Imagine boosting your marketing efficiency without expanding your team. In this episode, we delve into how AI can revolutionize your marketing workflows, making your strategies more effective and streamlined.

 

In today’s episode, I’m thrilled to have Chris Arden, a seasoned fractional CMO who helps early-stage startups develop their go-to-market strategies. With a rich background leading marketing efforts at top companies like Adidas, Puma, and Canyon Bicycles, Chris shares his insights on integrating AI into marketing workflows to achieve outstanding results. Join us as we explore the cutting-edge ways AI is transforming the marketing landscape.

 

We’ll cover:

  • Chris’ journey from traditional marketing to becoming a fractional CMO
  • The game-changing impact of AI on marketing automation and content creation
  • Practical examples of AI tools enhancing SEO analysis and image creation
  • How to leverage AI for content repurposing and efficiency
  • The future of AI in marketing and the balance between automation and human oversight
  • And more

 

Mentioned in this episode:

Transcript

 

Voiceover: This is Performance Delivered, Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success with Steffen Horst and Dave Antil.

 

Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success podcast, where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host, Steffen Horst. 

 

In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about how to use AI to augment marketing workflows. Here to speak with me is Chris Arden. He is a Fractional CMO and helps early-stage startups figure out their go-to-market strategy. Chris is the former head of marketing for Ecosystems, Raken, and Canyon Bicycles. He led the national marketing teams at Adidas, TaylorMade Golf, and PUMA. Chris, welcome to the show.

 

Chris Arden: Thanks for having me, Steffen. Excited to be here and excited to talk to you today.

 

Steffen: Now, Chris, before we get started talking about how to use AI to augment marketing workflows, tell our listeners a little bit about yourself. How did you get started in your career? And what led you to opening your own shop and becoming a fractional CMO?

 

Chris: Yeah, thank you. So I originally started my career in b2b. So I worked in the automotive industry as a product marketer. So a little bit different than most of your traditional marketing, where I actually helped a team build marketing automation software before HubSpot and other automation tools existed. 

 

And so I did that for a number of years and felt like I really needed to change. And that’s when I moved into the E-commerce space and worked at Adidas, PUMA, and Canyon Bicycle, some of the brands that we talked about. And that was a great run. Seven years in E-commerce. But in 2017, I had an opportunity to work at Raken, the company mentioned, which is a startup. 

 

And I loved it. The b2b game had completely changed. It was all data-driven, it was all automation. And it was definitely more technical marketing, which is kind of where I sit. And so since 2017, I’ve been working for startups and helping startups now my fractional business.

 

Steffen: Brilliant. Now, what are some of the things that you’re seeing with your clients, where you think, those are game changers?

 

Chris: Yeah. So, with my clients, I think AI, of course, is a big-time game changer. I actually have two clients that are AI clients, because of the SaaS software that they produce. But from a day-to-day perspective, we’re just finding that you don’t have to scale as many employees right off the bat. 

 

There are different tools, there are different processes that you can put in place where AI can augment some of your workflows to produce better content, or faster results, or have an extra kind of engineer on staff that’s based on AI. So those are for short game changers with some of the clients I’m working with.

 

Steffen: So talk a little bit about how your clients have adopted AI. In what areas and how far are they leaning into AI to help them enhance their workflow, maybe getting some of the mundane tasks that are happening in any business covered?

 

Chris: Yeah, so I’d say everything from image creation to SEO analysis to, of course, content marketing is a big part of AI. But, you know, the image creation is getting so good now. Take Mid Journey, for example. Whenever I produce a blog for one of my clients, I go into Mid Journey, and I create a few prompts, and I get some really great images. 

 

And then I optimize them and make perfect for that blog. And that’s an original image, I’m not sharing a bunch of different images with the same person from Adobe Stock. I’m getting creative images that are designed in a unique style that’s specific for that brand. And so that’s one example. Another is SEO analysis. 

 

You know, there are great tools out there Ahrefs, SEMrush. Of course, I still use those. But now What I’m starting to do is all go and I’ll say all right, what are the top keywords that all my competitors are ranking for? What are the keywords that I’m ranking for? And where do I see gaps between the two? 

 

And I’ll have a tool like ChatGPT or a tool like Claude, to act as an SEO analyst. And I will ask you a series of questions. And then also okay, where do you see the biggest opportunity here and just kind of have a conversation. And so SEO is another big one. And then the last one, and a lot of people don’t use this one, but I’d highly recommend it, which is taking a transcript and turning it into a bunch of different content. 

 

And I’ll give you an example. So with one of my clients, I’ll interview one of the founders who are obviously experts on the industries that we work in, and I’ll just do a 30-minute interview and I’ll have them talk about use cases. I’ll have them talk about challenges within the industry. I’ll take that recording, we just use an AI note taker, and then I export a transcript, take that transcript, which is original content, I’m not asking the AI to write anything for me. 

 

And I’m taking that transcript and loading it into Claude or loading it into ChatGPT. And then I’m asking it to produce different content from them. Write a few emails, produce a summary blog, do you know other things that are giving you original content from a transcript. So there are just a few use cases that we’re using in-house.

 

Steffen: Interesting. You talked about SEO. As it relates to content development, you touched on that, too, how much are you using AI in that area? And then if you do, what do you use it for?

 

Chris: That’s a good question. I don’t use AI to write as much content as a lot of people probably would think or do themselves. Instead, I use AI to grade my content, or analyze my content, or write outlines. And so if I have a calendar that I’m trying to build for social media, I will go to an AI tool and say, this is the industry we’re in. 

 

This is what our ICP is for our prospects, these are the services we provide, and here’s a positioning for us as a company. Based on this information, I want you to build a content calendar for the next 30 days, that would take all the information I’ve given you, again, training data correctly for the AI, to then build a content calendar. 

 

Now the individual social posts or blogs, we will write ourselves or we’ll have a content person write them, but it’s really the planning. It’s the analysis. It’s just having almost your own team member who can go in and look at what you’re doing and grade it and give you feedback.

 

Steffen: How far is AI involved in your work process? And how far do you let AI go about without having to step in yourself and then taking over? So where’s that barrier? Or where is that line in the sand, where it’s like, okay, that far, but not further?

 

Chris: Yeah, we’ve all seen the LinkedIn comments that are created by AI and chuckle when we see those. So yeah, I am of the mindset that you should have a human in the loop, always, at least that’s at this stage of where we’re at. Even with how good the AI is, you’re going to be the best judge of the final result.

 

And I do think it’s dangerous because AI does hallucinate and hallucinations can be real. I’ve seen them before. And it can cause issues. I’ve heard stories of people who have Zapier connected to something and then it’s just spitting out emails or blog posts or social content. And I think that’s dangerous. 

 

I think that we’re still in a place right now, where you need to manually review all content before it is put anywhere. And I always make changes to the content that’s produced by AI. And so I can’t imagine just creating something and just posting it on social. I think you always have to do that, at least today. Maybe the changes in the future.

 

Steffen: Honestly, I couldn’t agree more. I think there are people out there that want to go more the lazier route. It’s like, AI just creates everything, and I push it out and then cross my fingers that it all makes sense. But then once something does not makes sense, it creates a big problem, that’s then where it gets really dangerous. 

 

For us, for example, we use AI day to day, but as you said, there is always a human being overseeing what we’re doing. From a content development perspective, we have, for example, create content briefs. Do the research for a write on on a topic. Or we have the AI do a first draft, for example. 

 

Then you go through first draft, and then that’s when you then have to go in and make the changes. And then have to make sure it all makes sense at the end. So, I totally agree with you. We’re not at a point where we can just let AI run rampant and create everything without oversight, basically.

 

Chris: No, definitely. And it’s interesting because you hear Sam Altman or others say that AI is gonna replace everyone at some point. And I’m skeptical of that because I think there’s important context that lives within each prompt. And to say that AI will automate, completely marketing or graphic design or video editing, I think is naive. 

 

Sam, I don’t think he fully understands those areas. Maybe as an AI engineer, he’s stronger there. But again today, my advice to those who are weary of AI replacing their job would be to immerse yourself in AI. 

 

Because it’s becoming standard that companies are looking for employees to bring an AI skill set. And so if you’re putting blinders on and saying oh this is gonna go away, this is just a fad. I disagree. I mean, you need to figure out how to incorporate AI into your everyday life. 

 

And for me as a marketer, I’ve been doing marketing for 20 years, it has been new. I’ve had to go and oh, I could just write this myself, or I could do this or I can run what I normally do as an analysis against this data. 

 

But now I’m starting to augment my workflows to make sure that I’m purposely bringing AI in the loop. Because you’re going to have these young kids coming out of college who’ve been using AI since they were 16. And they’re going to be amazing when it comes to productivity and knowledge, and that’s what you’re up against in the workforce.

 

Steffen: Let me ask you a quick question on AI replacing workers. So the way I see AI at the moment is kind of taking over work, like basic work activities, right, where you potentially have juniors coming out of college doing that. 

 

But what does that mean for people that come out of college, right, that need to be placed in the workforce, and need to find a job where they can add value to a company that they’re hired in? How is that from your perspective of going to work with AI, potentially challenging those roles, or air quotes, going for those roles, or could be used for those roles?

 

Chris: Yeah, I think AI becomes a really important training tool for those new workers. So if you’re coming into, let’s just say, marketing. You’re coming into marketing as a content writer or graphic designer, I think AI becomes your, well not your manager, but a way of getting on your feet faster and to learning quicker. 

 

And so whether it’s the learning and development areas, I do think AI will play a role there and help these young workers get up to speed faster. So that learning curve, instead of being six months, might be you know, shortened to three months. 

 

Steffen: Now, earlier you talked about in what areas you’re using AI currently in your day-to-day. In what areas looking ahead to the future, do you see AI impacting the day-to-day marketing environment? What are areas where you see AI finding really strong applications, and then can produce outputs that really helps and takes things to the next level?

 

Chris: I think there’s a few different areas. So the first obvious area for me is really in automation. We have all these systems, whether it’s Apollo, HubSpot, or SalesLoft. And these systems are designed to automate marketing and sales interactions with prospects, clients, and even customer service, right. Any service or oriented system. 

 

And what will happen, hopefully, over the next few years is we’ll have all this data to train the AI, and then the AI will start recommending, oh, given your history of selling to this type of buyer, you should probably put this content in front of this buyer at this stage on this channel. 

 

And then you’re like, whoa, now, you’re still producing the content, you’re still loading it in the system, but AI is guiding you, because as marketers we look at a lot of data, we make a lot of assumptions, and we test a lot. But AI will have the ability to do the analysis in real-time and give you an option to put some content in front of a buyer that they know based on historical data, the buyer is more likely to buy.

 

Steffen: What you’re saying is basically enriching the workflow. I mean, that can give you information that you probably would take quite a while to unsurface, but quite literally on a click of a button.

 

Chris: Yeah, it’s like a marketing, you know, back to the marketing analyst role that I talked about a lot that I like to use AI for. It’s automating that part of it.

 

Steffen: It’s interesting. There are a lot of systems out there obviously build your entire marketing plan with AI. I don’t know if you’ve come across these type of systems. I’m always curious when I have a quest that uses AI quite a lot. If you use it, if so, what have you found?

 

Chris: I haven’t used the build your entire marketing plan. I did try build a investor presentation one. It was okay. It wasn’t great. And I also tried build an entire website by just answering a few questions. And again, it was okay, it wasn’t top notch. And I’m sure they’ll get better over time. 

 

But I think what we’re gonna see in AI is you’re gonna start to see a demarcation of large language models into specific industry segments. They say that there are over 460 LLMs right now, and over the next year, there’s gonna be 1000s of them. And so what you’ll start to see is there will be a large language model that is specific for the medical industry. 

 

They’ll be a large language model that’s specific for the legal industry. There might be a marketing one. I think there are some brands out there that are claiming to be that right now. But I think that’s where it goes because large language models are going to become very specialized and their training data will be very specialized. 

 

So they’re constantly updated on the latest industry trend, because I think that’s where you get the most value and less hallucinations, and probably just more precise recommendations from AI.

 

Steffen: I want to talk about the notion that companies have well, if AI is used, a small cost basically to use AI, so in that case, as you as a as a fractional CMO, or an agency that indicates to your clients, well, we’re using AI, as part of our work stream. I quite often hear that then clients say wow that’s great. 

 

So let’s cut fees, for example, because you don’t need the FTEs, for example, to do some of the manual legwork. Have you experienced that with your clients that when you had conversation, and you’re indicating that you’re using AI, that they came up and said, hey, well, then maybe we can lower the fees a little bit? And if so, how did you approach that? If not, how would you approach that?

 

Chris: Yeah, that’s a good question. I haven’t experienced it myself. I look at AI as a force multiplier, rather than a replacement. So the way I would look at it is, well, you have one resource that can do the work of two. And you’ve got one BDR that can now do the work of three. 

 

And so you have the ability to stay efficient, but the output and the quality, the quality is the same, but the output is increased. And so it’s a good question for an agency that may say, if you’re using AI, I want a reduced fee. 

 

And then my response to that would be well, we’re actually going to be able to produce more than if we weren’t using AI. So, therefore, we could argue that the fees should be higher because you’re gonna get a higher amount of content and quality work from us. So I think it goes both ways.

 

Steffen: Interesting, interesting thought. Any final thoughts on AI within marketing and how it can augment marketing workflows?

 

Chris: I think one of the things that is interesting is there are a lot of companies, and I just saw an article today on LinkedIn. 75% of employees are using AI with or without the company’s knowledge. So it’s happening, and companies need to figure out how to implement whether it is Enterprise, ChatGPT, or Claude or, maybe they go co-pilot or something else. 

 

They need to figure out a way to roll it out, whether it’s the CSO or the CTO. Because it’s happening. And it’s not something that’s going to slow down, it’s only going to increase from here. So I think it’s the realization is that AI is here, and your employees are going to use it because they find it valuable. 

 

And the benefit to you as a company, by regulating some type of AI within the organization, having governance and observability, is that you’re going to get an A-level player out of maybe a B-player. You’re going to have a player in your organization who is going to learn faster, produce more, and have less errors. And so that’s a plus for you as employer. 

 

So I think the one caveat there I would say is if you work in a regulated industry, so let’s say you work for a bank, or an insurance company, or some type of medical profession, it’s much harder for you to roll out AI. There are companies that have AI security services. 

 

One of my client’s add-value machine has secure generative AI where it monitors bits of firewall. So, as long as you’re using something like that, even as a regulated industry, you can still use AI. There are many tools out there that offer this. 

 

So that’s something I would look into even if you’re working at a bank and you’re worried that of course dealing with customer information, you don’t want to violate any privacy protection. That’s something that is still a concern for many banks.

 

Steffen: Okay, wonderful. Well, Chris, thank you so much for joining me on the Performance Delivered podcast and sharing your knowledge on how to use AI to augment marketing workflows. Now, if people want to find out more about you, what your services that you provide as a fractional CMO, how can they get in touch?

 

Chris: The best way would be just to go to my LinkedIn and on my LinkedIn I have my website directly below my profile. They can contact me there. That would be the best place to get in touch with me.

 

Steffen: Okay, perfect. Well, as always we’ll leave that information in the show notes. Thanks everyone for listening. If you like the Performance Delivered podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about Symphonic Digital, you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on X at Symphonic HQ. Thanks again and see you next time.

 

Voiceover: Performance Delivered is sponsored by Symphonic Digital. Discover audience-focused and data-driven digital marketing solutions for small and medium businesses at symphonicdigital.com.