuit, has provided AI tools, mainly for content creation, to small- and medium-sized business users for many years. Recently, however, it has unveiled plans for more AI-powered services and applications, including an end-to-end automation solution. Remarkably, it aims to automate elements of strategy—something so far considered to be beyond AI’s reach.

I spoke with Rania Succar, general manager for Mailchimp, to learn more about these plans. With many software companies betting on AI tools for small businesses, does Mailchimp have the secret sauce to persuade hesitant SMEs to jump on the AI train, and how does it hope to differentiate itself?

How Mailchimp Hopes To Build The End-To-End AI Solution For SMEs | Bernard Marr

Revenue Intelligence

Businesses that are excited about AI and want to jump head-first into automation are faced with a bewildering amount of choices right now. And the fact is that smaller businesses, in particular, can’t necessarily afford the outlay of time and money needed to try everything out.

According to Succar, the average business is already using around 14 digital tools to help them manage their business and generate growth.

These are likely to include payment processing systems, social media management platforms, content management systems, email automation and analytics packages.

“So their data is sitting all over the place, making it very hard to deeply understand their end customers and put together strategies based on that,” she tells me.

Mailchimp hopes to help businesses overcome this by bringing everything together into one system.

A big part of this is what it refers to as "revenue intelligence," utilizing data collected through the QuickBooks ecosystem around accounting, managing payments, and employee data. This can be augmented by inventory data and external data.

Newly announced, Mailchimp’s revenue intelligence functionality will launch into a marketplace where SME owners already have a bewildering away of choices.

Hubspot, a competitor when it comes to email automation, offers similar content generation and lead scoring features, as does the social media management platform Hootsuite. Xero, on the other hand, is a self-service accounting platform that provides financial forecasting, data capture and invoice creation powered by AI.

Mailchimp’s vision involves bringing all of this together under one roof, where data about a client’s forecasted potential lifetime value, for example, can be used to inform marketing or customer service decisions.

“Our vision is that the way brands and growing businesses are going to get the maximum impact possible is instead of fragmenting the number of tools they’re using across growth and payments and managing employees and accounting, for it all to be in one system,” Succar says.

Automated Strategy

Of particular interest is Mailchimp’s plan to move beyond tactical decisions to strategic ones. So far, AI has proven great at making specific, short-term decisions, for example picking prospects likely to convert into customers, or writing effective email subject lines. Strategic decisions, on the other hand, often involve long-term planning, diverse variables, and abstract thinking—areas where humans still excel.

Succar says, “Based on the analytics, it’ll then predict strategies. Here are the set of strategies you should adopt as a business to grow your revenue … it could be about your marketing strategy, it could be about your operations strategy.” Once the AI decides what needs to be done and why, it can then address the tactical questions of how it should be done, when, and who should be involved. Additionally, it will be able to take action—generating invoices or sending targeted marketing emails.

“So if you’re about to see a 25 percent decline in revenue, we’ll tell you here are the three strategies we’ve identified for you and allow you to do scenario planning.” Automating strategic decision-making and integrating it with tactical execution could potentially be a big step forward for business AI. In theory, it could bring us closer to the promise of automated tools that reduce our workload by handling routine and mundane tasks while making high-level decisions based on vast amounts of data.

It does make me wonder, though, how managers and owners of SMEs will feel about potentially handing machines control of their organizations at a strategic level—even if they are super-intelligent machines. After all, these could be businesses they have built from the ground up or inherited through generations. And there’s always the challenge of AI hallucinations—the tendency of AI to occasionally make nonsensical decisions. Is there a danger, for example, that an AI might decide that giving away all inventory for free is the best way to attract customers? These examples, though silly, illustrate the potential risks.

Automating strategic decision-making could enable smaller companies to operate more efficiently and compete more effectively with larger ones. But it also raises important questions about the balance between machine intelligence and human intuition. As AI and automation become more capable, all companies will need to confront these questions, deciding how much control they are willing to cede to machines.

Business Trends In Practice | Bernard Marr
Business Trends In Practice | Bernard Marr

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Bernard Marr is a world-renowned futurist, influencer and thought leader in the fields of business and technology, with a passion for using technology for the good of humanity.

He is a best-selling author of over 20 books, writes a regular column for Forbes and advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations.

He has a combined following of 4 million people across his social media channels and newsletters and was ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world.

Bernard’s latest book is ‘Generative AI in Practice’.

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