Artificial intelligence is transforming the way brands market, advertise and partner with one another. AI platforms are disrupting traditional approaches with data-driven personalization, automation and scale.
But many companies are struggling to leverage AI’s full potential. Partnerships that seemed obvious on the surface have failed to generate results, while opportunities to collaborate with complementary AI providers are overlooked. Without a clear strategy for determining the right partners, structuring agreements and generating concrete outcomes, even the most advanced AI technologies will leave value on the table. This threatens to widen the gap between AI-forward innovators and the rest of the marketing field.
What’s the next step for brands?
That’s what we’re covering in today’s episode of Partnership Unpacked.
Welcome back to Partnership Unpacked, where I selfishly use this time to pick the brains of experts at strategic partnerships, channel programs, affiliates, influencer marketing, and relationship building… oh, and you get to learn too! Subscribe to learn how you can amplify your growth strategy – with a solid takeaway every episode from partnership experts in the industry.
Many marketers find themselves struggling to form impactful partnerships that enhance their brands and drive growth. In today’s crowded and fast-changing marketplace, the need for strategic collaborations with complementary partners has never been greater.
Yet for most brands, a lack of expertise in evaluating potential partners, structuring beneficial agreements and measuring tangible results has left partnerships underperforming or failing to meet expectations. Those that figure out how to properly select partners based on alignment, negotiate mutually valuable terms and manage partnerships to maximize synergy will gain a significant competitive edge. But without a clear roadmap for effective partnering, many brands will miss opportunities to turbocharge growth through strategic collaborations.
That’s exactly what our guest today, Tom Armitage, is going to talk to us about.
After spending a decade on the agency side, supporting over a hundred brands with their campaigns, Tom now serves as Senior Marketing Manager for Smith.ai, providing thought leadership and lead generation to a brand that’s leveraging AI extensively. He has taught as an adjunct professor for eight years on market research and social media marketing, and brings us a unique perspective on how to approach partnerships in today’s environment.
Partnership Unpacked host Mike Allton talked to Tom Armitage about:
♉️ How brands can identify good potential brand partners
♉️ How to structure successful strategic partnerships
♉️ How AI is having an impact on marketing & partnerships
Learn more about Tom Armitage
- Connect with Tom Armitage on LinkedIn
Resources & Brands mentioned in this episode
- Subscribe to the show calendar: agorapulse.com/calendar
- Learn more about Agorapulse with a free demo
Full Notes & Transcript:
How This SaaS Company Navigates AI and Partnerships with Tom Armitage[00:00:00] Mike Allton: Artificial intelligence is transforming the way brands market advertise and partner with one another. AI platforms are disrupting traditional approaches with data-driven personalization, automation, and scale, but many companies are struggling to leverage AI’s full potential. Partnerships that seemed obvious on the surface have failed to generate results.
While opportunities to collaborate with complimentary AI providers are overlooked, without a clear strategy for determining the right partners, structuring agreements, and generating concrete outcomes, even the most advanced AI technologies will leave value on the table. This threatens to widen the gap between AI forward innovators and the rest of the marketing field.
What’s next for brands? That’s what we’re covering in today’s episode of Partnership Unpacked.
This is Partnership unpacked your Go-to Guide to Growing Your Business through partnerships quickly. I’m your host, Mike Galton, that each episode unpacks the winning strategies and latest trends from influencer marketing to brand partnerships, an idea. That you can apply your own business to grow exponentially.
And now the rest of today’s episode,
welcome back to Partnership Unpacked, where I selfishly use the time to pick the brains of experts at strategic partnerships, channel programs, affiliates, influencer marketing, and relationship building. Oh, And you get to learn too. Subscribe to learn how you can amplify your growth strategy with a solid takeaway.
Every episode from partnership experts in the industry now many marketers are finding themselves struggling to form impactful partnerships that enhance their brands and drive growth in today’s crowded and fast changing marketplace, the need for strategic collaborations with complimentary partners has never been greater.
For most brands, a lack of expertise in evaluating potential partners. Structuring agreements and measuring has left partnerships. Underperforming or failing to meet expectations. Those that figure out how to properly select partners based on alignment, negotiate mutually valuable terms and manage partnerships to maximize synergy will gain a significant competitive edge, but without a clear roadmap, I.
Perfective partnering. Many brands will miss opportunities to triple charge growth through strategic collaborations, and that’s exactly what our guest today, Tara Amitage is gonna talk to us about. After spending a decade on the agency side supporting over a hundred brands with their campaigns, Tom now serves as senior marketing manager for smith.ai, providing thought leadership and lead generation to a brand that’s leveraging ai.
Extensively. He’s taught as an adjunct professor for eight years on market research and social media marketing, and brings us a unique perspective on how to approach partnerships in today’s environment. Hey Tom, welcome to the show.[00:02:51] Tom Armitage: Mike. I’m really pumped to be here. Thanks for having me on. [00:02:54] Mike Allton: My pleasure.
So excited. I definitely wanna dig in. And for starters, can you share exactly what smith.ai does for brands and how AI kind of comes to the fore in your solution?[00:03:04] Tom Armitage: Yeah, absolutely. So Smith ai, we’re a 24 7 customer engagement solution. We offer three primary services within that umbrella. We offer virtual receptionists and our live staff to virtual receptionists are there to handle client conversations around the clock 24 7 and.
With that handling of conversations, they can also do lead qualification and lead screening. They can book appointments directly on calendars, and that information and data can be synced seamlessly into the CRMs of our, uh, business partners. We also have web chat, live staff, web chat, where through our live agents we can handle the chat conversations coming through on the.
With those same virtual receptionist team members. And our third offering is outreach campaigns where it’s S D R as a service. Our agents use AI driven workflows and actually make those outbound calls to potential cold or warm leads and actually warm up that sales funnel and actually build and create sales opportunities on behalf of our clients.
So it all falls under that umbrella of 24 7 customer engagement, and that’s where we’re playing right now.[00:04:14] Mike Allton: Cool. So just to clarify, for those listing, it’s actual people who are working as, as respondents to chat messages and so on. It’s not totally artificial intelligence responding like a chat bot. [00:04:27] Tom Armitage: Right. That that’s exactly what makes us different than a lot of the competitors in the marketplace because a lot of. Companies right now. A lot of software right now are really leaning heavily and fully into ai, where there’s still a lot of hiccups and, and a lot of mm-hmm. Challenges that businesses and, and buyers are having with those type of solutions.
So that’s really where we come into play is we have hundreds of North America based agents that actually. Use the AI to give you essentially the best of both worlds so we can be more efficient and more accurate with the conversations that we’re having because of the ai. But we have that human touch that helps to navigate more complex situations and, and also adds that that added layer of empathy and, and, and humanness to those conversations that can help actually provide a, a much better customer experience for our clients.[00:05:17] Mike Allton: I couldn’t agree that more that that human touch is critical, particularly when you’re dealing with a customer who may not be particularly happy at that moment. And you want somebody who can come in with empathy, also answer their questions. And again, like you said, that’s where the AI can come in and help make sure that your agents have all the information they need at their fingertips.
I’m curious what kind of partnerships you guys work with in this kind of a company.[00:05:41] Tom Armitage: Yeah, we have er part.
Scenarios of partnerships. We, we deal with a lot with marketing agencies, which we’ll dig into a little bit further, uh, as well as software partnerships. And I think the marketing agencies, it’s, it’s such a perfect fit and I come from a marketing agency background, so it, it’s really near and dear to my heart because I saw the writing on the wall of how, how vital a solution like AI was to the marketing mix in the services that a typical marketing agency.
To their, to their buyers, to their clients. And if you’re doing your, your typical digital marketing solutions, whether that’s s e o and content marketing, or pay-per-click, or you’re doing website design and development, or social media and social media advertising, or email marketing and lead nurturing, all of these things are about.
Finding and generating leads or nurturing those leads. That way you’re doing a better job of, of really teeing up those sales opportunities for your clients and what makes the Smith Smith AI solution so unique and so complimentary to those agency services is it really helps make that a full. Funnel solution.
So if you’re doing lead generation here and you’re focusing on the top of funnel tactics, but we’re, we as a partner are answering those phone calls, qualifying those leads, booking those appointments, and actually setting up those, those meetings and those appointments directly for the client, you now have a full 360 view of what’s going on, and you actually have, as the agency partner, you have your hand in the full mix.
That the value of your service becomes that much more important, and it’s a lot easier to, to make sure that those clients are happy, that they’re noticing the value of your work, which UL ultimately helps you retain those clients and, and, you know, decrease the amount of churn that’s taking place across your client roster.[00:07:37] Mike Allton: I love it. This is something we, we talk about all the time at Agorapulse, and I could see where there would be a perfect match. Those of you who are listening, who are currently Agorapulse customers, your agency owners and so on, you said, Tom, you’re, you’re creating all this activity on behalf of clients and you could be working with someone like smith.ai.
Have them embedded within Agora Pulse to be monitoring all the comments, all direct messages, all the questions that are coming in from ads, from organic social media. And then you could be tracking all the activity, all the traffic that’s going into the website and the conversions that are happening using our our RA reporting.
So that’s fantastic. I. What about other brands specifically? I mean, you kind of hinted that you might be working with technology partners. How have you partnered with other brands in the past?[00:08:17] Tom Armitage: Yeah. We’ve played very heavily in the legal space for a while. We’ve diversified over the past few years, but the early days of Smith AI are really heavy in legal because there was so much.
Value for a legal client. If you are doing marketing, a lot of times lawyers are either solopreneurs or they own, uh, small legal firms and you’re spending money on lead generation. You’re doing local ss, e o, you might be running pay per click or local service ads and you’re getting chats and you’re.
Your fault. Fault. You could be, as a lawyer, you could be working on a case. You could be literally in a courtroom. If you’re missing those calls, you and I both know what typically happens. The person on Google is immediately gonna put the phone down, go to the next one, and call a competitor. And if they pick up the phone, they’re now doing business with that person.
So it doesn’t have to be focused on legally, you’re seeing this.
Inbound leads is crucial to picking up that phone or answering that chat as quickly as possible or else you run the risk of, of losing them. So that’s where we come into play because if we’re managing that communication, if we’re managing those leads on your behalf, you can really make sure that that speed to lead is as healthy as possible, as fast as possible, and you don’t run that risk of, of losing those opportunities to a competitor.
So it’s a, it’s a really good fit for those type of businesses. And if we get into the partnership side, we’re dealing with a, a lot of software companies that, that play in that same type of space that are dealing with law and legal or home services, ServiceTitan, Clio, CallRail, these type of, of software companies that are really focused on those S M B, the SM B market, where there’s a lot of value from those type of clients because know the importance of.
Really every dollar spent and every lead, making sure that they’re engaged because that really becomes true, valuable dollars at the end of the day for that, for the, that smaller, medium sized business.[00:10:27] Mike Allton: I’m glad you mentioned CallRail. ’cause I, we’ve worked with them in the past. We’ve partnered with them on some of our own agency forward thinking and marketing programs.
Our agency Summit for instance, and they were the ones that I immediately thought of when you mentioned agency. Mm-hmm. You know, they’re offering, you know, they’re creating phone numbers and, and inbound through the phone in a number of different ways for clients. And then, like you said, your, your system’s picking up those calls and making sure they’re not missed.
I mentioned R o I a second ago. How are we measuring the impact that you’re having on these clients? Other, other than not missing calls, but that’s a, that’s, you know, there, there’s an absence there and that’s hard to measure. How, how do you measure that? R o I.[00:11:05] Tom Armitage: So,
That normally come in before working with Smith ai. Obviously, you’ll have a a hundred percent visibility into how many are coming in once you start working with Smith ai, since we’re capturing all that. But if you have a before and after glance of, of what your, your lead intake looks like before, and then you compare it to what it looks like after.
And if you have a solid understanding of. Per new customer that’s acquired or, or even what each new lead is worth to you by measuring the amount of, of new lead intake through, through call, through chat, through text, through Facebook, dmm. However, it’s that we’re bringing that into our system. You can more easily put an actual dollar figure on.
The r o I of this type of program. And if you do have a healthy number of, of missed calls, missed chats, missed texts, it really doesn’t take that much in order to turn this r o i positive. A lot of clients that we end up taking on and a lot of partners that we take on that are using on behalf of, of their clients, they sometimes see, you know, a positive r o i within, uh, really just even the first month or two, and it’s gonna be net positive for the remaining 10 months of the program, which is, is so, so cool to see.[00:12:19] Mike Allton: Makes complete sense. You gotta be measuring it from the start. ’cause then you can know when you’ve made a change, you can see that improvement and you can deliver that report to your boss, your clients, wherever you need to be. Got another quick question for you. On a very related note, [00:12:37] Darryl Praill: it’s the arc of triumph.
Can you imagine if you’re in charge, if you’re the C M O? Of marketing Paris, what are your main channels? Well, there’s the arc of Triumph. There’s the Eiffel Tower, there’s the Louvre. Those are your channels you’re gonna use to drive tourism dollars in. Okay. Now, but you’re not the C M O of Paris. In fact, you’re the C M O of your company product service.
So what are your main channels? Well, I’m gonna guess they’re things like pay per click, maybe trade shows, events, maybe content. Those are all pretty predictable. Right. Let me ask you this question. Are you treating social media as a main channel? By the way, only 1.8% of you today measure social media and can prove an r o i in that investment.
HubSpot and Gartner say social media is the number one channel to invest in this year. Are you doing it? If not, I can tell you why you’re not doing it. Because you don’t have the tools, you don’t have the mentality, and that’s okay. We’ve got you covered. You changed the mentality. We’ll give you the tour of Gore.
Pulse tracks, all the r o I for you. One place to manage all your social media activity, your number one channel, change your success. Treat social media as channel one C m O to another. My name is Darryl. I’m with Agorapulse. I’ll talk to you soon.[00:13:54] Mike Allton: All right, Tom, this is fascinating. So you’re working with other companies like CallRail and Clio and so on, to partner with them to reach your target audience and provide kind of some mutually beneficial services. How do you determine who you’re gonna partner with and, and I’m really curious, what do you think makes for a great brand partner? [00:14:12] Tom Armitage: I think it really stems back to mutually aligned target audiences. A lot of times people like to go after potential partnerships because of the brand, because of the logo, because they think that they’re, for lack of a better word, they might want to try and take advantage of that partner and and try to.
Leverage as much as they can outta the partner. A good partnership, a real true partnership is mutually beneficial. We’re where both parties are, are getting just as much value out of each other as possible. And I think the best way of looking at, it’s making sure that the target audience is aligned. So if we know that the, the best value that we can provide.
It’s often seen from our small and medium sized businesses. They are, are mindful of every dollar they spend. They have limited bandwidth. A lot of times the business owner, him or herself is also the one literally picking up the phones or trying to manage the chats. If, if we know that that is a, a really great.
Customer fit for us and, and that’s our I C P. That’s our ideal customer profile. And we also see that CallRail deals with the same type of clientele. We know that that could potentially be a really fruitful partnership. And by putting the two solutions together, and this is not just made up, this an actual real case scenario, a end user can really see.
Added by using both solutions in place together. So Converted Marketing is a partner of our that uses both CallRail and AI and white labeled and joined it together. Their lead generation services CallRail for reporting. AI for managing those conversations, and you put that all together and they, it really makes a, a very seamless process.
Very seamless lead flow process. It comes in, it’s, it’s, it’s produced through pay per click. It comes in, the call is handle, it’s booked, it’s recording CallRail, and then all of it kind of shows up in, in the dashboard. So it’s. Value to, to an end user when they’re able to have multiple partners working together that are, that are a really good fit for that business’s needs and solving the pain points that they experience.
So, Colorado’s a good one for me to use as an example, because I know they go after the same client type.[00:16:25] Mike Allton: That’s such a terrific illustration. ’cause you’re right, not only is alignment critical, but when you do exactly what you’ve said, you, you align yourself with more than one other brand, you can create a combined solution that for the end client becomes even better than just having one of you involved.
I love that illustration. Fantastic. We’ve been talking a lot about AI, both in this show and obviously outside this show. Mm-hmm. And so I’m, I’m really curious, Tom, what. Do you see, or how do you see AI impacting marketing and maybe even some of your partnerships in the coming year?[00:16:59] Tom Armitage: Yeah, the AI that’s baked into our platform, into our solution.
It provides a better experience for our customers, even if they don’t tangibly touch it and, and feel it regularly. And I’ll give you some examples. At the forefront, our AI is, is blocking 20 million spam callers and, and robo calls that immediately is making it so the client feels less of that annoyance and pain and they’re also not pain.
For it. So the AI is helping to stop all that, that junk from coming in. And it makes your, your reporting that much more valid and, and accurate because the calls and the the leads that are coming in are, are actually legitimate and, and real. It’s converting, it’s recording and converting those conversations and, and it’s providing those transcriptions so we’re able to build those call summaries and deliver that to our clients.
Much more seamlessly and much more quickly. So that way the clients can quickly and easily know what those conversations were like and, and if there’s actions that they need to take from those customer conversations that are coming in, or prospect conversations that are coming in. And it’s actually.
Automatically it’s able to automatically block personally identifiable information and, and like credit card information. And that way we can make sure that that privacy and security is, is at an all time high as well. And then on the chat side, it’s helping to really respond to those conversations much more fluidly and, and naturally and quickly.
And it enables our agents to be able to. Better conversations, higher quality conversations, so that way they’re not stuck needing to investigate all sorts of information. It’s, it’s, it’s prompted right there for them on the screen. And, and it can come across in a much more natural, fluid way by, by using the AI to gather the information.
But by having that human element actually, you know, involved in that conversation as well.[00:18:48] Mike Allton: Can you speak to, or, or maybe you don’t know, but are there some AI developments coming down the pipe with Smith that you could, you could kinda share, Hey, this is what we’re working on. [00:18:58] Tom Armitage: I can’t give too much. There are some AI developments.
It will be on some upgrades that we’re making to our, our chat product as well as, Some developments around our virtual receptionist to be able to ingest more data, I’ll say ingest more data, and then inject more AI into the offering that our agents are able to, to have with our, with, with callers and with chatters.[00:19:20] Mike Allton: Oh, okay. Yeah, that makes complete sense. Uh, we’re doing something very similar on Agorapulse’s side for now. We’ve got generative ai that’s, that’s part of the publishing prompt. But what’s coming within the next quarter or so is the use of AI to provide sentiment analysis. And just like you said, it’s because with AI we can ingest quite a bit more data and understanding who’s creating the post, what’s the context around a post because.
Up until now, sentiment analysis has basically just been, look at the text. If there’s a smiley face, it must be a positive post. If it’s a frowny face, it must be a negative post. Mm-hmm. I mean, that’s about as advanced as it gets right now. So with ai, that large language model is able to provide so much more.
I. Context, context for that one single post so that then we can provide our clients with, Hey, this really is a negative sentiment towards your brand. You need to do something with it. So sense.[00:20:09] Tom Armitage: And I imagine that you’re gonna have that, that local information as well, that you’re able to, to bring in and combining that with the large language models, which makes it much more vast and deeper in the amount of data that you access to, but also accurate because.
Primary research, for lack of a better word. Right, right. Yeah. Awesome.[00:20:32] Mike Allton: Yeah, that’s fantastic. Tom, I just got one more question for you and it’s my, it’s my favorite question. I love asking this and everyone answers a little bit differently, but how important have relationships been to your career? [00:20:43] Tom Armitage: Relationships are the exact synonym to partnerships. Relationships are one-to-one personal and partnerships are really on behalf of, of businesses and and companies. So anything I say here about relationship, you know, it can be equated to that on the partnership side, but they’ve been. Absolutely critical to my career growth and those who I am willing and wanting to do business with and those who have been willing and wanting to do business with me.
I’ve been extremely active on, on LinkedIn for quite a while now, and I’ve sold products to people that I’ve met on online and. I’ve had interviews, job interviews, and had speaking arrangements and speaking opportunities because of relationships that I’ve built online and in person events. So it really has been the biggest factor for me and.
Really any sort of business dealings that I, that I’ve come across with. So yeah, relationships are at the heart of everything that we do from a, both a business and a marketing standpoint. And the relationship that I’ve developed over the year really helped me out and helped me to truly feel successful in the roles that I’ve had.[00:21:53] Mike Allton: And I love that you said relationships equals partnerships. Yeah, yeah. Absolutely could. Obviously I could not agree more. Love that you mentioned that. Tom, this has been so fascinating. Thank you so much for coming on. Sharing what, what Smith is up to with the advancements with ai. It’s fascinating. Can you let everyone know where they can follow and connect with you? [00:22:12] Tom Armitage: Absolutely. If you’re looking for me in particular, head on over to LinkedIn, just search Thomas Armitage and I’ll probably be the first one that pops up. And anything that you wanna know about Smith ai, just visit us at Smith AI and we’ll have all the information that you need. Awesome. Awesome. [00:22:28] Mike Allton: Thanks Tom.
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