How you can prepare for real-time marketing

Responding to and predicting the customer's needs on a real-time basis using increasingly sophisticated data interpretation is the challenge, Altimeter's Charlene Li says

Real-Time Marketing (RTM) isn’t just about responsive or event-based campaigns but about truly understanding and anticipating the needs of the individual customer, Altimeter’s founder said.

Speaking at the Adobe Digital Summit in Salt Lake City in March, Altimeter managing partner and author of business books Open Leadership and Groundswell, Charlene Li, declared the age of RTM upon us, urging marketers to transform their operations from tactical, well planned campaign centres to responsive and predictive cross-functional teams that can engage with customers quickly and effectively.

“It’s the old adage of marketing 101 – getting the right message to the right person at the right time,” she told the audience. “RTM is the marketing of relevancy, achieved by first having a listening platform and understanding the conversation being had by your customer, then anticipating what that customer needs and sparking conversations. As a marketing organisation, you need to be constantly prepared.”

The future of RTM is data-driven, customer-centric communication that relies on building not only a profile of your individual customer, but also trust with them, Li explained. Data analytics and interpretation will play a huge role, as will new media channels such as Facebook, which open up personable ways to individualise the customer outside of their age group, marital status and transactional history.

“We are just at the very beginning of understanding that level of relationship and its aspects. The information is tremendous and the opportunities are fleeting,” Li said. As proof of how important real-time is, she pointed out responding to a customer within five minutes is 60 times more effective than if you’d responded in 24 hours.

“The challenge as marketers is keeping up with the dynamic customer in the influence loop of purchase, experience, loyalty, advocate, awareness, consideration and evaluation and moving people through that loop faster and faster. It’s not about driving transactions but also driving influence.”

The other big challenge facing marketers is agility and resilience. Li said most marketing organisations today are hierarchical and rigid. “What RTM requires is an adaptable organisation, one that takes changes as they are happening and has the systems, trust relationships and pre-approvals in place to say who can make these actual decisions and make things happen on the fly,” she said.

“RTM is going to be a forcing function for breaking down the silos and encouraging cross-functionality.”

4 ways of gearing up for Real-Time Marketing

Li defined four areas where marketers can focus to meet the real-time marketing challenge.

  1. Develop everyday discipline and processes for real-time: “You must be able to understand, respond, listen, engage, and listen back in continual motion,” Li said. One way of defining this is through a triage map, but she warned discipline, getting concurrence and then ensuring people stick with such a roadmap is crucial if marketers are to have any hope of RTM.

  2. Get your data house in order: “What you have to be able to do is ask the right question and look at what data you need to move that relationship forward,” Li explained. “Oftentimes that is going to come from a business person, not a data person. It will be a product owner, or someone who’s in charge of moving a campaign or metric forward… with data democratisation you will hopefully get that data out to the hands of the people who can make the decisions and in real time, when it really does matter.”

  3. Build trust-based customer relationships: As marketers collect and measure more personal information from their customers from multiple channels, there is a big risk of alienating the very customer they’re trying to build relationships with. “The trust part of the relationship begins now,” Li said. “You have to map out that relationship over time, to say what kind of relationship you want and build those trust levels around that.”

  4. Develop organisational agility: All marketers must now focus on agility in terms of mindset, not just the ability to create new and interesting campaigns, Li said. This includes recognising the inevitability of failure and making mistakes. “Google has the mantra of ‘fail fast, fail smart’,” she commented. “If you don’t have the ability to say sorry about it, recover and develop resilience within that customer relationship, then you won’t be able to do RTM.”

    It’s also important to train marketers to create judgement. Li recommended constructing ‘sandbox covenants’ or internal agreements about which risks you can take, and which you can’t.

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