Although many marketers still act as if they can take their time in sending promotions to and interacting with customers, time is a luxury modern marketers no longer have. As explained by Charlene Li, Managing Partner, Altimeter Group during the recent Adobe Summit 2013, we are fully in the age of real-time marketing.

adobe-summit-sign.png

“Real-time marketing is getting the right message to the right person at the right time,” said Li. “It can be event-driven -- such as in response to a public event or real-time breaking news -- or customer-driven -- such as customer service or crisis management. The big question is how do you do real-time marketing at scale.”

Li said real-time marketing in large part depends upon how much marketers know about the customers they are targeting. While it is not too difficult to obtain basic demographic data such as age range, marital status, number of children, level of education and magazine subscriptions, Li said even armed with this information “you don’t really begin to understand the whole individual.”

Fortunately for marketers, consumers are voluntarily making more detailed data about themselves available through social networks such as Facebook. “On Facebook I may like you, talk about you, my friends may have talked about you to me.”

As a result, Li said real-time marketing will become more customer-driven with marketers responding to existing conversations or sparking new conversations. “It will be a continual relationship -- you’ll never know where opportunities will come from,” Li said. “They will be fleeting and in context -- marketers will need to respond quickly.”

Li said Altimeter data shows that a response to a customer inquiry within five minutes generates 60 times more customer responses than one within 24 hours. Even the difference of an hour is critical, as a response within one hour generates seven times the customer activity as a response within two hours.

Li gave a couple of real-life examples. The Mini Cooper auto brand responded to social conversations about the recent “Nemo” snowstorm that dumped more than two feet of snow on many parts of the US by painting a Mini Cooper like the title character from the animated film “Finding Nemo” and taking a photo of it in the snow. In addition, the Pretzel Snaps snack brand identifies tweets of people interested in snacks and tweets them offers of free samples to boost sales and conversions.

Elementary, My Dear Watson 

Li said in the near future, marketers will be able to leverage the power of the IBM “Watson” artificial intelligence computer that has made headlines for beating human champions in chess and on the “Jeopardy” game show. “You can apply Watson to marketing and it will learn from responses to automatically make recommendations,” she said. “IBM predicts by the end of this decade the equivalent of Watson will fit in your pocket.”

Moving Forward

Li said the best way for marketers to perform real-time event-based marketing is to create “newsrooms” during events like the Super Bowl to take advantage of breaking news like the power outage that happened this year. She advised an executive senior enough to make on-the-spot approvals of real-time marketing messages needs to be part of the newsroom team.

In addition, Li suggested marketers follow four steps to effective real-time marketing:

  1. Develop an everyday discipline and processes for real-time marketing.
  2. Get your data house in order. “You can’t begin to understand everything you need to know about your customer,” she said. “You need to know what will move your customer forward -- often it’s not data but a person.”
  3. Build trust-based customer relationships. “What happens when a new customer finds out you know everything about them?” Li rhetorically asked. “Have transparency about what you collect and how you use it.”
  4. Develop organizational agility. “Google has the motto fail fast, fail smart,” said Li. “You will inevitably step on toes. If you don’t have the ability to say you’re sorry you won’t be able to do real-time marketing. Li recommended companies create “sandbox covenants” about what they can and cannot risk in real-time marketing campaigns -- starting with a low level of risk and growing over time. “You should train marketers to create judgment.”