When you’re growing your startup, there are countless things to consider – from product design to hiring your team. One of the most crucial aspects, though, is digital marketing.

No matter how amazing your product, you’ve got to get the word out to create an audience for it. This is where digital marketing comes in. And AI is rapidly gaining ground here. 

It’s an open secret that AI is transforming almost every aspect of our lives. This includes marketing strategies. In today’s business world, harnessing AI is essential to keep up with competitors or even get a step ahead. 

This article is for you if you’re working on setting up a digital marketing strategy for your startup. It outlines what data-driven digital marketing is, where AI comes into play, and how you can make the best use of this technology’s potential. With what you’ll learn here, your startup’s digital marketing strategy can excel from the beginning. 

What is a Data-Driven Digital Marketing Strategy? 

The biggest mistake you can make in digital marketing is to base your strategy solely on assumptions. Assumptions about your product, your performance, or your target audience can end in disaster. 

With a data-driven strategy, you gather and analyze as much information as possible. Then, you base your decisions on these quantitative insights. 

Building a digital marketing strategy from scratch involves four steps, with or without AI involvement.

1 – Market Research 

First off, thoroughly investigate your audience and your competitors. 

Find out who your customers are and where their interests lie. 

Then, learn what you can from your competitors. Which audiences do they target? What are their marketing strategies? Which messages of theirs resonate with customers?

2 – Drawing Up a Buyer Journey 

When a potential customer first sees your product, they won’t instantly buy it. Not even if you have the world’s best marketing strategy. 

Broadly, customers go through three phases in their buyer journey. First, they become aware of your product and its advantages. How does it benefit them? What problems could it solve? Then, in the consideration stage, they compare alternative solutions. Finally, they decide to go with your solution – or not. 

When you draft a digital marketing strategy, figure out how to optimize this journey.

3 – Choose the Right Digital Marketing Channels 

Next, you have to decide which marketing channels to use. Typically, this includes content, email, and social media marketing. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) also factor into it. 

4 – Launch, Analyze, and Refine 

Finally, you can launch your digital marketing strategy. Consider having a try-out phase. When you do put your finished digital marketing plan into action, keep a close eye on performance and make adjustments as you go along. 

How Does AI Factor Into It? 

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have massive potential for data-driven digital marketing. They excel at rapidly gathering and processing vast amounts of data. This means they can offer almost instant insights into complex realities. 

Another bonus: You can use AI and ML to automate processes. Tedious tasks like content research no longer need to bog down your marketing team. Algorithms can take care of these tasks faster and with more in-depth results. 

Here’s a detailed guide on how to leverage AI and ML during every step of creating a data-driven digital marketing strategy.  

Get to Know Your Customers With AI 

First, figure out who your customers are and what they want. AI can help you by finding patterns at macro-scales and providing actionable insights. 

You can use AI pattern recognition to analyze the data you’ve bought from market research providers. 

Alternatively, you can deploy algorithms to pull enormous amounts of data from social media or discussion forums. Using natural language processing, algorithms can sift through countless posts, reviews, and articles.

The goal is to run a sentiment analysis. With this AI tool, you’ll be able to identify the major questions, trends, and gaps related to products like yours. It will also make it easier to pinpoint your audience’s demographic details. 

Suppose you’re running surveys or focus groups to get a more in-depth understanding of your potential customers. In that case, AI and ML will help you make sense of feedback. Using voice recognition, it can even transcribe and analyze the results of oral discussions. 

Use AI Tools for Competitor Research 

In parallel, you can use AI-driven tools to give you an edge in competitor market research

Use these tools to track competitors on social media and find out what their strategies are. Get statistics on posting frequencies, types of posts, and identify high-performing content. Gather insights into their followers’ demographics. Figure out how these followers interact with the brand through comments, shares, and likes. 

AI-based platforms can also help you reverse-engineer your competitors’ website analytics. Once you launch your own website, keeping a close eye on page traffic and bounce rates will be crucial. Before you get there, though, check out what your rivals are up to. Think of it like peeking over your friends’ shoulders during a math test. Analyze what they’re doing, then do it better. 

Also, AI and ML can mine your competitors’ link profiles. Having links to your website on other pages is a crucial factor for high rankings. That’s because search engines see such links as proof of trustworthiness and authority. By understanding which pages link your chief rivals, you can draft a strategy to stay competitive.

Set Up an AI-Optimized Buyer Journey 

When you envision your customers’ buyer journey, know that you can use AI at every turn to improve their experience

In fact, an outstanding user experience (UX) largely depends on AI. Machine learning algorithms can provide every customer with a personalized experience. From the first time someone comes in touch with your brand, your AI will keep tabs on them. It will identify which stage of the buyer journey they are at. Which aspects of your product interest them? What problems are they aiming to solve? 

These insights will then curate website content, adjust paid ads, or send personalized recommendations. If you use AI for nothing else, use it for personalization. Statistics show that 91% of customers are more likely to shop with brands that tailor content and communication to their interests. 

AI can also improve customer service, another critical element of the buyer journey. Especially during the comparison and decision phase, swift customer support can be the clinch. AI can help in the form of chatbots that answer routine questions and auto-generated email responses. This will free up your team to respond to complex or urgent queries. 

Harness AI for Content Marketing

Creating the right content has become crucial to digital marketing. Search engines reward comprehensiveness and high information value and penalize superficial, spammy posts and articles. 

AI can help you to produce high-quality content that will drive organic traffic to your website. 

Based on your target audience’s interests and your competitor’s performance, AI tools can generate content ideas. They will tell exactly which topics resonate with potential customers. 

To go further, deploy AI-driven tools to create content profiles. When writing any piece of content, research is the most tedious part. It can take hours to go through similar blog posts and analyze how they performed. 

AI will take this load off your back. The right tools can scan through all existing articles and posts on any subject. They will then tell you how to approach the topic, structure your content, and which gaps other articles left for you to improve on. 

More directly, AI can improve the quality of your writing. Deep-learning algorithms will polish your grammar and improve your vocabulary. 

Leverage AI Tools for Social Media 

Tools based on AI and ML can boost your social media performance

They will help you analyze past performance to pinpoint the right content to post. On a larger scale, they can help you draft a messaging strategy. One size does not fit all: You have to tailor your brand voice to different platforms. Overall, this will help you develop a social media strategy for maximum effect and reach on each channel.

Also, you can automate processes like analytics. Gain cross-platform insights by having your AI assistant regularly deliver comprehensive reports. 

Take Email Marketing to the Next Level With AI  

When you’re starting out with email marketing, you might be tempted to default to Mailchimp and then focus exclusively on building an email list. Instead, carefully check out the various AI and ML tools that Mailchimp alternatives (appsumodotcom) offer. These tools can reduce the time and money you have to invest and increase your ROI. Building an email list is important, but no longer everything. 

The right email marketing platform will offer AI and ML tools to increase email personalization for every single sub-group in your target audience. They will also offer analytical insights for data-driven email marketing. You’ll be able to check the effectiveness of different subject lines, and A/B test different newsletter layouts. Solid AI tools also help you increase your campaigns’ deliverability by optimizing send times and making sure your email list is clean.

Boost Your SEO Using AI 

When you think of digital marketing, chances are that Search Engine Optimization – SEO – tops your list of priorities. SEO has been key for years, and it should be an integral part of drawing up your digital strategy. 

Luckily, AI can give you a serious leg up. 

It’s important to know that search engines themselves use AI and ML algorithms. RankBrain, for example, is Google’s AI search algorithm. To get these algorithms to rank your site highly, using AI yourself is a must. 

To begin with, use AI to optimize your keyword research process. Deciding on the right keywords to target is fundamental for your SEO strategy. In 2020, trends like Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) have gained momentum. AI-driven keyword research tools are an asset in harnessing these trends. 

You can also use AI to optimize your content for voice search. It’s estimated that 50% of searches this year will be voice-based. These voice searches use a natural language processing AI. Making sure that your content is compatible with them will improve your rankings.

Further AI applications in SEO are having an algorithm check how you appear in local searches, using it for A/B testing, and to optimize your site’s technical SEO

Optimize Paid Marketing with AI 

Finally, using the right AI tools can give a major boost to your SEM performance. As in other areas of marketing, AI helps you target the right audience and personalize content. In terms of analytics, it can show you the bigger picture. 

To be more specific, AI will also keep track of all your SEM metrics for you – from CTR (Click-Through-Rate) and CPA (Cost Per Action) to CPC (Cost Per Click). You can have periodic summary reports delivered and keep an overview of the success of different marketing campaigns. 


Integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning into your digital marketing strategy from the get-go will give you a valuable advantage. It will help you base your marketing approach on data insights, rather than assumptions. 

AI now permeates every aspect of digital marketing. Setting up data-driven strategies and feedback loops is something to do sooner rather than later. 

Use AI-driven tools to gather and analyze data for market research. Make them part of your buyer journey. Harness them for content, social media, and email marketing, as well as SEO and SEM. 

Altogether, this integration of AI and ML will give your startup an edge from the start – and set you up on the path to success. 

Hasan Saleem

Internet Entrepreneur and Digital Marketing Consultant.

Hasan is a seasoned web professional with an extensive record of successfully directing search and social media marketing operations to drive business development. Special expertise in eCommerce, new business startups, and online marketing.