My Beef With AI & What I’ve Learnt Over The Year

by | 20 Feb 24

Throughout this past year, I’ve been on a journey with artificial intelligence. As many people have, I’m sure!

Through that time I’ve changed the way I use it.

And, for all you people in small businesses who are also working out where this tech can – and should – help you, I thought I’d share my experience, journey and mistakes so you can leapfrog and just get to the point where AI is working for you!

As you know, AI is in most products now, but in this blog, I’m going to concentrate on AI that helps small businesses with their marketing and content creation.

Table of Contents

Use these links to jump straight to the part of the article that interests you most.

> My Current Beef With AI
> OK, Rant Over – Back To The Start
> My 3 Key Learnings
> But Before You Buy A Marketing AI Product

My Current Beef With AI

Here’s a funny thing that I’ve noticed – and bear with me on this one, because it might sound a bit contradictory (because I’m writing this blog about AI) – but, I’m getting really fed up with all the talk about AI.

It’s like a flashback to a few years ago when everyone was banging on about being “in the cloud”.

Every SaaS company under the sun was going on about how their product was “in the cloud”. But then, as if by magic, it all stopped stopped. Why? Well, it turns out that the people buying these products couldn’t give two hoots about whether it was in the cloud or not!

They were interested in one thing and one thing only: does this solve my problem? Whether it was in the cloud, the sky, the sea, or underground, it didn’t matter to them one bit.

Solve a problem, and you’ve got yourself a decent product. Slap “in the cloud” on it, and well, that doesn’t automatically make it good!

And the same goes for AI. I was at the cinema with my kids over the weekend, and there was this mobile phone advert going on about its AI capabilities. And I couldn’t believe it when a car advert came up next, boasting about having ChatGPT onboard.

Do I care? Not in the slightest. As long as the phone does what a smartphone should do, and the car gets me from A to B, I’m not fussed about the tech behind it. Of course, I want my experience with it to be great, but what tech gives me that great experience is of no interest at all.

These companies are falling into the same old trap of focusing on their tech and features. Pretty soon, people will just take it as given that AI is part of the deal. Not because it has to be, but because it’s a cracking bit of kit that solves problems. I mean do you ask companies if their web application is using the latest and greatest JavaScript coding language? Nope! Why would you?

So, fingers crossed, we’ll see ‘AI’ disappearing from product names before too long, and we can get back to talking about what really matters: how these products tackle our everyday problems.

OK, Rant Over – Back To The Start

Flashback to January 2023, I was so excited about all these shiny new AI tools. I couldn’t wait to add them into my workflow and see the magic happen. The hype was real – “This isn’t just a fad, it’s a proper revolution,” I kept telling myself.

But once the shine started to wear off, reality hit. Ok, so the AI products were all snazzy and top-of-the-line, but the output? It was all a bit ‘meh’ when I used it on its own.

In those first few weeks, I got caught in the trap of seeing AI as the be-all and end-all. I’d just copy its suggestions and paste them, no questions asked. My approach was all a bit robotic and, if I’m being brutally honest, the quality was rubbish.

I sometimes look back at my old social media posts and blogs and feel embarrassed! But I’ve left them up there. They serve as a great reminder of how my relationship with this technology has evolved.

But the thing is, since that January, I’ve not stopped playing with it, I kept going and using it in real-world scenarios, and tweaking how I utilise it.

And along this journey, I’ve had a few lightbulb moments. Three, to be exact. And that’s what I want to share with you now.

My 3 Key Learnings

Be Friends, Be Collaborators

Think of AI like a new team member, someone who’s happy to give advice on some of your day-to-day tasks. Just like you would with a friend at work.

Would you expect that newbie to wave a magic wand and sort all your work issues overnight? No! And AI isn’t going to do that either.

Work in tandem with your AI tools to pinpoint where they can really make a difference, without shoehorning them into every aspect of your business.

Ask yourself if the solution is in line with your current goals, and if it fits in nicely with the tools and processes you’ve already got in place. It’s not just about what AI is capable of; it’s more about what problems it can help you tackle.

Humanise Your AI

Never underestimate the power of your ‘brand voice’.

First, let’s understand what this ‘brand voice’ is all about? It might sound a bit complex, but it’s not…

Let’s say you’re using an AI tool to spruce up your content and give your marketing messages a bit of a boost. Well, that tool will have a ‘Brand Voice’ feature. This great little feature lets you train the AI to sound just like you.

Now, I know that sounds a bit daunting. But it’s actually quite straightforward.
When people talk about training AI, it can mean a whole host of things. But in this case, you’re simply entering things like: “Don’t use ‘hey’ when you write, instead use ‘hey up'” (a handy tip for us Yorkshire folks!).

And all you are doing is typing this into a ‘settings’ page in the tool. Then any content that is created will check those ‘brand voice’ settings and use them to create content that sounds like you!

Be The No.1 Creative

Let’s put it straight: don’t just take whatever your AI churns out and slap it on your website. It’ll be a load of rubbish! Trust me, I’ve been there and done that.

Right now, generative AI is all the rage, but let’s not forget that  it’s not some sort of magic wand for content creation. It can create the bare bones of an article, but it’s down to you, the seasoned pro, to add the meat, giving every piece that human touch.

I’ve got a couple of tricks up my sleeve for this:

  1. First off, start with a good old brain dump. Just get cracked on with writing. Type up your thoughts on a problem you help your customers tackle. Don’t worry about editing it, or correctly spelling mistakes. Just get writing. Then let AI spruce up your writing. In my experience, this is the best way to do it. This way, you’re the mastermind behind the content and AI is your amazing editor!
  2. The second option is to flip that on its head. So, you could ask AI something like “what are the main challenges small businesses in the UK face these days?”, then when the AI responds, you sift through it and tweak it to sound more like you. Or get the AI to rewrite the content in your brand voice (like we talked about earlier).

But the thing is, this second method isn’t as effective as the first. Why? Because you end up with content that’s a bit on the bland side. Yep, it might sound like you, but it’ll be pretty generic and it won’t reflect your unique viewpoint and unique experience.

So, look at this blog post – I highly doubt an AI would write about its own shortcomings! What you’re reading here is my unfiltered opinion, and then I’ve used AI to improve the bits of the blog that I thought were a bit dull – or when I was struggling to find the right way to articulate my point of view.

But Before You Buy A Marketing AI Product

So there you have it. That’s the long and short of my journey and the lessons I’ve picked up along the way, over the past year. I hope you found them useful.

I’m putting my hand on my heart here – this will be the last time I go on about AI in my blogs. I’m more in my element talking about problems that I can roll up my sleeves and help people sort out.

But, before I sign off, here’s one last thing I want to share: Before you splash out on any AI product, especially one that’s supposed to help with your marketing and content creation… do this:

Get your team together for a good old brainstorming session to jot down the problems and challenges you’re struggling with. Then start looking for a product that can help you tackle these issues head-on. Now, like I mentioned right at the top of this blog… AI is a feature, not a problem solver by itself. It’s used as the tech behind the features in good products that actually solve problems.

So when you’re out there looking for products to solve your problems, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the product has to have AI in it. And even if it does, it doesn’t automatically make it better than any other product.

The crux of the matter is to find solutions to real problems that are stalling your business – it’s not about needing a solution with AI thrown in!

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