Why the ‘trust factor’ in B2B buying will gain momentum in 2023
It is less than a month since San-Francisco firm OpenAI announced the launch of chatbot ‘ChatGPT’.
Heralded by the firm as “the latest step in OpenAI’s iterative deployment of increasingly safe and useful AI systems”, within days more than a million people had tried the bot. In what turned out to be one of the PR success stories of the year, across the globe journalists and influencers were speculating on the potential impact of ChatGPT.
Have AI chatbots finally landed?
Silicon-Valley heavyweight and entrepreneur Aaron Levie, the co-founder and CEO of the enterprise cloud company Box, told his 2.4mn Twitter followers that ChatGPT is “one of those rare moments in technology where you see a glimmer of how everything is going to be different going forward.”
The development has also created a stir among the big tech giants. According to the New York Times, Google CEO Sundar Pichai has been in meetings to “define Google’s AI strategy” and has “upended the work of numerous groups inside the company to respond to the threat that ChatGPT poses.”
The immediate impact of advanced AI chatbots on both our personal and professional lives remains to be seen. But when firms like Google regard something as a ‘threat’, you know that it is more than just a passing fad. It is highly likely that AI which enables humans to converse with a bot in such a realistic fashion has far-reaching consequences for both the internet and the way in which companies reach their target audiences.
As a PR professional, it is that last point – the way in which AI bots could be used by companies to reach and influence their target audiences – that has particularly intrigued me.
How could ChatGPT and AI affect PR in 2023?
Whenever we start working with a new B2B tech client, among the most important questions we consider are:
- Who is your target buying persona? Who is it that this campaign needs to influence?
- By which channels are we going to reach that target audience? Which media and other external sources of information do they consume?
The answer to the first question should be fairly easy to establish. Any marketer should have a detailed understanding of the type of person they need to be reaching. When it comes to B2B tech, it is usually a CEO, CTO or CFO, as well as the people that are most likely to influence them within their own organisations.
The answer to the second question – the channels they consume – can be more nuanced. Traditional B2B PR campaigns have focused heavily on positioning companies as ‘thought leaders’, attempting to influence a reader of a national newspaper or trade publication. Over the past 10-15 years owned media – websites and social media – have grown in importance.
Another big factor in most PR campaigns is search engine optimisation (SEO) – creating content and securing third-party media coverage to help boost the ranking of a product or service. It is for that reason that Google and others are taking such a keen interest in ChatGPT. How likely is it, for example, that in coming years budget-rich B2B tech buyers will be turning to an AI bot for advice and guidance on which vendor to choose?
To test the theory, I put myself in the position of a CTO who had been charged with investing thousands of pounds in a new cloud provider. At the current time, any sane-minded CTO is unlikely to be turning to ChatGPT for advice on what could prove to be a professional make-or-break decision. Nevertheless, I did just that…
ME: “Which is the best cloud service provider?”
ChatGPT: “It’s difficult to determine a “best” cloud service provider, as the needs of different organizations can vary significantly. Some popular cloud service providers include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. Each of these providers offers a wide range of cloud computing services, including infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and software as a service (SaaS).
“In order to determine the best cloud service provider for your organization, you’ll need to consider your specific needs and goals. This may include factors such as the types of services you need, the location of your users and data, the level of security and compliance you require, and your budget.
“It’s also a good idea to research and compare the different offerings of each provider, and to read reviews and ask for recommendations from other organizations that have used their services. You may also want to consider seeking the advice of a trusted cloud consulting firm or vendor to help you make an informed decision.”
So, a brief overview of the big cloud firms plus a summary of the factors you should consider and process you should follow when choosing a provider. A useful, if high-level response. And if you are not convinced by the first answer, you can ask ChatGPT to ‘regenerate response’, leading to a similar answer with more or less detail. I then asked Google the same question. Once you scroll past the handful of firms who have paid for ads, you are met with links to articles on popular tech new sites – ITPro, ZDNet etc – as well as SEO-savvy tech firms which had focused on the topic in their own content such as blogs.
The trust factor
What has my completely unscientific study taught me about the short-term impact of ChatGPT on marketing and PR? Firstly, ChatGPT is a remarkable development in the world of generative AI. From content generation to customer service and creating code, it would appear to have endless possible use cases that may benefit businesses in the coming years. However, when it comes to the matter of influence – the ability to impact the behaviour of someone else – there is some way to go before you will start seeing ChatGPT appear in PR proposals and campaigns. Trust remains an important factor when it comes to buying behaviour, and building that trust takes time.
In the forthcoming Babel B2B Tech Barometer, due to be published in early 2023, we will be taking a closer look at the factors which influence tech buying behaviour. Analyst reports, peer recommendations and media coverage remain hugely influential in the eyes of tech buyers. For now, those working in PR and marketing roles needn’t be losing too much sleep over the way in which generative AI may impact their roles next year. But it’s certainly an exciting development that we at Babel will keep a close eye on.