How to Drive Marketing ROI with AI

Aaron Gilbreath | October 31, 2022

Questions and answers from the BrandMuscle webcast on how to drive ROI with AI

After a stimulating discussion about the ways AI and virtual assistants are transforming the channel marketing landscape, it’s time to field some questions from viewers to give further insight.

Let’s start with this interesting one:

What are my human employees going to think of us using a virtual assistant?

Your employees’ responses depend on how you manage the change and the value that you demonstrate throughout that process. If we think back to our first revolution in marketing, where we started leveraging automation, we see that companies need to ensure that the new technology, meaning, the virtual assistant, is helpful to those employees and that it is embraced as a team member, not as a replacement.

Remember that AI needs to be trained over time, because it gets smarter over time as marketers and machines work together, so those human team members are going to be a key part of making that happen. Make sure that they understand they are not being replaced by machines and show them how their insights are very valuable in not only working alongside that new assistant, but in the process of helping that new assistant become smarter.

How do we handle local partners who aren’t ready for a full digital transformation?

We hear this at BrandMuscle a lot, because there’s a lot of resistance in the channel, or hear it from people who aren’t ready to take on that full digital transformation. There is certainly some change management to help them to trust Markie, or about how it takes time as the AI gets smarter over time. The other thing that we’re really working on is making sure that human support is available when Markie starts to sense a user growing frustrated. If the partner isn’t ready for the full digital transformation, they’ll still have the option to talk to a human or the option to go offline.

The other thing that we really looked at is having multiple interaction methods available. So if the partner doesn’t want to SMS or isn’t comfortable, there are different ways of interacting: They can email, they can use the web interface. We’re hopeful that we’ll see some of those walls come down if they’re not ready for full digital transformation.

It really is going to take time. Digital transformation itself is a big undertaking. It’s a three- to five-year journey on average. Just give things time, and soon people will find themselves asking “How did we do our jobs without that?” I think back to marketing automation and wonder where we would be without that. I feel like we’re going to be saying the same thing about virtual assistants in a few years.

We don’t have much data, and the data we have is a mess. What should we do?

First, know that you’re not alone. We hear that question quite often. First, really think about your kind of your approach to data strategy and business requirements overall. Take a look at the processes that you’re looking to automate and augment using AI and a virtual assistant: What are those specific business requirements? And what buyer and customer data do you have, so that you can understand how that data is classified and connected to other systems. We then want to look across other tools and org technologies: Do we have all the most relevant data? Finally, once we’ve done that inventory of data sources against our business requirements, we can look at how we unify that data: What is that golden record, and what information needs to be joined to that?

Coming back to this idea of getting smarter together over time, this data strategy should also embrace the idea of continuous integration and delivery of that data across systems. The data that we have now is going to be different than the data that we have a few months from now as we continue to learn about our audiences. So treat that as a living breathing, asset for the organization, really focusing in on those requirements, the standardization of that data, and the connection of that data.

If someone is new to AI, where should they start? Are there certain use cases that organizations are more easily able to tackle first? Is there any sort of cadence or order?

Absolutely. I would say start out with things like personalization and segmentation: How can we leverage AI to understand and do more with our audiences? That can be for customer, employee, or partner. Then, think about the marketing side: Is it brand or demand? Is there really a line between those two? Start with personalization, some audience work, looking at prospecting and prioritization of accounts and opportunities that might be in market, things like tactic orchestration.

When we say tactic orchestration, it’s a fancy way of saying “what comes next,” and what the most relevant content or offer is to activate next, based on what we know about this audience, this buyer, and where they’ve been. Testing is always a good opportunity as well, so people new to AI can start on a smaller scale, and then think about that digital experience optimization, which is a bigger bucket. So whether we’re using the website, our phone, SMS, or a mobile app — wherever we might be interacting in those digital channels — understand that we need consistency anddelivery of value with those interactions. To have an AI-powered virtual assistant that sits across everything is really going to be a key element in driving that consistent experience on the digital side.

At first, when you look at the incredible the possibilities of AI, there are so many things you can do. It can feel overwhelming. When building Markie, we had to prioritize and just start chipping away at all of the use cases that we wanted to solve — looking at what might drive the most value, or what was the highest customer need — and build over time.

What is the future of Markie?

The future of Markie involves continuing to build out that AI model, because it becomes smarter over time, which means we’re able to do more over time. To go back to that concept of Markie being a digital twin to our platform: We want to make sure that Markie can do almost everything that you can do by logging into the web application with a username and password. The future for us is really building all of those use cases and continuing to add more data partners, because the more third-party data that we bring in to enrich our recommendations, the more interesting insights will come out of that.

Any thoughts about the future or evolution of virtual assistants? Because they’ve been around for a little while, where do you see VA’s going?

I would say the future is bright. Virtual assistants and automated conversations are already becoming ubiquitous in business and will continue over the next few years. If we look at this shift toward marketing use cases — I don’t want to say ‘away from,’ because they’re still absolutely used for things like customer support and call centers — as we shift closer to marketing, we’re actually getting better at having these conversations and the entire interaction scenario. We’re paying more attention to usability, tone, the personality of the assistant, all of the factors that lead an audience to walk away thinking, I just had a really great experience. So as virtual assistants become more embedded in the way that we do business, they could even replace some traditional marketing tactics and tools like landing pages and forms, maybe even a website itself. Who knows? The future is bright.

This all really depends on the way that we’re using these assists to demonstrate that value. This is the path to access the most relevant and up-to-date information. It’s inherently personalized, and we can also anticipate your needs. Coming back to the idea of proactive outreach, we’re going to become reliant on that in the future. It’s very similar to when we used to live and die by our dashboards: I log into my system and it tells me what’s going on right now and what I need to do next. This is really a much more personalized and conversational approach to getting that same information.

Ready to Drive ROI with AI By Improving the Customer Experience at Your Company?

Watch the full webcast, Drive ROI With AI: The Future of Channel Marketing With a Virtual Assistant or contact BrandMuscle to find out how Markie, the industry’s first local marketing virtual assistant, will drive program utilization and enhance customer, partner, and employee experiences.

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