For BrandMuscle, an integrated local and channel marketing solution and services provider, Forrester’s 2018 report on the growth of both through-channel marketing automation (TCMA) technology and related services was good news indeed. Not only did Forrester predict that sales of TCMA solutions would climb to almost $1.18 billion by 2023, the research firm said that revenues for related services would soar another $1.3 billion.
Already offering both a channel marketing platform and a deep menu of related services, BrandMuscle has taken steps to take advantage of both sales trends. In January, the company promoted Scott Weeren to Chief Executive Officer. Weeren, who joined the company in 2017 as Chief Operating Officer, is responsible for leading BrandMuscle as it pursues a strategy of growth through the development of its integrated digital-plus-physical marketing platform.
Assisting him will be Richard Mendis, who joined the company in January as Chief Strategy Officer. Mendis, who most recently, was Vice President of Portfolio Marketing at TIBCO Software, will be responsible for guiding the development of the company’s strategic priorities across corporate marketing and product management functions.
“The shift to digital marketing generates more data than marketers have ever had,” said Mendis. “Analyzing this increasing amount of data and getting insights from it and then being able to take actions out of that insight is really the holy grail of marketing. We’ve got to apply that through the channel. So we’re looking at how can we apply advanced analytics to that data to support predictive modeling or use the data to support analytical insight products to give recommendations on program activities.”
The company is also reviewing blockchain technologies to determine if it can support smart contracts for channel programs. “We believe that smart contracts could potentially be applied to channel programs or incentives. Systems could track performance and commitments and then automatically execute on them when thresholds are met or targets achieved,” said Mendis.
Successful local and channel marketing programs will continue to require a “holistic” combination of software and services, said Weeren. In addition to running email campaigns or placing online ads, BrandMuscle clients still rely on print, flyers, and in-store displays to drive business. “With a holistic offering of both a platform and services, we are fully capable of enabling our clients to achieve their marketing goals.”
Channel marketing technology is critical to making partner marketing programs scalable and effective, added Mendis. “But you also need the manpower, experienced people in order to do the things that cannot be automated by technology today.”
That’s especially true in industries that have been slow to implement more sophisticated through-channel marketing programs. “We are starting to see more uptick in B2B companies other than high-tech,” said Weeren. “The biggest obstacle for many vendors remains the inability of the dealers or partners to take advantage of the marketing support being offered to them. ‘Who prints the local marketing flyers that the dealers slip into an envelope? Or makes sure a pop-up display makes it to a local town hall event? When you really get down to what does it mean to do hyper-local marketing and execute on those promotional incentives, there’s a lot of nuisances and details and heavy lifting that need to be supporter.”
BrandMuscle credits its operational infrastructure for being able to provide affordable and effective high-touch services. “Because we’re doing it for multiple clients, we have built operations that can scale across multiple companies,” said Weeren. “We’ve made the investments in people and technology and infrastructure to be able to do it at scale in a way that’s cost-efficient.”
Supporting in-person events is a good example, said Weeren. “One of our bigger findings in our annual State of Local Marketing Report over the last couple of years is that events still are a big driver for local agents,” said Weeren. BrandMuscle helps its clients and their partners choose the best events to attend and handles many of the logistics associated with them. The company also strives to eliminate channel conflicts by ensuring that multiple partners/agents representing the same vendor aren’t participating at the same event.
The experience that BrandMuscle service providers have with the company’s software helps to identify opportunities for improvement, said Mendis. “Our employees use the software, as well, and are our strongest critics. That makes us very good at software.”