As an early investor in Webflow, I've long believed that with every new technology, we see self-taught, early adopters that can build a successful practice building and educating others about the technology. It's one of the many tools making an agency AI-friendly.
Webflow has given the creator economy a big boost, enabling more people to build websites at scale. Today, we see thousands of agencies building with Webflow on behalf of clients and a new breed of entrepreneur requiring no computer science degree, student loan debt, or prior work experience to earn over six figures a year.
Rohan Malhotra became Hong Kong's first Webflow expert and one of the world's youngest Webflow Experts at 19 years old. He launched his agency in January 2021 and earned six figures in his first year in business. Twenty-three-year-old Diego Díaz went from working as a security guard and Amazon delivery helper to running his own web-design agency — and now he makes up to $57,000 a month. A film director friend said he taught himself how to code using ChatGPT as a personalized tutor with access to a lot of free information.
These are just three of hundreds of thousands of examples of how AI can help agencies and freelancers do less manual work, learn new skills, and unleash their creativity.
At Worklife, we’ve been closely watching how AI is transforming companies that are changing the way people work. In just a few months after the launches of ChatGPT, Stable Diffusion, and other AI-powered tools, we see an even greater opportunity for self-taught AI artists, writers, designers, filmmakers to make money doing what they love.
But AI powers more than artistry. It’s an incredible tool for workflow automation, generating creative, and organizing and analyzing data – all things that can take agency and freelance work to new heights.
AI is no stranger to marketing and advertising work, but with these new technologies, we can expect to see automation save time and energy in so many new areas with tools that still need to be built.
Let's look at how agencies and content creators can use AI to push their creative boundaries.
Entering the AI Marketing Agency Era
Rewind to 2006 when Hubspot and Marketo hit the scene. They were two of the early leaders in the MarTech industry, with a focus on inbound marketing through products like Marketo's Lead Management.
In 2017, both companies announced the integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning to help sales teams close deals and marketing teams automate their process. Now, Hubspot offers five different software hubs, all powered by AI. And Marketo is now part of a family of products providing marketing automation.
These days, if you're keeping a pulse on the AI marketing tech industry, it takes a lot of work to keep up. New AI agencies pop up daily, sporting a suite of MarTech products that leverage AI to project manage, communicate, and create. According to McKinsey, customer service analytics, customer segmentation, and customer acquisition and lead generation continue to be the most popular use cases for AI in marketing and sales.
Need an agency specializing in voice and conversational AI? RAIN Agency can take care of that for you. Want to push your funnel advertising to the next level? Cognitiv offers deep learning artificial intelligence that helps brands optimize their media spread, measure ROI, and maximize data.
"We made the radical decision this past year to pivot from a digital advertising agency to a company that is focused solely on Voice as an emerging technology. This may seem like an obvious pivot given Voice adoption rates and the daily flood of indications that Voice technology will become ubiquitous, but change of any kind is never easy," says RAIN CEO, Nithya Thadani.
Leaders like Nithya, who are taking the leap to adapt and integrate new technologies, will show the world what AI can really do.
While marketing automation tools like Hubspot and Marketo have made marketing workflow more efficient, the truth is that they haven't fully automated marketing yet. Despite the advancements in technology and artificial intelligence, marketing is still a very human-driven field.
That's because – while AI-naysayers may be concerned otherwise – human creativity simply can't be automated. And the more we see AI tools diversify, the more we'll be able to see the true capacity of human creativity.
The State of Marketing AI Tools
Right now, many tools on the market help freelancers and agencies streamline their work and get more creative. For example, workflow automation tools make it easy to manage tasks and keep track of progress.
No-code website builders enable anyone to build a clean, functional website without writing code. Image and content generators are saving hours by automating design and writing tasks. And data analytics tools can help you track your results and make data-driven decisions.
Drift, a conversation-focused cloud platform, released a 2022 State of Marketing and Sales AI report at the end of last year, highlighting the incredible AI breakthroughs transforming the market. Insights gained from years of collecting data simplifies the AI technology landscape into five areas of impact:
- Planning: Building intelligent strategies
- Production: Creating intelligent content
- Personalization: Powering intelligent customer experiences
- Promotion: Managing intelligent cross-channel promotions
- Performance: Turning data into intelligence
They found that agencies and freelancers are using this tech to optimize web content for search engines, create data-driven content, construct buyer personas based on user data, and measure ROI for campaigns.
At the end and start of every year, you can now find Twitter littered with creators sharing their MarTech stack, while others rejoice in the time they're saving using them.
One of the key challenges of fully automating marketing is that it involves a lot of creativity and strategy, two areas where AI is still limited. While AI can help to automate specific tasks such as email marketing, it can't replace the human touch that goes into creating a truly impactful and engaging message.
“For creative agencies, the adoption of AI tools is still in its honeymoon phase. For many designers, writers and developers, testing the limits of what can be achieved now is a mix of novelty with a clear tingling feeling that a sea change is just upon the horizon.” – Matt Owens, Partner at NYC-based creative agency Athletics
However, thanks to the freed-up time they're getting as a result of AI tools, marketers are more creative than ever and experimenting with a lot of new channels with their newfound time. We're seeing street artists hired by brands to create branded murals in a cityscape, and branded experiences are popping up everywhere.
Multi-disciplinary artist, COVL, is one of the many talented artists taking advantage of this new creative space of marketing and advertising. From Red Bull's WERK ROOM installation in Miami to her live painting project with Cadillac in Brooklyn, she's partnered with global brands to build fresh, creative experiences that reach new audiences.
COVL is just one of the thousands of examples of the incredible, creative brand experiences companies can create when they have more time to focus on their craft and spend less time in the weeds of admin duties.
6 Ways AI is Transforming Agency Work
Gone are the days when AI was just used for marketing and sales automation tools.
Now, it's transforming agencies' processes from top to bottom. AI-powered tools streamline website production, improve ad creativity, generate top-notch content, provide valuable data and analytics, and elevate the overall customer experience.
Freelancers and agencies alike are finding new ways to leverage AI technology to automate tedious tasks so they can focus on delivering results to their clients.
Thanks to the diversification of AI tools, integrating AI in all aspects of work is no longer a luxury; it's a necessity to stay ahead of the curve in competitive markets.
Let's take a look at seven types of tools that are transforming artificial intelligence agency work:
- Process automation
- Website development
- AI art generators
- Content generation
- Data and analytics
- Customer experience tools
Let's be honest; creatives didn't get into the marketing and advertising industry to spend their time creating and sending invoices, updating project statuses, and spending all of their time cold-calling potential clients. They started with the desire to make creative branding, campaigns, and videos that help companies connect with their audiences.
And thanks to process automation software like Internal.io and Zapier, they can handle admin tasks without bogging down their creative minds with admin tasks. So pick any process you want to simplify in your team's workflow, and you'll probably find there's a Zap for that.
Process automation allows teams to streamline their workflows for all kinds of things:
- Bookkeeping and payroll
- Content scheduling
- Ad optimization
- Development workflows
The list goes on.
But with over 5,000 app integrations and millions of users, Zapier may be the most valuable process automation tool of them all.
You don't need to be a tech expert to use Zapier to automate your processes. Need to send a follow-up email every time a new lead is added to your CRM? Zapier's got you covered. Want to save new attachments to Google Drive automatically? Zapier makes it happen.
Agencies like AlchemyLeads have used Zapier to improve lead outreach with automation and personalization to reach new marketing services clients. They've been able to combine email and LinkedIn as a mode of outreach to prospects. But instead of having their sales team sit on LinkedIn all day, they're using Zapier to automate the tasks and timing. That leaves them more time to nurture warm leads and close deals.
This is just one of the thousands of examples of how process automation tools can help with those tedious administrative tasks, but what about creative work?
Launch Websites Faster
Website projects can range from a 6-month process to a single-day build, and everywhere in between, depending on the complexity of the website. And these days, everyone needs one.
A decade ago, websites were being built from the ground up, with front-ends refining each color and box, while the back-end ensured everything functions properly. But today, it can be as easy as buying a template or using a drag-and-drop style builder.
AI is also making its way into the world of freelancers and agencies looking to build and ship websites and apps faster than ever. Again, there are tons of tools that can help every step of the way.
Take UX design, for example. AI tools can now analyze user behavior and generate design suggestions based on the data and what you’re designing.
You can now also generate UI designs using natural language through Galileo AI.
These tools save time on mock-ups, user journey mapping, and shipping a landing page. Instead, designers can spend their time on more creative tasks, like finding creative ways gentle animations can help users navigate a website.
Development is also getting a boost from AI. Until recently, if you asked a developer their go-to resources to fix a code problem, they'd probably say Google or GitHub. Now, even GitHub has introduced its own AI tool, GitHub Copilot, which uses OpenAI Codex to suggest code and functions as you build. Tools that can automatically generate working code for complex builds speed up the development process. When it comes time for a code review, AI can also identify bugs and fix issues, making websites more reliable. With tools like Copilot, developers can focus on solving bigger coding challenges instead of building foundational code.
But potentially the greatest opportunity for AI in website builds is using AI to build a no-code website in its entirety.
As an investor, Worklife has been a big fan of Webflow from day one. Now, it's used by more than 3.5 million freelance designers and teams. And its features are incredibly comprehensive! You can build a website, optimize for growth, and scale your business with the help of all of Webflow's features:
- Designing without code
- A flexible content management system
- eCommerce options
- Immersive and interactive experiences
- Gated content
- SEO optimization
- Custom logic workflows
- State-of-the-art security
- Hosting through AWS
One of those 3.5 million Webflow users is Juice, an AI development agency that has even branded itself as a Webflow agency. The Juice website shares, “We choose Webflow because it makes it easy for clients to manage their content, and allows us to create highly functional and beautiful sites without the high-cost.”
So not only does it help projects move through their workflow faster, it also means it’s a lower cost to clients and the result is a stunning website they can continue to manage themselves. Everyone wins!
For every new digital platform, there’s a new opportunity for millions of advertisers to fight for the top spot in users' feeds. As advertising platforms become more crowded, it’s becoming more and more important to stand out with eye-catching ad creative.
And let’s be real–coming up with tons of creative ideas for ad campaigns can be time consuming and overwhelming. Talk about creative burnout!
That's where AI comes in. With tools like AI art generators, creative entrepreneurs and agencies can generate an endless stream of ad creative options in a fraction of the time, even the most efficient creative could. This allows marketers and agencies to test multiple variations and optimize their campaigns. More effective creative translates to a greater return on investment.
And can we all celebrate the impending end of terrible stock photos and lower production budgets? With the power of AI, agencies can generate high-end product images or create virtual fashion models for clothing brands.
Aside from having volumes of content to test and optimize your marketing, one of the best benefits these tools have on society is the opportunity to improve diversity and inclusion in creative. Gone are the days of endless hours spent searching for the perfect stock image to represent a diverse group of people. Instead, AI image generators can create custom images that accurately reflect a brand's target audience.
This is a more inclusive and authentic representation of society in advertising, and helps brands connect with a broader audience. In addition, by using AI to generate diverse images, companies can show they're committed to promoting diversity and inclusivity in all aspects of their business.
Those who want to take their creativity to the next level can look beyond image generators and bring their ads to life. Here is a quick plug for two of our favorites tools for animation and video:
- Rive: Using Rive's design and animation tools, creatives can animate brand characters, build animated UI components, and create engaging data visualizations with the help of AI.
- Runway: This real-time video editing app uses "AI Magic Tools" to help video producers automate the process of generating transcripts, blurring faces, removing items from a background, and more.
No more crushing your Creative Director's dreams, because his ideas don't fit the production budget. The sky's the limit!
Yes, video is taking the marketing and advertising world by storm, but at the end of the day–content is still king (or queen)!
Content is what connects us, informs us, and inspires us. And with AI, content creators can now focus on the story they want to tell rather than getting bogged down by the details of writing every last word.
Imagine being able to quickly generate a video transcript to make your website more accessible, or produce articles with keyword-rich content to generate traffic. Maybe you need to crank out a last-minute presentation for a big project or generate a voiceover for your How-To video. All of this is now possible to accomplish in half the time with AI content generators.
When it comes to written content generators, tools like ChatGPT, JasperAI, and Longshot, writers can tackle writer's block with AI assistance. They use advanced algorithms to produce content that's not only fast, but also engaging, informative, and on-point.
The key to agency success with these tools will be ensuring content writers truly understand the tool's power and how to use it to get the best results. As a result, they'll spend more time thinking through creative briefs and ensuring the team and tools produce high-performing, on-brand content.
“As a creative, sometimes you have an idea of how you want a script to feel, but sometimes struggle to put it into writing. At Slam, we’ve used ChatGPT for script, title, and generating hundreds of outlines. The amount of time and resources we’re saving to ideate is unmatched.” –Silvia Li Sam, CEO of Slam Media Lab
Written content isn't the only thing being transformed by AI. Tools like Tome use generative AI to assist turning boring decks into engaging, interactive presentations. In addition to verbiage suggestions, Tome allows agencies to integrate 3D models, product mock-ups, and websites – to name a few features.
Tome can help agency strategists produce game-changing pitch decks that turn their meetings into an experience. Instead of taking designers off production work, they can make a stunning deck in half the time.
Data & Analytics
Data and analytics is one of the most AI-friendly spaces, with many data organizations embracing the technology in its infancy. However, with so many recent developments, the market for AI-powered data and analytics tools is hotter than ever.
AI can help agencies analyze vast amounts of data and identify real-time patterns, trends, and insights. This can be used to inform business decisions and improve the efficiency of internal processes. AI marketing agency leaders can then make better decisions about where to allocate resources and how to prioritize projects.
Externally, data and analytics play an even bigger role in things like measuring ROI, predicting market changes, and optimizing campaigns. For example, AI can help identify target audiences and the most effective marketing channels. Or it can be used to optimize campaign spend, improve performance, and crush performance goals.
Reputation management and customer experience agencies have found a big boost from AI-powered data through tools like Viable. Viable leverages AI and GPT-3 to collect, analyze, and report on qualitative data, helping clients make data-backed decisions for their product management, customer experience, and marketing initiatives. Not only does the tool distill the information into actionable insights, but team members also save time on putting together reports to present to clients–freeing them up to focus on recommendations.
One of the most complex concepts agencies have to tackle is understanding, mapping, and optimizing a customer experience across a wide variety of touch-points. AI has an incredible opportunity to optimize this process and build a customer experience that delights the customer at every turn.
AI can help the customer experience in four main areas:
- Customer journey mapping
- Website personalization
- Notification automation
As an early investor of Artifact, we love to see customer experience experts nerd out about the power of AI. It's a platform that is revolutionizing the way agencies approach customer experience. The AI can accurately predict customers' needs using data and behavioral analysis, allowing teams to proactively shape their user journey and turn them into loyal fans.
Tools like Artifact can help:
- Decrease churn by building loyal brand relationships
- Activate teams around critical customer experience issues faster
But Artifact isn't the only platform disrupting the customer experience field. There's an AI application for every touch point throughout the customer experience, including AI chat-bots like VoiceFlow and push notification automation like Knock.
Agencies can use customer experience tools like these to improve their touch-points in a big way! Then, they can focus on delivering great work while AI handles the nitty-gritty details.
How Agencies Can Use AI Responsibly
With all the hype about AI and what it can do for the marketing and advertising world, we always like to give advice about using AI responsibly.
The discourse around AI varies from day to day, but two main themes you can expect to tackle are:
- Is using AI a deceptive practice?
- Will AI replace agency employees and freelancers?
The truth is–no technology is perfect. But using it responsibly is possible.
“Tools like ChatGPT are obviously just the beginning of how AI will inevitably impact creativity…But, as I said to our team, AI is here to stay whether we like it or not. And agencies like ours will need to harness it rather than avoid it. Our job is to lead our clients through digital transformation in a thoughtful, ethical, and impactful way, not resist it. New tools and technologies, in our view, are nothing without their human counterparts,” says Ben Ostrower, CEO of Wide Eye
A piece of advice? Embrace transparency.
Freelancers and agencies need their clients to trust them with their brand. By being transparent about their technologies, creators can ensure their clients are on board with AI. It may even be an opportunity to show your dedication to the leading edge. Clients are becoming increasingly savvy about AI and want to know that their freelancers and agencies are using tools that can help them work more efficiently and with fewer mistakes.
By being open and honest with clients about their use of AI, freelancers, and agencies can build trust, stay ahead of the curve, and work more effectively.
Upskill Your People
No. AI will not replace your talented team. Instead, it's about empowering your team with the skills they need to use AI to their advantage and make their jobs more accessible and efficient.
Upskilling your team in using AI tools is critical for the success of your business in the AI age. As it becomes more prevalent in the creative space, it's essential for your team to be comfortable using these tools and understand how to get the best results from them. This will give them a sense of security and help them feel more confident in their roles.
Craving More Insights on AI?
As a venture capital firm designed for the future of work, we're first to write the check to founders who are changing how people work. We support companies like Webflow, Deel, Hopin, Pietra, and other tools that make work more creative, flexible, and human in the remote work era.
Needless to say, we're a go-to resource on all things AI advancements.
So take a look at what else we've been talking about in our Worklife Community:
- 26+ Freelancer Tools to Make Your Life Easier
- 2023 Predictions for the Creator Economy
- Art Made by AI: The New Tech Powering The Creator Economy