In channel marketing, artificial intelligence effectively solves for local partner marketing challenges, including reducing barriers to marketing program participation and providing quick answers to questions. AI virtual marketing assistants enhance customer, partner, and employee experiences and are revolutionizing local marketing. That’s why BrandMuscle used AI and machine learning to build Markie, the industry’s first local marketing virtual assistant.
An AI marketing virtual assistant performs many tasks on local partners’ behalf in order to make local marketing easier and more effective, including executing marketing tactics and making personalized marketing recommendations. An AI marketing virtual assistant can also use machine learning to better understand the local partners who use them, in order to provide even more effective, personalized marketing guidance.
A few tactics AI marketing virtual assistants can execute for local partners include:
When BrandMuscle first started brainstorming ideas for what our own virtual marketing assistant might look like, sketching Markie’s character quickly become one of the most important aspects of the project. We wanted to get this right. Many of our customers’ industries are highly regulated — for instance, financial services and insurance — and tend to have serious marketing with little room for big personalities, or even much levity. Virtual assistants like Markie allow B2B companies to bring levity to the conversation when interacting directly with their channel partners. We at BrandMuscle are not interacting directly with the customer. We work with companies to empower their channel partners. When we designed Markie, our goal was to make Markie an extension of our existing BrandMuscle team and brand voice, and our team is: kind, helpful, knowledgeable, fun, fast, and dependable — a humble expert. Those were the traits we instilled in Markie.
When using AI for what was previously human communication, we also discovered that it is important to accept the inherent “bot-ness” of a virtual assistant while still doing what we can to make the assistant more conversational and approachable. That required understanding how the audience interacted with the marketing virtual assistant.
A crucial aspect of creating an AI marketing virtual assistant is to establish how your audience will interact with them. To determine this, BrandMuscle looked at engagement methods.
BrandMuscle created our For Local Marketing Maturity Matrix™, which is a proven framework and formula for identifying the factors that have the greatest impact on channel marketing program performance and revenue growth. From lowest to highest, those marketing maturity stages are: disengaged, developing, equipped, executing, optimizing. One key point that our data shows is that partners at the highest level of marketing maturity demonstrate two times higher year-over-year revenue growth compared to those in the bottom levels of maturity. For The State of Local Marketing Report 2021-2022, we added the Marketing Savvy dimension to evaluate individual partners’ marketing maturity, independent of the channel marketing program provided by the brand. The Marketing Savvy lens provided an even deeper understanding of the partner spectrum to help brands prioritize and focus their attention and resources on the areas of their channel marketing program that negatively impact their partners’ ability to participate in their program and grow revenue.
When building an AI marketing virtual assistant, it was invaluable to know that many disengaged local partners are not even logging into our platforms. The platform is there, but they do not access it. That’s why we introduced channels such as SMS, text, and email to help engage those partners, because they are more familiar to those channels. In the future, we might invest in interaction methods such as Facebook Messenger, Microsoft Teams, and Slack to further engage them.
Over the years, many clients have asked us for mobile apps, but Markie solves the use case for many mobile apps scenarios. Users can experience a certain level of app fatigue, so we designed Markie to be a digital twin to our platforms, performing many of our platform’s key functions. That allows local partners to interact in a way that is familiar to them, without making them download yet another application and use authentication, or to even remember a username and password. This low-friction approach removes barriers to program participation and reflects the ways users actually engage with platforms. And as our data clear shows: Partners at higher maturity levels tend to drive more revenue.
BrandMuscle’s Local Marketing Maturity Matrix feeds into our AI platform. This enables us to classify each local partner based on the maturity categories defined in the Matrix, and then shape the message that we give based on the specific audience. We believe Markie will primarily impact those who fall into the lower developing and disengaged classes, but this is not to say that Markie cannot elevate partners who are in one of the Matrix’s three higher classifications (equipped, executing, optimizing). Partners in those higher categories know their local markets very well, they understand their customers, and they may be much savvier when it comes to marketing. But at the local level, it is still very unlikely that they are using AI to do things like analyze foot traffic data or competitive ad data. BrandMuscle’s growing list of AI data and analytics partners can build smarter local businesses, no matter how savvy they currently are. This takes them to that next level of Marketing Maturity to help propel them further and drive revenue.
When looking at ways to help businesses achieve program goals, Markie is designed to solve key goals not only for local marketers, but for corporate marketing managers.
Corporate program goals include:
Whatever your company’s target is, for whatever percentage of funds you want to utilize, a marketing virtual assistant aims to increase channel fund utilization. Virtual assistants also help achieve partner engagement goals and partner satisfaction targets based on how your partners rank your programs, and how they interact with your programs. That connects to the goal of sharing a voice, which involves the percentage of dollars and time that the partner spends with your company, because many partners sell your products along with competitors’ products. Then, of course, there is the ever-present revenue growth goal. A virtual assistant like Markie can help achieve all of these goals.
Virtual assistants benefit local partners in numerous ways:
Simplifying processes reduces friction wherever possible for partners who participate in programs.
The number of steps less marketing mature partners have to go through to execute a marketing campaign or participate in something means we start to lose them along the way. Simplifying and streamlining the user experience are key to increasing partner engagement.
Recommendations cut through the noise of what’s available. Sometimes the amount of choice that partners have overwhelms them, and a virtual assistant can save local partners time and avoid decision fatigue. Local partners can confidently choose which of their many options is the best offer for them, because they know that it’s based on AI and machine learning.
Markie really is acting like the on staff marketing expert that this small local business wishes they had, because Markie can answer local marketing questions based on the data from BrandMuscle’s wealth of marketing experience.
Unfortunately, corporate brands can be slow to adopt new technology like AI marketing virtual assistants. Moving ideas and initiatives through corporate controls and IT departments is challenging. That’s where Markie can bring AI to them more quickly than they might bring it on their own, because BrandMuscle can be more agile than a large enterprise. Markie is a market differentiating technology in the TCMA space, where BrandMuscle has been a leader.
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.